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Earthworks Estimating Software Buyers Guide

Last updated: September 29, 2022

If you run a construction or civil engineering business, you'll know the importance of earthwork. It deals with the loosening, handling, and removal of earth quantities during the construction process.  Since excavating estimating is a job of large numbers, most construction professionals prefer relying on cost estimate tools to provide detailed and accurate estimates. The earthworks excavation software helps engineers forecast costs related to earthwork processes like landscaping, surveying, and excavating.  

With a multitude of options available on the market, construction businesses need to be strategic when it comes to selecting a software solution that will provide a return on investment. We have put together this guide to help you understand the market for earthworks excavation estimating software. It will walk you through the best-in-class earthworks estimating product offerings so that you can jump start the evaluation process and select the best possible software to fit your needs. We will also take a data-driven look at the salient features you should consider when purchasing these excavation cost estimate tools. Overall, the guide will help you make a more informed purchase decision. 

What you'll find inside:

  • Understanding earthworks estimating software
  • Benefits of earthworks estimating software
  • What type of buyer are you?
  • Tips on how to identify your needs
  • Salient features of earthworks estimating software
  • Assessing the expenses
  • Cloud-based vs. On-premise software
  • Popular earthworks estimating software

Understanding Earthworks Estimating Software

What is earthworks excavating software? It is a specialized construction software solution that is typically used for excavations in building projects. Unlike the general construction estimating software products, earthworks estimating solutions come with a specialized suite of features offered specifically for the earthwork planning process. These technology-driven tools calculate the potential volume of earthmoving on a task, such as cut and fill amounts and other specifics. Not only this, but most earthworks excavation software offer GPS modules and computer-assisted design so that users can draw up 3D blueprints of their project throughout the entire construction process. The 3D modeling helps users easily determine the scope of the project and the time it will take to complete. It is also referred to as earthworks takeoff software and enables users to perform takeoffs for different image files of the job site.  

Benefits of Earthworks Estimating Software

Some key benefits of implementing earthworks estimating software include, but are not limited to:

  • Accurate job planning
  • Increased worksite safety compliance
  • Improved bidding process
  • Reduced labor and material costs
  • Faster results
  • Increased accuracy in reporting progress
  • Improved budgeting and planning
  • Better client relationships
  • Cost control and efficiency

Goal Setting: Areas You Want to Improve

Before you begin with the process of shortlisting and evaluating earthworks estimating software, you should do the necessary leg-work to understand why you need one. This will help you enter the process with the right information in hand so that you can choose the best earthworks excavation software for your construction projects. You should set effective goals and understand how you can utilize the solution in a way that will let you accurately forecast costs related to earthworks processes.  

Define Your Current Problems Before Seeking a Solution

To ensure successful software implementation, you need to decide what your biggest challenge is and highlight the areas that need improvement. Today’s earthworks cost estimate tools may be powerful, but even the most powerful solution won’t do much good for you if it doesn’t address your unique challenges. You should carefully analyze your current processes to pinpoint the areas that can be improved with the excavation estimating solution. Many construction professionals start looking for technology solutions before they figure out the problems in their current processes. But you can’t possibly find the best possible earthworks estimating software with the cart-before-the-horse behavior.

Vendor Shopping: Features to Look For

Now that you’ve determined the earthworks excavation needs of your construction business, it’s time for you to find a vendor that perfectly aligns with those needs. Stick to your selection criteria by narrowing your search to the most relevant software providers. Keep a few features of earthworks estimating software in mind as you evaluate the shortlisted options. The right software application will offer all the tools you need to forecast costs related to earthwork processes while enabling you to determine the entire scope of your project. Evaluate all the product offerings carefully to make sure that you don’t sign up for a solution that causes problems for your workflow or lacks any fundamental features. 

Earthworks excavation and construction takeoff software solutions are crossing boundaries with their combination of features. You should opt for functionalities depending on your unique excavation needs and the type of your construction business. Make sure that the excavation estimating software you choose to implement for your construction business allows you to produce proposals and bid estimated costs before you lock yourself into a contract with the software company. You must be able to provide accurate and detailed cost estimates.  

When exploring earthworks cost estimate tools for your projects, be sure it comes with the following features: 

  • Strata layer breakdowns
  • Cut & fill estimating program
  • 3D, multi-color elevation maps
  • Grid views
  • Trench profiling
  • Retaining wall takeoff
  • Pad takeoff
  • Material library
  • Labor cost forecasting
  • Digital plan management

Feature Details

Strata layer breakdowns: This feature allows you to map the different strata and code them by color. You can use it to calculate earthwork by taking inputs from engineers’ notes and earth samples so that the type of strata is identified for each part of the jobsite. 

Cut & fill estimating program: The fundamental requirement of any earthwork takeoff software is to measure cuts and fills. The cost estimate tool should calculate the amount of earth to be filled or cut in each section as well as present existing and final elevation maps. 

Trench profiling: This is one of the staples of earthworks excavating software. It allows the estimator to measure trench profiles and plans, as well as determine heights, widths, and slope. You will also be able to determine how much earth will need to be excavated and the materials that are required for trench utilities, including footings and piping.

3D, multi-color elevation maps: Unlike the two-dimensional vertical earthworks estimating software, the top cost estimate tools offer more advanced, three-dimensional and multi-color visualisations of current and final elevations. 

Pad takeoff: The earthworks takeoff software you choose to implement must allow you to perform takeoffs for flat pads, especially for the ones used for building pads. It should allow the estimator to specify the area that is, or needs to be flat.

Retaining wall takeoff: Your excavation estimating software should support takeoff of vertical elements, such as retaining walls and cliffs. It should offer a material library and let you visualize and measure these elements during takeoff.

Grid views: The best earthworks estimating software will allow you to select any grid from grid staking reports. You can also view the cut and fill measurements associated with a particular area. 

Material library: The earthworks excavation software should also include a material library that is specific to excavation and earthwork. Some software systems may just offer a library of subgrade materials, but you are also likely to need an asphalt estimating tool as well as materials recorded for walls, concrete work, and roadwork or hardscape. 

Assessing the Expenses

There are two main pricing models for earthworks estimating software: monthly subscription and perpetual licensing. With a monthly subscription, you are supposed to pay a monthly fee that is often determined by the volume of construction work your business is doing. On the other hand, the perpetual license requires you to pay an upfront fee and gives ownership to the software right away. However, you may still have to pay annually for maintenance, support, and updates. Be sure to consider the long-term cost of the software that you choose to implement. Each pricing model has its own advantages and disadvantages.  

The earthworks estimating software pricing also varies according to the following factors: 

  • Number of users supported
  • Features 
  • Customer support
  • Contract terms

Earthwork Estimating Software Deployment

There are two types of earthworks estimating software deployment: on-premise and cloud-based. 

On-premise: On-premise earthworks estimating systems are installed on the company’s servers or computers and can be accessed locally. Some construction professionals might prefer on-premise deployment method due to the familiarity they have with it or because of other security concerns. 

Cloud-based: Cloud-based software is delivered via the internet and hosted on the software vendor’s servers. You can access it through any web browser on a smart device or computer. For contractors who are juggling multiple construction projects, this ease of access and mobility can be very appealing. 

When it comes to pricing, on-premise systems are priced as a perpetual license and cloud-based software are typically priced as subscriptions. Remember that on-premise applications can sometimes require you to own specific hardware setups to function properly. 

The Top Earthworks Estimating Software

The following integrated earthworks excavation software systems have positioned themselves as market leaders:

  • EarthWorks
  • PlanSwift
  • HeavyBid
  • SharpeSoft Estimator
  • WinEx

Choosing What's Best for Your Company

You need a robust and dynamic earthworks estimating software to extract the most value out of your construction projects. Using these cost estimate tools is an industry-standard. They can help you organize estimates to fit your needs and break down complex work processes into more manageable pieces. An ever-growing number of contractors now rely on these technology-driven solutions to improve performance, rule out any costly mistakes, save time, and ensure project success. You can also use them to paint a clear picture of cost estimates related to earthwork processes. Conduct due diligence and understand your earthworks estimating needs to select a product that will help you determine the scope of your projects while providing accurate cost estimates.