Avoid These Estimating Mistakes

According to Green Industry veteran Mike Rorie, many contractors make the same common mistakes in estimating that result in a loss in profits and customer satisfaction. Rorie is a former landscape contractor himself who is now CEO of GIS Dynamics (GoiLawn).

Step #1 in relationship building

First of all, recognize that the estimation process is the start of the customer relationship. Not realizing this is one of the most common and unfortunate mistakes a contractor can make. Be professional, on time and thorough from the very start.


Not letting estimators do take-offs can also get in the way of making a complete estimate. A take-off allows the estimator to look at a blueprint or landscape design and determine the needed quantities of items such as plants, pavers, sod and mulch, etc. Not having a plan and/or enough information before doing take-offs can lead to poor estimating.


The estimation process should remain consistent, possibly with the help of a form that requests the same information each time an estimate is requested. Estimates should be done in a complete manner, with data consistently stored in a database.

Tools and procedures

Avoiding these common and damaging mistakes can be easily done with the right tools, procedures and training. Begin by standardizing the process. Create a form for employees to use that lists the standard operating procedure for measuring and estimating.

Select a few people who can be authorized to execute take-offs and train them all to do it in the same manner. An online computer-generated take-off is an excellent tool for accuracy and consistency.

Keeping data online allows for fast validation as well as quick and accurate take-offs. Products like GoiLawn from GIS Dynamics allow landscape contractors to spend less time and money building bids. This online service decreases the time to measure a property and produces accurate measurements. Measurements can be saved and loaded back into the Go iLawn application for any additions or changes. Since your business is purchasing the landscape supplies, this allows you to be sure you know exactly what inventory is needed.

Accuracy from the beginning

The mistakes contractors often make can have a seriously detrimental effect on profits, the quality of work and customer service. You can start on the wrong foot by proposing the wrong information and displaying a lack of competency.

In the end, inaccurate measurements can cost everyone more dollars. Without knowing what you’re agreeing to, you can't possibly turn over estimates to other key staff in the next step of the project and measure them with consistency. Your whole job-cost system requires accuracy from the beginning of the process in order for cost and time estimations to ring true at the finish.