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CAD Estimator is a construction estimating program designed to help you create estimates from construction drawings, specifically from Auto CAD or PDF type files. Creating accurate bids is paramount to keeping a tight hold on your profit and can help you get realistic estimates on man hours and material requirements.
This estimating software can help you generate extremely detailed bids from drawings or other imported files. It can import and display AutoCAD DWG, DXF type files or PDF files, so you don’t have to scan construction drawings to import them or look at them separately while you attempt estimating the project cost in a separate program.
Accurate estimates in regards to materials can greatly decrease cost over runs and reasonable man hour estimates can help keep you and your clients happy, by helping you complete your projects on time and under budget.
Estimate Generating Tools
CAD Estimator provided a decent set of estimation tools, but few tools for keeping track of after ground breaking concerns or billing. However, the point of the program is estimating and it is not designed to be a stand alone program that does everything from creating 3D renderings to invoicing to customer relations. It is simply designed for generating fast and accurate estimates for bidding purposes, and it does that well.
This construction estimating software is designed to help you create the most accurate bids possible from drawings. For example, this software can work with AutoCAD DWG, DXF files and PDF image files. After the drawings are imported it can quickly help you figure out what materials are needed, how much the estimated material costs would be and expected labor hours.
Current market prices can be uploaded quarterly for $50 per quarter or $199/year and are based on zip code to provide local pricing. Lumber prices can be imported from RandomLengths.com, which provides local and up-to-date estimated lumber prices. Labor estimates can even include things like terrain and other considerations.
To make estimations go faster this software includes hundreds of assemblies, so it can create a materials list extremely quickly based on common components and it is easy to change them. For example you can select a certain part of a room or building and see the materials list and easily change something (like board size, for example) and everything updates automatically. The pricing database can sort by standard or SKU price and can hold up to 16,000 unique items.
We liked how easy it is to change things with this software. For example, say a client has decided to change the square footage of the garage or wants a price for a two car garage versus a three or four, these kinds of comparisons and estimates are easy to create with this estimating tool.
It is also easy to add comments to certain sections of the job and it is really simple to look at sections and related material requirements and costs. This estimating program also makes is really easy to add images or attach image files to a specific section, which could be anything from a site image to related construction drawings or renderings. Though it would be easier to interpret if the reports on the bottom half of the screen had lines or boxes dividing up the sections, which seems like it would be easy to add.
For client presentation it creates a cover sheet for you and reports and files can be exported to QuickBooks, UDA Construction Suite, Excel, as PDFs, as an HTML file or even to Word as an RTF file.
This is not the easiest software to learn to use; however, most programs of this type take a while to figure out. But once you understand how to use the program as it is intended to be used, you can quickly see how much time can be saved compared to creating accurate estimates with a set of drawings and a spreadsheet.
Also, the interface is a bit dated, and looks similar to software you may have used a few years back. However, that does not mean the databases, pricing information or functionality of the software is inaccurate or less useful, it just means the interface has not been modernized or updated for some time. If you have been using this type of software for a while you will quickly be able to figure out how to use it. Even some of the higher ranked products do not look entirely modern, and to be fair this type of program is much more about functionality than aesthetics.
We did not have a problem downloading this software from the web. Though it does require several downloads to get everything: one for the software, two for instructional videos and another to be able to read CAD files. In addition, during the download make sure to select the button that says to add the software to the start menu or as a shortcut or you will have a hard time finding the program once it is installed.
Help & Support
CAD Estimator comes with phone and email support and the program includes quite a large help file. The embedded help includes an introduction, helpful general articles and is even searchable.
The help files are organized in an interesting way, basically the help section displays a simple floor plan and each room is a section. For example, one is labeled track and another CAD, and to read these help files you just click on the room. Though we are familiar with reading construction drawings, we were not quite used to this type of software, so we utilized the help section often and found it to be quite informative and useful.
CAD Estimator can provide detailed construction cost estimates rather easily from drawings provided that you keep your price data base current. However, we found the interface a bit dated and awkward and we would have liked to have seen more scheduling and calendaring tools and perhaps more databases besides material based ones, like perhaps one for tracking clients, subcontractors or vendors.
Overall, CAD Estimator does it's job well, but doesn't offer many additional features to take it from good to great.