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Masonry Estimating Programs

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Old 02-25-2011, 08:35 AM   #1
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Masonry Estimating Programs

Hey gentlemen, I am looking in to buying a masonry estimating program or possibly hiring a full time estimator. I am wondering if any of you guys are using any program and to get feedback on ease of use and accuracy of the cost books that come with the program. We are strictly a masonry contractor and over the last 7 years about 85% of our work is in custom stonework and massive fireplaces. I purchased an online estimator from RSMeans called costworks. Don't like it much. Not very user friendly and their expectation of sq. ftge a mason may install on stonework was nowhere near correct. Who and what do you trust? Our company has grown in the last 5 - 7 years from 6 employees to 15 employees of which I train personally as much as possible. Have had a lot of jobs just handed to us because of our reputation for quality. We still have that happening, but with the additional employees I am toying with the idea of getting back into some commercial work to continue to expand. I am leaning toward putting on an estimator so I can be in the field more. The more presence I have in the field the better things go and the more the customer likes it. If I'm not in the office estimating though work flow suffers and if I do we sometimes are not as organized as we should be in the field. If I go with an estimator I first have to find one. Don't even have a clue where to start with that. Any thoughts or ideas would be great.
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Old 02-25-2011, 08:46 AM   #2
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

I think in your field of work, especially doing custom jobs, you will not find anything more accurate then doing a job break-down yourself. I have a few friends who bid big commercial jobs and they have you used estimators before to save time, they end up not getting jobs because it was way to high, or the got jobs where they charged way to low. What they did is higher a person to do the job break-down cost and they had much better luck with that.

Most of the estimators go by National average, and you adjust the cost for your region per graph they provide, but still it will not give you the right numbers. That is my opinion.


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Old 02-25-2011, 01:35 PM   #3
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

While I certainly think that estimating programs are going to be more helpful on commercial jobs, especially large jobs, I'm still a believer in just having a knowledgeable human doing the takeoff. As you mention with stone.....some jobs you may get 6 sf a day, others you may get 100. And while figuring the count with brick and block is pretty easy, the variables such as time of year, access, degree of difficulty in regards to staging, even division of labor (on non-union jobs) give each job their own identity. I think if you pick up a Means book, and just go over the various crew breakdowns, and figure which ones will be applicable on your jobs, you'll get a pretty good idea about to how best man them. But production levels, especially if you're taking guys that have done primarily custom chimneys, and putting them 'on the wall'.....I think that's something best learned on the job. I will say this, there can be a world of difference between custom chimneys and "commercially acceptable" masonry.....and guys that are comfortable (and able) to go both ways, are not always that easy to find. Here's hoping you have a couple.....Good luck Also, you could advertise for an experienced masonry estimator......there are guys that are retired, or possible slow. You don't necessarily need one full time, and some are perfectly happy working as an independent contractor.

Last edited by Rockmonster; 02-25-2011 at 01:41 PM. Reason: more
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Old 02-25-2011, 05:39 PM   #4
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

Maybe you could train one of your guys to take care of field work and you could concentrate on estimating; or hire a good masonry foreman with experience in commercial work.
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Old 02-25-2011, 06:50 PM   #5
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

I have great guys for field foremen. They just might not see or know the the things, with ten or twelve years of experience, that I see with 30 years of experience.
Also when the I am on the job and on the wall it just seems that production goes up. I guess it just brings out the A level in the guys, trying to show the boss what they can do, rather than cruising along at the B level and just getting the count. Besides I enjoy that part better than the office part. Its nice to do what you love to do. Thanks for the comment though. It helps to sort it all out. It would be nice to find somebody retired that still wants to do a little something to keep their fingers in the trade. Just thinking of that, a guy has popped into my head that might like that type of position. Thanks to all and keep those comments coming.
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Old 02-28-2011, 08:50 AM   #6
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

For a program take a look at PlanSwift it will work good for you out of the box, but you can always customize it if you want. They should have a free trial so you can see if it fits with your operation. cheaper than hiring someone.
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Old 03-03-2011, 08:40 PM   #7
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

I would consider retiring...but I would have to have a looooong talk with my banker.
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Old 11-19-2011, 08:21 PM   #8
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

Hey there Ave,

I realize I'm a few months late here but I may be able to offer some insight ... I myself am a masonry estimator (full-time) now with another contractor specializing in site work, concrete, and may wonder how one contractor can specialize in all three things but that's another thread.

I was in my own business for a time so I can relate to your "problem," allbeit a good one to have.

2 options here (obviously): continue estimating everything yourself or hire an estimator.

If you estimate yourself; because you are juggling both your estimating and field work, you must maximize your time to it's fullest level of efficiency...I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. My suggestion would be to first assess the way you estimate to maximize efficiency - what I mean is; are you doing takeoffs by hand using paper plans? You could be saving time by using an on-screen takeoff program...and if you aren't sure about it or don't want to make a large investment I would highly recommend a program called Bluebeam PDF Revu Standard edition ... I've used it for years...It's the closest thing you can get to doing takeoffs the traditional way, however it will both speed up the process and make it more it's a nifty tool and fun to use. Best of all it's only $179 as compared to the thousands you pay for similar programs.

That's just one aspect of assessing your current takeoff procedure. I can go on here; I worked for a large general contracting and construction management firm a few years back who got a $50K grant from the state to have a consulting firm come in and work with each of the four major departments in the company, to both assess and streamline procedure to maximize efficiency and productivity. Since I ran the estimating department, I worked with them through the entire process and learned a great deal from it - I'd be happy to share more should you respond.

On the other side of things; most owner/operator contractors are reluctant to hire an estimator because it's almost always true that they are not as experienced as the owner/operator, nor do they do things the same way. It is arguably the most sensitive part of one's business so it cannot just be handed over to anyone.

Should you decide to hire an estimator, I would suggest, as others touched upon, that you allow him/her to start by performing the takeoffs/quantity surveys on some of your projects on a consulting or per diem basis...if you like what you see and their takeoff is accurate, this alone may save you a great deal of would obviusly still have to cost the job but much of the work is done. You could also have this person solicit material quotes for you if needed. If this person proves to be thorough and qualified, you could take the next step with them by doing one of two things:

1. Provide them with some productivity averages that you typically base your estimates off of, unless your jobs are so highly custom that productivity averages are useless, in which case you can decide what methods are most useful to you and begin to train them "your way" of costing the job.

2. Ask them to cost a couple jobs and see how accurate they are and where they come in compared to where you are on the same jobs. If they're close compare logic on how you and s/he got to the labor, material, equipment, and any other costs involved.

Sooner of later if you're growing at the rate you are you must hire a qualified estimator, who is worth their weight in diamonds if you find the right one.

Hope this helps...let us know how you made out since this was back early this year.
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Old 11-26-2011, 08:22 PM   #9
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

The one im using is called Tradesman Software. It is probably the ultimate in software as far as doing takeoffs is concerned. It may not suit your needs though unless your going after larger projects to justify the cost of the program. Im still pretty green at using it yet but i can already tell you, its going to help me sleep at night KNOWING nothing was missed.RCM
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Old 06-14-2013, 12:57 AM   #10
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

I am very interested in the revu program. Im a tile contractor who is growing fast. The days of measuring a job with a tape measure and notepad are dimming on me and now General Contractors are throwing plans my way.

Has anybody used the revu program , Would love some feedback , I get my plans in PDF file and would love a user friendly program to speed up and get accurate estimates.

Thank you for any input

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Old 06-14-2013, 07:57 AM   #11
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

planswift was mentioned above. If you are saying you want to do onscreen takeoff, its a great value.
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:17 AM   #12
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

Plainswift, seconded.

In my field of work, we do it all by hand.. and we have a salesman who does our 'free inspections'. Training him and keeping him sharp is very important. He's been doing this for 15+ years so hes pretty good at estimations off the top of his head. Sometimes he sells cadillac and pinto prices.. but thats because you don't really see the mess in my line of work, wet basement repair, until you dive in and get started. Learn to upsell as well.
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Old 07-06-2013, 03:24 AM   #13
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Re: Masonry Estimating Programs

I just found out my Adobe PDF program has a measure tool that works great, No pricy program needed . It even lets me export measurements to Excel for easily transferring info into a spreadsheet , Sweet


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