For me, it’s PlanSwift, VisionREZ and Microsoft Excel. Out-of-the-box, all three are generic toolsets that can be customized to estimate just about anything. Mine are tooled for material and labor takeoffs for residential construction.
PlanSwift is the newcomer to my toolbox. I’ve been using it for the past 4 or 5 years to estimate just about everything in a home (other than the structural framing lumber). It’s also great for lumber takeoffs, but I’ll talk more about this in the next paragraph. PlanSwift allows me to import architectural plans, aerial photography (basically any image file) and then quantify building materials by tracing it on-screen. It’s incredibly easy to customize this software to quantify anything you throw at it, and the takeoffs can be exported to Excel. The really cool thing about this software is that it’s allowed me to retire my scale and highlighters, for good. If you estimate anything, it’s definitely worth giving it a spin > CLICK HERE
I rely on VisionREZ to quantify structural framing members and create some very detailed framing plans (both 2D and 3D). VisionREZ is far more powerful than what I’m using it for, solely as an estimator. This is a full-blown BIM platform for creating 2D construction drawings and 3D models containing all the building components in the home. Once drawn (aka Modeled), a very accurate bill of materials (BOM) is generated, almost at the push of a button. This software has come a very long way since I first started using it – around 2004. Their latest improvement transitions this software from the AutoCAD Architecture platform to Revit. If you’re in to this sort of thing too, it’s definitely worth taking a look at > CLICK HERE
And finally, the tool that’s been with me (and most estimators) the longest is Microsoft Excel. This next statement is definitely going to date me, but it was actually called Multiplan in the beginning. Anybody remember that? Anyway, if you create a lot of formulas and haven’t upgraded to Excel 2016 yet, this version has 6 new functions that are huge timesavers. My favorite addition is the IFS function, which can totally replace nested IF functions like “IF(IF(IF()))”. You can take a look at all six newbies here > CLICK HERE
Oh yeah, the main point of this post is to find out what’s in your estimator’s toolbox. Please comment or share this with your favorite estimator.
PS: I get Brownie Points (aka cash) by pitching the FREE TRIAL of PlanSwift through this link: CLICK HERE . But, this is certainly not why I’m recommending it. I am, because it’s a great estimating tool that has totally improved the speed and accuracy of my takeoffs.