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How to Use Commercial Construction Estimating Software

Commercial construction estimating software is an invaluable tool for both general contractors and subcontractors of all sizes. Although many general contractors and subcontractors have already integrated cost estimating software into their operations, many others are still in the dark about what construction cost estimating software does and how it can help their business. In this article, we’ll break down the features of construction cost estimating software and discuss how these features can be beneficial for both general contractors and subcontractors.

One of the more surprising thing to most businesses looking to incorporate commercial construction estimating software into their operations is the fact that this software does much more than assist with estimates. It is much easier to understand the capabilities of cost estimating software if you leave behind the notion that it is designed solely for completing estimates. Instead, construction cost estimating software like ProEst features a robust set of capabilities that can assist with a variety of different everyday tasks that subcontractors and general contractors encounter on a regular basis. Construction cost estimating software is better understood as a software platform from which the user can easily complete a number of different tasks.

At their core, commercial construction estimating software are designed to facilitate the production of estimates. Cost estimating software is developed with general contractors and subcontractors in mind and is structured to streamline the estimate process. In addition to estimates, commercial construction estimating software also offers the ability to create a centralized database for all of your information related to your estimates. This database, when combined with integrated reporting functionality, enables you to produce high-quality reports without using the second program. Construction cost estimating software also ensures that your bids are consistently profitable by allowing the user to apply flexible markups throughout their estimate. Lastly, some construction estimating software allows the user to create a digital takeoff from the data they have already entered into their database. While we will explore each of these features in greater detail, it should be evident that construction cost estimating software can perform a variety of functions and fulfill many needs for both general contractors and subcontractors of any size.


The core function of commercial construction cost estimating software is to assist general contractors and subcontractors in producing estimates. Creating an estimate takes a lot of time and manpower, making it both time consuming and consequently expensive process. An estimate represents an investment into a future project that is potentially lucrative, however, there is no way to guarantee that you will be awarded a project. As such, crafting an estimate is incredibly vital to maintaining ongoing profitability for construction companies whether they are large or small.

General contractor estimating software and subcontractor software solutions help general contractors and subcontractors reduce the amount of time it takes to create an estimate and increases the likelihood that an estimate will secure them the project. First, commercial construction estimating software streamlines the process of creating an estimate by allowing the user to create a centralized database that holds all of their data related to their estimate. This information can range from blueprints and schematics to the current market value of labor or lumber. By allowing the user to put all of their data into the cost estimating program users can spend less time juggling between different programs or trying to find the information they need. Instead, the data is centralized, which makes the information more accessible and faster to access.

Construction cost estimating software doesn’t improve efficiency by merely importing all of your data. It also is designed and set up in a way to guide users through the process. The user interface is designed with ease of use in mind and generally doesn’t require any specialized computer knowledge or skills. As with any software, there is a learning curve. Some programs are more difficult to understand than others, and some may have different features than others. ProEst is designed to be intuitive and easy to use, with a user interface that allows users to quickly and efficiently generate an estimate.

Speed is not the only advantage of using estimating software, although it is a significant advantage. Estimating software also reduces the likelihood of errors by eliminating the need to move data between databases. Data entry is a key culprit when it comes to inaccuracy, and using a centralized database means you only have to enter your data once. Much of the data is automatically entered, further reducing the chances that inaccuracy will occur. The markup capability in ProEst also reduces the chances for errors by allowing the user to flexibly apply markups to the areas that make the most sense in their estimate. If a markup is wildly out of cost, something that a client or architect would see as a red flag, the cost estimating software will let the user know well before a client had seen the error.

Many general contractors and subcontractors continue to do estimates the old-fashioned way, whether because of an avoidance of computer programs, habit, or trust in their skills. Crafting a winning estimate is a skill, and estimators are in high demand across the trade. Commercial construction estimating software doesn’t replace the human element in creating a winning estimate. It does, however, make the life of the estimator much more manageable by giving them the tools and features they need to do their job more efficiently and accurately. This allows general contractors and subcontractors to spend less time creating estimates and more time seeking out additional opportunities.

Digital Takeoffs

What’s one of the most time-consuming parts of creating an estimate? Crafting a takeoff. Takeoffs, also known as a Material Take Off (MTO), are a comprehensive list of all of the materials that will be required to complete a project. While we say comprehensive, we mean a very close estimate. Takeoffs need to be as accurate as possible because they impact the total cost of the project and thus how accurate your estimate is. A takeoff lists all of the materials and components for a project, including the number of materials needed, the types of materials required, the market value of the materials, and other characteristics of the material. Things like the weight of the materials are often included because cumbersome objects or large quantities of an object may require different shipping and logistical attention.

The complexity of a material takeoff naturally increases the amount of time it takes to complete one. For very large or complex projects creating an accurate and comprehensive material, takeoff can take a significant amount of manpower. Each component and material must be accounted for and priced according to market values so that your company isn’t taking a loss. This involves contacting or calling material vendors, receiving quotes, and entering that information into your takeoff. When projects require hundreds or even thousands of materials to be accounted for on a takeoff estimators will spend a lot of time on their takeoff.

Commercial construction estimating software like ProEst contain digital takeoff functionality that helps general contractors and subcontractors create more accurate takeoffs up to 50% faster. Construction estimating software accomplishes this in a couple of ways. First, estimating software with digital takeoff capability allows you to create a takeoff directly from your uploaded blueprints or schematics. Contractors can upload their blueprint into their estimating software and then generate a takeoff directly from the design. This will create a comprehensive list of all of the components required to complete the project. To calculate the cost of the materials on the takeoff the contractor can use either the program’s database which shows current market value for a wide range of materials or can add their vendors’ prices into their database. The integrated takeoff material database both saves time and increases accuracy for the contractor. Prices are automatically applied to commonly used materials, reducing time calling vendors or getting quotes. Accuracy is improved by reducing errors from data entry or incorrect calculations. Lastly, time is saved for the contractor by allowing the user to stay in one program throughout the takeoff process, increasing efficiency and streamlining their workflow.

Flexible Markups

Markups are a necessary part of any successful estimate but also add time to the estimation process. General contractors and subcontractors must ensure that their bids are priced competitively, but that their markups guarantee a profitable project. Maintaining this balance takes time as your markups must be made intelligently throughout your estimate. One feature of commercial construction estimating software that assists general contractors and subcontractors is the ability to apply flexible markups throughout their estimate.

Integrated markup functionality is beneficial to contractors because it both reduces the time it takes to apply markups and provides an added level of oversight to ensure that your bids remain profitable. An integrated flexible markup system boosts productivity by eliminating the need to switch between your estimating software and other programs, while also giving contractors the ability to apply markups to their estimate quickly and easily. Markups can be quickly changed or adjusted as the estimator sees fit. Meanwhile, cost estimating software will dynamically update your project totals and profit margin as you apply your markups, ensuring your bid remains profitable and your markups appropriate. This feature allows general contractors and subcontractors to keep their bids competitive and profitable while spending less time doing so.

Integrated Reports

Creating reports for your team, clients, and vendors is a time-consuming aspect of the estimating process. The traditional method of creating reports requires the user to know some type of reporting software such as Excel. To generate professional quality reports, the user must have specialized knowledge of the program. Additionally, creating reports takes time as the contractor or estimator must enter data into their report or template. Commercial construction estimating software like ProEst contains integrated reporting functionality that streamlines the report production process and reduces errors associated with data entry or incorrect calculations.

Commercial construction estimating software improves efficiency and accuracy when producing reports through integrated report functionality which allows you to draw reports directly from your estimate database. This eliminates the need to use a 3rd party program or input your data twice. Software platforms like ProEst also make generating professional looking reports much easier by offering templates specifically designed for general contractors and subcontractors. This allows the user to quickly create a report for vendors, clients, or their team of employees or subcontractors. Additionally, ProEst gives the user the ability to output reports to a variety of different programs from which they can further manipulate data or merely print. This flexibility allows a general contractor or subcontractor to finish reports in the program that they are most comfortable using.

All of the features packed into commercial construction cost estimating software are designed and built to assist general contractors and subcontractors with all aspects of the estimate process. Construction estimating software doesn’t simply streamline the estimation process but provides a robust set of tools to quickly and efficiently produce digital takeoffs, professional looking reports, and flexibly apply markups throughout their estimate production process. All of these features are intended to streamline the workflow of the user while consolidating their information into one accessible database. These features allow general contractors and subcontractors to spend significantly less time and money producing estimates. This saves money for the general or subcontractor while freeing up time that can be spent seeking out further business opportunities. The features of construction cost estimating software also ensures estimates are competitive, accurate, and profitable. By taking the guesswork out of the estimation process, commercial construction estimating software enables general and subcontractors to win more bids while spending less time doing so.