The construction estimating process is critical to the success of every project.
Modeling the costs and productivity requirements of a construction project requires contractors to create detailed cost estimates, project and delivery schedules, and construction plans.
Many software firms have attempted to create a seamless estimating experience and provide the tools to create a comprehensive estimating and takeoff process. This guide will cover the options that are available to contractors to allow quick, precise, and accurate cost & delivery estimates for their projects.
Let’s start with a brief review of the overall construction estimating, takeoff, and bidding process.
If you’re an estimating professional, and you just want to see our recommendations, click here.
Construction estimating is part of the bid process, during which contractors and builders will typically compile a group of documents, known as the bid package, which summarizes the project details and key information. These bids aggregate the costs that the contractor expects to pay for the sourcing of materials and construction of the project.
The process begins with the project owner creating the bid package.
The bid package contains all of the information the contractors will need to create an accurate cost estimate, schedule, and delivery method.
The documents included in the bid package typically include the Invitation For Bid (IFB), project blueprints, location and schedule constraints, detailed specifications of the contract, which include general standards, contract terms, insurance requirements, and other information about the bid and contract.
A takeoff (sometimes referred to as material takeoff or quantity takeoff) is the first step in the bidding process. This step involves examining the blueprints and bid documents in order to extract the required materials and labor required for the project.
The information produced from the takeoff is what is used to build the cost estimate and project schedule.
For a General Contractor, some examples of takeoff items may include:
Once a takeoff has been completed, we compile the data to create the cost estimates required for materials, labour, and supplies.
The process typically follows this schedule:
There are several tools available to estimators to help them build their cost estimate.
The most common way of bidding is to prepare a hard bid (AKA competitive bid, hard dollar, fixed price, and others).
The GC sources material and subcontractor pricing, and then adds costs for their own supervision, site requirements (such as offices, sanitary facilities, dumpsters), contingencies, and profit.
Contractors with the most competitive bid, along with the best strategy and history/reputation, will likely earn the work. In the case of public projects (owned by government), the contractor with the most competitive bid is required to be awarded the project by law, provided their bid fully meets the requirements of the project.
Takeoff and estimating software refers to programs that help estimators extract useful material data from blueprints and IFB files. Some software will assist with generating material cost and labour estimates.
Typically, the software will support most file types for blueprints, such as PDF, DWG, SVG, DXF, XLSX, PNG, and other types of files.
With the suite of tools offered by the software, estimators can measure, calculate, and compile information quickly with fewer errors.
FREE VERSION?: No. Free Trial.
ProEst is a great option for midsize to large contractors. The system is cloud-based. This carries both pros and cons. If you don’t have an internet connection, you cannot access the suite. However, you will be able to access it on any computer with internet access, providing great flexibility.
FREE VERSION?: No. Free Trial.
PlanSwift is best for smaller teams, where collaborative work features are not required. The software runs on your PC, and stores files locally. PlanSwift can be custom-tailored to fit all trades from finish paint to earthwork.
$1,999.00 / YEAR – 1 User
$4,999.00 / YEAR – 3 Users
FREE VERSION?: Yes.
Stack is a growing company in the SaaS space. They implement new features quickly, have an active online community, and are constantly releasing new versions.
Cloud service is an essential feature for larger teams requiring collaborative tools. The user interface is intuitive and easy to use.
While still in its infancy, Stack is a fantastic tool for estimating teams and is currently our favorite.
The market for construction estimating software is growing at a staggering rate, and there are new options being released frequently.
Many estimating suites come with integrations that allow you to connect to your sales CRM and KPI dashboards. However, most of the options with modern integrations are hosted in the cloud.
To ensure everyone in the organization is in the loop on new projects, you need to ensure there is cross-compatibility with other software suites that may be used for sales and operational processes.
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