Why Use Home Design Software?
The top performers in our review are Home Designer Suite, the Gold Award winner; TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro, the Silver Award winner; and Home Designer Interiors, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing the best home design software to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 programs.
Home design software is a powerful tool that helps you plan and design your dream house. The single best part of these programs is you can see any and all changes you make to your house in real time, so when you start remodeling or building, you already know what the end results will look like. You can use this software to help you make decisions about small changes to your home, such as choosing new paint for your walls, or it can help you design large, completely renovated spaces for you and your family to enjoy.
While you can use this software for small projects, we also have reviews of different kinds of specialized design software. If you are only updating the inside of your home, we have interior design software reviews for Windows computers, as well as home and interior design software for Macs. For projects focused on one area of your home, check out our reviews for kitchen, deck and landscaping software for Windows and landscaping software for Macs.
It's important to note this type of software is a great tool for planning how you want your home to look, but it doesn't necessarily create exact blueprints that contractors can follow. Instead, these programs serve as platforms to illustrate your ideas for your dream home.
Free or Paid: Which Home Design Software Is Right for You?
As you search for the best design software for your remodeling needs, you will run across a number of free online programs and apps that can help you make design decisions and allow you to visualize the end results. Although these tools can be quite useful, we found that they are often limited in what they can do, and they are best used as supplements to home design software. Many of these free programs and apps are good for showing you how a wall or room might appear with some changes, but they are not ideal for making serious changes to your home because they don’t have the many features and capabilities found in the best home design software.
The best home design programs on the market allow you to make small changes to the kitchen or tear out a few walls and build an expansion. As you remodel and design your home, you need a lot of building material options. For example, if you want to see what your home looks like with hardwood floors, you need to see the differences in types of woods and stains without having to go buy samples. These purchased programs also have large interior design and plant libraries. Using home design software, you can modify, design, create or recreate any room or section of your house.
The home design software we reviewed gives you the power to create any type of home design projects, and it provides many options so you can visualize the end results before you even get started. For more information, check out our learning center and read our articles on home design software.
Home Design Software: What We Tested, What We Found
We looked for applications that have all the features needed to take your design from an idea to a finished product. These important tools help you brainstorm ideas, draw up floor plans and edit pre-existing ones, buy materials, and construct the house. The best home design software has tools for each step of the design process, no matter how complex your plan is.
There are a few things to consider when deciding which home design software best fits your needs. We tested these key features to determine which programs are easy to use and have advanced capabilities so you can build an accurate floor plan from scratch or update a pre-existing floor plan for your home’s redesign.
We awarded an ease of use score to every software we reviewed. This score reflects how easy the software is to install and use, as well as how quickly you can go from a blank screen to a completed floor plan. To test this, we created the same floor plan on each software.
While all of the programs have grids you can create foundations and rooms on, each software has a unique interface that affects its ease of use. Each program has a different menu layout and houses interior design tools in different places. We found that labeled tabs or drop-down menus made it easy to find tools and made it quicker to create a floor plan.
We also took note of programs that froze, crashed or displayed unclear 3D images, as these all affect how easy it is to use them. In our testing, the Total 3D products did not present clear 3D renditions of the house we designed, and we could not reference them while we were building the 2D floor plan.
Design Quality Score
The quality of the 2D and 3D floor plans a program produces is equally important as how easy it is to use. You should look for programs with a high design quality score. This score gives you an idea if you can use your own drafted floor plans for a construction project or if a contractor needs to completely rebuild your design using a higher-capacity program like CAD software. To determine the quality of the programs’ end results, we surveyed professional architects and interior designers who scored the final 2D and 3D floor plans created on each program.
We found that Chief Architect, Punch and TurboFloorPlan all have quality design tools and create superior floor plans that are professional, presentable and easy to understand. The HGTV Ultimate Home Design did not match the quality of the best home design programs; its 2D floor plan was simple in comparison to our top-rated programs. The Total 3D programs had problems with presentation and appearance, making them more difficult to use and limiting the usefulness of their final floor plans.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Should You Look for in Home Design Software?
In your search for the best home design software, you should focus on the features that make each program easy to use, design and construction tools, and the support options both inside the application and on the company’s website. These features impact your overall user experience and allow you to use the software to its fullest extent.
There are a number of features you don't have to look for because every house design software we reviewed has them. For example, don’t focus your energy searching for the software that can project dollhouse views, change camera angles or create a 3D representation of your floor plan, as these are all minimum standards in modern design software.
Each floor plan software’s usefulness is largely dependent on the quality of the final floor plan it creates. We found there was significant variation from one program to the next. With the 2D plans, we found that our top-rated programs have more detailed symbols that not only show where you place objects, but also give you an immediate idea of what kind of object you placed. For example, in the best programs, the 2D stove image shows how many burners the object has, rather than just displaying a square in the kitchen.
The 3D views of each floor plan are also important when designing a home. Most of the programs provide a clear depiction of what the house looks like so you can make sure windows, doors and appliances are placed where you want them. Detailed floor plans and clear 3D views improve the design process, making it quick and easy to place items and adjust them to your preference.
No matter the size of your project, the ability to import floor plans, photos and objects significantly improves the usability of the software and cuts down on the time it takes to create a floor plan. Many of the programs allow you to import scanned images of a floor plan that you can then trace over them using the appropriate tools. This feature is particularly helpful when redesigning your home using its previous floor plan. Similar to a scanned floor plan, several of the applications allow you to upload an image of your home or pictures of objects inside your home so you can create a floor plan using your house’s existing rooms or furniture and appliances.
Design & Construction Tools
If you are creating a floor plan from scratch, the software’s sample floor plans can serve as a good source for inspiration. Many of the programs have hundreds, if not thousands, of floor plans you can sift through for guidance or even use as a starting point.
During our testing, we found that you can customize most, if not all, aspects of your home when you use top-rated home design software. These programs include building tools you can use to adjust your floor plan to reflect the design of your current home or dream home. For example, framing editors let you add beams and adjust where they stand. Also, with support for custom roofs, you can change the style of the roof, as well as the materials it is made of, its pitch and what areas of the home it covers. Similarly, many of the programs allow you to place electrical and plumbing components where you want them. It is important to remember that contractors will likely use your floor plan as a wish list and place beams, electrical outlets and wiring, pipes and plumbing components where they deem appropriate.
After you create a floor plan, you can browse through the programs’ object and plant libraries to add interior design elements and landscaping. All of the programs provide a variety of furniture, appliances and fixtures you can use to decorate your home to get an idea of what your house could look like when it is fully furnished.
Not all of the programs have extensive plant libraries. Home Designer Interiors and Total 3D Home Design Deluxe both have much smaller plant libraries than the best house design software. These two programs focus specifically on the interior of the home, and as a result, provide a compact list of house plants. However, the programs with extensive plant libraries typically couple the list of plants with an encyclopedia that details optimal weather conditions, soil types, growth patterns and water requirements so you use appropriate plants that thrive in or around your house.
Help & Support
Many of the programs have free trial periods you can take advantage of to see whether they have the tools you need. These free trials differ in length and have limitations. You can only use some program trials for a fixed amount of time, while other trials have no time limit but restrict necessary features you need to complete a project like sharing or printing.
Since this type of software has so many tools and features, you need a program that offers support. While a user manual is extremely helpful when you are first learning how to use the software, step-by-step guides, video tutorials and wizards are even better. They show you exactly how to perform a task. All of the software websites list contact information for both technical and customer support in case you need further help with the software.
Home Design Software: Our Verdict & Recommendation
We found that Chief Architect’s Home Designer Suite offers the best variety of design tools, high-quality floor plans and realistic renditions of your designs. With a large object and plant library, this program helps you plan and decorate every part of your house. In our comparison, we found that this program also produced the best-quality construction documents. The floor plans are easy to read and cater to contractors. Even with its many capabilities, it is still easy to use because of its design wizards, tutorial videos and in-program help. Overall, this software offers the best quality tools and design for both beginner and advanced home designers.
The TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Pro home design program is easy to use and has quality design tools. It has a large object and plant library, so you can personalize the style of your home. This program has a variety of design tools that create high-quality designs. While the floor plans are comparable to our number one product, the 3D renditions are not as accurate and realistic.
Home Designer Interiors, which is also made by Chief Architect, is similar to our number one ranked product, but it focuses more on the interior of the home. It has a variety of tools to help you build and design bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and other living areas. It doesn’t have topography or landscape tools, but it has a deck designer and some plants you can use to plan the exterior of your home. We found that the quality of the design tools, final floor plan and 3D renditions make this one of the best home design programs to use for home revisions.