Home Design Software 101

You want to design your next home, but the realization that you’re no Frank Lloyd Wright and the fact that your last home-building experience included the use of Lincoln Logs® has you feeling slightly under-qualified, relax–home design software can help.

Getting Started With Home Design Software

Good home design software comes with video tutorials, which make learning how to use the software’s drawing tools and other features a breeze.

Another feature any home design software that’s worth its salt will provide you is a variety of room templates and full home plans you can edit. This gives you a good foundation to build on that you can tweak to fit your individual needs and style. For additional home design help, see Ten Tips for Smart Home Design.

The Inside Scoop on Home Design Software

Once you’ve settled on a basic floor plan, the power of home design software quickly becomes evident—it's sheer flexibility. If you need to increase or decrease the size of a room or perhaps even move it to a different location, no problem. And by utilizing the Automatic Floor Plan Dimensioning tool, you always know the exact square footage of your design.

There are also tools like the Interior Furniture Objects feature, which gives you the ability to place objects like beds, chairs, tables and appliances throughout your plan so you can see what’s working and what needs help. And let’s not forget the Fireplace Designer, which allows you to complete the look of your living room, family room or master bedroom with just the right hearth.

Designing staircases can trip you up if you don’t know what you’re doing. Most home design software programs come with a Stair Generator tool. This handy feature allows you to plan perfect staircases every time, whether your plan calls for a straight row or a complex curve with custom railings to boot.

Most home design software also comes with a Cabinet Designer, a feature that lets you cook up the perfect kitchen design by dragging and dropping the perfect cabinets, appliances and furniture into place. Some software choices even allow you to custom–build your cabinets, assuring a perfect fit for your personalized design.

On the Outside of Your Home Design

The exterior house design is where most floor–plan design books fall short; but home design software literally raises the roof on exteriors, offering a variety of tools and features that will help you create a facade that fits your plan and personality perfectly.

The Roof Truss, Window and Door Schedule feature–available with most home design software–provides predefined roof styles, windows and doors of all designs and sizes, giving you all the versatility you need to create an attractive, yet consistent look and feel for your home’s exterior.

If your plan requires a roofline that’s unique, then you’ll want to find software that offers a Custom Roof and Pitch feature. This helpful tool allows you to customize roof pitches, placement and overall shape of your design.

For planning yard elements, most home design software offer an Exterior Furniture Objects feature, which allows you to plan and place everything from pools to playgrounds to patio furniture.

Other features like the Deck Designer and Fence Designer let you add finishing touches to your yard while tying your architectural and landscaping elements together into a neat, cohesive design.

Putting Your Design into Perspective

Even with all of its handy tools and convenient features, the real beauty of home design software is its ability to give you 3–D perspectives of your completed home design, inside and out.

The Real–Time Walk Through feature lets you stroll through your home design and pivot around in each room; you can even change the view angle to check out your yard from inside your home. You can also "fly" around the outside of your home with the Real–Time Fly Through feature, viewing the outside elevations of your design, the landscaping and other elements you have placed in your yard—all in 3–D.

If you want to add or change elements of your design—like flooring, wall coverings or exterior siding—simply open up the materials section, select the object you want to change, drag and drop and it will make the change in real time, as you watch. You can also modify your design’s doors and windows with the Window and Door Designer while in 3–D view.

Delivering Your Home Design Plan

Since you must pass your drawings on to an architect and a home builder, you’ll want home design software that allows you to share your home design files easily. Look for software that allows you to import/export your drawings to .DXF or .DWG formats, making it possible to open them with AutoCAD and other common PC–based CAD (Computer–Aided Drafting) programs used by professionals.

Whether you’re designing your first home or your thirty–first, with home design software you’ll have every tool you need to design the home of your dreams.

Other articles of Interest: Landscaping—Where to Start and Building Green: Eco-Friendly Ideas.

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