Construction Calculator Comparison: How They Measure Up

April 25, 2023
Construction Calculator Comparison: How They Measure Up

By Jeroen De Paepe, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Deltek ArchiSnapper

Do you have a construction calculator app?

When I first got started out I’d carry a notebook with all my formulas in it as well as a physical construction calculator that I picked up at the hardware store that was actually fairly pricey – and I managed to lose it a few times, and spill coffee on my formulas notebook. I’m pretty clever like that.

My methods for calculating formulas were clumsy and time-consuming at best and didn’t even happen (due to misplacing my calculator) at worst. It was a less than ideal situation.

For anyone working in the construction, carpentry, plumbing, architecture, concreting, and other related industries, a dedicated construction calculator is a must-have for planning a job quickly and accurately.

And, might I just say, thanks to the power of our phones, things sure have changed. Let’s just say that having a construction calculator in your pocket makes things that much easier.

Without an accurate calculator on hand, you can misrepresent estimates for your clients, make incorrect orders for your materials, or even – horror of horrors! – have your whole plans out by a foot or more!

Why You Need a Construction Calculator

If you want to know how important an accurate calculator is well then here’s a situation for you. Say you’re trying to calculate the number of drywall boards necessary for a big job and place through the order after doing some quick calculations on paper. Once they arrive on site you realize that you’re way out and you’re missing a least an extra 50 boards. Now your building works are held up waiting for more boards to arrive and you cop a $1000 penalty for being over deadline. Ouch!

Or… maybe it’s the other way around and you find yourself lumped with an extra 50 boards that you don’t have any need for – that’s maybe $500 that you’re out of pocket and now you need to get rid of all those boards.

Not to mention possible catastrophic outcomes likes mistakes in stability calculations that almost brought down Manhattan’s famous Citibank tower. When designers changed all the weld joints in the building to bolts instead, they neglected to redo their stability calculations with the bolt stress limits instead. Fortunately, the problem was caught before the tower fell down in strong winds.

Make sure you always have a construction calculator on hand to prevent these sorts of costly and even potentially fatal mistakes.

Best Construction Calculator Apps

When looking for an app that can do it all, you need something that is accurate, easy to use, trusted, and gives you everything that you need all in the one app.

Below we take a closer look at the 5 best construction calculator apps for your iPhone or Android that are not just going to be your friend on site, but in the office too. Check them out!

1. Construction Master Pro – Just Like Your Physical Construction Calculator

  • Operating System: Android, iOS
  • Cost: $24.99 USD
  • User Rating: 4.8/5

A multi-award winner in physical construction calculators, Construction Master Pro combines all the power of their handheld calculator and their handheld trig calculator in one handy app on your phone.

The calculator can mix measurement formats from metric and imperial figures for dimensional measurements and has inbuilt functions for (amongst other things) pitch key, stairs, weight per volume conversions, and drywall paneling. The app comes with dedicated in-built help for each function making it easier than ever to follow. The app is also a bit of a bargain – the handheld version of the calculator retails at $79.99!

Note: The makers of the app, Calculated Industries, also have a range of other calculators based on their physical calculators. Check out their Construction Master 5, Concrete Calc, Material Estimator, and more.

2. BuildCalc – The Construction Master Pro Alternative

  • Operating System: Android, iOS
  • Cost: $24.99 USD
  • User Rating: 4.6/5

Developed in consultation with construction pros around the world, BuildCalc operates in a similar manner to the Construction Master Pro. It can work in feet, inches and inch-fractions, as well as metric units, and has calculations for items such as balusters, fences and rafters. The app contains more obscure functions such as stringer throat and purlin angles too. The user manual is extremely helpful in comparison to other apps.

3. Handyman Calculator – The Free Calculator That Does Everything

  • Operating System: Android, iOS
  • Cost: Free, upgrade to remove ads
  • User Rating: 4.4/5

The Handyman Calculator is more of a jack-of-all trades calculator rather that a targeted construction calculator. It has a wealth of calculators including a framing calculator, a lumber calculator, a concrete calculator, a to-do note taker and a tip calculator, among many, many other calculators. The interface is a little clunky, but it does that job of making rough calculations for you.

Note: Be aware that a few users have found small errors in calculations so you may need to check final figures with something a little more heavy duty.

4. Architect’s Formulator - The Calculator For Architects

  • Operating System: iOS
  • Cost: $9.99 USD
  • User Rating: 4.4/5

For the most comprehensive calculator for architects, there’s no looking past the Architect’s Formulator. The app features over 500 different formulas such as acoustic, structural and excavation formulas, easily accessible via the main menu. Unfortunately, you can’t enter fields in various different measurements, so you may need to use a conversion calculator alongside this app.

Note: Make sure that you save the conversions that you use in ‘Favourites’ so you can also visit them when offline.

5. Dewalt Mobile Pro - The Modular Calculator App

  • Operating System: Android, iOS
  • Cost: Free, expansion packs from $0.99 USD
  • User Rating: 4/5

The free version of this app contains some basic calculations for areas, lengths, and volumes, but the real power is in the add-on expansion packs that you can purchase to get more from the calculator. Expansion packs can be bought for carpentry, construction, landscaping, site work, finish materials and more, or you can purchase the whole lot at once. The interface can be a little fiddly to use, however it is worth putting in the time to get the hang of it. App developers are quick to respond and change elements based on user feedback too.

Conclusion: You Need A Construction Calculator App!

If you are an AEC professional and you find yourself doing quick calculations on a piece of paper on a regular basis, it’s probably time to switch it up. In doing calculations by hand, you are more likely to cause erroneous mistakes – which may leave you with mounting costs that eat away at your margin. I encourage you to consider at least trying out one of the Apps I’ve listed here today, I’m willing to bet that you won’t regret it.


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