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Get the Most Out of RSMeans Data: Finishes Edition

Accurate estimates during the planning process decrease the likelihood of cost overruns, saving both time and money down the line. With RSMeans data being the ultimate tool in achieving those accurate estimates, we want you to experience our product at its maximum potential.

With that in mind, for this round of tips we will focus on ways to get the most efficient and accurate estimate when working on finishes.

First off, before even popping the first can of paint, a complete set of plans should contain a room finish schedule. This will save time and effort later in the project, so if you do not have one at the onset, it will be worth your time to obtain one.

Plaster and Gypsum Board

Lath is estimated by the square yard with an additional 5% allowance for waste. Furring, channels and accessories are measured by the linear foot with an extra foot allowed for each accessory miter or stop.
Also estimated by the square yard, when working with plaster estimators should allow one extra square foot for each linear foot of horizontal interior or exterior angle located below the ceiling level. 

Drywall accessories, studs, track and acoustical caulking are further measured by the linear foot. Gypsum wallboard is estimated by the square foot. Note, no material deductions should be considered for door or window openings under 32 square feet.


Tile and terrazzo are measured on a square foot basis while trim and base materials are measured by the linear foot. There are two basic methods of installation. Thin set and mud set which is approximately 30% more expensive. During terrazzo work, make sure to include the linear footage of embedded decorative strips, grounds, machine rubbing and power cleanup.

Available in strip parquet or block configuration, wood flooring estimates will be influenced by the laying pattern—labor costs and material waste will be specifically affected. Unless the flooring is prefinished, allowances should be made for sanding and finishing these areas.

Measured by the square yard, sheet flooring roll widths vary. Therefore, consideration should be given to use the most economical width as waste should be figured into the total quantity. Also worth consideration are the installation methods available, direct glue down or stretched.

Wall Finishes

Wall coverings are estimated by the square foot. The area is measured length by height of wall above baseboards to calculate the square footage of wall to be covered. This figure is then divided by the number of square feet in the single roll which will be used. Proceed to deduct, in full, the areas of openings such as doors and windows. For areas where a pattern match is required allowed 25%-30% waste.

Painting and Coating

A good portion of the work in painting involves surface preparation. Be sure to include cleaning, sanding, filling and masking costs in the estimate. Protection of adjacent surfaces is not included in painting costs. An important factor to also consider in a painting estimation is safety such as masking.

For more information on how to best use RSMeans data, RSMeans seminars and trainings are a great resource. See a full listing of seminars and find one in a location near you.