The Best Construction Estimating Software of 2020

By
Joshua Stowers
,
business.com writer
| Updated
Jun 18, 2020
Image Credit: Bogdanhoda / Getty Images

Update: We've updated this page to include information about STACK's new advanced estimating capabilities.

If you're still using manual transcripts or spreadsheets for your construction business, construction estimation software is a good way to rebuild and start fresh. Construction estimation software is designed for contractors who estimate construction costs for work projects. This software can estimate bidding prices, along with other features, for projects that will result in a construction contract. 

The signup process is quick, there are plenty of options tailored to your specific trade, and, in most cases, you can pay on a monthly basis and receive a free trial or demo. Construction estimation is ideal for small, midsize and large businesses in contracting, residential or commercial lines of work. With dozens of options available, choosing one that's perfect for your needs can be a difficult process. To help you, we conducted our own research to determine the best construction estimation software.

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CoConstruct
CoConstruct
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We researched and examined more than 20 products already considered the best pieces of estimating software in the field. We narrowed our list down to 10 based on 4 months of research of research, four online webinars and interviews with five outside experts.

Estimation software gives construction professionals more control over their data and project workflow. Overall, project management is about making your projects efficient and accountable by compiling documentation in one centralized location. This reduces the risk of delays and errors, likely increasing sales. 

The first step in choosing the right estimation software is to identify your project management strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint the necessary solutions. Understanding the basics of estimate software can help you narrow it down by key factors such as logistics, usability, cost, stability, cloud construction and customer support.

Features

The best construction estimation software offers numerous features for project management, project schedules, instant takeoffs and easy bidding. You should expect the service to include the following standard features. 

Cost Comparisons

To make a fair and accurate bid to a client, you'll need software that can pull the latest prices of materials and equipment from the internet. Many construction estimating software companies have access to wholesale databases for checking the ever-changing costs of building materials. 

In addition to pulling data from online databases, the better programs allow you to add items and prices from your own suppliers to compare prices. You can make a similar database for subcontractors to compare labor costs. 

Instant Takeoffs for Adjusting Estimates

Takeoffs are an important aspect of construction estimating, because they allow you to determine the exact amount of materials you need, estimate a cost for those materials, and adjust those factors alongside design plans to offer a better bid to the client.

Blueprint Viewing and Editing

Amongst its digital takeoff features, it's common for construction estimating software to allow you to upload a blueprint of the proposed project, usually as a CAD or BIM file, that you can edit within the software. 

Mobile Access

A mobile version of the estimating program is especially helpful during the construction phase, particularly if you're onsite often. You'll be able to quickly access estimate information directly from your phone or tablet to make quick decisions during building. Software that is compatible with both iOS and Android can increase connectivity and communication throughout your team and improve your overall workflow. 

All-in-One Platforms

A few of the programs we reviewed are part of larger suites of construction software that integrate with each other. Other programs in these suites include construction management, accounting and scheduling software. 

We looked at each product's compatibility with programs construction companies commonly use, such as Intuit QuickBooks for accounting and Microsoft Excel for various spreadsheets. These bundles undoubtedly come at a higher price, but depending on your needs, it could be worth it to purchase a complete suite of tools. 

Cloud Construction

The cloud is the most practical and secure way to process and store your estimate data. There are three main categories of cloud construction: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (SaaS). 

IaaS and PaaS are larger solutions for IT operations, while SaaS is the easiest way to get the most out of cloud computing with little investment. Most SaaS solutions focus on the construction industry and are prevalent in estimation programs that offer solid cloud construction. 

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the construction industry is among the least digitized, next to the agriculture and hunting industry. Your construction business can't afford to turn a blind eye to digital trends like cloud hosting. 

Training and Support

While some programs are easier to learn than others, construction estimating software can still be complicated to properly operate, so tutorial material should be readily available. Companies that offer 24/7 phone or live chat support, free trials or demos, and great customer service ranked higher in our evaluations. Many of the companies have extensive training materials on their websites and even host remote seminars or in-person training classes, sometimes at an extra cost.

Types of Software

With numerous estimation software programs on the market, choosing the right one may be difficult. Various programs may offer similar features but different solutions, and the reputation and growth of a particular estimation software company could also impact your choice. 

Three common types of construction estimators are electrical, HVAC and plumbing. As the names suggest, electrical estimators calculate the projected costs in electrical projects; an HVAC estimator considers the cost of heating, ventilation and air conditioning in a proposed project; and plumbing estimators calculate the costs of materials and labor for plumbing projects. Some estimators offer better support for these industries, while some offer better support in fields like design or floor planning.

Pricing

The cost of construction estimation software varies by the type of service plan or licensing model. Depending on how your software is deployed, there can also be fluctuations in the costs of additional features and benefits. 

The number of employees who need access to the software is one big variable in the price. Some construction estimation software vendors price their plans based on the number of individual users who have access to the software. It's important to determine how many employees will need access to your estimation data before you choose a plan. Prices generally increase as the number of users increases. 

Some estimation software offers unlimited access for unlimited users for a fixed monthly or annual cost. Providing all company members access to your estimation data tends to result in better communication and cohesion. 

Pricing also depends on the way the software is hosted. Construction estimation software is available as a cloud-hosted or on-premises service. For the cloud-hosted software, you can expect to pay a monthly fee. Some providers may offer this as a month-to-month option, while others may require annual subscriptions. Many providers offer multiple service plans based on how many projects you are using the software for and the features you want. Costs for cloud-hosted software range from free to $500 per month, with extra fees for additional users. 

The other option some providers offer is on-premises software. With this model, you pay a one-time licensing fee for the construction estimation software to be stored on your company's computers. Instead of the monthly fees, you make a large one-time payment of up to $6,000, depending on the size of your construction business. 

Many vendors offer free trials and money-back guarantees. You should take advantage of free trials where available to understand how the software helps your business before paying for it.

Methodology

Our search for the best construction estimation software began with searching business and review websites, and then we explored the entire industry for a fuller view. We compiled this information into a list of more than 30 companies, adding estimation software we've previously reviewed as well as new software we hadn't yet researched. 

We then visited each company's website, studying support resources such as knowledgebases, how-to guides, articles and blogs, and video tutorials when available. 

Eventually, we narrowed our list down to 11 finalists. To determine our best picks, we looked for companies that provide the best features and offer competitive pricing. We realize that affordability is a top priority, especially if you're a startup or small business. We wanted to find companies with low monthly fees, superb cloud construction, and great training and support. 

We also considered how long it takes to request a quote and set up an account, and whether a contract is necessary. Although most construction estimation software offers more than one way of connecting to your estimate data, for this review we focused on mobile access and companies that support both iOS and Android.

Construction Estimation Software FAQs

Q: How does construction estimating software work? 

A: Construction estimating software estimates the cost of your business's projects. With features like easy payment tracking and scheduling, estimation software can increase workflow fluidity and allow you to throw away your old spreadsheets. 

Estimation software saves you time by connecting your team and centralizing all tasks and projects in one location. This increases ease of use and allows real-time access to your online database. 

Q: Who needs construction estimating software? 

A: Estimation software can help contractors, architects, engineers, and even designers in some fields, such as landscape, interior design, and service. Most estimation software is marketed to contractors, but depending on the features of the software and the type of construction work you do, it could be of great use for you and your team. 

If your business tends to make frequent cost-based adjustments and estimates, then estimation software can improve and simplify your workspace. 

Q: What are the most important elements of construction estimating software? 

A: Make sure the software integrates with the important programs you already use. For example, software that allows you to import and export data to and from Microsoft Excel can make sharing information simpler. 

A cost database is another important element of construction estimating software. These databases help you estimate the cost of items once you import takeoff information. 

Takeoff software allows contractors and project managers to create a material takeoff and estimate the total costs of a project. Cost projections and project procedures are more accurate as a result. 

Q: Why is construction estimating software an improvement over manual estimating? 

A: Construction is one of the least digitized industries on the planet. With construction estimating software, your business can ditch manual ways of tracking estimates and store the data in the cloud. This can increase productivity and improve communication between contractors and buyers.

Community Answers

Have a construction estimating software question of your own?

How long have you been in business? Do you have past clients or is this a start-up? What is an average project worth in profits? What's your average project profit margin. Depending on your cash flow, technically you can spend up to what you might profit on an average project to get a new client and still break even. But if you don't have a volume of projects in that field, that model might need some tightening up for your situation. Using averages helps keep it simple. You'll never get...

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Robin, Great question, There are a number of ways to look at this. 1) How do your competitors handle this situation? 2) Is this a common service that your customers expect from you? 3) How important is the freight cost in regard to winning the order. 4) Is the freight cost a strong customer requirement or is getting the goods on time more important. 5) If you charged more, but had a more reliable service would this make a difference. The business you are in is not the freight...

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