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Estimating reinforcing bars

How the bid price is determined


uppliers of reinforcing bars usually provide certain added services in addition to furnishing fabricated reinforcing bars to the job site. One important function is estimating. This is performed by estimator specialists who study a set of contract drawings and specifications and, from their knowledge of construction and reinforcing bars, are able to develop a list of quantities of material which they believe or estimate are required to build the structure under consideration. From this information the necessary pricing is developed so that a bid can be submitted to the general contractor. In a few metropolitan areas this estimating service is provided by estimating bureaus which contract with a number of reinforcing bar supplier clients and prorate the cost of the service among the various users. It is important that the contract drawings and specifications give complete detailed information about the reinforcing bars. The estimate is a line-by-line takeoff and complete details will usually insure a more accurate estimate. When the estimator has to guess and make assumptions, the quality of the estimate may be impaired. A prudent estimator will tend to figure quantities on the safe side when there is a question of what is actually required. This, of course, can increase the amount of the material quotation. The estimators other alternative is to contact the architect or engineer and attempt to clarify that which is not clear. This can be a very frustrating experience as answers are not always forthcoming. The estimator usually works under a tight deadline and must move forward and complete the estimate. Of course the bid can be qualified and limited to the assumptions made, but this can lead to having the bid rejected as being nonresponsive.


SIZE EXTRAS Bar size #18 #14 #11 #10 #9 #8 #7 #6 #5 #4 #3 # 2* Area sq. in. 4.00 2.25 1.56 1.27 1.00 0.79 0.60 0.44 0.31 0.20 0.11 0.05 Weight lb per ft 13.600 7.650 5.313 4.303 3.400 2.670 2.044 1.502 1.043 0.668 0.376 0.167 Extra per 100 lb $ 2.00 2.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 1.25 1.50 2.00 6.00 15.00

QUANTITY EXTRAS Quantity Over 300 tons 100-300 tons 50-99 tons 20-49 tons Under 20 tons** Extra per 100 lb None $0.25 0.50 0.75 1.25


One aspect of preparing quantity estimates for fabricated reinforcing bars is the way in which charges for extras (per hundredweight of material) may be added to the base price. The principal extras are for size, grade, bending and quantity. Si ze : Extras for size may vary; therefore it is necessary for the estimator to segregate by size. The table shows

the current published size extras for fabricated bars from a major rebar fabricator. Note that the size extra for #3 bars is $4.00 per hundred pounds or $80 per ton more than for #4 bars. This shows that it is generally more economical to specify #4 rather than #3 bars for approximately equal areas of steel. Similar comparisons could be made for other sizes. Quantity: Extra charges may be incurred depending on the total weight of steel ordered. The table also shows the current quantity extras for fabricated re i n f o rc i n g bars from the same fabricator whose size extras are giv-

en. This shows that there may be a job size penalty in breaking down smaller structures at bidding time for separate acceptance. Grade: Some grades of bars have an extra, making it necessary for the estimator to segregate by grade as well as size. Bending: Extra charges are applied for all shop bending. The estimator must segregate the total quantity of bending into three classes as follows, based on current industry definitions: LIGHT BENDINGAll #3 bars, all stirrups and ties, and all bars #4 through #18 which are bent at more than six points in one plane, or bars which are bent in more than one plane (unless special bending). Also included are all one-plane radius bending with more than one radius in any bar (three maximum), and any combination of radius and other type bending in one plane (radius bending being defined as all bends having a radius of 12 inches or more to inside of bar). HEAVY BENDINGBar sizes #4 through #18, which are bent at not more than six points in one plane (unless classified as light bending or special bending) and single-radius bending. SPECIAL BENDINGAll bending to tolerances more restrictive than those shown in industry standards, all radius bending in more than one plane, all multiple plane bending containing one or more radius bends, and all bending for precast units.* Typical extra charges may be of the order of $4.00 per hundred pounds for light bending and $1.75 per hundred pounds for heavy bending. Since light bending costs $2.25 per hundred pounds ($45.00 per ton) more than heavy bending, it is more economical to specify, for example, #4 bent bars rather than #3 where total required areas are approximately equal. Multiple bends such as continuous truss bars in bridge deck slabs are more costly per hundred pounds since they usually have more than six bends per bar and come under the light bending extra.

23 jobsshowed class of splice, per ACI 318. 24 jobsgave a table of splice lengths (inches), generally conforming to ACI 318, but not always. 10 jobsmerely referenced ACI 318 or CRSI Manual of Standard Practice (or silent). 14 jobshad miscellaneous other combinations. One of our conclusions is that some of the odd combinations are due to different designers working on the same contract.

* Standard tolerances are given in the Manual of Standard Practice published by Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute, 180 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60601.

Ideally, the length and location of all lap splices should be shown in the contract documents. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case in the real world. Recently we surveyed 139 jobs currently being serviced around the continental United States. The results indicated that splice information was given in the following ways: 46 jobsindicated splice lengths in bar diameters, generally 24, 36 or 40. 22 jobsprovided splice dimensions on plans, sections, or details.

Figure 1. Using contract drawing information (top) the estimator visualizes how the detailer would handle the bars (bottom) before he can estimate quantities. See Figure 2 for a much better way for the designer to treat this corner.

Figure 2. Preferred way of showing wall corner in Figure 1. Overall cost of horizontal wall reinforcement is reduced because only the bent corner bar is charged the heavy bending extra.

Splice location
The estimator must first determine the location of all splices so as to calculate the total quantity required. This is fairly straightforward for columns where the typical detail may show a splice at each floor level. It is not so obvious for elements such as walls with long runs of horizontal bars. The estimator has a double problem here: (1) he needs to determine the quantity of splices required in each run of bars; and (2) he also must make a judgement decision as to how many feet of the run will be estimated as bent and how many as straight. An example is shown in Figure l. The contract drawings show a wall cross section and indicate #5 at 12 horizontal both faces. The outside face bars are bent around each corner and extended 2 feet 2 inches. The inside face bars extend in straight. The estimator must visualize how the detailer would actually handle it. In this example the estimator has assumed three bars per run in 30-foot stock lengths, plus a bent bar at each end for the outside bars. This approach minimizes the weight of bent bar required, and therefore the quoted price of the material, without adding extra splices. A far better and more economical solution would be for the designer to show separate corner bars 2 feet 2 inches on a side (Figure 2). The estimator would then figure the inside and outside horizontal bars in an identical manner, as straight bars. The only bars that would require the heavy bending extra would be the bent corner bars, thereby reducing the overall cost of the horizontal wall reinforcement. The inside face bars would probably be figured as a run of four bars, each approximately 30 feet long, with three splices. It is important to recognize that the standard industry method of pricing bending is on a hundredweight basis. Placing a bend at the end of a longer bar causes the bending extra to be applied to the entire weight of the bar. Fabrication, transportation and construction limitations should have been considered by the designer when determining permissible splice locations (or prohibition of splices). The estimator is not in a position to make these decisions.

problem if the contract documents do not indicate whether horizontal wall bars are top bars or not. The designer should state explicitly if he has provided for top bar effect and which splices are affected, including horizontal wall bars. If the contract documents are silent on this, the estimator would usually assume that no top bar effect is required for walls, and splices would be figured as other. Probably the most frustrating experience for an estimator or a detailer is to have the contract documents spell out splices in accordance with ACI 318 and be otherwise silent. This is of absolutely no help to the estimator; he is in no position to determine conditions of tension or compression, class of splice, top bar effect, confinement, and the like. He must then contact the architect or engineer to determine what is required. All too often the response is You fellows are the experts; work out the solution yourself, or What do you recommend?

Butt splices, which are less frequently encountered, may be either mechanical or arc welded. The majority of butt splices used today are mechanical. There are numerous proprietary types, including the following: metal filled sleeve hot forged sleeve cold forged sleeve forged sleeve with threaded stud taper threaded sleeve thread deformed rebar with matching sleeve cement mortar filled sleeve end bearing sleeve Detailed descriptions are given in the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institutes publication, Reinforcement Anchorages and Splices. It is the job of the architect-engineer to indicate where butt splices are required and to further define whether they are to be end bearing (compression only), metal filled sleeves (compression only), or tension splices. For
* Building Code Requirements for Reinforced Concrete (ACI 318-77) is specific regarding top reinforcement requiring a multiplier of 1.4 and defining top reinforcement as horizontal reinforcement so placed that more than 12 inches of concrete is cast in the member below the reinforcement. However, the commentary to the code states that Recent research studying other matters has seemed to reflect a lessening of this effect when the horizontal top bar is in a wall or wall-like beam with multiple runs of other horizontal bars plus vertical bars and/or ties and stirrups. This suggests that some water and air may be entrapped by other reinforcement and not be free to reach the top bars. However, judgment regarding interpretation of these provisions should be made by the designer, not the estimator.

Length of lap
Once the estimator has determined where the splice is, he must determine its length. If the splice lengths are specified as a certain number of bar diameters for all splices (33 percent of jobs in survey) or clearly dimensioned on the plans and sections (16 percent) there is no problem. If the splice is specified as Class A, B or C according to ACI 318 (17 percent) the estimator must calculate this length or have look-up tables such as those in the ACI Detailing Manual1980. Even then there are questions, as spacing and edge cover are variable, and a reduction can be made when spirals are involved. An estimator would normally apply the top bar factor required by the code* to all splices with more than 12 inches of concrete under the bars. Howe ve r, he may have a

tension splices, the engineer decides whether they must develop 125 percent of minimum specified yield strength (per ACI 318) or the minimum ultimate tensile strength (per ACI 359 and others). If splices must be staggered, the designer must also indicate this as well as the amount of stagger. The estimator must know which kinds of splices are permitted as this affects his estimate. The firm for which he is doing the estimating may include the splice sleeve

Figure 4. Extra column ties may be required at the location of bends in column steel which is offset bent, as shown in this detail reproduced from the ACI Detailing Manual. Figure 3. Anchorage for dowels in Drawing A would probably be estimated exactly as shown, whereas for the deep footing (B) a check of the required anchorage length might be made by the estimator.

itself in the bid or may only include special end preparation of the bars, if required. If the sleeve is included, the estimator obviously must figure the quantity of splices required for each bar size and must follow reasoning similar to that for lapped splices. Even if others are furnishing the splice sleeve, the estimator must determine any end preparation necessary and the quantity of ends involved for each bar size.

This makes it all the more important that the designer should indicate his wants clearly and concisely. If a straight bar length of anchorage or embedment is shown and the contract drawings are not specific as to amount, the estimator figures either all the way to the bottom of the footing (the usual way) or assumes tension bar anchorage. He is never in a position to assume compression anchorage.

The estimator must determine the size, length and quantity of column ties. Where the contract documents are complete with schedules and typical column details, this is fairly straightforward. Howe ve r, where no typical sections are shown, the estimator does have decisions to make. He either must contact the architect-engineer for clarification or assume an arrangement such as shown in Figure 4 for multiple story heights, which has been taken from the ACI Detailing Manual. These details assume that at least some of the vertical column bars are offset bent and that extra ties are required at the bend location. This is true of the majority of building designs. If butt splices are involved, the estimator has to make another decision: whether to add extra column ties adjacent to the butt splice, as shown in Figure 5. The extra ties are presumably required to replace ties eliminated at the splice. This is a judgment call and depends on the tie spacing and the length of the splice sleeve. Ne ve rt h eless, it is possible that tie spacing is large enough so that no ties would be eliminated by the splice. This becomes

Anchorages are usually not a problem for the estimator since he generally is able to follow the contract documents. When hooked anchorages are specified they probably would be estimated without regard to whether the minimum code anchorage lengths have been provided. Usually the hooks are on beam or slab bars shown anchored fully into the support. Column dowels are sometimes a problem. Figure 3A shows a dowel apparently extending down to the footing mat reinforcement, with a standard 90-degree hook. In this case, the estimator would probably figure it just that way, regardless of whether the anchorage length exceeded or even met code requirements. However, if the footing or mat depth, as illustrated in Figure 3B is very large, the estimator might check the required anchorage length per CRSI Reinforcement Anchorages and Splices or the ACI Design Handbook (SP 17) to determine if he should use it. Incidentally, these two documents are not in agreement.

Figure 5. Extra ties may also be required in the region of butt splices in column bars, presumably to replace ties which may have been displaced by the splice location.

more complicated if the splices are staggered. It is especially important that the estimator be accurate with ties, as all ties (and stirrups) are subject to the light bending extra and affect the quoted price out of proportion to their weight.

Suppliers of reinforcing bars frequently include as part of their service a quantity survey for bar supports. Bar supports may consist of concrete, metal or other approved materials. Standard specifications for wire bar supports are included in the CRSI Manual of Standard Practice, which is revised periodically to reflect latest practice. The contract documents should indicate types of bar supports permitted and for wire supports, the class of protection. Most widely used are standard i ze d factory-made wire bar supports and reinforcing bars. After identifying the types of bar supports permitted and the class of protection required, the estimator must make a quantity survey. He will base his quantities on requirements shown in the contract documents or as covered in the CRSI Manual of Standard Practice. This involves first determining the number of rows of supports required. In continuous elements such as slab bolsters or rebar support bars the number of rows must be converted into lineal feet. For individual elements such as high chairs or rebar standees, the number of pieces per row must also be determined. Unless otherwise shown in the contract documents, the estimator would figure bar supports for slabs on grade for support of top bars only. For foundation mats more than 4 feet thick, supports are not normally provided for top bars. The estimator would usually take off individual standees spaced at 4 feet in each direction and assume that bars in the top mat in one direction (approximately every 4 feet) would be lowered two bar diameters to be used as a continuous horizontal bar support. The estimator has a choice, when making a quantity

Figure 6. Supports for bars in foundation mats and slabs on ground include individual high chairs with sand plates for soil bearing (HCP) and continuous high chairs for upper bar support (CHCU). Standeesreinforcing bars fabricated to order with bent legs resting on lower mat of barsare also used. Dowel blocks are common in western areas of the United States. Drawing from CRSI Manual of Standard Practice.

survey for one-way supported slabs, if not otherwise defined in the contract documents. When estimating the bar supports for the top reinforcement, he could figure continuous high chairs or individual high chairs with #4 support bars. Economy usually determines his decision. Where it is feasible to use a temperature bar as a support bar, individual high chairs will almost always be more economical for building slabs. In certain areas of the country continuous high chairs, with runners, are specified for bridge decks to support the top mat from the bottom mat of rebars, where an all-straight-bar design is involved. The estimator would figure on the continuous chairs in this instance as a contract requirement. Furnishing of spacers against vertical or sloping forms to maintain prescribed side cover and cross position of reinforcing bars has not been standardized within the reinforcement industry. Estimating or detailing such spacers with the reinforcement is not a normal industry practice, and the CRSI manual indicates that they are to be furnished by the general contractor (see related article on page 825).

An attempt has been made to give some insight into the business of making a quantity survey (estimating) of reinforcing bars. Only a few of the many variables have

been briefly touched on. It has been said many times that an estimators quantity survey may determine (1) whether the rebar fabricator is successful in securing a certain contract and (2) whether it turns out to be a profitable contract or not. In other words, the rebar estimator is a very important cog in the reinforced concrete construction wheel.

their office at 180 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60601. ACI Detailing Manual1980 is available from Concrete Construction Publications, 426 S. Westgate, Addison, Illinois 60101 for $39.95 postpaid; check should accompany order. ACI members may wish to order directly from ACI to obtain member discount.

Editors note: Publications of the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute cited in this article are for sale by CRSI. Address all inquiries to

Copyright 1981, The Aberdeen Group All rights reserved