When it comes to construction accounting software, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Fortunately, just like there are many different types of construction companies to serve the varying needs of each client and project, there are many different types of construction accounting software to serve your business’s unique needs.
How do you know which construction accounting software is the best fit for your business? In this article, we’ll break down the top construction accounting software programs, both desktop-based and cloud-based. But first, let’s take a look at why accounting software for construction companies is different from just any old accounting software so you can narrow down your search.
Construction Accounting Software: What to Look For
Construction companies have unique accounting needs. Although your profit and loss statement (P&L) and balance sheet will look very similar to that of any other business, there is a lot of important information you need that happens “below the surface” of these standard financial statements.
Some of the reporting your construction company needs in addition to the standard P&L and balance sheet are:
- Job costing: Job costing lets you assign expenses to each individual job. Without job costing, you have no way of knowing which jobs—or which types of jobs—are most profitable for your construction company.
- Project management: Project management is more than just knowing what phase each job is in, even though that in itself is extremely important. Proper project management helps you appropriately allocate resources to the various jobs your construction company has going on at any given time. It also allows you to project your needs for projects in bid.
- Budget and completion analysis: Budget and completion analysis lets you see how your construction projects are proceeding from a budget standpoint. In order to maximize your profitability on a job, you want to deliver it under budget and on time. Without this analysis in your construction accounting software program, you can be left guessing on whether or not this will happen.
- Change order tracking: A construction project without change orders is rare. If you can’t track your change orders, you could easily leave money on the table or have to make costly changes to work that is improperly done.
These are the most “basic” additional accounting needs construction companies have. Your company might have different needs. This makes it even more important to use a construction accounting software that fully supports your business.
Top Construction Accounting Software Programs
Below, we’ve broken down the best desktop-based and cloud-based construction accounting software programs. As always, it’s important for you to do your own due diligence before committing to any construction accounting software. This will help you ensure you are choosing the best solution for your construction business’s unique needs.
Top Desktop-Based Construction Accounting Software Programs
The desktop versions of QuickBooks—QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions—all have features you will find beneficial in your construction accounting software.
For the smallest companies, QuickBooks Pro will likely meet all your construction accounting software needs. QuickBooks Pro handles all the basic accounting functions a small construction business needs— invoicing, expense management, and financial reporting—and is easily customizable to support your business’s needs. You can customize the reporting to show job profitability, and the payroll add-on is robust enough for most small construction companies’ needs. This construction accounting software costs $399.99, which is likely manageable for even startup construction businesses.
If you want more functionality in your construction accounting software, check out QuickBooks Premier. In addition to the features of QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier produces industry-specific reports, allows you to track costs for your inventory, and gives you the ability to set prices by customer type. QuickBooks Premier comes at a one-time cost of $649.99.
Another construction accounting software option is QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, the powerhouse of the QuickBooks Desktop products. Like QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions offers industry-specific tools, reports, and features. It also allows you to set custom user permissions for up to 30 users, meaning you have complete control over who sees what information in your growing construction company. QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions costs $1,155 per year.
All desktop versions of QuickBooks can be accessed via the cloud using a hosting company like Right Networks. Hosting solutions require an additional, per-user fee.
Top Cloud-Based Construction Accounting Software Programs
Hosting your QuickBooks Desktop file gives you anywhere, anytime access, but more and more businesses prefer a completely cloud-based construction accounting software program. There’s little wonder: Cloud-based accounting software and apps are typically supported by large companies with state-of-the-art backup and security protocols, making your data safer in the cloud than on the computer in your office.
One such cloud-based accounting software for builders is QuickBooks Online, which has made tremendous advances in job costing, project management, and progress billing in the past few years, but alone it’s probably still not powerful enough to support your construction company’s accounting needs. It’s important to note, though, that If you use QuickBooks Online as your construction accounting software, you will need at least one add-on app to help you manage all your construction accounting needs.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these add-ons you may find most helpful with your construction accounting software:
- TSheets by QuickBooks provides time tracking for your construction company. Employees can assign their time to a project, which makes billing a snap. But even more important for companies with remote work locations is TSheets GPS tracking. You can always tell where an employee is when they clock in for work. TSheets costs $20 per month plus $5 per user per month for their small business plan, which allows two to 99 users. If you choose to be billed annually instead of monthly, though, you’ll save 20%.
- Hubdoc removes the hassle of collecting receipts and streamlines data entry. With the Hubdoc app, each member of your construction company can snap photos of their receipts and tag them for the appropriate project. With a couple of clicks, this data is transferred to your QuickBooks Online file.
- Knowify provides all those additional things we mentioned general contractor construction companies need: project management, contract and change order management, and job costing. For $186 per month or $1,788 per year, you can manage up to 150 active jobs. Additional users can be added for $15 per month.
- CoConstruct is the highest-rated software for custom home builders and remodelers. If this is your construction niche, CoConstruct will give you all the tools you need to manage all aspects of your construction business. Like Knowify, CoConstruct integrates with QuickBooks Online. It’s a little pricier than Knowify at $249 per month for the recommended standard pricing, but that price gives you unlimited user access and unlimited prospect and estimate projects.
For larger construction companies—especially home builders and remodelers—Buildertrend integrated with QuickBooks Online is preferred by Ruth Kohler of Due Diligence Bookkeeping and Kaydee Peterson of Measure Initiative, Inc.
With Buildertrend, you get all the reporting you need for your construction business, along with some helpful streamlining tools like direct vendor invoicing against a purchase order and direct submission and approval of change orders. Buildertrend does more than construction accounting, too—it also serves as a CRM and email marketing campaign manager.
Buildertrend’s pricing is simple: $299 per month for up to three users, then $39 per month for each additional user. If you have more than 20 users, you can contact Buildertrend for custom pricing.
Additional Construction Accounting Software Programs
QuickBooks is the number one software in the U.S. and can be the perfect accounting software for your construction company, but not everyone loves it. If this describes you, another building industry accounting software solution is Core by BQE. Core is an all-inclusive project accounting software that handles project management, billing, and accounting. Marketed primarily to professional services firms like architects and engineers, Core is still capable of helping you manage your small to medium-sized construction company’s accounting. And if you need to manage government contracts, Core is DCAA compliant.
Core can be a little challenging to set up and use, but there is an active Facebook group full of users ready to support you. And Core has the most flexible pricing of any software on this list, with custom pricing for each type of user you need.
Another construction accounting software program is Sage 100 Contractor. Designed for small to medium-sized construction businesses, Sage 100 Contractor offers most of the features provided by the other construction accounting software mentioned in this article, all in one spot. Add-on apps make QuickBooks Online more robust, but the cost for those apps can add up. Sage 100 Contractor gives you the functionality you need starting at $115 per month for one user.
Choosing the Best Construction Accounting Software for your Business
When choosing the best construction accounting software for your business, it’s important to take some time to consider what your business needs right now, as well as the direction you see your construction business growing. All the building industry accounting software in this article handles the basic accounting and billing functions your construction business needs, so take some time to consider the reporting you need. Also consider your niche focus: A solution like Knowify might work perfectly for a general contractor, but if you’re a custom home builder you might be better served by Buildertrend.
Before committing to a construction accounting software, take advantage of the free trial period to test it out. You won’t be able to complete a full accounting cycle during most trial periods, but you will have enough time to determine whether the software works the way you expect it to work. Get your team involved in this process, too. No matter how wonderful a construction accounting software is, if your team doesn’t like it, it won’t be used to its full capacity.
Finally, enlist the help of your accountant or bookkeeper. They know your business almost as well as you do, and they will be able to help you choose the construction accounting software that will provide the functionality and reporting your construction company needs.
Billie Anne Grigg
Billie Anne Grigg is a contributing writer for Fundera.
Billie Anne has been a bookkeeper since before the turn of the century. She is a QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor, LivePlan Expert Advisor, FreshBooks Certified Beancounter, and a Mastery Level Certified Profit First Professional. She is also a guide for the Profit First Professionals organization.
Billie Anne started Pocket Protector Bookkeeping in 2012 to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.