Want to Learn How to Estimate

6 Replies

I’m looking for a book to buy to learn more about construction estimating. I want to remodel a home and would like a book that gets into specifics about pricing. And strategies to get the best bang for your buck. I want to maximize my investment and resale value. I would also like to build it right the first time to avoid any rework or future maintenance. Thank you all in advance.

Best way is to actually solicit multiple bids from contractors, ask them to break out the numbers into categories instead of showing one lump sum price for the cost of the entire rehab. If they show you only the lump sum price for entire rehab it's because they are burying money in their scope. Once you have the cost breakouts for each line item of work, ie. cabinetry, plaster, paint, you can then find the unit pricing by dividing it by a unit, such as square feet, linear feet, or each. From there you can know how much the contractor is charging you for work based on a unit price. Now compare that with every contractor on every job you ever do and you'll know who's charging you more or less. Create an excel sheet tracking the final price you use so you have historical pricing for future jobs. 


$1,000 Furnish and install paint exterior. 

Exterior square feet of walls on exterior to be painted is 1000 square feet.

$1,000 / 1000 SF = $1/sf. 

You now know it costs $1/sf to paint a house using "X" paint spec.

No book is going to teach you about prices, because the market is always changing, subcontractors are always changing prices. But I hope this helps.

I’m looking for a book to buy to learn more about construction estimating. I want to remodel a home and would like a book that gets into specifics about pricing.

Tell me when you find one.

About all you can do is get quotes and compare on prices.

Hi Michael,

This is my boilerplate response to people for learning how to estimate rehab costs:

#1 Read the Book on Estimating Rehab Costs

As other's have mentioned, JScott's 'The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs' is a great resource for new rehabbers to learn how to Estimate Repair Costs on 25 common rehab repairs.


#2 Explore Lowes and Home Depot to Learn About Material Pricing

Take a tour through Lowes and Home Depot (or their websites) and look at finishes materials and fixtures that you will consider using in your rehab projects. This will help you get a better idea of what tile, hardwood, carpet, plumbing fixtures and light fixtures costs for your rehabs.

#3 Contact Local Contractors for Labor Pricing

Call local Subcontractors and get budget pricing for common repairs on your typical rehab project.

For example, call a roofer and ask what their average cost per Square of Architectural Asphalt Shingle Roofing would be on a 1,500 sf house, with a 6/12 pitch.

Note: Some contractors will be reluctant to share pricing without seeing the property, but tell them you are just looking for a rough budget number you can use on future projects.

#4 Compile Your Prices into a Spreadsheet or Estimating Software

Once you start to get a better understanding of Labor and Material costs you will want to store this data into a spreadsheet or software that you can use to help you streamline the estimating process.

The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs comes with a spreadsheet that you can use to help you populate your own database of labor pricing and material pricing. Or you can download my estimating templates I have in my Biggerpockets fileplace:

Simple Estimate Spreadsheet

Detailed Estimating Spreadsheet

There are other Estimating Softwares available as well which can help you manage the Estimating process as well...

#5 Practice, Practice, Practice

Walkthrough potential rehab properties (or find properties virtually online) and practice creating detailed scopes of work, quantifying repairs and estimating rehab costs for the projects.

#6 Get Your First Rehab Project

You can practice all you want, but ultimately you will learn the most about estimating rehab costs by actually rehabbing a house. Getting your first rehab project will require you to create a SOW, talk to contractors, compare and review bid proposals, review budgets, & make countless trips to Home Depot.

​You will inevitably make mistakes and underestimate things, but you will learn 90% of what you know by just doing your first rehab!

If you aren't comfortable estimating costs or aren't willing to put in the work to learn how to estimate rehab costs then you need to Team-Up, Partner, Or Hire Someone Who Can Help You Estimate Rehab Costs.

Pay A GC For A Consultation And Property Walk Through

You can hire a General Contractor to provide a consultation to walk the property for you and provide an detailed estimate breakdown of what they would charge for the repairs to the property. Expect to pay between $200 to $500 to have a contractor provide a consultation.

Partner With Someone That Has Construction Experience

To get your feet wet, you could partner with another house flipper, contractor or construction professional that could help with Estimating Costs.