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Construction Bid Estimate Vs. Proposal: What's the Difference?

Construction projects require careful planning, budgeting, and execution. This is where the role of construction bid estimates and proposals comes in. These two terms are often used interchangeably, sometimes leading to confusion in an already demanding and, at times, overwhelming industry.

Estimates and proposals are different and serve different purposes. Understanding their differences can help you make more informed decisions and achieve better project outcomes.

In this blog from SharpeSoft, we'll discuss the difference between a construction bid estimate and a proposal and how they affect your projects.

Construction Bid Estimate Vs. Proposal: What's the Difference?

Table of Contents:

  1. Defining Construction Bid Estimates

  2. Understanding Bid Proposals

  3. Key Differences Between Bid Estimates and Proposals

  4. Similarities

  5. When to Use a Bid Estimate

  6. When to Use a Proposal

  7. Estimate Vs. Proposal: The Importance of Knowing the Difference

  8. Conclusion

Defining Construction Bid Estimates

A construction bid estimate calculates the total cost to complete a specific project. It's a detailed account of all the costs associated with the construction project, from materials to labor to overhead.

A construction estimator with experience in a specific type of project usually creates a bid estimate. By using estimator software from SharpeSoft, estimators can review plans and specifications to determine the cost of materials and labor that will be required with precision. These professionals base their cost estimations on equipment, materials, labor hours, and subcontractors.

This estimation is then presented to the owner or client as a bid. The client compares this bid with other bids before selecting the contractor they want to work with based on their costs and qualifications.

Understanding Bid Proposals

On the other hand, a proposal is a more comprehensive document outlining details of the construction project and how the construction company intends to accomplish the project. A proposal goes beyond the cost of the project and should include details of the work and the timeline, the materials being used, and the specific services provided.

Proposals are detailed reports designed to present a unique solution to the project's challenges. Proposals are usually submitted by contractors eyeing a particular project and competing with other contractors.

After submitting these proposals, the owner or client will select the best contractor based on a bid comparison, including price and the quality of the proposal.

Key Differences Between Bid Estimates and Proposals

The primary difference between a bid estimate and a proposal is the level of detail they provide. A bid estimate focuses on projected costs, while the proposal focuses on providing the solution.

The bid estimate gives a detailed summary of what the project will cost the client. The proposal explains the finer details and provides a complete breakdown of the project scope and timeline.


Both reports are vital to the bidding process. They're used to help clients make informed decisions about which contractor to choose based on factors such as cost, quality, experience, and capabilities.

Contractors who can provide detailed and accurate bid estimates and winning proposals will have a higher chance of getting chosen for a construction project. With the right estimating technology in their arsenal, contractors can better ensure this happens.

When to Use a Bid Estimate

A bid estimate works best for short-term projects with straightforward requirements. They're often quicker to produce and can be used to promptly evaluate the overall project costs. Bid estimates are often used during the preliminary stages of the project and can help clients plan their budgets.

When to Use a Proposal

A proposal is suitable for more complex, large-scale construction projects. Proposals offer a comprehensive project plan detailed enough to identify problems, find feasible solutions, and establish timelines.

A proposal is suitable for projects that demand the client's full attention to the project scope, budget, timeline, and details.

Estimate Vs. Proposal: The Importance of Knowing the Difference

Knowing the difference between a bid estimate and a proposal is essential as they're crucial components of the bidding process. Knowing the difference enables construction professionals to determine precisely what they need to prepare when approaching owners or clients needing their services.

It also allows owners to request just one or the other if they only require the cost of a project or a more comprehensive outline proposal of the work to be done.


Bid estimates and proposals are two separate reports used in the construction industry, and understanding the difference can save you time and frustration in the bidding process. By knowing the distinction between the two, you can better ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and clearly understands each other's expectations.

When preparing a construction bid, take the time to understand what's needed for the project by using the right estimator software solutions. This helps ensure you have the correct reports ready to present to potential clients.

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