Excellence in Stone is a tile and marble subcontractor in south Florida. Their company profile describes them as “a natural stone, agglomerate, ceramic, porcelain, and terracotta tile installation contractor, specializing in high-end residential and commercial projects”. Their projects include the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami and the Versace house. They have been in business for over 15 years and are well known for their work. So they find most of their jobs through invitations from general contractors, architects and interior designers. All of their work is competitive bid.
We recently spoke with their chief estimator, Silvia Rojas. Silvia describes the exotic materials they work with (see photo). “The Kitchen Island is Blue Louise slab which is so blue that you can see the reflection on the oven and refrigerator doors. This particular slab was very rare because of the intense blues, greens, golds and reds. The rest of the countertops are Mother of Pearl Quartzite from Brazil and the Floors are Diana Reale Turkish Marble.”
Before discovering eTakeoff, Silvia estimated using a digitizer, manually transferring quantities to a spreadsheet. Even with long days and weekends of work, she was only able to generate about 20 estimates a month.
Silvia has been using eTakeoff for about two years. She recently upgraded to the Premier version. She says that eTakeoff has tripled her productivity. She said most of their bids have electronic plans and specs and she’s working on the few “lame holdouts” that still send her paper. In addition to improving her efficiency, she feels that using eTakeoff gives Excellence in Stone a more professional image. “When you ask for electronic plans instead of paper, it’s clear you’re not working out of the back of a truck.” And using electronic plans saves the general contractor the cost printing and distributing paper plans and specifications.
Silvia is definitely a “power user”. She has two large monitors, knows all the shortcut keys, uses the control panel extensively and writes complex extensions. Extensions are one of her favorite eTakeoff features. (Extensions allow spreadsheet-like calculations on a measurement by measurement basis.)
A typical extension is the one for clad walls. She digitizes the wall length. The wall height for each side and the wall width are entered in inches. The cladding area is calculated as “Length * (SideA + SideB + Width)/12”. Many of her estimates are for multi-story hotels so most of her extensions include a multiplier for the number of floors. (See the screen shot.)
Because Excellence in Stone works with many different materials, Silvia has lots of different traces. So the ability to organize traces in a tree is especially handy. She puts the trace tree in the control panel along with the drawing list, the measurement list and the rotation control.
For small projects, Silvia just uses the Measurement List then drags individual measurements to her Excel spreadsheet. For more complex projects she uses the Quantity Worksheet. That allows her to combine all the takeoffs of the same material. These are typically multiple measurements across multiple drawings. Then she can drag the totals to her Excel spreadsheet.
She makes lots of annotations as she works. Most are notes for internal use but she says she draws “lots of red rectangles” for the architect. The complexity of their work means lots of back-and forth with the architect before the bid is complete. “We don’t build anything normal” she said. One bid still in progress has had over two hundred revisions. Given all the revisions, drawing comparison is another of her favorite features.
She also uses annotations to record construction decisions made while creating the estimate. When construction starts, she prints out the drawings with all her measurements and annotations and sends those print outs to the field for the project manager.
Silvia looks forward to more closely integrating eTakeoff with her spreadsheets. She would like to see multi-page drawing comparison, multi-page pattern searching and a better way to handle revisions.