Almost Last Chance: The Extension

How to review: part 2

My previous article discussed how you should review your takeoff. Now I am going to discuss how to review the byproduct of your takeoff: extensions.

No speed-reading allowed

And no interruptions! Reviewing your extensions requires calm, steady, uninterrupted focus. You must schedule enough time to perform multiple reviews for each bid form item extension, and remember, rushed reviews of multiple extensions can lead to multiple mistakes.

Start by creating one master extension containing all bid form items combined. Then conduct a multiple pass review. The first pass review is for finding huge discrepancies and obvious mistakes. After this extension is reviewed and issues are corrected, run all the individual bid form item extensions. A second pass review of each separate extension should be more detailed and refined. Again, correct and adjust any mistakes or discoveries. When you are confident your extensions have been thoroughly reviewed and corrected, a third and final pass should be done (if, of course, you have time).

What are you looking for? First, look for items having large quantities, zero and/or very large values. These are usually the easiest to find as their extended values typically result in either zero or very large material and labor subtotals. Don’t just look for the odd commodities or specialty items. Common items can easily be involved in major mistakes and are often overlooked (e.g., having only 20 2-inch GRC 90s when you are supposed to have 120). This is a very expensive problem. So make sure you review the standard commodities thoroughly: pipe, fittings, wire, boxes, devices, etc.

Small quantities can cost big money

Big numbers are easy to find, but what about an item having a quantity of 1, 2 or 20? Because they carry minimal quantities, their material and labor values will also be small. The items tend to blend into the rest of the extension. It is important to look at these smaller quantities and values.

Some quantities may seem right, but are they? It may be difficult to know if a quantity of 280 4-square boxes is correct. Maybe there should be 310? Discrepancies like this are never too tight to worry about and need to be reviewed as they may be connected to other devices or systems. Thirty missing (or extra) boxes could be 30 missing (or extra) equipment hook-ups worth $200 each. That’s $6,000!

Most likely your extension will be segregated into cost categories or groupings based on material and labor types. You must associate all these segregated items and their quantities with their related cousins. You might see a total of 52,300 feet of ½-inch EMT. You then need to find the couplings, connectors and straps for this EMT. Additionally, you need to find the wire and cabling this EMT is for, for example: one coupling for every 10 feet of conduit, 2.5 connectors for every box, a strap every 7 feet, four No. 12 wires per foot of conduit.

This review exercise should be performed for each size of conduit, wire, etc. It should also be performed for each system. If you see a 100 amp panel, do you find the branch-wire terminations that go with it? How many junction boxes do you have? Do you have the same amount of mud-rings and blank covers combined? Does this match up with your quantity of duplex receptacles, switches and other branch devices?

There are many estimating standards and as many opinions. I believe it is best for each company and its estimators to establish a set of standards that fits its own building practices.

Ask a lot of questions

If you are not the estimator who did the takeoff, most items and their quantities should be familiar. But what if you didn’t do the takeoff? How can you possibly know how many 2-inch GRC 90s there are supposed to be in the project?

Prior to reviewing the extension, you and the estimator(s) who worked on the project should have a review meeting to thoroughly review all drawings and specifications. This should make you familiar with the various system designs, conduit sizes, underground work, etc. Make sure to spend ample time on the site plan and one-line diagram, assessing the larger conduit and wire sizes.

Ask the estimator a lot of questions. Do the total labor hours make sense? Does it feel right? Do I have all of the special items? Are there any zeros? Did you add extra wire for the feeder stubs? Also perform other checks and balances like a square footage analysis or comparisons to similar projects.

Finding mistakes is no joke

“Did you find all your mistakes?” We’ve all heard this semi-joke a thousand times. It usually comes from the boss who is just trying to rattle your cage. There is also the veteran estimator who always spouts off, “If you find all your mistakes, you won’t win the job!” Don’t fall for it, don’t believe it.

If you actually find all or most of your mistakes, you will bid the project far more successfully than if you hadn’t—win or lose. Sure, finding mistakes could cost you the bid, but it could also save your company from losing huge amounts of money.            EC

SHOOK is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 or by e-mail at

About the Author

Stan Shook

Stan Shook was ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's estimating columnist from 2005 to 2012. He works as an electrical estimator in California. Read his blog at or contact him directly

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