Stephen Carr

Estimating Columnist

Stephen Carr has been in the electrical construction business 41 years. He started Carr Consulting Services—which provides electrical estimating and educational services—in 1994. Contact him at 805.523.1575 or

Articles by Stephen Carr

December 2014
Last month we talked about why bid listing laws are a good thing. In summary, general contractors use bid shopping to take profit from the subcontractors and keep those profits for themselves. Bid listing laws are a very effective way of stopping post-award bid shopping. 
November 2014
There is a lot of discussion about bid shopping in several of the forums I participate in, so I thought this would be good time to revisit the subject and bring things up to date. I learned very early in my career that having the low number at bid time did not guarantee you a contract. 
October 2014
We had to buy a new car recently. My wife’s car was 16 years old, and keeping it running was costing us almost as much as an entire car payment. It was definitely time to say goodbye, which created another problem—shopping for a new car. 
September 2014
The company I worked at while being trained as an electrical estimator already had an estimating system: a mainframe computer system called Estimatic. We had to convert each takeoff item and assembly into a 10-digit code. We entered the codes and quantities into a teletype machine. (For those of you not blessed with the wisdom of age—yes, that means I’m old—note the sample image shown here). 
  • To export, or not to export

August 2014
I have been wanting to write about several topics that are not long enough to fill this column by themselves. This month, I decided to combine a few subjects into one column, so I could finally get them off my mind.
 To export, or not to export
July 2014
A friend recently asked me, “What’s so hard about bidding electrical work? You don’t even need a college degree to be an estimator.” I said he was oversimplifying things and told him it can be a complex, highly detailed process with many strategies and chess-like moves. He asked me to explain it to him, and I was stymied at first because I did not know where to begin. READ MORE
  • Do you have what it takes?

June 2014
When I became a trainee estimator, I never worried about what I was going to bid next. My method was simple; I bid on every project my boss told me to. That strategy changed when I moved on to my next employer. For the first few months, the “do-what-you’re-told” strategy remained the rule of the day. Then the boss hired a management consultant, who asked me how I selected projects to bid. READ MORE
  • Estimating art 101

May 2014
Many of us bring our work home. One weekend, my young daughter was watching me do a takeoff; I was counting, measuring and highlighting the plans as I went. She got very excited and, with big, round eyes, asked me, “Daddy, is that what you do at work? Can I help?” At that moment, I had an epiphany: I color for a living. 
April 2014
I have always been interested in labor-saving gadgets and how they affect an estimate. For the purpose of this article, I define a gadget as a material or tool meant to perform a task better and more quickly than the previously used material.