cost CAD programs are great for floorplan layouts and getting a feel
for the space you will be building. They will not have the structural
information to let you design a full set of construction drawings.
These programs can do real work if you have a
stock plan that has the structural information and you want to change
the windows, doors and non-structural walls inside that structural
shell. In some cases you can even change the outside dimensions without
altering things too much.
With any modified design a local home designer,
architect or engineer should review the drawings to make sure it meets
local codes and is structurally sound. If you've made changes that
require additional drawings or details, then this person can provide
them for you. While this will add some to the design cost of your
project, it will be considerably less than the typical
start-from-scratch architectural design fee of 10% of construction
cost. Often this person can make suggestions about local materials or
building techniques that will work better or save you money over what
is called out in the stock plan. There are considerable regional
differences in how houses are built.
Here are two simple CAD programs you might
Personally, I prefer an earlier version of 3D
Home Architect — ver. 3. Interestingly, the 3D Home Architect
program above will not read files from ver. 3, but the Better Homes
& Gardens program will - try and make sense out of that!
If you are running Windows 7 you should use one of the Design Suites
from Better Homes & Gardens, or Chief Architect (the same program
under different labels). 3DHA ver. 3 does not play well with Win-7
The older 3DHA ver. 3 program does the basics in a
straightforward easy to learn way. It lets you quickly layout walls to
form a building shape. Then you drop in doors, windows, furniture, and
cabinets. Click a few more buttons and you put a simple roof over it.
To see the space you've just designed, simply grab the eyeball icon and
drag it in the direction you want to look. Let go and the program draws
an interior (or exterior if you're outside the walls) perspective. The
program will frustrate those who want to design an elaborate house with
a complex roof. It is best used to design simple buildings. For
buildings like this it can give you a full 3D model.
For a more complex building you can use any of
these home design programs as a floorplanning tool to get a feel for
the interior and how much space you need for furniture, cabinets,
Below is a couple of screen shots of a studio
house done in 3D Home Architect. The plan can be printed out to scale
and used directly in the final drawings. This small house has an open
bedroom loft over a small kitchen/bath area. The tall walls give the
place an old school house feel.