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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Thinking of getting into estimating software, any suggestions ?
are take-off programs completely different from estimating programs ?
are there affordable programs that do both ?
which is best for drywall and framing ?
 

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I'm on a boat!
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I used to write my estimates up by hand on spreadsheets and then type them up in quickbooks for contractors. If you're doing repetitious bids, quickbooks works well. You are also able to create items and pull them up in an estimate, input the quantity, and have a predetermined mark up show up. You can also save an estimate for something you do often as a template. However, the more one off/custom items you do, the less convenient it is. IMHO

I recently purchased smartcontractor which is an estimating/project management software. I'm in the process of creating my own database which takes many mind numbing hours, but the end result is that I'm able to bid much more quickly and accurately and after the bid, work orders, purchase orders, and RFQs can be created in seconds. Also, I like the job recap which shows all payments, invoices, change orders, adjustments for allowances, and everything else that has changed the original contract price. We do all types of remodeling - kitchens, bathrooms, basement finishes, screen porches, decks, window replacements - so we needed something versatile and so far, this has fit the bill.

I'm not a big fan of regional database pricing. I don't trust a database to tell me how fast or slow my guys work, only I know that after many estimate versus actual reviews of completed jobs.

There's lots of good programs out there. Good luck:thumbsup:
 

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I use to use the RSMeans book but found they were minimal and lacked a lot of the little items.

I am now using the "Craftsman Estimating Software and Books". Do a google search for Craftsman Estimating Sofware. They also have various other reference material to purchase.

I have the 2008 CD estimator. It does not come with the books so I only purchase two that I commonly use (Repair & Remodel - Framing & Finish Carpentry) yet the the remainder of the data "Books" are on the CD. I do find I occasionlly do a search for items in those other sections. I like it since it allow you to adjust any component within the estimating pages to match your location. It does come with a location factor yet I find I still had to tweak that somewhat. As mentioned below it does convert estimates over to Quickbooks. I do highly recommend getting the book that covers what you most commonly do to accomidate the CD version. Makes browsing eaiser, plus allows a quick field estimate if applicable.

Comes with the following:

If your computer has Windows™ and a CD-ROM drive, CD Estimator puts at your fingertips 85,000 construction costs for new construction, home improvement, remodeling, renovation & insurance repair, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, painting and concrete & masonry and earthwork and heavy equipment.
You'll also have the National Estimator program – a stand-alone estimating program for Windows that Remodeling magazine called a "computer wiz." To help you create professional-looking estimates, the disk includes over 40 construction estimating and bidding forms in a format that's perfect for nearly any word processing or spreadsheet program for Windows. And to top it off, a 70-minute interactive video teaches you how to use this CD-ROM to estimate construction costs.


Includes:
Job Cost Wizzard – turns estimates into invoices and exports both in QuickBooks
Free Online Support for the National Estimator Software
Free Monthly National Estimator Updates – Updates to the 2010 costbooks and zip code modification factors are updated monthly. Monthly price updates on the Web are free and automatic all during 2010. You'll be prompted when it's time to collect the next update. A connection to the Web is required.

Contains the complete databases of: 2010 National Construction Estimator
2010 National Concrete & Masonry Estimator
2010 National Earthwork & Heavy Equipment Estimator
2010 National Electrical Estimator
2010 National Framing and Finish Carpentry Estimator
2010 National Home Improvement Estimator
2010 National Painting Cost Estimator
2010 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator
2010 National Repair & Remodeling Estimator
2010 National Renovation and Insurance Repair Estimator
 

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Thinking of getting into estimating software, any suggestions ?
are take-off programs completely different from estimating programs ?
are there affordable programs that do both ?
which is best for drywall and framing ?
The key is to know your prices.
I wouldn't trust the prices in the databases, it is a good way to not forget anything though, and they will get you close.
Like any software garbage in garbage out.
I use UDA construction suite and Quickbooks.
I can set up estimate templates in UDA tailored to my jobs so nothing is left out, and they sync with QB's for invoicing and job costing.
Setting up QB's properly for job costing is the most important part.
After time you will be able to see your actual costs.
 

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The key is to know your prices.
I wouldn't trust the prices in the databases, it is a good way to not forget anything though, and they will get you close.
Like any software garbage in garbage out.
I use UDA construction suite and Quickbooks.
I can set up estimate templates in UDA tailored to my jobs so nothing is left out, and they sync with QB's for invoicing and job costing.
Setting up QB's properly for job costing is the most important part.
After time you will be able to see your actual costs.
The thing I like about Xactimate is if a certain material spikes suddenly in your area you can submit to them the new price before it is changed quarterly. This software is used by 1000's of insurance contractors all over the US, only a handful of times did the material cost need to be changed (others submit priceing changes too, and they are very fast at verifying it and updateding). Seriously, I have used alot of different estimation software and this is by far the best.

If anyone would like to see an old estimate shoot me an email or something and I'll try to send you one if you're interested. In the giving mood I guess. ;)
 

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a contractors best friend
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Too much money

Be careful when using any kind of software as they are only as good as the coders that wrote them. There is nothing like good old excel spreadsheet. My clients use excel and quickbooks. Working with excel allows them to truly understand there costs. They then use the same sheet in order to record actuals. Having predefined services in quickbook allows them to create the estimates quicker.

When you understand your business, you will understand that there really is nothing to estimating. I have bid on $3000 to $300,000 projects this way.

((Materials Cost + Direct Labor Cost) * Overhead) * Profit = Price

Not sure if I can justify the hefty price tag on most estimating software. Some software will cost upwards of $6000 after 10 years of renewing. :sad:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
When you understand your business, you will understand that there really is nothing to estimating. I have bid on $3000 to $300,000 projects this way.

((Materials Cost + Direct Labor Cost) * Overhead) * Profit = Price
. :sad:
Not sure i really understand what you mean by 'there is nothing to estimate'. I'm mainly interested in something that will help speed up the process, at least the mechanical stuff like quantity /linear and sq. footage. (takeoffs).
Additionally, a program that could spit out number of boards I will need, # of studs, lbs of screws, etc etc. I spent hours customizing spread sheets, but every time I start an estimate I always have to change it around.

In essence, I'm not looking for something to tell me how much I should charge, I'm looking for something to save time.
 

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a contractors best friend
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Plain and simple the estimate is basic. But you can't put the estimate together until you have you materials quantity. THAT is the harder part. It's kind of like putting together a materials list for a project that is not yet secured...sucks.

The takeoff tools that I am familiar with are used for projects that have specked out plans. The tool lets you enter the scale and upload the architectural plans then you can pull a line across the drawing and it describes the length or high-lite an area and it tell you square footage. I never needed to measure any vertical areas because my company dealt in flat-work. I will look to see if can calculate materials quantity. I am sure there has to be a way, its just a basic algorithm.

I will post my results.
 

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Fortune and glory, kid.
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I think for the most part estimating and takeoff software are separate applications, especially at the lower end. More advanced, and costly, as well as complex applications may more likely cover both.

Takeoffs are more in the building aspect of things, for example Chief Architect a CAD program I use will spit out takeoffs.

Estimating is more in the business end of things. I also use Craftsman Estimating Software, to give myself a starting point on estimates. It is very reasonably priced at about $80.

A Google search turned up this, OnScreen Takeoff/QuickBid which while apparently working together is still two separate applications.

http://www.oncenter.com/

I have never used it by might check it out.

I am curious to hear what others use as well.
 

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Business Guru, I downloaded your "Employee Burden" Spreadsheet. (It arrived with a funky 'mime' extension, but I got around that)

I have to say it is an interesting tool to play with. Brings up a lot of factors one might not consider. Thank you for taking the time to build this, and for posting it on your blog.
 
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Making Things Accessible
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I agree with Xactimate or XactRemodel. I consult on projects across the county within the insurance industry and I use the program to create a cost estimate for feasibility studies. The program allows me to establish a good baseline when evaluating estimates and rarely is it too far off.

Its pricey ($600 annually) but it saves you that money with accurate quotes and allows you to submit a thorough/professional looking quote.
 

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A lot of it is just getting a good program, and learning how to use it. Yes Excel works but it takes a lot of time, epically on larger projects. What is your time worth? $600/year or $950/life either way if the program pays for itself if it saves you less than 1 hour a week.
 

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"On Screen Take Off" is a good program for getting quantities off drawings and Earthworks is really simple and effective for earthwork take off. I've used Timberline for pricing, but it is a little less user friendly.
 
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