When you estimate steel, you are in the position of influence. The effectiveness of an infrastructure or construction project relates to how effective its estimator is. Improved profit margins and cost control are big ideals and are reached through competitive and accurate project estimates.

The best tools a professional estimator can access are proactivity about the job and the ability to leverage processes and strategies.

Aspects of construction work in which an estimator has powerful influence include:

  • Fabrication
  • Bidding/estimation
  • Erection
  • Analysis

General Guidance for Construction Estimators

Remember, structural steel can vary in price widely, even daily. Keep in mind that many projects take months and even years to reach completion. This means you need to account for fluctuations over time so that your budget is more accurate. You win major projects by making sure your estimates are as accurate as possible.

Be sure to work with your project manager and keep them on top of supply lines and budgets. Be sure to do your industry research and get a good benchmark to ensure you are not overpaying.

Good technology and software can be a lifesaver here. The right products will make your job efficient in both time and money.

Key Considerations

Consider the quantity and location where you will purchase steel. Warehouse pricing can vary a lot and will apply to small orders, whereas your larger orders get mill prices. Prices are quoted for delivery, which means the price can be fluid. It is wise to have an escalation clause to address the possibility of rising costs.

When working up your estimation, make sure to group your steel by grades as well as member and section types. Structural steel should be grouped by location for the project. Some estimators choose to use a table to sort the details of the project to get better accuracy.

How to Become a Steel Estimator

While there isn’t a formal process to becoming a steel estimator, some companies prefer candidates with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees in engineering or drafting. Across the board, candidates need to have several years of construction work or steel fabrication work to apply to an estimator position. Infrastructure experience can be a bonus.

Some positions require 2-10 years of on-the-job experience. You will need to be able to read architectural and structural blueprints. Some additional requirements may include strong organizational and communication skills and attention to detail, as well as being good with basic computer skills and AutoCAD.


The best projects seamlessly work with production managers to make fabrication, detailing, estimating, and erection one cohesive workflow that is optimized for best results.

The best way to do this is to utilize software and technology to reap the results you are after. The software allows you to access prior collaborations as well as estimations. Many people skip over shopping for the right technology, but in this case, it is time well spent.

Whether you’re already a steel estimator or are looking to become one, you’re sure to have an important, influential career ahead of you.

How can we help you?

Searching for an opportunity in the construction industry? Contact The Birmingham Group’s team of seasoned commercial construction recruiters today to discuss your career path or browse our open positions.

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