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 2013
For those of you who are new to electrical estimating software, it is important to understand the basic concepts behind the shiny images on the computer screen. Not knowing can lead to problems with the software and your estimates. Additional frustration is the last thing you need when you’re trying to complete an estimate.
  • Doing the Limbo

November 2013
I remember the first time I had to read specifications. They were part of the bid documents for a new Bank of America building. My boss walked in my office one morning, dropped a specification book on my desk and said, “Here, read this.” Talk about being thrown into the deep end. 
  • Preventing RSI

October 2013
I know, you’ve probably been hearing about ergonomics ever since they started applying the word to office workers. If you’re not familiar with the concept, ergonomics is the study of designing equipment and devices to fit the human body and its cognitive abilities. In other words, if your work causes you pain or injury, ergonomics seeks to address what ails you. READ MORE
September 2013
Maybe we shouldn’t use computers for estimating. I can’t believe I wrote that. I am Mr. Computer. My first estimating computer had a whopping total of 16 kilobytes of RAM with two 5¼-inch, single-sided floppy drives. READ MORE
August 2013
During the week of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon, my wife mentioned the stunt several times, so we ended up watching it on TV on June 23, 2013. The event itself sounded intriguing, but even more interesting was the description of the preparations. The producers devoted quite a bit of the program to showing how Wallenda got ready for the stunt. READ MORE
July 2013
A long time ago, in the early days of AutoCAD, I went to a seminar where an electrical design and estimating system was demonstrated. It was amazing! The system actually did a takeoff while the design was being done in AutoCAD. It also provided specialized tools for electrical design that could be used in AutoCAD. READ MORE
June 2013
Like bid listing, bid depositories are another method of fighting the practice of bid shopping. Let’s briefly review what happens on bid day because of bid shopping. First, the vendors hold back their prices until the last moment for fear of being shopped by the subcontractors. READ MORE
May 2013
Bid listing is a method used in some areas of the country to prevent shopping after the fact. The concept is quite simple. Each general contractor must submit, with the bid, a list of subcontractors he or she intends to use if he or she wins the contract, along with the price for each subcontractor. READ MORE
April 2013
When I started to write this article, it came out as a rant, which seemed unprofessional. Assuming I should be professional, I pared the rant down to a summary of the way I feel about the current state of engineering practices. While preparing a free estimate, we estimators have to review the engineers’ work (for which they are being paid), make corrections and finish the engineering. READ MORE