Sketchup Estimating Plugin for Builders – PlusSpec

Drawing & Estimating using plugins inside Sketchup, A builders perspective.

I’m a building contractor, I used to use Sketchup for the basics, now I use the PlusDesignBuild plugin inside Sketchup to estimate all of my jobs and it’s changed the way I quote and build homes.

As a builder, plan interpretation and client communication are the most important things I can do to win a job yet estimating and calculating cost is what pays the bills. I love Sketchup yet unfortunately estimating in Sketchup and adding structure wasn’t a feasible reality,  especially after change orders or design changes by the architect. I needed an accurate estimating Plugin that worked inside Sketchup so I could understand material price, labour cost, waste, margin and overheads, it had to be easy to use and it had to be affordable.

My job is to build homes:  Sketchup combined with the PlusDesignBuild plugin enabled my business to grow.

As a small builder, I wear many hats, I am the salesperson, the supervisor, the coordinator, the estimator, designer, problem solver. With all of these day to day task to juggle, I needed a solution to enable me to get things done faster and more accurately.  As my construction business grew I needed to pass on tasks to new employees. I could employ salespeople and supervisors from the industry with minimal training, yet employing a Sketchup user that knew how to build & estimate wasn’t realistic.  I needed a Sketchup Plugin that knew how to build, how to estimate, one that was easy to use so I could do it myself and then eventually employ new staff.

There are hundreds of Plugins for Sketchup, the issue is that none did what I need for residential construction or estimating. I needed to import Pdfs, trace plans, solve problems, see structure, quantify, deliver quotes to clients, generate purchase orders to suppliers and subcontractors and I needed to do it inside Sketchup. The PlusDesignBuild plugin does all of the above and more including estimating, now I never leave Sketchup.

How long did PlusDesignBuild take to learn?

  • Video tutorials are built-in so I learned as I went. The first job I did took less than the time it would have just to draw Sketchup, the bonus was I got an estimate at the same time.  I continued to save time as the Plugin reads the Sketchup geometry which saves me countless hours when a design change or a change order comes though as the estimate updates automatically.
  • my second project was done in half the time it would have taken to do in Sketchup and my estimate was 100% time-saving, now I can get quotes done in hours as opposed to days.

Did you get training?

I purchased four hours of training but I only used one hour as it is pretty easy to get your head around if you are a builder and you’ve used Sketchup.

How accurate are the quantities?

The first job I did was a small two-bedroom granny flat and I built it from start to finish with PlusDesignBuild, I really wanted to test it out before I did a large project. I was sceptical about the promise of accuracy so I used the takeoffs to cut the frame, headers, order floor roof and cladding and I must say it was not just close it was exact.

How did you get your prices in?

  • I did not add all of my prices in one go so I couldn’t give you an exact time.
  • I add prices as I go because my priority is to get the quote out, Once I add a price its remembered them for next time, so really the time to add in prices to material and labour is very fast and isn’t a time consideration.

How do you deal with changes?

Changes are easy, basically, click on anything and I can change the size pitch/ratio or even construction method in minutes inside of Sketchup, this is a huge benefit and saves me so much time.

What do your clients say when you show them a PlusDesignBuild Model in SketchUp?

My clients love seeing what I’m going to build before we built it, I walk clients through each room in 3D so they know what they are paying for, it helps me communicate with them but for me it helps me understand the cost associated with the project.

Do you design your own jobs?

Sometimes, if a client comes to me with a set of plans I trace them, sometimes I will make suggestions Eg doors colliding or ways to reduce cost but I try not to change things that I am not getting paid to change.  On the other hand, if a client has no plans yes I will get my hands dirty on the design, obviously, I charge to do this.

Do you collaborate with engineers, Architects/designers and subcontractors?

Yes, sharing the load when it comes to solving problems and building more efficiently is part of what our construction business does. I employ carpenters fulltime so we get the boys into the office to go through the next job, sometimes even before I quote the job as it helps us all get on the same page.   I also have a few Architects that use CAD or Revit and PlusDesignBuild enables me to import CAD and/or Revit files via IFC or DWG, this is great as it saves me a heap of time. When it comes to saving money collaborating with the engineer in 3D and conversing or even negotiating different methods to solve a problem helps me save money when buying steel or engineered lumber and also cranage, labour and material cost.

When I first discovered Sketchup it opened up new avenues of doing business and building homes, now I have PlusDesignBuild I do it two times more efficiently.

  • Sketchup is great as I could see what was proposed but Sketchup alone is a bit slow, PlusDesignBuild enables me to draw twice as fast, find structural issues or clashes.
  • I could show my clients what I’d be delivering for their hard-earned cash (sales)
  • With SketchUp, I could get rough quantities for estimating, with PlusDeisgnBuidl I get accurate comprehensive estimates that I can use for purchase orders
  • I could show my trades and subbies what I intend to do before we start on site (usually over a beer)

Do you have any advice for Builders looking for an estimating plugin?

  • My number one tip is: learn it yourself first then put on a new staff member to use it in the future as you can easily check a model for accuracy issues when it has been drawn by someone else.
  • Before PlusDesignBuild I tried/used 20 or 30 plugins for Sketchup and  I wasted a heap of time as none did everything I need as a builder.
  • Start small with an easy single level home or extension. I recommend watching the built-in tutorials as you go and reach out to the team at PlusSpec if you need help.

If you’d like to book a demonstration for your building business you can head on over to



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