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by Forrest Burnson,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: July 16, 2015



We wrote this guide to help you determine what kind of system will best suit your organization.
Here’s what we’ll cover:

Earthwork takeoff and costing is dramatically different than vertical construction estimates. As such, earthwork and site work estimators require a very different set of cost estimate tools.

The primary challenge in earthwork is the takeoff process, rather than the actual estimate process. During takeoff, companies need more sophisticated three-dimensional tools for calculating cuts and fills, profiling trenches and planning concrete or asphalt work. With a top-rated earthwork takeoff system, excavation contractors can dramatically reduce their tracing time, calculate more accurate measures and win more bids.

These tools are also effective for new business owners just learning how to estimate excavation. We recommend shoppers in this category exercise extreme scrutiny if a site offers an earthwork software free download or other free earthwork calculation software. 

Common Features of Earthwork Estimating & Excavation Software

To determine which costing solution will meet your unique company requirements, your earthwork estimator should evaluate and compare the following functions. Business software for small excavating, for example, could differ from solutions for creating a canal earthwork excavation estimate. Your buyer should take extra care in assessing offers described as an earth work program free download or earthworks software free download.

Cut & fill estimating program The primary requirement of any earthwork takeoff program is the ability to measure cuts and fills. The system must present existing and final elevation maps and calculate the amount of earth to be cut or filled in each section.
Strata layer breakdowns Most excavation takeoff software should be able to map the various strata and code them by color. It should calculate earthwork by taking inputs from the earth samples and engineers’ notes so that the type of strata is known for each part of the job site.
Grid views Sophisticated cut and fill software should allow the estimator to select any grid from grid staking reports and view the cut and fill measurements associated with that area.
Trench profiling The earth filling calculation program should allow the estimator to measure trench plans and profiles, as well as determine slope, widths and heights. This includes determining how much earth will need to be excavated and what materials will be required for trench utilities, including piping and footings.
3D, multi-color elevation maps In contrast to two-dimensional vertical cost estimate solutions, top earthwork estimating software must offer more sophisticated, three-dimensional and multi-color visualizations of existing and final elevations.
Trench profiling The system should allow the user to create a cost estimation for earthwork using measurements of trench plan and profile, slope, widths and heights. This includes determining how much earth will need to be excavated and what materials will be required for trench utilities, including piping and footings.
3D, multi-color elevation maps In contrast to two-dimensional vertical estimating solutions, an earthwork estimating system must offer more sophisticated, three-dimensional and multi-color visualizations of existing and final elevations.
Pad takeoff The sitework takeoff software should allow the user to perform takeoffs for flat pads, such as those used for building pads. The system should allow the estimator to specify the area that is, or should be flat.
Retaining wall takeoff The earth work calculating software should support takeoff of vertical elements, such as cliffs and retaining walls. These should be visualized and measured during takeoff, as well as include a material library.
Material library The cuts and fills software vendor should offer a material library that is specific to earthwork. This may just consist of a library of subgrade materials, but more likely will also need to include an asphalt estimating tool and materials required for concrete work, walls and other hardscape or roadwork.

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