Jul 31

Office Tools and Furniture for a Construction Cost Estimator / Quantity Surveyor

laptop-estimators office-qs

A Construction Cost Estimator is a qualified professional who spends time in the office working on papers as well as in the field, taking site measurements at each stage of a construction project. So basically, an estimator needs two types of tools – office tools and site tools. Office tools allow the consulting estimator to prepare documents. Field tools allow the estimator to collect site information that is required for preparing valuations and estimates.

High quality tools will allow a Quantity Surveyor to produce high quality work. They should enable the QS to work faster and efficiently, as well as make accurate deliverables. Accuracy is a very important factor in the estimating trade. There are tools that allow you to do just that. The following is a list of essential tools and furniture for an office estimating task.

Estimator’s Office Tools and Instruments:

Computer or Laptop

A modern computer or laptop is required when you are working in a Quantity Surveyor’office.A computer is used to run estimating software that helps in producing cost estimates and programs of work. Besides estimating programs, the most common programs that are used on a computer by an estimator are Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint. You will also need a computer to download or open building specifications, get supplier quotations, and above all interact with the Architect, Engineers and other consultants via email or office clients. There is a lot of information that you can gather from the internet that is related to quantity surveying.

Architectural Scale Rule

A 6-sided architectural scale rule is needed when you are doing a plan takeoff. This scale rule allows you to take dimensions where they are not shown. Most engineering drawing rules come with the following scales – 1:10, 1:20, 1:50, 1:100, 1:250 and 1:500


A protractor allows you to measure angles, for example the roof incline or pitch. Angles are used in trigonometric formulas to calculate actual dimensions, volumes and areas.


A Triangle is a three-sided measuring instrument that allows you to draw perfect perpendicular lines. As an illustration, if you want to find the height of a gable wall or truss where dimensions are not given, you can use a triangle to draw a vertical line that is perpendicular to the floor. In this case, the base of the triangle will rest on the floor line while you draw the perpendicular line. You then draw another line at eaves level that is parallel to the floor. Finally you use a scale rule to measure the gable height. This is an accurate method of measurement as opposed to arbitrary drawing.


You need a pencil to mark drawings and draw lines to complete projections. Theoretical lines give you a perspective of items that are hidden or obscured by the drawings. This allows you to measure the item accurately without guesswork. As expected, you will use a pencil in conjunction with a triangle or ruler to make accurate lines and measurements.

Another use of a pencil is to make notes on the drawings, for example, missing items, labeling rooms to be measured, items to be altered and so on. When you are in a meeting with an Architect with drawings spread before you, that is the right time to take notes.

Coloring Pencils

Taking off quantities is a skill that requires you to be organized. So what does coloring pencils have to do with estimating? Without coloring pencils, it is very hard to be organized. Coloring the brickwalls and floors that you have measured on a plan is a smart way to avoid mistakes and track your work easily when it’s needed. People who color up their work are more likely to produce accurate measurements that those who don’t.

If you have multiple copies of drawings on your shelf, it can be hard to file your work without mixups.When you color up your takeoffs, you will know where you left off, even if you go for a long holiday. Besides that, coloring has a psychological effect of work accomplished and it encourages you to work faster.


Most of the times, you will need a 30cm ruler if you don’t have an architectural scale rule. Measuring dimensions with a standard ruler is cumbersome because you have to convert the dimensions into actual quantities using a conversion factor. This method is prone to mistakes and inaccuracies. If you are a serious Estimator, get an architectural scale rule.


Office Furniture:

Plan Takeoff Desk

A spacious flat desk or table is fine for an estimator to work on when taking off quantities from a building plan. Taking off is a procedure where an estimator reads quantities from an architectural drawing for computer input. A big desk gives you room to accommodate your drawings as well as your computer and measuring instruments.

Swivel Chair

A comfortable swivel chair is good for an estimator’s environment that involves a lot of movements during the plan takeoff process. When you are taking off quantities, you have to shift, turn and stand in order to read dimensions from a big drawing. A swivel chair allows you to make movements smoothly in a 360 degree circle without making noise or straining your muscles and back. Choose an ergonomic chair with a high back that allows you to rest your head and relax. You should be able to turn around with ease.