How to Digitize Construction Plans

Written by jim ford
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How to Digitize Construction Plans
Digitising plans is an easy way to compile quantities for cost estimating (house plans 2 image by Christopher Hall from

Every type of construction starts with a plan. Once a plan is developed, projected costs can be estimated by doing a material take-off from the plan pages. The electronic form of take-off is called digitising and it is how budgeted costs for nearly all commercial projects are arrived at. The process is simple but does require attention to detail to ensure that all materials are accounted for in the digitising process. There are many types of digitising software on the market today, but many utilise the same basic steps to compile material quantities.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Electronic copy of plans
  • Digitising software
  • Computer

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  1. 1

    Import the electronic version of the plan documents into the digitising program. Most digitising programs will be able to read a wide variety of file formats.

  2. 2

    Set the correct scale for the document and verify by measuring an item of known length. If no scale was provided on the drawings, you may be able to determine the scale by measuring something with a standard size. For site plans, a parking space will usually be 9 by 18 feet. For building plans, a standard doorway is usually 3 feet wide.

  3. 3

    Measure counts by clicking on each item.

  4. 4

    Measure lengths by tracing lines with your mouse.

  5. 5

    Measure areas by tracing the outline of the area.

  6. 6

    Measure volumes by assigning a depth to areas.

  7. 7

    Export quantities after all take-offs are complete. The quantities can then be used to develop purchasing requirements, labour costs and job durations.

Tips and warnings

  • Many digitising software companies will give you a free demonstration or free trial copy of their programs. Experiment with several programs before purchasing one.
  • The biggest mistake is setting an incorrect scale. Don't assume that the electronic plans are full size drawings.
  • Plans in a PDF format are often asymmetrically reduced. It will be impossible to get accurate measurements from an incorrectly sized document.

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