Frank J. Borkowski

One of the most common questions we receive is, “What project management software is best for remodelers?” This is like asking someone what the “best” vehicle is or the “best” type of house. It’s unanswerable — at least without a thorough investigation. I’ve rounded up some of the more commonly used remodeling project management software titles, both industry-specific and generic, in an attempt to at least get you started looking in the right direction. Unfortunately, the act of reviewing these titles only serves to reinforce what I’ve been saying for years: When it comes to software, especially project management software, the devil is always in the details. The chart was generated mostly with information culled from the publishers’ websites and literature. What the chart doesn’t tell you is how one company’s idea of scheduling or estimating or, really, any of the listed features, differs from all the others — and believe me, the products are all very different once you get beyond the features’ titles.

Rival titles BuilderTrend and Co-Construct look almost identical on the surface, yet once you’ve used both it’s clear that BuilderTrend approaches things more from production/construction (and is one of the few packages with a true purchase order/variance purchase order module), whereas Co-Construct was born to solve customer-contractor communication problems. Not that either package lacks what the other excels in, but one will almost certainly be a better fit than the other for any given general remodeler or custom builder.

There may be multiple versions of the same software aimed at different kinds of users, and there may be add-in features from third-party developers working with these companies.

Who Are You?

The type of work you do and the volume of work you need to manage will

directly affect your software selection. “Project management” means one thing to a one-truck pro handyman and another to an architectural design/build firm working on year-long historic-home renovations. The software that would most likely interest smaller companies is toward the top of the chart. Goldenseal, for instance, is old-school — installs on a laptop or desktop computer and is not cloud-based — but it covers a lot of ground in terms of features. At a cost of less than $400 for a license and minimal ongoing cost, it’s an effective solution for some smaller remodeling companies and trade contractors. Just don’t confuse the simplified “scheduling” or “estimating” you can do in Goldenseal with the multi-location logistics and service management scheduling, or the complex product catalogs, that can be built in something like ImproveIt360 ($75 and up per user per month).

On-Premises vs. the Cloud

Because remodeling is a mobile industry, it makes sense for project management software (in particular) to be centralized where everyone who needs to access it can do so without the hassles of Windows servers and VPNs (virtual private networks) for security. Just launch a Web browser — or your smartphone or tablet — and you’re in business. That said, the on-premises packages such as Goldenseal or ImproveBuild RBS, while not cutting edge technology, might still be a good fit. ImproveBuild is one of the few applications here that has its own accounting modules built in. Most of the others stop short and expect you to use QuickBooks or some other accounting package. ImproveBuild also has excellent CRM/VRM (customer/vendor relations management) features.