From Crayon to CAD

You don’t have to be a computer genius to try this user-friendly home-design software that will help you get your floorplan just right.

When we were kids, we all started out drawing with crayons, which quickly grew into playing with blocks, Legos, Lincoln Logs and even dioramas to create our version of the perfect house. But you’re not a kid anymore. You’re all grown up and need a more sophisticated way to envision your dream home, since this is something that you’ll actually build someday. Enter home-design software, also known as Computer Aided/Assisted Drafting and Design (CADD). Nowadays it’s simply referred to as CAD.

The CAD Advantage

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with drawing your dream home on a white paper napkin. But eventually you’ll want to make changes and revisions, and erasing anything-whether it’s a master bedroom or a whole level-off a napkin drawing will leave you with tattered remnants of your dream. This is where CAD comes in, because it was designed especially for the fickle-minded dreamer. It lets you edit, go back and fix a mistake or even try an alternative route. It also brings your design to a real-world scale so you can really see how rooms fit together with other structural elements. Other pluses include easy 3-D functionality and a realistic look-you can even outfit your ÒhomeÓ with everything from furniture to flowers.

Of the hundreds of products out there, you’re probably wondering which one is best for you. First of all, keep in mind, that the options I’ll go over here aren’t professional design software. This is CAD 101, your basic, fun, see-what-I-can-do floorplan-design software for the layperson.

To help you with your decision, I’ve outlined my top three picks in the chart (opposite). Don’t feel limited to these choices, though. Explore other options to see what else is out there. But remember to base your decision on these criteria: ease of use, intuitiveness, immediate feedback, affordability and the ability to share with others what you’re working on. That’s the point of using this cool software, after all: to articulate what you’ve been dreaming about for so long and being able to show your builder exactly what you want.

TOP PICKS: CAD FOR THE MASSES
PRODUCT NAME UPSHOT COST

Home Design AS 3000
Punch Home Design
Architectural Series 3000

www.punchsoftware.com

It isn’t trying to be a serious design tool. It’s quick, intuitive and makes a fun experience happen fast and easily. Made for beginners, but has some cool features such as extensive framing and estimating and mechanical design. Retail:
about $180

Better, Homes and Gardens - HDS 6
Better Homes and Gardens
Home Designer Suite 6

www.homedesignersoftware.com

This is user-friendly and was the only software I found that had a log wall solution. There’s a log wall tutorial available from the company, too, that I found easier than my high-end work software. It also comes with a second CD with 32 instructional videos. Retail:
about $100

TurboCAD Deluxe v10.2
TurboCAD Deluxe v10.2
www.turbocad.com

TurboCAD is aimed more at those interested in detailed sketches and precision drawing rather than just fooling around with a floorplan. There’s a slight learning curve here, but that also means it has a lot of functionality. A step-by-step wizard takes some guesswork out. Retail:
about $100


To read the full article on CAD software, check out the May 2005 issue of Log Home Living.