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What’s the Difference Between RS Means and Craftsman Cost Data?

by Chris Lee | September 1st, 2017

When it's time to take care of serious estimating, many construction businesses use some type of a cost data. Whether it's an older book-based system or an online database, cost data resources can make a big difference in how much time you spend sitting in the office working on your estimates. But are there differences between the major cost databases? The short answer: absolutely!

Two of the largest and most commonly used cost data sources come from RS Means and Craftsman. Though you might expect them to have similar if not identical information, the quality of the information provided can actually be very different. Here's a quick look at each data resource and where they line up in the the real world estimating process.

What's the Difference Between RS Means and Craftsman Cost Data?

How Cost Data Resources Work

First, let's start by defining a cost data resource. This is a list of virtually every possible item that can be included in your estimate, including labor and materials. By having this information in a single resource, it's much easier to figure out how much the costs will run for a project. Historically, these were provided in book format which could be updated once per year.

Obviously, the problem with that format is that it is only updated once a year when you purchase the new edition. As the computer age began, CD formats of the book became available that would have the same information. Both of these format are still available, with Craftsman offering updates throughout the year, though RS Means does not.

Cloud application access has become more common in today's construction industry, and both companies have responded to that change. Craftsman includes three updates throughout the year. RS Means finally gets in the game by including cost alerts, but at a significant additional fee.

How Costs are Calculated

The figures in most cost databases uses national averages with adjustments made using the cost of living index available from the US government. Unfortunately, cost of living doesn't always follow construction costs. If you're in an area with high real estate values, for example, the cost of construction is often much lower than the cost of the land itself.

In general, RS Means is often used for bidding large commercial projects or government jobs. This isn't because of any particular level of accuracy in the cost database, but because it's required for the project. Why? Because then the client can know that the only difference is the contractor's profits on the job. However, that can still mean that your company is working at a significant loss because the RS Means cost database isn't accurate.

Craftsman is often used by contractors because it lets them quickly assemble a list of items to be estimated, totals them and allows you to print them out. It also provides regular updates to pricing, allowing you to use more accurate pricing. However, when working with most of their products, you still need to work those items into your estimate and check the cost against any rapid changes in cost.

Advantages of a New Craftsman Option

Craftsman in general is able to provide more up-to-date pricing, allowing your estimate to more accurately reflect your project pricing. Many contractors, however, find it a pain to go through the process of assembling and printing their information, just to have to enter it in again in their estimating software, Word or Excel. But what if you could have the ease and accuracy of Craftsman's cost database without having to deal with the extra work?

Digitization in construction is bringing together significant portions of your workflow. When you update your business systems to this level of integration, it becomes much easier to work across multiple systems and automate your back-office processes. Now you can have the accuracy and ease of use of Craftsman's cost database with the ease of cloud connectivity and a wide range of additional tools, all designed to help your business work more effectively and economically in today's construction industry.

Esticom is designed to make your company more productive with less time spent in the office. It pulls Craftsman's costs into your takeoff and estimate process, while allowing you to then export your information into Word, Excel or Adobe Acrobat. At that time, you can do additional customization on your estimate before sending it on to your prospective client. But that's not the end of the options you have available with Esticom.

Our program makes it easy for you to develop completely on-screen takeoffs without having to switch between multiple windows. Multiple team members can work on a single project without tripping over each other in the process. Questions about specific areas of the takeoff can be posed to all your team members at one time. You can also check your estimate against other contractors nationwide, allowing you to make sure you haven't made a costly mistake in the process or missed a large price change in the market.

You can use the analytics included in the Esticom software package to discover what type of projects are the most profitable for your company, allowing you to focus on the portion of the market that makes the biggest difference to your bottom line. You can also include field notes for your team to access through the cloud, making it easier to communicate the particulars of the plan specifications.

Craftsman's cost database gives you easy to access, accurate costs for your estimating needs, and when paired with Esticom's pipeline, allows you to spend significantly less time in the office and more time in the field. Even better, you can then automatically transfer the information from your Craftsman-based database into Quickbooks, making it much easier to automate your back office and improve profitability. Discover how well Esticom can help you spend more time in the field and less time in the office with our no credit card required free trial.

Chris Lee
Chris Lee has an extensive background in preconstruction management as a former specialty contractor and business owner. As the Chief Estimator at Esticom, he’s helped thousands of specialty contractors digitize their preconstruction process to increase revenue and profitability while decreasing unnecessary overhead.

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