Yeah Frank I am an avid user of AutoCAD but am seriously considering
switching over to the FREE version of Sketchup. I have been using Sketchup
for just over 1 week and it has a lot of potential. Look for a few
"beginner tutorials and you should be well on your way. I watched about 7
minutes worth in 2 tutorials and that was all I needed to start being
Swingman has found several "plug-ins" that save many many steps. I'm sure
he can point you in the right directions.
It's probably very basic for most, but I used "Punch Super Home Suite" for
my purposes and found it pretty much all that I required. Bought it at Sam's
some years back and remember it was very inexpensive.
On Sun, 29 Jun 2008 16:40:11 -0500, Frank Boettcher
I used it to design my laundry room. Nothing too fancy, a couple of
rows of base and wall cabinets, countertops, sink, washer and dryer.
Worked pretty well for me. Basic operation is easy to learn and the
3d rendering and moving walk through camera views are pretty slick. I
found the selection of cabinet styles a little limited, but I was able
to find something close enough to get the idea. After some fussing
around, I learned to do things like take the doors off a cabinet to
create open shelving (for which there was no standard component).
The documentation is ok for basic stuff, but lacking when you are
trying to do something a little tricky. And there's really no way to
create your own components when there isn't something you need in the
library. At least no way I was able to find.
If I were doing it now, I'd probably have a go at using sketchup.
I plan to use it to experiment with different siding and trim
types/styles. You can import a picture of your house and then modify
stuff from there. If it works as advertised, it will be perfect for
trying out different siding and trim styles and colors.
If you have any specific questions, I'll try to answer if you email
(you know what to leave out)
Thanks Paul, I'll keep that in mind if I go in that direction. I also
notice there is a very active user forum to go to for help.
Perhaps I should be more specific. After looking through literally
many hundreds of stock plans and not finding what I want, either style
(modified raised Cajun cottage) or floor plan, I sketched a floor
plan manually. The plan reflects the needs of an "aging" empty nester
couple, single floor, much smaller than my current home with a
breezeway/carport attached shop that will be designed from scratch. I
need to take my sketch to the next level, hopefully all the way to
drawings suitable to submit for permit and and for construction, but
at least to the point that I have a good visual of the finished
I'm looking for the most user friendly option to get me there. Not
currently interested in becoming expert in any software, just want to
accomplish the task while maintaining control of tweaking and changes
that might be necessary to fit a site.
I actually have a full AutoCad (without the architectural/construction
modules) but don't want to take the time to fight that learning curve.
Sketchup! ... hands down. Also ping "Dave in Houston", who's also used
Sketchup to permit a set of building plans for a house here in Houston.
I've been using it less than a month and, with what I know about
construction as builder, even I, along with a few free ruby scripts, can
whip up a set of framing plans in a few minutes from a floor plan using
Sketchup, including floor/ roof joists and roof rafters.
AAMOF, I'm designing a two story "cajun shotgun" with it as we speak.
Actually, its a shop and upstairs bedroom, with balconies on both levels,
that we're building as a free standing structure next to the existing lake
house in AR.
Here's a shot of the frame ... and I've built a few houses with less of an
idea of where to start .. :)
The only caveat is you would need to know enough about construction, and
where the gotcha's are to do the thing entirely. Or alternately, do what you
can, then hire an architect to keep the oxes between the ditches with
About all I need to build what you see above is an engineer to flange up the
framing, roof and sheer wall, and to come up with a foundation design/plan
based on a soil report (most of this will be over a crawlspace).
Let me know if I can provide you with info, or some places to look. Crank up
Sketchup, burn some midnight oil for a couple of weeks, and you'll be on
your way ... it's really a piece of cake.
I've been using SketchUp for about four years. I used to dread using
AutoCAD and Architectural Desktop. Powerful programs...powerfully
annoying. It really was like a breath of fresh air to use a user
interface that isn't a chore. One of the advantages to some of the
other home owner design software is the extensive libraries of
components. Some have full blown cabinet and appliance lines from
major manufacturers, but that stuff isn't worth having to deal with
kludgy programs that don't do what you want. HerHusband was dead on
with the problems he encountered trying to work a roof. Sometimes
those damn programs get a life of their own and the 'simple' roof
designer is simply frustrating.
Google, surprisingly enough, hasn't killed SketchUp with one notable
exception. SketchUp had one of the best forums I've ever run across
on their web site. The people were amazingly helpful and some of the
work they did would stun you. One guy built the entire house in
SketchUp in layers (not CAD layers - building layers, sheathing,
siding, etc.) then used the model to show his clients how the work
will look while in progress. It makes it so real they could taste
it. I'm not sure if Google's Sketchup groups are as helpful as I
haven't visited them.
The 3D Warehouse is useful if you need to grab a component and they're
easy to modify as long as the creator used components and groups to
make them. That actually is something that can't be stressed enough -
start designing with components from the get go. It makes it a lot
easier to modify things when you don't have to start untying elements
that got glued together.
The Ruby scripts go from can't-do-without to a-waste-of-time, but
they're trivial to plug in and remove. There's some dude in France
that hosts a whole battery of Ruby scripts for SketchUp. Just add
them one at a time to see if you really need it.
This is the French dude's site:
The Pro version of SketchUp has relatively few additional features,
but they're pretty critical if you're going to use it for any serious
work. I wish Google would drop the price to be more competitive with
the competition. $500 (last I checked) is pretty steep for those few
~ 1. Download SU, then go to:
... download the HouseBuilder_extension.zip and unzip in SU's plugin folder
in the Program Files directory (on a PC).
Go to that folder, find and double click on "garage_tour.skp".
Follow the yellow brick road ... within five minutes you will have actually
framed/roofed a garage/shop with SU.
There, in a nutshell, are the basic concepts/tools which, along with a
knowledge of construction techniques, that will let you do what you want. As
in anything, the more you know about construction, the more you will able to
utilize the program to come up with plans to build your own house.
~ 2. Also load up iTunes from the Apple web site (free also):
Log onto the iTunes Music Store/Podcast/Software How-to and do a search on
There you will find a series of tutorials by go-2-school.com called to "The
Sketchup Show". Download #28 "Model a House From An Image", which will take
you through building a 3D model of a house from floorplans.
While the latter will not be suitable for the eventual rendering of
construction plans, it will allow you to get that all important visual
feedback that some can't seem to get from a set of 2D floorplans.
That said, you can take those same floorplans and build a "frame", using #1
above, simply by constructing your frame on top of the imported floorplans.
You may want to use your existing CAD program to do the floorplan (save some
time and do the walls double lined, both interior/exterior to scale; or use
SU and the "offset" tool to do the double line wall drawings).
Once you have a floorplan to scale, you can go both ways easily.
I have not seen BHG Home Designer, but when I designed our house back in
2003, I used "3D Home Architect" to get an approximate idea of what the
finished house would look like. I hand drew the actual plans in a
different program (a page layout program actually), but 3D Home Architect
worked great for seeing what the house would look like inside and out. My
wife isn't real good about visualizing something just by looking at plans,
so having the 3D images to look at were extremely helpful during our design
Of course, there were many issues with the software, especially with things
like designing the roof. I had to fiddle with a lot of workarounds to get
things to look like the image in my head, but in the end the 3D renderings
look very close to the way our house actually looks now that we're done
Excellent for visualizing, but I wouldn't think of using it to develop the
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