Estimating software saves time and takes the guesswork out of estimates.

By BUILDER Magazine Staff

Estimating software can't prevent you from procrastinating or waiting until the last minute to submit your bid, but it can help you when time's running out.

Alma Jessop, president of L.A. Construction in Salt Lake City, says many builders spend an average of eight hours preparing a detailed, handwritten estimate for a 2,000-square-foot house. When you are under the gun, the last thing you can afford to do is sit down for an entire day and write up an estimate. Jessop prefers to take the shortcut; he uses estimating software that cuts his time to about an hour and a half.

"Estimating is one of the hardest things for a builder to do," says Jessop. However, only about 35 percent of builders take the easy route and use estimating software, adds Jay Christofferson, developer of EstimatorPRO 4.1 software. The other 65 percent, who stick with pen and paper or basic spreadsheets, cite high costs, steep learning curves, and rigid software as their major gripes with estimating software.

Once you put these gripes aside and become comfortable with the software, you can create more precise estimates faster than you can with pen and paper. Most programs accurately set costs, make changes, and total sums in a matter of seconds. Also, with estimating software, your clients will have a well-prepared estimate that looks good and makes a statement about you and your work. Professional will be written all over it.

Keeping gear protected from the weather and break-ins are two top reasons builders install caps on their truck beds. But, it isn't always easy keeping your gear organized and accessible. The right truck storage accessories--caps, toolboxes, and shelves--will help you maximize your truck storage area, keep you organized, and save you time.

"In the builder market, having a cap to handle gear is very popular," says Brian Baker, advertising manager for Massillon, Ohio-based A.R.E., a manufacturer of truck accessories. A.R.E. and a number of other manufacturers offer customizable caps equipped with shelves, tool bins, and ladder racks.

A sliding shelf might be the thing you need if you often find yourself in this scenario: The capped bed is full, and you need to reach a piece of equipment that is, of course, stored in the front of the bed. It can be time consuming, if not difficult, to reach it. Wilkes Barre, Pa.-based manufacturer, PVI's X-Tender Drawer--a sliding drawer system that creates two levels--may help you avoid the daunting task of unloading and reloading your tools. Other useful features that manufacturers offer include custom rear door designs that allow you to remove special equipment easily from your truck.

Power tool: Precision Estimating combines a spreadsheet interface with a customizable database to deliver a flexible estimating program. The CAD Integrator creates estimates directly from CAD drawings. Users can compare several estimates at once and view estimates by location, takeoff order, or bid item. Timberline. 800-628-6583.

Easy interface: Bid-Builder features an interface similar to Microsoft Excel, so users are comfortable immediately, says the maker. A complete mechanical and plumbing database with pre-built items and assemblies is included. Users can customize reports and proposals to exact specifications. Eagle Point. 800-678-6565.

Complete control: Estimator-PRO 4.1 estimating software offers users complete control of their own costs. According to the company, the product can automatically update costs from suppliers' or subcontractors' text or Excel files sent via e-mail. Additionally, the program allows contractors to estimate labor costs per unit and per hour. Builder-Books. 800-223-2665.