Construction Estimating Software Review
Which Cost Estimating Software is Best?
The top performers in our review are ProContractor Estimating, the Gold Award winner; B2W Estimate, the Silver Award winner; and Sage Estimating, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
Construction estimating software is designed to help you manage and track the costs related to your construction job, whether it involves home repair, highway construction or large civil projects. This type of software typically focuses on helping you create accurate bid proposals, but also helps you compare the estimated costs in your bid with the actual costs associated with equipment, subcontractors, materials and labor once the bid is won. Some systems go further by assisting you in managing other aspects of the job, like scheduling, payroll costs and keeping a detailed history of past customers.
Construction estimation software is the starting point of your project and a critical program to have on hand. After you've won a bid, additional software programs and services are available to help you throughout the process, including project management, employee tracking and equipment leasing. We have evaluated the best of these solutions, most of which integrate well with our top picks of construction estimating programs.
Additionally, it is helpful to have some guidance in choosing a reputable vendor, setting costs for your labor and calculating the square footage of your project. Our sister site, BuyerZone, has some excellent resources in helping you with your construction project. We also have several articles on construction estimating that you can reference.
Construction Job Estimation: How Software Can Help
Construction cost estimating involves many details, and one mistake can be costly. Construction estimating software provides you with a way to save time, improve your bid estimates and organize your business more efficiently.
The tools offered by this type of program vary considerably, but all of the programs we reviewed offer some similar features, like a centralized cost table, built-in calculator, conversion program, a project database and full reporting capabilities. These tools are essential when organizing information and creating a bid proposal. Some features, like a conversion tool, let you estimate the cost of construction work in different currencies. Others, like the project database, provide you with pre-installed projects that you can work from. These are like templates; they can help you get started on a proposal even if you aren't familiar with the process. When estimating construction costs, there are several steps you must take to ensure the process is as accurate as possible, the right software can expedite the estimation process and improve accuracy.
Making Sense of a Blueprint
The first step in creating a bid proposal is to determine exactly what you are going to be doing. This means creating a blueprint of the finished project, either physically or digitally. Several of the top programs we reviewed will let you import blue prints, or CAD designs, from a standalone program, including those we compared on our CAD Software review. Consider choosing a program, like ProEst Estimating, that has tools for interacting with CAD designs. These features include shape recognition and cut down the chances of human error when calculating the number of materials you will need for the job. The feature can recognize shapes and symbols and translate those images into numbers for your bid proposal.
Some construction cost estimating software systems, like PlanSwift, feature a takeoff digitizer, which evaluates your digital designs and tells you exactly what units and assemblies each area of construction needs. Goldenseal also comes with a Smart Dimensions feature, which lets you estimate by the room or determine costs for the entire building.
Another option is offered by ProContractor Estimating. This software application features 3D visual assemblies. This lets you see what your construction site would look like in real life, usually from any angle. The 3D visual assemblies show all of the items you have included on your project checklist, but they also let you edit this visual and create new assemblies using different calculations and formulas. When you're done, all you need to do is drag and drop the 3D assembly into your estimate. This lets you show your clients exactly what you plan to do during the project in a stunning and impactful way. Once you've made your physical or digital plans, you can determine what equipment and materials you will need.
Every last detail is important when it comes to creating an estimate for a bid. You want to make sure you account for even the tiniest screw. In our construction estimating software reviews, we found that each of the 10 programs offers a centralized cost table. This cost table lists common construction-related material and equipment, along with the estimated cost for each one. These costs are pulled from a master database and will upload cost information based on both local and national standards. If you know the cost for these units or assemblies will be higher or lower, some software programs let you edit the information, or custom modify, so you can create a more accurate quote. You then have the option of saving these changes into your own custom price book for reference later rather than starting again with the cost table.
Factoring Labor and Subcontractors
Labor is an expensive but essential part of any construction job, and it should be included in your proposal. Subcontractors may need to be hired as well. These individuals include any professional you are going to use for an area of the construction that falls outside your expertise. For instance, if you are skilled in areas like HVAC, plumbing and carpentry, but don't have a worker on staff who can safely perform electrical work, a subcontractor would be needed to do this. A construction cost estimator, like the EasyEst Pro, supports scopes, a tool that lets you see at a glance all your subcontractors, vendors and suppliers and their costs. This means you can quickly add to your final bid the correct pricing for projects that require you to use experts outside your own company.
Planning for the Worst
While you always hope for the best, it's necessary to plan for complications. By giving yourself a little bit of wiggle room when it comes to the estimate, one of two things could happen. Something could go wrong on the project, causing you to spend more money than you originally anticipated. However, if you have planned for the worst and added a bit extra to the estimated cost, you still may be able to stay under budget. Even if the actual price is slightly more than the bid, the client will be grateful for the cushion you provided.
If everything goes according to plan and you finish the project at or under the bid price, you are likely to impress the client. This could ensure further work and positive recommendations from that client in the future.
Finishing the Project
The best construction estimating software doesn't leave you high and dry once the bid is submitted. If you win, you can continue to use the software to keep track of labor, materials and costs. It provides you with a place to compare the estimated costs in your bid against the actual costs while the work is in progress. This is important, especially if the price of your bid is lower than the actual price of the work. With this software, you can show your clients and subcontractors what differed and why it cost more.
Most Important Features in Estimating Software
Purchasing a commercial construction cost estimator isn't always simple. While most programs share many similar features, some stand out above the rest. We reviewed 10 of these products in order to find the most feature-rich, easy-to-use software available.
Features You Should Look For
There are several basic elements that make up construction software, and then there are advanced features that make certain programs stand out.
With emerging technology, more business software and services are becoming mobile friendly. Construction is one area where being able to conduct business from a tablet or cell phone is very convenient, though a lot of companies haven't caught on just yet. There are a few that have mobile capabilities, making it easier to create and present a bid while in the field rather than having to return to your office and sift through several paper notes. Our two top-ranking solutions, ProContractor Estimating and B2W Estimate, both have mobile apps for creating bids on the go. Bid4Build also has this capability.
Not many estimating programs let you interact with CAD designs. This capability allows you to simply click on an assembly and remove it from the estimate. When you have this ability, it's helpful to also have custom scales so that you can determine the measurements of the design based on the metric you are comfortable with. PlanSwift and EasyEst Pro both have custom scales.
Once you start working on a project, it is important to track the actual costs. It isn't uncommon for prices of materials or subcontractor fees to change, so having a system with job costing and tracking abilities is very helpful. If you would like to have even more specific tracking, change order processing lets you differentiate between labor and material costs so you can see exactly where the mark-ups occur. Some programs let you set these changes within the cost table, while others allow you to create a custom price book that is a happy medium between the master cost database and the change orders you've tracked. WinEst is one of our top 10 solutions that provide each of these capabilities.
Ease of Use: Some Are Better Than Others
While the features included in the applications are important, they aren't the only factor to consider. You should also consider ease of use. In our testing, we rated each software program based on how simple the installation process was, what the interface was like to navigate and how easy it was entering and following construction-related data. Some applications scored well – ProContractor Estimating, PlanSwift and Clear Estimates, for instance, all had a score of over 90 percent. This wasn't the case with the rest of the software bidding programs, however. Some, like Estimate Master, featured outdated interfaces that were difficult to navigate because the graphics separating the different viewpoints on the screen were hard to see. Likewise, Bid4Build had an older-looking interface with a lot of data that made it more difficult to read through and keep track of.
We evaluated user training and live online demonstrations as well. Many of the programs are willing to offer training, with the notable exception of Work In Progress. The training curriculum includes videos on the manufacturer site, but also live online training. Seven of the 10 estimating applications offer online demonstrations. The B2W Estimate even offers in-classroom and onsite training, giving users the ability to learn how to use the software in person.
Integration: Will It Work With Your Current Applications?
The best construction estimating software for your business should be compatible with your other applications, like those made for accounting, design or project management. After all, you most likely use these applications on a daily basis, and when you have the opportunity to utilize these applications with your software, you can save money and time.
Most of the software programs we reviewed are capable of working with QuickBooks accounting software, but PlanSwift will charge you extra for this capability.
Two of our top medal winners also come with their own mobile apps, giving you the ability to use them with your mobile device. This lets you record information, gain access to purchase orders and record estimates for bids even when you're away from the computer rather than having to keep track of paper notes until you get back to the office.
Help & Support: Is Someone There When You Need Them?
Finding the help you need when you're navigating new software is essential, and most of the companies behind these products understand that. All of them offer email and phone support, while only ProContractor Estimating, Estimation and Hard Dollar offer live online chat. Some do include assistance within the software itself, though. Estimate Master, for instance, features balloons that pop up on your screen to point out a feature of the software or give you helpful tips and advice on what steps to take next.
The type of support you require will often depend on the kind of problem you are experiencing. If you're having trouble setting up the software but aren't in a hurry to get it done, writing a quick email and waiting a day for a response will most likely be alright. However, if you're in the middle of creating your first bid proposal and on a deadline, accessing live online chat or technical support over the phone will be essential. Keep in mind that many of the answers to common questions are included in video tutorials and online demonstrations provided by the publisher of the software. You may be able to find the help you need much more quickly by accessing these options. No matter what, always choose the construction estimating software that provides you with the support you think you might need.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Secondary Considerations: Best Construction Bidding Software
There are a lot of details to consider when purchasing construction bidding software. The best programs provide you with not only the options you need, but the ones you want as well.
Can You Use It on Any Operating System?
Like any other type of software, estimating programs for construction costs are not always available to use on every system. In fact, some are extremely limiting. All of the systems we reviewed are capable of working on Windows.
If you're using a Mac operating system, you may not have much of a choice when it comes to choosing the estimating software you want to use. Out of the 10 products we reviewed, only B2W Estimating was compatible with Macs. Those with mobile capability did support applications on Apple mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad. However, since Clear Estimates is a cloud-based solution, it can be accessed from any laptop or computer regardless of the operating system. It just may be a little more difficult to integrate with other programs, such as CRM or scheduling software, that typically are Windows solutions.
Generating Custom Reports
One of the biggest benefits of using a construction bidding program is the ability to create reports. Think of these reports like the report cards you used to receive in school. Each report can be customized to show exactly what area you want to see. For instance, if you want to view how you're doing financially, you can generate a report that compares your estimated cashflow verses your actual cashflow. If you want to see a report on the progress being made with the current project, a report can be generated through the system to show you this.
While full and customizable reporting may be a convenient feature, it's also a necessary one to your business. It helps you determine exactly how well your company is doing in different areas, the same way your report card did when you were in school. And, much like with your parents, giving these types of reports to your clients can help ease their minds when it comes to costs, scheduling and workflow. All of the estimating programs on our top 10 list have custom report generation.
Keeping Track of Customers
How much data do you have on your customers? Whether you're a small or large construction company, you most likely have more information written down about them than their name and phone number. Construction bidding software helps you keep track of all this data in one place. This feature lets you record not only their personal information, but insights into how they work and what type of construction jobs they offer. This is essential to your future.
Consider for instance, that Mr. Jones hires your company to complete a small home repair as a way to test the type of service you offer to determine if he wants to provide you with more substantial work down the road. You quickly find out through the course of the small job that Mr. Jones likes to stay in the loop. He wants pictures of your progress each week, hard copies of your purchase orders and updates on the progress of the project. By recording this information now via the software, you can be ready later on to provide the same service to Mr. Jones when he hires you again. This can lead to even more jobs in the future.
Keeping track of this information can also help you create more personalized bids for clients. By analyzing what the majority of your previous clients have wanted from you, you can create a proposal that is more attractive to potential clients you are attempting to work with.
Keeping Track of Vendors and Suppliers
Like your clients, your vendors and suppliers are important parts of your construction business. They may not bring you work or make you money, but they ensure you have the tools, materials and equipment necessary to get the job done.
Keeping track of your vendors and suppliers through remodeling estimating software does more than provide you with the right phone number and address. Using the same suppliers and vendors again and again can actually be financially beneficial, especially if they provide you with high-quality tools and materials. Being loyal to a particular brand has its perks, and you could be offered discounts on the supplies you need by keeping track of your vendor or supplier.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't shop around for the best price and the highest quality, but be careful about bouncing around too much. You may end up spending more than you actually want to, and you could run into suppliers and vendors who provide low-quality materials and equipment. Working with these products could put a severe dent in your reputation.
Bidding on Construction Projects
In a perfect world, the bid you submit to a potential client would be completely accurate, and your actual spending would match it perfectly. This, however, isn't always the case. Things change. You may have thought a certain material would work for a job, but may discover later a different material is needed. Maybe the equipment you were using wasn't strong enough to tackle the construction, and you needed an upgrade.
Bidding on construction projects isn't a perfect science, although estimating software helps bring it closer. That is why seven of the 10 programs we reviewed came equipped with a change order processing feature. This feature lets you keep track of any alterations made to the original bid. Whether it be new materials or new equipment, you are able to maintain hard evidence as to what was done and why. When you and your client are watching the bottom line, this can be a lifesaver.
Creating a Summary by Division
When creating your bid, it's important to be as detailed as possible to show your client and your subcontractors exactly where the money is being spent. This also shows you are fully away of every part of the project that needs to be completed and that you are accounting for all the costs required to do it. Most of the time, a construction bidding program gives you the tools to do this. In our lineup, the only exception was the Estimate Maker, which did not include a Summary by Division feature.
This feature lets you break down costs into divisions and even subdivisions. This means you can create summaries for each division, like framing, painting and excavating, as well as summaries for other costs, like material, equipment, subcontractors and labor.
Mistakes Construction Companies Make
Whether you're a large or small company, you're always just a few mistakes away from having to shut down your business. It's a hard truth, and those mistakes may not exactly be obvious, especially to you. The right construction bidding application can help prevent you from making some of these costly errors, but only if you're willing to use it to your advantage. Want to know more? Here are a few mistakes that could cost you.
Always Saying "Yes"
If you're new to the construction business, it can be hard to get that first "no" out. You have competition everywhere, and you know that as soon as you turn down a job, someone else is going to be there to snatch it up. Let them.
Saying yes to every opportunity doesn't mean you're achieving your dream or making more money. In fact, saying "yes" to every job could be costing you. You could be busy while more profitable work is being offered to your competition. Luckily, construction estimating software can help you overcome the constant need to say "yes" by helping you create bids and proposals that reflect your needs. Your bids will be more accurate, and you will know everything necessary for the job, including your paycheck, is included. This makes it a lot easier to turn down a potential client who is simply interested in getting the best rate possible.
Letting Subcontractors Work Without Insurance
You've taken the step to cover yourself with construction insurance. This type of insurance helps to protect you if your equipment is damaged, if an employee becomes injured on the job site or even if you have to go to court. But what about your subcontractors? One construction cost estimator takes care of this problem for you. Rather than let the subcontractor continue working with expired insurance, the application will actually track their insurance and halt their pay when their insurance expires. This prevents you from being liable for any accidents that could occur while they are uninsured.
Failing to Have a Plan
Every project you take on needs to have a plan to go with it. A well-thought-out plan gives your client peace of mind before hiring you, but also lets you better control your budget and schedule. It's the foundation of the project, and something you can't do without.
Construction bidding programs make it simple for you to create and implement a plan while following your budget closely. With project area and phase analysis features, you can break your project down into different parts and keep track of the cost of each section. By using the defined crews for labor and equipment, you can manage the cost of each of your employees and the price of the various equipment you own. At the same time, you can compare those real costs to the ones estimated in the original bid you provided the client. Every aspect of the software lets you manage and track what you're doing in the project.
Keeping Bad Clients
Bad clients are easy to find. They never pay on time, they constantly change their requirements for the job and they bully you into providing your services at a lower price than you want. At the end of the day, you ask yourself, "Is this really worth it?" The answer is no, it's not. No matter how much a bad client is willing to pay, having to deal with that client isn't worth it.
If you're keeping a bad client around, you're dragging down your business. Instead of having the opportunity to impress another client, you spend all your time with a difficult client who doesn't appreciate your hard work. The most important step you can take is to get out from under the thumb of the client with the poor attitude. Once you've done this, you can begin marketing your business, improving your reputation and creating bids that attract the clients you actually want to work with.
Not Keeping Up With Technology
Technology is constantly changing, and today there are newer, more efficient ways of doing things than there were 10 years ago. If you haven't updated your processes for a decade or more, it's probably time to modernize your equipment. Consider bidding software, for instance. By upgrading from Excel, or even pen and paper, you can greatly improve the speed in which you can create proposals and bids for new clients. Time is money, and if you're wasting it using outdated software, your construction business isn't going to be as successful as it has the potential to be.
Forgetting to Listen
One of the most important jobs in the construction industry is customer service, and it's typically provided by the contractor creating the bids and trying to get the job. If you want to maintain a level of customer service you can be proud of, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. The wrong way involves ignoring the questions your clients have. Unfortunately, this is more common than you might think. Customers who experience this often feel like they have been rejected and that the individual running the business isn't a professional.
You can change all that with the right construction cost estimator. One of the software programs we reviewed, the BSE Estimator, offers you a private area on the interface where you can email your clients. This lets them ask questions about the project and gives them a forum to voice their opinions, fears and thoughts. You can address their concerns here as well. The software even lets you create private photo galleries that can only be seen by you and your client. Here you can share pictures of your plans and also photos of the progress you've made with the project.
Failing to Market Your Business
While your construction estimate system can't help you market business, taking this step is still an important factor in determining how strong and healthy your company is going to be. Take the traditional route of marketing, through newspaper ads and radio, but don't be afraid to step into the future and get your brand online as well. Having a professional website and a social media presence can give your company authority and boost awareness. People are increasingly turning to Google to find the best construction companies.
Not Asking for Help
There are times when trial and error is necessary. After all, how can you learn from your mistakes if you never make them? At other times, asking for help is essential. Consider for instance what you might do if you don't have an employee who is capable of providing plumbing services, but the job you're attempting to get requires it.
The best solution here is to ask for help from a subcontractor. These individuals specialize in certain professional areas. Enlisting the help of a subcontractor may mean that you have to spend more money on a project, but if you know nothing about the subject of plumbing, the results of taking on a task you're unfamiliar with could be more costly than hiring the subcontractor.
Are you making some of these common mistakes? We urge you not to put your construction company at risk. We recommend using the convenient and essential features of construction cost estimating software to begin improving the reputation, authority and efficiency of your business. Learn more about how your construction company can benefit from the right software here.
Construction Estimating Software: Our Verdict and Recommendations
While there's never a guarantee you'll win every bid, using construction estimating software can help you create better, more accurate bids to present to your clients. During our reviews of these 10 products, we found the ProContractor Estimating to provide the best features, including backup and restore, a built-in calculator, a purchase order system and a takeoff digitizer. Estimation came in at a close second, however, with features like a scheduling system, customer database and summary by division. While Bid4Build does lack a takeoff digitizer and doesn't score as well when it comes to usability, it does feature many of the same elements as the Gold and Silver Award winners. All three integrate well with the majority of accounting, project management and design applications used by those in the field of construction, and they are all capable of operating on any modern Windows operating system.
Find out more about how each of the 10 products we tested compared by reading their reviews. The right estimating program can save you time and prevent costly mistakes.
Product 1 Recap: ProContractor Estimating
When paired with one of Viewpoint's many construction business solutions, ProContractor Estimating, lets you control almost every aspect of your construction job, from the first bid to the last employee paycheck. However, even as a standalone program, this software is the best construction estimating program we reviewed.
One feature of this system is its ability to let you complete proposals in the system itself. You don't have to export the information saved in the software to another application, like Excel. You can keep all the information on the ProContractor interface; this helps to prevent data loss and keeps your information up to date.
ProContractor lets you interact with imported CAD, or blue print designs. This makes digital takeoffs easier to use than most other programs. You can also use the 3D visualizer to see every part of your project, how assemblies interact with each other, and what the final project will look like.
In addition to physical building projects, ProContractor includes tools for groundwork. With geographical tools, including the ability to import GPS data, you can easily schedule when to excavate, lay pipe or begin concrete work. You can also track actual job costs and change estimates after the work has begun to reflect actual prices.
This is the easiest program to use with an intuitive and clutter-free interface. Support personnel are ready to help, though telephone and email support is only available during business hours. Video tutorials are also available to access and are very clear in their direction.
ProContractor Estimating is the best construction bidding software we reviewed. It is great for both residential and commercial projects, including any foundation and groundwork that need to be completed.
Product 2 Recap: B2W Estimate
B2W Estimate is construction estimating software that can be used on almost any type of job, although it's designed specifically for commercial construction projects. It offers real-time updates, onsite training and an estimate check wizard. However, it isn't able to integrate with CAD or CRM software.
This software is easy to navigate with an interface that is similar to Microsoft applications. It employs drag-and-drop functionality and organizes its databases based on common name rather than confusing alphanumerical codes.
When bidding on construction projects, this software gives you access to many electronic databases, where you can use the information to update your prices and ensure your bids are accurate. The system also features real-time updates, giving you the chance to see how each adjustment you make in your proposal affects the total price. You also have the ability to adjust your bid while you're on the construction site with mobile bidding. This does not cause the proposal on the server to update automatically; you have to reconnect to the server and synchronize this information.
While the B2W estimate system doesn't work with the National Trade Database or CAD software, it is compatible with other third-party applications like QuickBooks and Primavera. Another important element it provides is training. Onsite training is available to users who want to get to know the software better. Online training is also offered, as is technical support by email or phone.
Product 3 Recap: Sage Estimating
Sage Estimating can be purchased as a standalone application or as an addition to other Sage commercial business solutions. Both versions give you the best tools needed to create a construction estimate. These include digital takeoffs, super assemblies and the ability to merge several bids into one single estimate. While the central cost list is generated by connecting with a national database, you have the ability to custom modify individual items and either override your cost list or create a custom price book.
This program lets you import CAD designs for reference during the bidding process. You can adjust the scales so that they match with the measurements you are using for each individual project. However, you will have to purchase one of Sage's other solutions in order to interact with those designs.
Sage incorporates important job and cost tracking tools that let you compare actual costs of the project with the estimated bid. This program supports change order processing and has scheduling systems so you can ensure each supplier, vendor, subcontractor or crew is on task throughout the project.
Telephone and email support is available, though only during standard business hours. Video tutorials will help you learn how to use the program, though more personalized training is also available.
Sage Estimating is one of our top-ranking bidding programs. Though you can use it to bid residential projects, it is specifically designed for commercial construction estimates.
Product 4 Recap: ProEst Estimating
ProEst Estimating software has been designed to look like a Microsoft application, making it relatively easy to learn. This is important since there are so many steps involved with creating a construction estimate, and missing one could cost your company a lot of money.
This bidding program has a digital takeoff tool, supports super assemblies and connects with national databases to create a cost list that reflects local material and labor costs. You have the option of modifying individual items and either updating the central cost list or creating your own custom price book.
ProEst will track actual costs of the job and let you compare against the original bid. It also includes scheduling tools to let you assign crews and subcontractors and order supplies in a timely manner. This program will integrate with third-party programs, including project management software. It also works with QuickBooks.
Support is offered during standard business hours and includes both phone and email support. You also have training available to help you learn the system, as well as a great library of video tutorials to reference.
The only real drawback is that ProEst doesn't have mobile capabilities. This would have made it easier to create a new, or tweak an existing, bid while out in the field rather than having to wait until you return to the office. Even so, ProEst Estimating is a great product for easily creating an accurate construction estimate.
Product 5 Recap: EasyEst Pro
EasyEst Professional has a little bit of a learning curve, but it isn't very difficult to get the hang of navigating through the program. There are a variety of tutorials on different topics that can help you create proposals and track the cost of your operation after your bid has been accepted.
Once you've mastered the basics, you can see this construction estimate software offers many of the features you might need to create bids and track costs. Some features include custom reports, built-in conversion programs and calculators, a customer and vendor database, and a scheduling system. It doesn't offer password protection, however, which can leave your interface vulnerable to unauthorized changes.
When you're bidding on construction projects, having the ability to integrate the third-party applications you use often is important. This software accepts many of them, including QuickBooks. It is also compatible with multiple types of CAD software, including Chief Architect, AutoCAD and DesignCAD. The software can also work with Microsoft Project, Kidasa Milestones and Primavera.
With in-depth video tutorials, this estimating software will help you control, manage and track your construction job. It works with many different applications, making it an important addition to your business solutions. Additionally, if you need assistance, EasyEst is the only bidding software on our review that offers 24/7 support at no additional cost.
Product 6 Recap: WinEst
WinEst is a powerful estimating program that is designed for commercial constriction, but easily can be used for home building projects, including renovations. This is because it gives you a lot of customization tools so you can handle as big or as small of a job as you need.
This program is designed to mimic Microsoft Excel, so it's easier to move from working with a spreadsheet into using construction estimation software. It allows you to import CAD designs and interact with them once they're in the system, another feature to aid in quickly and easily creating your proposal. You also have the option of creating custom scales to reflect your current project needs.
This program is missing the ability to integrate with important third-party applications, including CRM and contract management programs. It also doesn't connect with scheduling software, which is unfortunate since it doesn't include these tools within the program itself. It also doesn't provide you with a way to track scopes within the program, though you can export this information into Excel and use the information this way.
The software provides in-depth video tutorials and pre-recorded webinars to help you learn how to navigate and use this bidding software. Additional support is available, though it is often difficult to connect with the right person, and waiting for someone to return your email or telephone call takes many days.
WinEst is an easy program to use, though it is missing some key features. The most important function this program lacks is the ability to integrate with other business programs such as customer and contract management software.
Product 7 Recap: PlanSwift
PlanSwift is one of the few construction estimating programs that not only allows you to import CAD files, but also interact with the designs as well. This makes it really easy to click a wall, door, light fixture or other assembly and quickly remove it from the bid. You can also adjust the scale into one that fits your project. This program is especially useful for home construction and remodeling, though the custom features allow you to also use it for commercial construction products.
During the setup of the program, PlanSwift will connect with a database and import current cost lists for your particular area. You have the ability to modify these prices based on your own vendor, supplier and subcontractor lists, or you can create your own custom price book.
This program is one of the easiest to use on our construction bid creation review. However, if you find that you need some assistance, the support personnel at PlanSwift are eager to answer your questions. You have the option to choose a one-on-one walkthrough of the program so you will be thoroughly trained on every aspect you need. There are also very detailed video tutorials if you want to try tackling it on your own. Telephone and email support are available, though you will have to purchase the support package in order to take advantage of this. If you do choose this option, support will be available to you 24/7.
PlanSwift is a good choice for home building and remodeling projects. It's one of the easiest programs to navigate on our review.
Product 8 Recap: Bid4Build
Bid4Build is made to be used with residential construction projects. It features a cost database, a photo database and customizable reports. Navigating the software is simple, and a variety of support solutions are offered to guide you through it. It also features various application integrations, but you cannot use it with Primavera.
The Bid4Build construction estimating software features a cost database that lets you change the cost of each line item, add new items and delete old ones. It also features a scheduling system, which lets you break down every bit of your construction timeline so clients and workers can see what must be completed each day.
A photo database gives you the opportunity to pair pictures with each area of the schedule. This can be helpful if your client isn't able to come to the construction site but wants to be updated regularly on the progress made by your company. You can also create customized reports that can be made into hard copies or saved as PDF files.
Support is provided with each move you make within the Bid4Build software. You can take advantage of a quick start menu, helpful wizards and even videos that show you how to complete each step. Tutorials and frequently asked questions are also provided, as well as phone and email support.
The cost estimating software integrates with many different applications. It can be used with your iPad and iPhone, giving you the ability to use it on-the-go. It doesn't work with Primavera but is compatible with Microsoft Project, Excel, CAD software and QuickBooks.
Although this system isn't compatible with Primavera and is designed to be used for home repair and remodeling jobs only, it does offer several beneficial features. It has a photo database, various helpful support options and is useable on your iPhone or iPad.
Product 9 Recap: Clear Estimates
Clear Estimates is the only bidding software we reviewed that is cloud based. This means you can access your estimate information from any web-enabled device, including tablets and cell phones. This makes it easier to create or update bids while onsite rather than having to wait until you're back in the office.
This is one of the easiest construction estimating programs to use. The interface isn't cluttered with unnecessary data, and it is easy to navigate through and find each part of the bid you need for the final estimate proposal. You can import data from Excel or CAD designs, though unlike our top bidding program, you cannot interact with the blueprints.
The central cost list is created by synchronizing with a national database and includes the most up-to-date labor and material costs for your service area. You can modify individual items and save them in your own custom price book.
While you can create a specific vendor and supplier database, and have tools for change order processing, Clear Estimate doesn't provide many other job and cost tracking tools. It does integrate with the best CRM, contract management and project management programs. It also connects directly with QuickBooks.
Both telephone and email support is available, as is a good list of video tutorials. You can request more individualized training to help you become more familiar with Clear Estimate and its features.
Product 10 Recap: Estimate Master
Estimate Master features a database that lets you track your customers, labor and even the parts you have used. It has an automatic backup function as well that can protect you from losing any data you may have entered. It doesn't work well with most applications, though, and is missing a few key features that limit its usability.
One of the key features of the program is its built-in backup capability. Each time you close the interface, even if you forget to save your work, the software will do it for you. It will also save each time you open a new screen. This can save you from having to reenter all of the information about a bid.
The software is missing a few things you'll notice once you begin using it. The construction bidding system doesn't come will a scheduling tool or calendar. You'll need to use another application to track when each part of your construction project needs to be completed. This can be difficult, especially when the software does not work well with most other software applications. It is compatible with QuickBooks, but won't work with CAD software, Primavera or Microsoft Project.
When estimating construction costs, having the right software is important. This software does offer several features, including built-in backup capability and support, but it is lacking in other areas. It doesn't work with any applications aside from QuickBooks, and it doesn't include a calendar or scheduling tool.