Best Home Design Software (Free & Paid)

It’s that time of the year again and you’re thinking that your kitchen or living room needs some improvement, or you’re just starting out in life and are about to design your dream house but you don’t really know where to start. The good news is that you don’t have to be an architect to do it, because there are various options for the best CAD software (CAD stands for computer aided drawing) out there that you can use to design your house with, redecorate and refurbish your room or any part of your property on a computer, and you can learn it easily too!

When you’re planning your house design, you need to take certain things into consideration, including the scale of your project and the legal requirements and/or ramifications if you choose to ignore them. If you’re designing a brand new house or do a complete overhaul of your existing property, then you could consider going for a comprehensive free CAD software or a paid one which is often the better option. They offer a wide array of tools that allows you to modify the design as much as you want and also include multiple objects and templates to give you inspiration on how to design your home.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best home design software, both free and paid.

woman choosing design options

On the other hand, if your DIY home renovation or home improvement project is a minor one, then there are a number of useful AutoCAD software and other similar software that are cheaper or are free to use that you can utilize in order to realize your DIY dreams. Apps like Google SketchUp, Floorplanner and SmartDraw are just among the room designer apps that we’re referring to. They’re easy to learn and use but they produce high quality results that you can even use, while impressing friends and neighbors.

Whatever design project you have in mind, there’s always a home designer software to match your needs. To better help you find the right software for your DIY or professional project, we’ve compiled a significant amount of information for you to digest in this article, including your best options. Keep reading to find out more!

These options are great no matter whether you’re considering designing a mansion, angled-garage, options or a modern house, or you have a narrow lot. If you are designing either of these, be sure to consider some of the following features.

house blueprints

Features to consider
Stilt home With 2 master suites 4 bedroom
With basement Small, with loft shed
Dog trot Small ranch 5 bedroom

What to Look for

Since there is several dozen house design software available now, it is important that you do your due diligence in narrowing down your choice on which best software to use. Not to worry though as we’ve prepared the questions that you need to ask yourself in order to make an informed decision.

1. What Device Will you be Using?

From experience, using AutoCAD version 2000i back in the day, I was forced to memorize all the commands in the pallet section, which was kind of similar to Adobe Photoshop. And I can tell you that it was quite challenging just to even create a simple 2-D (two-dimensional) floor plan. When it was time to render the house design it took forever for the computer to do it and when I checked the stats, it showed that the computer was already at near full capacity in using its RAM and CPU power. What a letdown!

Today everything has been reconfigured and repackaged to make it extremely easy for anyone to use. This is because the companies selling these types of software realized there aren’t enough professionals to purchase their products, and the market potential for home improvement/renovation DIYers is a very lucrative business, often requiring solutions that are easier to navigate.

System Requirements

Again going back to time immemorial (the old days, or to be accurate my old days) when using high quality graphics software they would always include instructions for system requirements on the installer CDs and DVDs. But now just about every desktop and laptop computer is powered by at least a dual-core processor with a 2.5 Ghz processing speed, 2GB of RAM and a decent GPU (graphics processing unit) – and that’s in the low end of the specs. If you have a high-end device, then you would probably have an octa-core (8 cores) processor, 16GB of RAM and a very powerful GPU! This will more than compensate for the heavily-packed room designer graphics software, ensuring that you can ignore any information on system requirements.

With everything upgraded to levels we could only dream of in the past, installing feature-rich graphics software on your computer has become so convenient that you can download the file directly from the company’s website. The provider’s site will do all the system requirements checking before allowing you to download the software and once it’s installed on your computer, you can immediately doodle with your DIY renovation or design.

The Cloud

The cloud or cloud computing is a new business method where companies sell their software as a service to customers (technically known as SaaS). The virtual cloud does not actually exist and it’s just a concept to better understand how this technology works, but cloud-based software has certain advantages that you’d otherwise have trouble dealing with if the software was installed on your device. For instance, all of the system requirements to run the software will be handled by the company’s computers so that it will free up your computer’s CPU, RAM and GPU. This means that you can create high quality floor plans and design from your computer without pushing it to its limits.

engineer inside a building being built

On the other hand, the disadvantage of using the cloud is that your DIY project will be available for anyone or everyone to see. When will that become an issue? You may be one of the people that prefer storing all your work on your local computer without having it shared with a cloud solution, where you may be afraid of data leaks.

Free Testing

Never let the opportunity to test a product for free pass, as it can help you decide whether you should be purchasing the full product or not. Testing the product will tell you how easy or how difficult it is to use. If you purchased the product right off the bat without testing it, then you might end up disappointed and will have wasted money on a useless product. Later you will find yourself purchasing more products and spending money unnecessarily. If there’s a live chat option on the company’s website, then use that and ask the live chat agent for help, as well as to see whether you can get a trial version of the software. Most of the time there are instructions on the company’s website on how to use the product during its trial period.

designer working on blueprints

2. What’s your Learning Curve?

Not all floor plan designer software is easy to use. In fact, some will take weeks to become familiar with. It becomes even more difficult if you’re just a computer novice, or someone who has never tried using any graphics software before. You may want to opt for something that’s simple and easy to use rather than the opposite.

3. What do you Want to Do?

Now it’s time to get down to business and determine what it is that you want to do. Are you seriously considering designing your dream house from scratch? Or maybe you just want to add some idyllic features to your living room, porch or kitchen. Whatever creative ideas you want to try out, make sure that you test it with one of the free or cheap graphics software options available on the web. Once you’ve mastered the craft of building architecture (as that’s what these new graphics software have been designed to do), then you should be able to create something that will stun people at first glance.

Drawing a Simple Floor Plan

Start your DIY improvement project by drawing a simple floor plan, and then add more to it until you’re satisfied with what your renovation or new design looks like. Remember, a little bit can go a long long way.

Prepare to Build

Aside from BIM and CAD software, other programs are far behind when it comes to building construction accuracy. You won’t get the option to create blueprints or drawings that have all the details for engineers and architects to understand and follow. But there are a few graphics software that have great features to help you add more accurate details in designing your house. One good example of this is the Chief Architect Home Designer Suite. It has a huge selection of cabinets, colors, and other features for you to choose from. It even has options for complex electrical layout planning, plumbing, and HVAC.

Whether you’re preparing to build a contemporary home or one with a mother-in-law suite, there are certain factors to consider.

Special factors to consider
Contemporary Daylight basement Walkout basement
With mother-in-law suite Passive solar With in-law suite

Adding Curb Appeal

contracator looking at house plan

Let us also address another aspect of home improvement that is not talked about a lot – a superficial remake like external paint. You actually do not need an AutoCAD software for this, because there are simpler programs that you can get to edit your house paint digitally. Graphics suites like Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Pixlr Editor and about a dozen others are easily available online for you to download for free (others might cost around $25 – $40).

Create a Presentation That You Can Show Others

While it is typical for modern design software to appeal to teachers, sales representatives, realtors, and budget-minded architects by giving them the option to create a business presentation of their projects to convince their clients to buy, you don’t have to. However, it might be to your advantage if you’ll do a simple voice narration and create animated viewings of your house to let the architect know exactly how you want your home improvement project to be done. Most floor plan designer software offers a virtual walk through feature where you can insert an audio recording of your voice narrating each part of the house you want renovated. This also saves you time explaining all the details to the architect or engineer about your DIY home improvement project.

What Software Do Professional Home Designers Use?

Now that you know what to look for in a useful house design software, it’s time to look at what professional engineers and architects use to build their infrastructure projects. You need to compare your device and the software you’re using with the ones they’re using in order to get a basic idea on the differences between your skill level and theirs. That’s because if you’re not satisfied with the free and basic programs, then you take a crash course in architecture and use the graphics suites that they’re using and achieve semi-pro or pro level work.

Here are 5 best CAD software that professional engineers and architects use. These options are great for L-shaped, H-shaped, U-shaped, 2,200 sq ft, & minimalist homes, and anything else you could potentially want to use it for.

Autodesk AutoCAD LT

Used by more architects, engineers, construction professionals, and interior designers than any other type of software, AutoCAD LT is popular among industry professionals. This graphics software is very dependable and it helps architects and engineers draft plans for any infrastructure and document them with accurate 2D geometric scales. The reason why designers choose this program over other options, is its incredible editing and annotation features plus a comprehensive UI (user interface) which makes it the market leader. This software is pure cloud-based, meaning you don’t have to install it on your computer, but work with it directly from the company’s servers. You can even use it from your smartphone or tablet with its mobile app and view, edit, annotate, and draw sketches at will. You can run AutoCAD LT on both Windows and Mac OS (operating systems) and all cloud connectivity, measurements features are updated regularly.


Another graphics software that professional designers love to use is TurboCAD. The graphics suite is suitable for both architectural and mechanical designs with accurate parametric architectural objects, sections, and elevations. It’s also compatible with Mac and Windows OS and has cloud connectivity too! TurboCAD was created as the prime rival to Autodesk’s AutoCAD and is a cheaper alternative compared to its competitor. TurboCAD spared no effort in their software’s photorealistic surface modeling and lighting features, and because of this designers can create more dramatic presentations with materials-specific tools such as wood or metal. You will love using TurboCAD because it has an internal and external database connectivity, which means you can share files from other platforms (i.e. Autodesk, SketchUp, and others) and collaborate and integrate with multiple work groups with relative ease.

Autodesk Revit

Autodesk Revit is a versatile graphics software colloquially called building information modeling (BIM) program that works in multiple disciplines including engineering, architecture, landscaping, interior design, and contracting. Besides these things, this graphics suite will allow you to create and infrastructure models in 3D with great accuracy and efficiency, instantly update floor plans, elevations, sections, and 3D views; as well as utilize 3D visualizations to view the infrastructure 3D model prior to its construction. Like TurboCAD, Revit has a collaboration feature that allows users to connect and work with other teams via the cloud and share and save files and other documents without the need to switch between email, FTP sites, and other complicated platforms. The BIM 360 Design work-sharing feature helps make team collaboration a possibility and easy to do. One minor disadvantage Revit has is that it only works with the Windows OS; however, if you’ll use Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac, then you can also run it using Mac OS.

Archicad 23

Graphicsoft’s Achicad 23 is another one of the best choices for architects and engineers, because of its ability to create accurate construction details and approximate the building materials required to build your house design. This means that you will get a rough estimate of the budget needed to build a new house, renovate a certain portion of an existing building, or make additions and improvements on an existing structure. It even has the ability to model and coordinate openings such as voids, recesses, or niches and include them in the overall estimation that you can share with engineers and other consultants. The Archicad 24 is Graphicsoft’s latest version of this graphics software and connects architects and engineers in a shared BIM cloud environment – powered by advanced collaboration and communication workflows – to deliver integrated design.

Live Home 3D Pro

Create accurate layouts, floor plans and furnish rooms, or even an entire building infrastructure with the Live Home 3D Pro. The best thing about this graphics suite is that it has an intuitive technology that automatically translates your plan (imported blueprints or create drawings from scratch) into 3D models. Live Home 3D Pro is compatible with Windows and Mac OS and is recommended for desktop use, but you can also use it on your Apple device, just download the app using Play Store. Geo-positioning and daylighting options allow the user to decide which lighting positions work best for their walk through video presentation. The walk throughs can be generated and exported to various other platforms and can always be played back as Ultra HD files.

Can you Design a House Even if you’re Not an Architect?

You’re going to have to consider a number of things when you plan to build a new house. Among them include;

  • Showing the real estate appraiser the blueprints in order for him to determine its value.
  • The same is required when you apply for a construction loan from a bank or a lender plus the land title.
  • The architectural review committee or city engineer’s office will ask you for the same thing too! In the United States you must first secure building codes before you can do any changes to your house. Any major changes made without approved building codes from your local government are considered illegal and may incur lawsuits.
  • The building contractor you’ll hire will also need to see those plans to guide the construction work.

But do you need to be an architect to design it? Or hire one for that matter? The answer is no, not necessarily. You can choose from these alternative options presented below.

architect working on blueprints

Consider Using a Draftsperson

You may substitute hiring an architect for a draftsperson, because they have a similar ability to translate designs into a technical drawings and blueprints for building contractors to follow; however, they are not trained the same way as engineers and architects are. The main advantage of hiring a draftsperson is that they cost less to hire than an architect. The architect may charge you 10% – 15% of the total cost of the construction, while a draftsperson will only bill you for a fraction of the amount.

But don’t be doubtful about the draftsman’s abilities, because they do include detailed instructions on their finished products for things such as electrical and lighting details and HVAC and plumbing layouts. As a matter of fact, they even include duct sizing information, power loads for the circuits and other power requirements your house may need. Do research the background and reputation of the draftsperson before you hire them just to be safe.

Buy a Stock Plan

The second option for you if you’re not an architect and you want to build your own house or just do some renovation work on your existing home is to buy a stock plan. A stock plan is a blueprint that is being sold for a certain amount to multiple customers. The issue with this idea is that the customer will not get a unique house design and will have to contend with the fact that his or her house is very similar, or in fact, identical to another one somewhere in America.

Buying a plan like this is significantly cheaper than it is to hire someone to draw something from scratch, they  typically start around $1,000, depending on which ones you are looking at. If you find an option that you are a big fan of but want to have small changes made to it, you can still get it customized to your needs at a fraction of the cost that it would cost to hire an architect, and you can even buy the options that include the AutoCAD file and make changes to it yourself.

The Do-It-Yourself Option

Another option is to do it yourself! As you can see from this lengthy article, there are plenty of free CAD software available that you can download and learn to use if you have the time available. You can become proficient with these types of graphics software in as little as 2-3 weeks and design the most impressive houses that you’ve ever dreamed of! You’d be surprised that you had that architect in you all along and you’re only discovering it now. Yes, this software has been repackaged in order to allow ordinary people to easily learn and use it, so you can bring your dream house to life.

Consider Building Codes and Legal Resources for your Home Design Project

It may sound fun and exciting at first when you plan to do a remodeling, renovation, DIY home improvement project, or build your own house from scratch, but in reality you’d have to deal with a ton of building codes and paper work. While it can be fun and rewarding to complete these projects, it can also be confusing and stressful because there are building codes and a number of other laws to follow/ Once you find out that there are legal aspects to your home improvement dreams, it starts getting a little messy and confusing. So to be on the side of the law, do a lot of research on home construction and local building codes before you submit anything for approval!

Why is it important?

Every state, city and municipality in America have adopted these various codes that are created to ensure the health, safety, and general well-being of the people living in these homes and buildings. The building codes vary from making sure that the contractors constructed adequate exit points and fire escapes in the building, so people could flee in case of fire or emergency, but also include ventilation shafts, HVAC, plumbing, etc.

Make Sure that your DIY Home Improvement Project is Not Illegal in your State

Fortunately there’s the internet and by just doing a little Google search, you’ll find those building codes list for the city, state or county that you’re in. Factor that into your building design and making sure everything is dandy with the local laws for building safety and you’ll be on your merry way to creating your house design masterpiece! Remember, your job is to only design the house/room/certain section of your property on your computer with the graphics software of your choice. Do not attempt to replace the pipes, or HVAC parts on your own, as you will need professional help with those things, especially since a lot of this work may very well be required to be done by a licensed professional. Once you’ve finished your house design, then turn it over to the building contractor and let him handle things from here on out.

8 Investments to Boost Your Home’s Value and try out your skills with this software

Now that you’ve learned about the various graphics software that you can use to create amazing home designs, floor plans and 3D renderings of them, we recommend that you try a few things with your own house to see how it feels to become a pseudo-architect. This may jack up the price of your real estate property by a nice percentage. Well, at least in the 3D models that is. Here are 8 suggestions for you to create on the digital blueprint of your graphics software.

1. Furnace/HVAC Replacement

architect looking at drawings

You can use any of the above graphics software that we mentioned to redesign and replace your old HVAC system. Show it to an architect, engineer or a professional designer to see if you’ve done a good job and get their critical opinion to further improve your work. Get a real estate appraiser onboard to see how much money your property will sell for once this new furnace/HVAC has been installed if you ever plan to sell. Even if you won’t sell your property, the 3D model of your renovation will probably look great on your computer screen, which you will take pride in and want to share with family and friends.

2. Adding Attic Insulation

This is nothing that SketchUp can’t do. Copy the layout of your roof and point out areas where insulation is needed in order to keep your house warm at night and during fall and winter seasons. Go as far as labeling the insulation materials and calculate how much you’ll need to spend to put this upgrade in your house. Don’t forget to get the professionals to take a look and ask for some comments to help you make necessary changes if needed.

3. Brighten Up Your Space

This one is definitely good for SmartDraw as it can help you create realistic 3D representations of what you want for your house, including additional lighting for your living room and other areas in the house that you want to ensure are well-lit. Try out recessed lighting and don’t forget to also install dimmer switches for when you need to soften the lighting when the setting calls for it.

4. Update Plumbing

The best tool for plumbing design is Autodesk Revit, because it allows you to design the most basic stuff as well as the complicated piping layout, complete with all the measurement details and material types. From the rough design to the 3D rendered model, you and other experts will be impressed with the piping layout for your new plumbing system. Real estate appraisers consider plumbing a very important aspect in determining the value of your home, so you might as well create those layouts for future use. Nowadays, re-piping is done with cross-linked polyethylene, also abbreviated as PEX, XPE or XLPE, which is a flexible plastic tubing that can fit into your walls without having to tear them down like it was done in the old days. You may want to include that in the materials section of your design to save money instead of using metal pipes.

5. Boost the Bathroom

Considering you’ll need a certain amount of detail for this kind of renovation work, it’s best to work with the Roomstyler 3D Home Planner. Adding new light fixtures, replacing the tiles, or adding a new mirror will vastly improve the overall look of your bathroom. The Roomstyler, with all the photo-realistic details that it will give your designs and viewed on a 3D model, will make you and anyone appreciate the look of your bathroom, if you decide to proceed with the renovation plan. Once again it’s something to be proud of even if it’s just a viewable image file on your computer.ø

With the help of this design software, you’ll hopefully soon be exploring various building options, including ones in these styles:

Styles to consider
Tudor Modern ranch
Split-level Mansion
Barn-style Florida-style

6. Basement or Attic Renovation

Don’t let your basement or attic be left to rot and be a backdrop of a horror movie flick, instead use the HomeByMe graphics suite and give them a huge makeover. Trust me, it can really add some valuable equity and square footage to your home. You can turn the attic into a spare bedroom for your kids or in case you have guests who want to sleepover. Meanwhile the basement you can set that up as extra space for your laundry equipment, or storage room for all your tools. You’ll have a lot of fun designing both parts of your house with the HomeByMe software and get compliments from your family and friends for being a good amateur graphics designer as well.

7. Kitchen Is King

woman studying a model of a house being built

They say the kitchen is where the magic happens, well, that’s very true indeed. Why quite frankly, if you don’t have a presentable kitchen, then you can kiss your guests goodbye because they may not come back after their first visit. So give them something to be impressed by – you know what they say about first impressions, right? You may start putting the layout together with the use of Home Designer Suite 2020 and make very impressive designs for the “triangle” (the area where the cooking area, the sink and the dishwasher meet to create an effortless flow when working). Create a 3D walk-through and add an audio commentary to add a dramatic touch when you make your final presentation.

Closing Remarks

With all these modern technologies within reach, you can design your own house using the best CAD software available today. The possibilities are also endless when you’re using this cutting-edge graphics software. From drawing floor plan layouts to making full-blown 3D models, you will even be amazed yourself after seeing the fruits of your labor. And the fact that this graphics software is easy to learn makes it even more compelling to try out your skills within architecture. Go crazy with whichever graphics software you’ll choose to design your rooms, floor plans, kitchens, landscaping etc. and give yourself a pat on the back for doing some good work.

woman looking at house plans

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