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by Eileen O'Loughlin,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: November 15, 2016

General estimating systems are designed for contractors that develop high-level estimates across multiple divisions. However, when a more detailed drill-down of the plumbing work is required, a system that is designed specifically for plumbers will be a better fit.

While evaluating applications in this market, you should consider deployment model, as pricing can vary based on the type. The two primary categories include cloud-based software, also called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). The second type is on-premise deployment, which usually requires purchasing a perpetual license upfront.

There are about a dozen top-rated vendors that serve this market. In this guide, we will have break down the high-level "key requirements" for applications in this market. Also, we identified related plumbing applications that this software typically integrates with. 

Here’s what we’ll go over:

What is Plumbing Estimating Software?
Common Features of Plumbing Estimating Software
Related Plumbing Software Features
Plumbing Estimating Software Pricing
Plumbing Estimating Software Deployment
Other Considerations

What is Plumbing Estimating Software?

Plumbing estimating software is used by plumbers, general contractors and other professionals who fix, renovate or maintain residential, commercial and industrial plumbing systems.

What is unique about plumbing estimating software is that it has several features that are not found in other general estimating software platforms. For this reason, plumbing estimating software is much better suited for plumbers to use over other estimating applications.

Many buyers we speak to currently draw up their estimates with pen and paper, or with crude homebuilt spreadsheets. While these methods can work well if you or your business is only juggling a few projects at a time, it can become very unmanageable as your business grows and as you take on more projects. Buyers we speak to find that this software greatly assists with streamlining project plans, saves time and more importantly produces more accurate bids.

Common Features of Plumbing Estimating Software

Plumbing item database Plumbers need fast access to every pipe, fitting, valve, flange, mount and more. A plumbing estimating program will have a vast database that includes the approximately 150,000 items a plumber would need to access.
Plumbing assemblies Each bathroom you install uses most of the same items. The same with each shower, each sink etc. “Assemblies” are the groupings of items you’ll need for each job. Naturally these can be customized as standard or for each individual job, but by standardizing this information, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time you put in a bid.
Plumbing-specific Pricing Integration It’s important to submit a professional-looking bid. A good plumbing estimating system will export your bid information to a customizable template that includes your company information and logo, helping you reinforce your company’s brand through your bid.
3D modeling Some software platforms allow the user to draw up pipe plans in 3D, giving you a realistic representation of what the finished work ought to look like.

Related Plumbing Software Features

Leading vendors will integrate their estimating software with additional features to make for a full plumbing suite. Applications commonly associated with the top plumbing software include:

Time and materials billing Plumbers bill based on the time spent on the job, as well as the materials used, so keeping accurate accounts of both is critical for effective estimating and billing. Therefore, consider this feature carefully when selecting your plumbing solution.
Project management If your company has more than a few subcontractors, you’ll want to manage project schedules and track job documents. For this, project management capabilities can save a considerable amount of time and energy, ensuring efficient scheduling and maximizing your use of labor resources.

Plumbing Estimating Software Pricing

Plumbing estimating software is usually priced one of two ways: subscription pricing and perpetual license pricing.

When you purchase software with a perpetual license, you own the software outright and indefinitely. You typically pay one large fee up front, and in some cases will pay annual fees for support, maintenance and/or upgrades.

With subscription pricing, you usually pay a monthly fee that is often set by the features you wish to have access to, or by the volume of your business that you conduct. With subscription pricing you typically don’t pay additional fees for support, maintenance or upgrades.

Some software vendors will offer free or trial versions of their software that have limited functionality, but can still give you an idea of how they work.

Plumbing Estimating Software Deployment

Estimating software for plumbers is usually deployed one of two ways. Traditionally, the software was installed directly on the user’s computer (and was paid for as a perpetual license). This is called “on-premise” software. Most modern software, however, is deployed in the cloud, or is “cloud-based.” This means that the software is accessible through a web browser on any internet connected computer or smart device.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With cloud-based software, you can do your estimating on the go, but you might run into issues if you’re at a work site that doesn’t have WiFi or adequate cell reception. With on-premise software, you might be more limited when it comes to drawing up estimates on-the-go, depending on if the on-premise software pairs with any sort of mobile application.

Other Considerations

When evaluating plumbing estimating software, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  • Does this software specifically address my needs for the type of plumbing work I do (e.g., residential, commercial or industrial)?
  • Do the vendors I’m looking at have customers that are similar to me?
  • What will be the lifetime cost of this software?

Be sure to demo several different programs from different vendors so that you can get the clearest idea of which is easiest to use and has the features you need most. Ask the vendors for customer references and be sure to read reviews for each software program you’re looking at.

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