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Home design software recommendations?

user-1121196 | Posted in General Questions on

Anyone have any recommendations for home design software, and what to look for?

Must have: At least something quick and easy to use for floor plans and shells, to then take to an architect and engineer, get the process started on better than me with grid paper.

Almost a must: Exterior architectural elements to conceptualize at least 2d Exterior view and styles. 3D interior and exterior move through would be nice.

Nice to have:
1. Allow me to explore large building, multi-family options and layouts for investment property (renting, selling townhome units, but not necessarily row-style townhomes…)
2. Compare rough costs for different material types, particularly for the walls, floors, roofing, foundation, insulation, etc. At least calculating rough material requirements ( I’d like to evaluate doing the whole building in concrete, even hollow core flooring and roofing; I expect to need to go to suppliers/contractors with plans and material requirement estimates)
3. Something particularly good at estimating mid-country costs — Kansas City metro area. Many cost comparisons aren’t great because they don’t do much for this market.

Bonus would be anything that has useful green design or universal design principles and guidelines, design adjustments, etc.

Thoughts?  Thank you, and Happy New Year!

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  1. drewintoledo | | #1

    I’ve really appreciated Chief Architect. Search YouTube and check out some videos. I feel it might be exactly what you’re after.

  2. Reid Baldwin | | #2

    I used Home Designer Pro 2015 to design my house and it worked well. It is a subset of the full Chief Architect product. At the time, it was available for $300. They may have changed to a subscription pricing model since then.

  3. Andy_ | | #3

    $99 for the "suite" version which sounds like what you're looking for since you'll be taking it to an architect.
    It's an easy enough program to learn, but it does have some frustrating limitations if you try to get outside the template type of things and add some of your own details. But it's great as a sketchpad and fun to play around with!

  4. walta100 | | #4

    “At least something quick and easy to use for floor plans and shells, to then take to an architect and engineer, get the process started on better than me with grid paper.”

    I say if you are paying an architect do not spend your money on software. If your plan is to skip the architect then of course get the software.

    It would be a shame to pay for someone’s expertise and creativity and not take full advantage of it.


  5. seabornman | | #5

    Try Sketchup. I believe it's still free at some level. Somewhat of a learning curve, but will serve you well for this project and in the future.

  6. Dan_Keegun | | #6

    If you are looking for something on a professional scale, I'd say give Procore a try. They have specific tools for design coordination, and it has a bunch of functions that allow for budgeting, planning, scheduling, etc. You can find some more info here:

  7. Gary__B | | #7

    For floor plans, I was using Room Sketcher for awhile. It's cloud-based, free (charges for certain adders), and quite capable for visualizations and walk-throughs. Technically it can show you exterior renderings, too, but it's very limited in that respect.

    Now I'm using Chief Architect's Home Designer. The suite version (99 bucks) should have more than enough abilities for your needs.

  8. AMcNett | | #8

    I second the Sketchup recommendation. There are some reasonable plugins (search the plugin directory for "Medeek") that can simplify drawing layouts for wall assemblies, foundations, roofs, etc. If you're trying to really keep costs down I would download the last free version of sketchup (think it's 2017), but pay for those Medeek plugins.

  9. vashonz | | #9

    I used Chief Architect. They do a rental for $200/month. For wife and myself to be able to play with layout and design it was worth it for us. Before bringing it to a draftsman/architect, saved us money by getting really close to what we wanted instead of paying hourly for revisions and design changes. Relatively easy learning curve (easier for us than sketchup), got everything done in a month. Ended up renting it for a 2nd month more recently to visualize different exteriors.

  10. azgreg | | #10

    Third Sketchup with Medeek plugins. You can see a lot of his work over at Countryplans.

  11. TomK_WI | | #11

    Looks like this is an old thread with some new updates so I'll throw in my 2 cents. I actually designed my house with Chief Architect Home Designer Suite. I have to say I was constantly frustrated with the things I couldn't do b/c I didn't have the pricier versions. That said, it got the job done but if I were going to invest any more $$ in that product line I'd want it to be more polished. More recent versions appear to be somewhat better. I'd still be using it if it supported my older Mac. They do offer a nice upgrade discount if you want to refresh your older version after a few years.

    For my basement remodel I ended up using Live Home 3d. This used to be a design-only app but they rebranded and added some features to allow you to make a passable rough design. I don't recommend this for anything more than a DIY remodel or a quick layout to get some ideas flowing.

    Then there is Sketchup... such a shame what has happened since it was sold by Google to Trimble. Gone is the free version which has been replaced by an web app. The pro version has moved to a yearly license. If you go this route you really have to use plug-ins otherwise you'll pull your hair out trying to frame a house stick by stick. Sketchup was excellent for woodworking projects but now I wish I would have spent those countless hours learning blender.

    Others I haven't tried
    - Soft Plan
    - Punch

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