This may be the digital age, but not all contractors are fond of apps that help them estimate building costs. Some say they’re too expensive and others say the apps tend to estimate too high.
“If I used one, I wouldn’t get any work,” said Eric Reynolds, owner of EW Reynolds Contracting in Williamsburg, Virginia.
But for the growing number of contractors who see the benefits of these apps and are considering them, here are a few favorites.
3 Apps for Contractors
Bid4Build includes a customer-maintenance database, a supplier database and a tool that breaks down your estimate into phases or rooms. You'll find a section that groups line items for a specific job and a database that helps calculate dimensions with a calculator. It includes forms for change orders, job costing and tracking.
The app also lets you store digital photos. You can generate maps and create a timeline schedule for subcontractors and clients to track what’s happening on a given day.
Bid4Build is easier to use than many other apps, so you can submit bids faster. It’s also easy to install, and an interactive training tutorial helps, if needed.
Pros: Affordable. Lots of features. Well-designed. User-friendly.
Cons: It’s not Mac-friendly.
The bottom line: You can’t go wrong with Bid4Build. It works for large or small companies, but it’s probably best for small or mid-sized contractors.
ProContractorMX is really four apps in one. It’s great at drawing in AutoCAD and adding TDS data and image files into your report to create accurate estimates. It’s easy to customize, so it's easy to change estimates at the last minute.
Unusual features include a tool to update prices in a variety of forms, a module to calculate excavation and fills and view takeoffs of trenches.
ProContractorMX includes an advanced auto-CAD engineering functionality. It imports data from BIM files, creating estimates from the data.
Its interface is easy to use, and it includes built-in calculators and converting tools to factor in labor, equipment and markup pricing. There's a learning curve if you haven’t used an app like this before. Step-by-step instruction in a CD and Maxwell Systems courses help.
For installation, you may need an IT person to set up the database. Maxwell Systems provides a lot of support, including customer support reps you can call.
You'll find these components: ProContractorMX Digital Takeoff, ProContractorMX Estimator, ProContractorMX Earthwork and ProContractorMX Earthwork Digital Takeoff.
Pros: Lots of features, including putting information in one place for easy presentation.
Cons: Must create your own SQL database during installation—not an easy task.
The bottom line: The app allows small and large businesses to create excellent proposals.
This tool is excellent for estimating costs, scheduling, writing contracts and project management. It prepares detailed estimates.
Goldenseal includes a feature called Smart Dimensions, which makes it easy to estimate building costs. Tracking bids from subcontractors is a snap, and if subcontractors let their insurance expire, there's an option to stop their pay.
This construction-management and project-management software helps you create and manage change orders and punch lists, as well as write contracts. The business-management software organizes customers and potential customers by their contact information, appointments and sales.
Goldenseal is easy to use when it comes to setting up your client, vendor, subcontractor and company information. Setting up your cost books, cost items and assemblies is harder and takes some time and attention to detail. Despite the complexity of the app, it’s easy to install. Turtle Creek offers training courses, well-written manuals and free lifetime support.
Pros: Versatile. Lots of management programs. Large database.
Cons: Lacks features found in competitor software, including CAD. Can’t export job-cost estimates.
The bottom line: Goldenseal is a good solution for small to medium-sized businesses.
Mark Di Vincenzo is a journalist with 24 years of experience and is a New York Times bestselling author. He blogs for Contently.
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