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Taking off quantities

What is taking off quantities?

Taking off quantities, sometimes referred to as Quantity Takeoff, is the measurement and description, in accordance with NRM2, of the items required for a construction project, recorded on dimension paper, spreadsheets or software by quantity surveyors to produce a bill of quantities or schedule of rates.

Taking off quantities for substructure example



Taking off quantities

Taking off quantities from drawings involves a quantity surveyor recording the quantities and descriptions of materials and labour required to prepare a bill of quantities or schedule of rates. Best practice for taking off quantities is contained in the New Rules of Measurement: Detailed measurement for building works (NRM2) compiled and published by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, (RICS).   

Dimension paper or dimension sheet.

Traditionally taking off quantities has used dimension paper or dimension sheets. As illustrated below dimension paper is divided into a series of columns.

Reading from left to right these columns are referred to as;

  1. The binding column
    The binding column for binding dim sheets together.

  2. The timesing column
    The timesing column is used to enter multipliers when there is more than one of a particular quantity and item to be measured. In the first example below the dimension 1.20 x 1.20 has been timesed or multiplied by 16.

  3. The dimension column
    The dimension column, where the measurements are recorded always in the order of; length, width, depth or height and to two decimal places.

  4. The squaring column.
    The squaring column, where the calculated quantities are entered.

  5. The description column.

The description column contains the description of the item to be priced. The terminology in taken from NRM2. Sometimes descriptions are abbreviated.

Note that dim paper has two independent columns per sheet and that the right-hand side of the dimension column is referred to as the ‘waste’.

Waste calculations (see top of column 2)
The waste is anything but waste and contains the calculations behind the take-off dimensions to three decimal places.


Is used where two descriptions share the same dimensions.

Taking-off list

A very useful aid memoire for the taker-off and some abbreviations are used in the descriptions.

Taking off quantities for reinforced in-situ concrete


On the following dimension sheet similar techniques have been applied to taking-off quantities for formwork and reinforcement.


Increasingly taking off, which used to be a labour-intensive operation, is performed using specialised software packages, of which there are a number available. Software packages will enable a taker-off to enter dimensions and descriptions, the software will then collate and produce a bill of quantities. Even though technology has taken much of the repetition out of the measurement process, to use taking-off software it if still necessary to have sound taking-off and measurement skills.

For many years traditional measurement or dim paper has been used for taking off but increasingly where taking off is not carried using software, spreadsheets are used, although spreadsheets will not produce the finished bill of quantities.


Taking-off skills are not only used in the preparation of bills of quantities or work packages, but also through the entire life cycle of a construction project. For example;

  • To prepare estimates and cost plans,

  • To evaluate various design alternatives,

  • To estimate tender costs,

  • In the measurement of variations or change orders,

  • In calculating payments on account (stage payments) and

  • In preparing and agreeing the final accounts.

Taking off is not only used in the preparation of bills of quantities for building projects but also for large scale civil engineering works such as HS2. Civil engineering taking off uses its’ own set of rules known as the Institution of Civil Engineers Standard Method of Measurement 4 (CESMM4) and although the rules differ from NRM2 the process of taking off quantities remains the same.

Duncan Cartlidge Online gives 24/7 access to a series of clear video tutorials from the author of the best-selling pocketbooks. Each video goes through the taking off process stage by stage referring to the latest technologies and techniques, using both tradition and spreadsheet examples together with detailed interpretation of NRM2.  Extensive experience both in practice and in education allows Duncan Cartlidge to address the common problems encountered when taking off quantities. Each video contains a set of self-assessment questions to gauge progress and a question and answer facility will be available to subscribers.

Measurement / taking-off content currently includes videos covering;

  • Introduction to taking-off

  • NRM2 explained

  • Bill of quantities documentation

  • Groundworks

  • In-situ concrete

  • Masonry

  • First fix / flat roofs

  • Pitched roofs

  • Second fix

  • Internal finishes

  • Mechanical installations

  • Electrical installations

  • New taking-off sections added regularly


Other measurement video tutorials include;

  • Taking-off using CESMM4

  • International Cost Measurement  Standards (ICMS)

  • International Property Measurement Standards (IPMS)


In addition to taking-off quantities other sections include:

  • Estimating and

  • Project management

  • Cost advice

  • Contract administration

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