Electrical Estimating

13794 W. Waddell Rd.
Ste 203–189
Surprise, AZ 85379

970 231–5423
Toll Free:
866 767–3619

Fundamental Electrical Estimating Class Course Specifics

These courses were originally designed to help new contractors learn and develop their estimating skills. When our classes started, experienced estimators enrolled as a tune–up, to acquire a few new techniques, and to increase confidence in their estimating style. Since we started, the classes have acted in both modes – for new estimators and as a refresher course for seasoned estimators. We teach the basics, the fundamental of electrical estimating.

This is not a class on how to use estimating software.

The objectives of these classes are to allow you to obtain a grasp on how contractors can complete the following items, calculate labor burden costs, review the moving target known as overhead costs, and most importantly, gain confidence in preparing a structured estimate. In addition to classroom training, our instruction continues upon the completion of your class prior to, during, and after your class is complete, our students are encouraged to ask question regarding the class, homework or generic questions regarding estimating for up to three months to help clarify the concepts of the class.

Takeoff Sheet Header

With little, to no effort a project manager should be able to use an estimate to start their project management tasks, estimating in the manner that we use with breakouts allow a project manager to efficiently start managing awarded projects without having to re–do or second guess the estimate. Our method of training estimators not only helps an estimator, project management also wins which has a tendency to increase profitability. The time involved in this class is short and may well provide rich dividends for you and your company.

Instructor :

James Duff is a diverse project management professional with forty plus years in the electrical industry. His career ranges from a four year apprentice to a licensed electrical contractor. A proven problem solver with expertise in reducing costs through estimating, project management, teaching, installation, and supervising construction projects.


Have confidence attending this course, it has been attended in class rooms or as a webinar/telephone courses since 2003 by students in; Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. We have also worked with students from Alberta, British Columbia, Canada, and the Cayman Islands. Testimonials are posted on this site; additional references are available upon request.

Students supply their own calculator (basic), magnifying glass, writing pad, and the student will need to print takeoff sheets from the supplied CD. The supplied course materials include;

  • Our text
  • Practice drawings – we use an actual set of drawings that will challenge you, completing this estimate will give you confidence on practically any other project you may estimate.
  • Specifications
  • Tally counter
  • Scaled tape measure (in lieu of a plan wheel)
  • 3 High liters
  • CD with Microsoft Word and Excel files (these will assist you in the class and can be used in your day to day estimating work)
  • 12” ruler

Our classes are 100% manual estimating – which can assist in either manual or computer electrical estimating. We believe that an estimator should understand how to structure an electrical estimate. We are attempting to teach our students how to estimate manually, however setting you up to utilize a computer estimating software system now or in the near future. We do not endorse any estimating software systems in this class. What we stress is to structure an estimate in a manner that assists our students in understanding the content of their estimate. We supply an excel spreadsheet, a band–aid estimating system that can help calculate the math, it helps teach the structure. If a firm wanted to use this as a basic excel format to help estimate manually it would help, until a full computer estimating system could be attained and set up. If a software system is in your firm's future, we encourage investigating various estimating software systems. Demo them until one is found that makes the most sense for your firm. Most major estimating systems are extremely accurate; the differences are typically in the subtle manner in which they are set up, the learning curve for each system, which features will you need and which features will you use. What type of technical support is available for the estimating system you are considering purchasing? The last item in the consideration should be price, these fluctuate radically. Inexpensive software may turn out to be very expensive in the long run; however, expensive software is not always the best either, we know of some good estimating software systems that are priced significantly lower than other software, that do a great job. Do not rush into a computer estimating system until you have completed your due diligent.


The text that is included will be referenced in class but will not be read in class or even have all sections in the text completely reviewed. The text has a dual purpose, first it is a great introduction before a class is started, and second it then becomes a reference guide for our students after their class is complete.

We will cover a vast amount of material; the homework for most students is a must to get all that can be achieved from this class. Should a student in a class room or webinar setting elect not to complete this homework we will have substitute homework for them to use during the second session. Home study students must complete the homework assigned.


Interested, but not sure if one of our classes is right for you or your firm? We offer a free one hour webinar to show you what we offer. This is not your normal sales call, this hour will be spent helping you with areas where you may have issues within your firm. We sell classes, we all know, so instead of your typical sales presentation, this time will be spent dealing with your issues or concerns. This offer is for new clients or existing clients that may be interested in a different class or consulting possibility. Use our Contact Us Page – just to the left or on the top of this web page, tell us what those concerns are, give us a few days and times when you can spare an hour. We will send you a confirmation on which day and time we can complete your webinar. Always include the day and time desired, include the email address, telephone number and time zone.

Questions regarding homework or class materials are always accepted and answered, generally within twenty-four hours or less. Once the class is completed all students have an additional three months to continue asking generic questions regarding estimating to help cement the concepts learned in class.

Webinar Format Eight Week Class

This class is paced as an eight week course – it is a one–on–one course, between the student and instructor, where we talk once a week at a pre–selected time that works with both our schedules. Homework is a huge element in all of our estimating classes, in this format however, the homework is critical. After every class except our final class homework will be assigned. This homework needs to be completed, scanned into your computer, and emailed to us four days after every scheduled class. It will be reviewed, marked up, and returned to you via email before our next scheduled conversation.

This is a good way for new estimators to learn a consistent method of estimating an electrical project. It allows one on one time at a slower pace than either the class room or webinar class and has the ability for some schedule adjustment. If needed with 24 hours’ notice a class can be rescheduled for a different time of the day or a different day in the week. WE NEVER SKIP WEEKS. It is not however for everyone. We do not baby sit our students, we will email you once or twice when a homework assignment is late. You will also miss the interaction of the students normally associated with a classroom environment. No refunds are given once class materials are mailed.

  • First week
  • Introductions
  • Your plan
  • A talk about what jobs to bid and which to avoid
  • Bid documents including specifications
  • Tools and methods to use them
  • Vendor relationships
  • Labor burden calculation
  • Company overhead calculation
  • Quotable takeoff for the practice estimate will be started, then completed as homework
  • Second week
  • Review of 1st week homework
  • Feeder takeoff for the practice estimate will be started, then completed as homework
  • Third week
  • Review of 2nd week homework
  • Branch takeoff for the practice estimate will be started, then completed as homework
  • Fourth week
  • Review of 3rd week homework
  • Device takeoff for the practice estimate will be started, then completed as homework.
  • We will discuss the importance of special systems as they relate to your estimate.
  • Fifth week
  • Review of 4th week homework
  • The explosion of all previous homework that have made up our previous assignments. We will discuss how to explode them and your homework will be to finish them all.
  • Sixth week
  • Review of 5th week homework
  • Now that your explosions are complete it is time to insert commodity material prices and labor units, we will discuss how to do this. Material prices and labor units are supplied for this practice estimate only, your homework will be to finish them all.
  • Seventh week
  • Review of 6th week homework
  • We will discuss the estimate total and how to complete a cap sheet to determine our best strategy. Your homework will be to complete this cap sheet
  • Eighth conversation week #8
  • Review of week #7 homework
  • Proposals will take most of out time this week, we will discuss way to be as competitive as possible and still protect our firm
  • We will finish our class with a discussion on Change Orders

We do not take off fire alarm on this project as it is a design and build. We will discuss methods behind fire alarm systems in class. If our students want to complete this we will assist them outside of class hours via email with this fire alarm takeoff.

Our Estimating Class is $2,487.00.

We do not skip weeks once a class starts and classes can generally start within two weeks of registering / payment has been received. Because this is a one on one class, should an issue arise, with 24 hours’ notice we can reschedule to another time or even a different day to allow for conflicts in your schedule.

Contractors outside of the United States contact us for rates.
Please contact us for available class times before registering,
to avoid delays starting your class.

Before a contractor, their employee, or anyone who is interested enrolls in our class, we require those people to take a free computer webinar demonstration before they register for a class. We no longer have registration links available on our website, we prefer to provide a free demonstration to prospective students before registering, so they can see some of what we teach, more important is how we teach it. Even if our relationship ends with a free demonstration, we want our prospective students to learn from our demonstration.

Use our Contact Us Page, tell us what those concerns are, and provide us a few days and times when you can spare an hour and a half. We will send you a confirmation on which day and time we can complete your webinar or an alternate day and time if we have a scheduling conflict. We schedule demonstrations and classes seven days a week between 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM Arizona Time. Your computer must have a wired high speed internet connection. You will need a telephone number; we strongly suggest having a headset for both the free demonstration and classes. Our webinar service requires Adobe Flash and Java; they have a system test which we will send you when we confirm your demonstration day and time.

For Contractors that would like to enroll in our Webinar Fundamental Estimating Class, however may be struggling with the cost of the class, we have started to take payments. We start with an initial payment of $1,281.00 which gets most of our class materials sent and the classes started. One month later a second payment of $640.50 will be due and a month after that the final payment of $640.50 is due. This allows contractors to take a class and begin to realize benefits for their firm, while paying for the class.

Should a payment not be made on time classes will be stopped until the missed payment and a $100.00 reinstatement fee is paid.

We make every effort to motivate our students enrolled however, it is intended for those people who are willing to commit three or more hours a week during the course for homework. The more time invested on this material the more our students will retain. Hours are set for specific days and time frames; with 24 hours’ notice, we can reschedule a class to a different time or even a different day of the week. WE DO NOT SKIP WEEKS ONCE A CLASS HAS STARTED.

We begin with the setup of an estimate and then start the process of taking off light fixtures and switchgear - our quotable items, the first homework assignment is given during our first class. Homework is then completed, scanned into a computer and emailed to JDE & Associates as a PDF for review and comments within four days. Generally, papers are reviewed and emailed back within one day. This review does not issue a letter grade; instead we markup areas where we think the estimate can be improved, we also markup areas that are exceptional. The returned assignment benefits our students from repeating mistakes that may have occurred in the previous assignment. Homework will continue for seven assignments, a scope letter will be the last assignments.

During the course, many questions may arise that are not clear to the student. These are handled via emailed request for information questions; if an email answer doesn't work then a second email requesting a telephone call are welcome. We will place all telephone / webinar calls, saving our students the expense, these calls will be scheduled before we start the class and then we will call at an agreed time, in the continental United States.

Local class room format
four – four hour classes

This class is paced as a four days course; depending on participation from our students, some of the classes may run long or short depending on how many questions are asked.

  • Day One
    • Introductions
    • Your plan
    • A talk about what jobs to bid and which to avoid
    • Bid documents including specifications
    • Tools and methods to use them
    • Vendor relationships
    • Labor burden calculation
    • Company overhead calculation
    • Quotable takeoff of the practice estimate will be started
  • Day Two
    • Feeder takeoff of the practice estimate
    • Branch takeoff of the practice estimate
    • Device takeoff of the practice estimate
    • Discussion of special systems and the importance's these systems can have on your estimate

    Homework is assigned between sessions. The homework is to complete the takeoffs started in class. These will include your quotable takeoffs (fixtures and switchgear), feeders, branch circuits, and devices. We are not taking off the fire alarm on this project as it is a design and build. We will discuss methods behind fire alarm systems in class. If our students want to complete this, we will assist them outside of class hours via email with this fire alarm takeoff.

    Complete the homework, scan it into your computer as a PDF file, and email it to us by a set date for us to review and return prior to the start of the second session.

  • Day Three
    • We start exploding the homework from a description such as a duplex receptacle to each item that will be required to install that duplex receptacle
    • Commodity material costs will be inserted (material costs are supplied for this estimate ONLY)
    • Labor units will be added (labor units are supplied for this estimate ONLY)
    • We then calculate the total commodity material cost and the total number of field labor hours to complete the project
    • Begin the process of completing the bid with a cap sheet
    • Quotes will be checked and inserted
    • Tax rates will be discussed
    • Composite labor crews rates and how to develop one for individual projects
    • Composite crew
  • Day Four
    • Completion of the cap sheet
      • Non productive labor
      • Direct job expense
      • Overhead
      • Profit
    • Proposal letters will be discussed
    • Change order pricing will complete our class

We do not take off the fire alarm on this project as it is a design and build. We will discuss methods behind fire alarm systems in class. If our students want to complete this, we will assist them outside of class hours via email with this fire alarm takeoff.

This is a very intense informative class, a lot of information will be discussed in a short amount of time, therefore no cell phones, or pagers are allowed in class. We take breaks every hour, messages and phone calls can be returned then, please be prompt in returning to class. Employers please make appropriate arrangement for this request.

The first day will be spent discussing which projects have the best chance of success and those that do not, which project to bid and those to avoid. Each student will complete a manual takeoff, working on them both in class and at home for a small commercial restaurant. The breakout or sections of the bid will be discussed; these breakouts will assist the estimator in preparing a more accurate estimate, and allows the Project Manager and Foreman to pick up where the Estimator left off. We will complete the first day working on the quotable takeoff, typically switchgear, and fixtures. The second day of the first session will start the remaining takeoff, feeders, branch circuits, and devices, we will also discuss the takeoff of specials systems, and how they can be estimated.

During the second session, we take the assemblies that we completed as homework and breakout all the commodity material required for those assemblies. We then attach prices and labor units to the material. Once this is completed, we will have both the commodity material costs and labor hours for the project. Discussions then begin as we begin the cap sheet, labor burden percentage, composite labor rate, non-productive labor, direct job expenses. We continue this discussion with a method to determine labor burden and overhead percentage, it is important to know an accurate rate for both items for your firm. At the end of each bid is profit, we call this risk money, until the project is complete, we discuss profit and what the risk is worth to take on a project. Profit is a subject that each company must decide, hopefully before the bid is even started. Moving on to a proposal letter, a sample is supplied in the text and on CD for your review and actual use. THE PROPOSAL THAT WE SUPPLY IS SUPPLIED IN WORD FORMAT AND ITS FORMAT CAN BE USED IN ACTUAL PROPOSALS. THIS IS A LEGAL DOCUMENT WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT CONTRACTORS HAVE A CONTRACT LAWYER REVIEW THIS PROPOSAL FORMAT PRIOR TO UTILIZING IT. At the end of the class change order pricing is discussed, change order pricing is an art in itself, but the basics of the actual change order estimate is very similar to the original estimate, it is the interruptions that change orders create on a jobsite that must be included in the price.

If time permits we will have a short demonstration on computer estimating. WE DO NOT ENDORSE ANY ESTIMATING SYSTEM, during the class. Depending on your firms needs and your computer knowledge many systems are available that are outstanding. We encourage everyone to get demo disks from a variety of firms and find the system that makes the most sense to you. This demonstration is merely to show the speed difference between manual estimating and that of a computer generated estimate. This speed is a true value relating to computer software, if you know what is in the estimate, a very bad tool if you don't know what the system is including in your bids.

The duration to these courses are short; we have little chance to build relationships with each other. Help us build those relationships by asking questions. Considering the fact that we are often hundreds, even thousands of miles away from each other, a system is in place that will allow you to ask questions and receive answers. E–mail your question to us, using a supplied RFI template; generally, you will have a response within twenty four hours, often quicker. We also encourage questions and attempt to help our students for up to three months after a class is completed. Use this service, it is included in the class and can result in you understanding the concepts that you need to know. We will not answer bid specific questions, relating to a bid that you are working on. Ask these questions in a generic fashion, as we would not have the bid documents to give you a specific answer, a specific question would require. Our intent is for each student to leave the class with the best instruction that we can provide, and a basic understanding of the fundamentals of estimating.

We look forward to meeting you in class.

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