It probably does not surprise you if we were to say that projects are frequently over budget and past due on delivery.  This certainly includes construction projects. From experience, one of the sources of any project failure is communication.
“A lack of a single source of truth, poor communication and collaboration, and limited visibility into projects are intractable problems in the industry that add to errors, delays, and blame games.” — Balaji Sreenivasan 

Ten years ago, construction estimation software was not widely available or in use. MS Excel spreadsheets and calculators were the norm.  This is not just for construction projects.  A decade ago, sharing tools via the internet (not intranet) was less prevalent.  The cost of the tools that were available for individual licenses would be prohibitive.  We have seen companies resort to Excel sheets, even when these tools were available, resisting widespread application to team members due to perceived costs.

Tools Will Not Save The Day

We should know that the tool will not improve our work life. We must fit the tool into our actual workflow and the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, and objectives. Any tool we use must map to the work as is and as we plan to morph over time.


Today, there are several estimating software packages available. Choosing the best software depends on your specific needs, budgets, and the size and scope of the projects. 
Here are just a few:

1. Procore: Procore offers comprehensive construction management software with estimating tools. It is known for its user-friendly interface and integration with other project management functions.

2. PlanSwift: PlanSwift is a takeoff and estimating software that allows users to calculate material, labor, and other costs accurately. It is trendy for its ease of use and extensive database of pre-built assemblies.

3. Sage Estimating: Sage Estimating is a powerful solution that offers detailed cost estimates, integrates with other Sage construction management products, and provides features for bid management and project analysis.

4. STACK: STACK is cloud-based estimating software for subcontractors, general contractors, and other construction professionals. It offers takeoff, estimating, and bid management tools to streamline the pre-construction process.

5. Esticom: Esticom is a cloud-based takeoff and estimating software that simplifies the estimation process with features like on-screen takeoff, customizable templates, and integration with other construction management tools.

6. CostOS: CostOS is an advanced estimating software solution offering detailed cost analysis, integrated BIM support, and project planning and scheduling features.

7. Clear Estimates: Clear Estimates is a user-friendly estimating software designed for small to mid-sized construction businesses. It offers customizable templates, cost databases, and the ability to generate professional-looking proposals.

8. B2W Estimate: B2W Estimate is a construction estimating software designed for heavy civil construction projects. It provides features for detailed takeoffs, bid analysis, and integration with scheduling and accounting systems.

Before deciding, evaluating each software's features, pricing structure, customer support, and user reviews is essential to determine which option best fits your requirements. Many software providers offer free trials or demos, allowing you to evaluate the software before committing to a purchase. We have written an article earlier with examples of steps to explore and introduce tools to the organization.

The Steps

Construction estimating software typically involves several steps to create accurate project cost estimates. Here is a general guide on how to use such software:

1. Set Up the Software: Install the construction estimating software on your computer or access it via a web browser if it is cloud-based. Follow the instructions provided by the software provider to set up your account and configure any settings according to your needs.

2. Create a New Project: Create a new project with the software. Enter basic project details such as name, location, client information, and timeline.

3. Input Project Data: Enter all relevant project data into the software, including project plans, drawings, specifications, and any other documents that will help you accurately estimate costs. Depending on the software, you may be able to import these documents directly or manually input the data.

4. Perform Takeoffs: Use the software's takeoff tools to measure quantities of materials, labor, and other resources required for the project. This typically involves digitally measuring distances, areas, volumes and counts directly on the project plans or drawings.

5. Apply Cost Data: Utilize the software's cost database or import cost data from external sources to assign unit costs to the quantities you have measured during the takeoff process. This data may include material costs, labor rates, equipment costs, subcontractor pricing, and other project expenses.

6. Calculate Costs: The software will automatically calculate the total cost estimate based on the quantities and unit costs you have inputted. It may also provide features for applying markup rates, taxes, overhead costs, and profit margins to generate a comprehensive project estimate.

7. Review and Adjust: Review the cost estimate generated by the software to ensure accuracy and completeness. Make any necessary adjustments to account for special conditions, project-specific requirements, or changes in market conditions.

8. Generate Reports: Once satisfied with the estimate, use the software to generate professional-looking reports, including detailed breakdowns of costs, summaries, and any other documentation required for bidding or project management purposes.

9. Save and Export: Save the project estimate within the software for future reference and export it in PDF, Excel, or CSV for sharing with clients, collaborators, or other stakeholders.

10. Update and Iterate: As the project progresses and new information becomes available, update the estimate in the software accordingly. Construction estimating software often allows for iterative revisions to keep estimates accurate and up to date throughout the project lifecycle.


By following these steps and familiarizing yourself with the specific features and capabilities of your chosen construction estimating software, you can efficiently create detailed and accurate cost estimates for your construction projects.  Explore the most promising tools and run experiments to determine the best fit.  Find ways to compare the tools to the prioritized needs of the organization.  The experimental (exploration of) tool application, tests what we think are the benefits of the tool to find what is actual.