A Look At Estimating Apps

Words: Alan Herrera

Words: Alan Herrera
Photo: branislav, rawpixel

Estimating software are flexible tools that can quickly and accurately create estimates and bids for contractors. They can be cloud-based or desktop. They are designed to streamline the processes of takeoff, costs, materials, and more. The following estimating programs are all fully featured and offer flexible options for many types of construction projects.

ConEst IntelliBid Estimating Software

“One Program, Many Options,” notes its slogan. This up-to-date estimating program assures to reduce estimating time by at least 40%, assuming users are still estimating manually. Estimates can be procured faster and with greater detail, accuracy, and consistency. 

Intellibid boasts an Industry-Smart Database of over 120,000 electrical and low-voltage material items, supplier-specific material price updates via NetPricer and EPIC, automatic price comparison for up to 10 local suppliers, and the ability to add or edit special pricing for each project. 

The program assures faster takeoff using its Spec Feature, which saves job settings for future jobs, drastically saving time for similar bids. It manages quotations for major materials, like lighting, and large projects for quick evaluation of completeness for major quotes. It can also create alternate bids, creating scenarios within one job to accommodate various pricing requests and bid closing templates which can store multiple proposal templates that include alternates, breakouts, and unit prices.

Some other notable features include:

  • Store and export files for ease of access
  • Create secure access to estimates
  • Seamless integration with accounting systems
  • Restrict access to parts of the software on a user or group basis

This software is available in four editions: IntelliBid PLUS, IntelliBid PRO, and IntelliBid Design Build. They all have the same base functionality, but with unique additional features. 

PLUS includes Smart System Technology tools that help streamline and organize takeoff. Common takeoff functions can be performed without having to switch windows. Its key features include count sheets, advanced breakout, smart substitution, ItemVue, AssemblyVue, and JobVue. 

PRO offers to change orders, enhanced proposals, enhanced change order proposals, creating custom job-specific assemblies, and bid & job analysis.

Design-build includes everything that PLUS and PRO have in one neat package, with an additional integration called Electrical Formulas that is also available as a standalone program.

Maintaining the software comes at a yearly cost, which users report to be steep and can vary by tier of software, but at the trade-off of excellent customer tech support. 

Users report that it has an overall high ease-of-use, great value for money, and decent functionality.

STACK Takeoff & Estimating

“Trusted by masonry contractors large and small,” they assert on their website.

STACK’s selling feature is that it is cloud-based, which simplifies the clutter of maintaining files and databases. It can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and on any device. This is great for users who work remotely, or for pulling up plans onsite. The cloud allows for seamless team collaboration and connectivity with tools that help highlight key details. It keeps the team aligned and always ready to spread the workload, share plans, and invite others to work on one project. 

STACK’s selling points include:

  • Fast takeoff
  • Precise measurements
  • Custom masonry assemblies
  • Crew labor costs

Most estimating apps are designed for a quick takeoff, but users report that not only is STACK fast, but also easy to use. Users can calculate project materials and measure plans in less time. Their simple cut-out tool quickly excludes unnecessary measurements, like windows and doors. Materials in their database can be customized, and manpower for crew labor costs are easily estimated.

“Get Organized, Stay Organized,” Stack says about their Plan, Spec & Document Management capabilities. Keeping important documents, project plans, and specs are made effortless with full sorting and filtering features, like drag & drop tools, and a detailed search to find important details. Users can overlay multiple drawings to identify differences without having to redo takeoffs.

It has a full suite of pre-built reports which offer all critical details and insights. STACK also provides a database that includes expansive lists of equipment, labor, and materials of all common construction items. 

Each STACK subscription includes unlimited training and support, making it easy to get started for new users, or those migrating from another software. Their helpful support can be reached via online chat or phone.

STACK provides seamless integrations with other popular software, like Excel, Google Drive, Procore, and SmartBid. Users can stay connected to their most-used solutions with ease.

Users report that the product is extremely easy to use, and the takeoff quick and precise, but the yearly renewal fees are expensive. 

Trimble Accubid Classic

“Your complete electrical estimating solution.”

This full-featured electrical estimating solution simplifies the complete construction workflow, from estimating to purchasing, project management, and billing. It is a flexible and robust tool for electrical, industrial mechanical, and ICT contractors of all sizes that makes creating estimates simple.

Some key features include:

  • Flexible, expansive, and proven material database
  • Multi-level breakdowns
  • Instant bid summaries
  • Dynamic takeoffs

Their database provides access to over 40,000 items and 9,500 assemblies, which makes it suitable for a job of any scale. Creating custom, project-specific assemblies can be done quickly and easily.

The program has built-in labor units, labor factoring, labor tracking, and cost codes. Subtotals across breakdowns can be sorted in any order to help catch potential errors. Instant bid summaries can quickly compare to one another.

Accubid Classic can be paired with Trimble’s LiveCount Graphical Takeoff to bid more work with a higher degree of accuracy. LiveCount offers its own set of useful features, like live sync to the estimate, filtering, Auto Count, drawing compare, multi-user support, and view controls. 

Trimble Accubid also provides access to other integrations, like TRA-SER which allows users to get electronic pricing from local suppliers, drastically decreasing time spent gathering prices while also ensuring users certainty on the material or commodity pricing.

This program can be both cloud-hosted and on-premise. 

Users report that the program is a bit difficult to use, leaving some features feeling like they were not beta-tested. Additionally, the training videos’ qualities are subpar. Users claim that the sound of the videos is muffled and low quality. 

Be sure to check out these estimating apps and software to see whether they'll be a good fit for your company or the next upcoming project.

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