It’s that time of the year again. You think that your kitchen or living room needs some improvement. Or you’re just starting in life and are about to design your dream house. You don’t know where to start. The good news is that you don’t have to be an architect to do it.
There are options for the best CAD software that you can use to design your house. It can also be used to redecorate or refurbish your room on a computer. You can learn it quickly too!
When planning your house design, you need to consider certain things. It includes the scale of your project and the legal requirement and ramifications if you choose to ignore them.
We tested a lot of software and found that the best free & paid home design software are Autodesk AutoCAD LT, TurboCAD, & Archicad 23. They are far superior to any of their rivals with the features they offer.
Here’s a look at our top categories:
- Best, overall paid home design software: Autodesk
- Best alternative paid home design software: TurboCAD
- Best free home design software: Planner 5D
Suppose you’re designing a brand-new house or doing a complete overhaul of your existing property. You could consider a comprehensive free CAD software or a paid one.
The paid ones are often the better option. They offer a wide array of tools to modify the design as much as you want. They also include multiple objects and templates to inspire you to design your home.
We’ll take a look at some of the best home design software, both free and paid.
What Software Do Professional Home Designers Use?
Now it’s time you know what to look for in a helpful house design software. It’s time to look at what professional engineers and architects use to build infrastructure projects. You need to compare your device and the software you’re using with the ones they’re using.
It will let you get a basic idea of the differences between your skill level and theirs. If you’re not satisfied with the free and essential programs, you take a crash course in architecture and use the same as them. They’re using graphics suites that achieve semi-pro or pro-level work.
Here are the 5 best CAD software that professional engineers and architects use. These options are great for 2,200 sq ft & minimalist homes. They’re also great for anything else you could potentially want to use them for.
Best Home Design Software (Free & Paid)
Autodesk AutoCAD LT
More architects and engineers use it. Construction professionals and interior designers also use it, with it being used more than any other type of software. AutoCAD LT is popular among industry professionals. This graphics software is very dependable.
It lets architects and engineers draft plans for infrastructure and documents them with accurate 2D geometric scales. Designers choose this over other options because of its incredible editing and annotation features. It has a comprehensive UI that makes it the market leader. This software is pure cloud-based, meaning you don’t have to install it on your computer.
You work directly from the company’s servers. You can even use it from your smartphone or tablet. Use the mobile app and view and edit sketches at will. You can run AutoCAD LT on Windows and Mac OS (operating systems). All cloud connectivity and measurement features are updated regularly.
|Name||Autodesk AutoCAD LT|
|Disk Space||10.0 GB|
|Display Card||Recommended: 4 GB GPU with 106 GB/s Bandwidth|
|Memory||Recommended: 16 GB|
|Processor||Recommended: 3+ GHz processor|
- We love how easy it is to make custom templates
- Lots of 3D features to use
- Great for various industries
- Easily convert between different formats
- Expensive to get started
- Steep learning curve with AutoCad
- It requires a lot of computer power
- Training may be expensive.
Another graphics software that professional designers love to use is TurboCAD. It offers architectural and mechanical designs with natural parametric architectural objects and elevations. It’s also compatible with Mac and Windows OS and has cloud connectivity!
TurboCAD was created as the prime rival to Autodesk’s AutoCAD and is a cheaper alternative than its competitor. TurboCAD spared no effort in their software’s photorealistic surface modeling and lighting features. 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 internal and external database connectivity. You can easily share files from other platforms and collaborate and integrate with multiple workgroups.
|Memory||8 GB RAM|
|Price||99.99 – $499.99/year|
|Processor||64-bit (x64) processor|
- We love the ease of the toolbar in TurboCad
- Powerful software
- The tutorials are great
- It’s an advanced piece of software.
- It took a long time to get an understanding of the shortcut keys.
- We wish the 3D options were better.
- Difficult to learn
Autodesk Revit is a versatile graphics software called building information modeling (BIM). It works for multiple disciplines. Some include engineering and architecture. It’s also great for landscaping and interior design. Besides these things, this graphics suite will allow you to create infrastructure models in 3D with great accuracy and efficiency.
You can instantly update floor plans and 3D views. Utilizing 3D visualizations to view the infrastructure 3D model before its construction is fantastic! Like TurboCAD, Revit has a collaboration feature that allows users to connect and work with other teams.
It’s done via the cloud. You share and save files and other documents without switching between email or complicated platforms. The BIM 360 Design work-sharing feature helps make team collaboration possible and easy to do. One minor disadvantage Revit has is that it only works with the Windows OS. If you use Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac, you can also run it using Mac OS.
|Memory||8 GB RAM|
|Processor||Intel® i-Series, Xeon®, AMD® Ryzen, Ryzen Threadripper PRO. 2.5GHz or Higher|
|Disk Space||30 GB|
|.NET Framework||.NET Framework Version 4.8 or later.|
- We love the parametric aspects of the software.
- It’s really great for realistic visualizations.
- It’s great for building landscape design.
- It comes with a huge library of components.
- Rather than creating fleshed-out models, it focuses a lot on structural design.
- Not great for interior designers
- Not as popular as other options
Graphisoft’s Archicad 23 is another of the best choices for architects and engineers. It can create accurate construction details and approximate the building materials required to build your design. This means you will get a rough estimate of the budget needed to build a new house.
Renovating a particular portion of an existing building is now easy. Do you want to make additions and improvements to an existing structure? It can model and coordinate openings such as voids or niches and include them in the overall estimation.
You can share it with engineers and other consultants. The Archicad 24 is Graphisoft’s latest version of this graphics software. It connects architects and engineers in a shared BIM cloud environment. It is powered by advanced collaboration and communication workflows to deliver integrated design solutions.
|Name||ArchiCAD 22 commercial version|
|Disk Space||5+ GB|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 / AMD Ryzen 5|
- The 3D components are great.
- It’s easy to transition to if you’ve used AutoCAD.
- Mobile access
- Complicated to use
- Inability to create “blocks”
- Steep learning curve
- We wish there was more support.
Live Home 3D Pro
- accurate floor plans
- and furnish rooms.
Build infrastructure with the Live Home 3D Pro. The best thing about this graphics suite is its intuitive technology that automatically translates your plan into 3D models.
Simply import blueprints or create drawings from scratch. Live Home 3D Pro is compatible with Windows and Mac OS and is recommended for desktop use. You can also use it on your Apple device. Just download the app using Play Store. Geo-positioning and daylighting options allow users to decide which lighting positions best fit their walk-through presentations.
The walk-throughs can be generated and exported to various other platforms. They can always be played back as Ultra HD files.
- It’s great for multi-dimensional design.
- Interior decorators will love it.
- Point-and-click building is easy.
- You can do 3D tours
- We wish the library of components was better.
- We wish the supporting tutorials were better.
- It occasionally freezes on desktop usage.
Many useful AutoCAD software options may suffice if your DIY home renovation is minor. They are cheaper or are free to use, and you can utilize them to realize your DIY dreams. Apps like Google SketchUp and Floorplanner are among the room designer apps to consider. They’re easy to learn and use, but they produce high-quality results. They’ll produce results that can even impress friends and neighbors.
Whatever design project you have in mind, there’s always a home design software to match your needs. We’ve compiled a great list to help you find the right software for your DIY or professional project. It contains information for you to digest and figure out the best option. Keep reading to find out more!
These options are excellent whether you’re considering a mansion or angled garage home. They’re also great for a modern house or you have a narrow lot. If you create either of these, consider some of the following features.
|Features to consider|
|Stilt home||With 2 master suites||4 bedroom|
|With basement||Small, with loft||shed|
|Dogtrot||Small ranch||5 bedroom|
Table of Contents
- What Software Do Professional Home Designers Use?
- Best Home Design Software (Free & Paid)
- Autodesk AutoCAD LT
- Autodesk Revit
- Archicad 23
- Live Home 3D Pro
- What to Look for
- Can you Design a House Even if you’re not an Architect?
- Buy a Stock Plan
- Why is it important?
What to Look for
Since several dozen house design software is available now, you must do your due diligence. It would be best to narrow down your choice of software to use. Not to worry, as we’ve prepared the questions you need to ask yourself to make an informed decision.
1. What Device Will you be Using?
Using AutoCAD version 2000i back in the day, I was forced to memorize all the commands in the pallet section. It was kind of similar to Adobe Photoshop. I can tell you that it was pretty challenging to 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. When I checked the stats, it showed that the computer was already at nearly total capacity 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. The companies selling this software realized there weren’t enough professionals to purchase their products. The market potential for home improvement/renovation DIYers is a very lucrative business.
Going back to time immemorial old days when using high-quality graphics software, they always included instructions. These instructions included system requirements on the installer CDs and DVDs. Almost any dual-core processor that powers desktop and laptop computers can run them today.
If you have a 2.5 GHz processing speed & 2GB of RAM computer, you should be good. Get a decent GPU (graphics processing unit). Those specs should work. If you have a high-end device, you would probably have an octa-core (8 cores) processor with 32GB of RAM.
They’ll usually always include a potent GPU! This will more than compensate for the heavily-packed room designer graphics software. It ensures 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 easy. It is 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. Once installed on your computer, you can immediately doodle with your DIY renovation or design.
The cloud or cloud computing is a new business method where companies sell their software to customers. The virtual cloud does not exist, and it’s just a concept to understand better how this technology works. Cloud-based software has advantages you’d otherwise have trouble getting if the software was installed on your device.
All of the system requirements that run the software will be handled by the company’s computers. It helps free up your computer’s CPU and RAM. You can create high-quality floor plans and designs from your computer without pushing them to their limits.
On the other hand, the disadvantage of using the cloud is that your DIY project will be available in an exposed cloud. When will that become an issue? You may prefer storing all your work on your local computer. Sharing with a cloud solution may seem frightening. You may be afraid of data leaks.
Never let the opportunity to test a product for a free pass. It can help you decide whether you should be purchasing the full effect or not. Testing the product will tell you how easy or difficult it is to use. Suppose you bought the product right off the bat without trying it. You might end up disappointed and waste 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 your questions. The live chat agent can often get you a trial version of the software. There are typically instructions on the company’s website on how to use the product during its trial period.
2. What’s your Learning Curve?
Not all floor plan designer software is easy to use. Some will take weeks to become familiar with. It becomes even more difficult if you’re a computer novice who has never tried using any graphics software. You may want to opt for something 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 you want to do. Are you seriously considering designing your dream house from scratch? Or maybe you want to add some idyllic features to your living room or porch.
Whatever creative ideas you have, make sure you test them with free or cheap graphics software options. Once you’ve mastered the craft of building architecture, you can 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. 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 way.
Prepare to Build
Aside from BIM and CAD software, other programs are far behind in building construction accuracy. You won’t create blueprints with all the details for engineers and architects to understand and follow. A few graphics software solutions have excellent features to help you add more accurate information to designs.
One good example of this is the Chief Architect Home Designer Suite. It has a vast selection of cabinets and other features to choose from. It even has complex electrical layout planning and HVAC options.
Whether you’re preparing to build a contemporary home or one with a mother-in-law suite, certain factors should be considered.
|Special factors to consider|
|Contemporary||Daylight basement||Walkout basement|
|With mother-in-law suite||Passive solar||With in-law suite|
Adding Curb Appeal
Let us also address another aspect of home improvement that is not talked about a lot. A good superficial remake like external paint goes a long way. You do not need AutoCAD software because more programs can edit your house paint digitally. Graphics suites like Adobe Photoshop or Pixlr Editor are great options. Others are readily available online for you to download for free. Some might cost around $25 – $40.
Create a Presentation That You Can Show Others
It is usual for modern design software to appeal to sales representatives and realtors. It’s also great for budget-minded architects. It gives them the option to create a business presentation to convince their clients to buy.
It might be to your advantage if you do a simple voice narration and make animated viewings of your house. It will let the architect know precisely how you want your home improvement project to be done. Most floor plan designer software offers a virtual walk-through feature.
You can insert an audio recording of your voice narrating each part of the house you want to be renovated. This also saves you time explaining the details of your home improvement project to the architect or engineer.
Can you Design a House Even if you’re not an Architect?
You’re going to have to consider many things when you plan to build a new house. Among them include;
- Show the real estate appraiser the blueprints for him to determine their value.
- The same is required when applying 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! In the United States, you must first secure building codes before making any changes to your house. Any major changes made without approved building codes from your local government are considered illegal. They 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.
Consider Using a Draftsperson
You may substitute hiring an architect for a draftsperson. They have a similar ability to translate designs into 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. A draftsperson will only bill you for a fraction of the amount.
But don’t be doubtful about the draftsman’s abilities. They include detailed instructions on their finished products for electrical and lighting and HVAC and plumbing layouts.
They even have duct sizing information. Power loads for the circuits and other power requirements should also be included. Do research the background and reputation of the draftsperson before you hire them.
Buy a Stock Plan
If you’re not an architect and want to build your own house, the second option is to buy a stock house plan. A stock plan is a blueprint sold for a certain amount to multiple customers.
The issue with this idea is that the customer will not get a unique house design. You will have to contend that your house is very similar to others. It could be identical to another one somewhere in America. Although, you still choose the final finishes.
Buying a plan like this is significantly cheaper than hiring someone to draw something from scratch. They typically start around $1,000, depending on which ones you are looking for. Find an option that you are a big fan of but want to make small changes.
You can still get it customized to your needs at a fraction of the cost that it would cost to hire an architect. You can even buy the options that include the AutoCAD file and make changes yourself.
You can often save $15,000 by buying stock house plans versus hiring an architect.
The Do-It-Yourself Option
Another option is to do it yourself! You can see from this lengthy article that there is plenty of free CAD software available. You can download and learn to use it if you have the time available. You can become proficient with these types of graphics software in as little as 2-3 weeks.
Design the most impressive houses 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 to allow ordinary people to learn and use it quickly. It lets you bring your dream house to life.
Be aware that you could easily incorporate architectural components that are very hard to build. There’s a reason architects go to school for as many years as they do.
Consider Building Codes and Legal Resources for your Home Design Project
It may sound fun and exciting at first when you plan to do remodeling or DIY home improvement projects. You get to build your own house from scratch! In reality, you’ll have to deal with a ton of building codes and paperwork. It can be fun and rewarding to complete these projects.
It can also be confusing and stressful because there are building codes and several other laws to follow. Once you find out that there are legal aspects, it starts getting a little messy and confusing. To be on the side of the law, do research on local building codes before submitting anything for approval! That is if you choose to design it yourself.
Why is it important?
Every state and municipality in America has adopted codes created to ensure structural integrity. People’s health and safety are paramount.
The building codes vary in their purposes. They ensure contractors construct good exit points and fire escapes. They’re crucial so people can flee in case of fire or emergency. Ventilation shafts and plumbing are all components of various building codes.
Make Sure that your DIY Home Improvement Project is Not Illegal in your State
Fortunately, there’s the internet. You’ll find those building codes listed for the city or county you’re in by doing a little Google search. Factor it into your building design and ensure everything follows the local laws.
Building safety is crucial to ensure you’re on your merry way to creating your house design masterpiece! Your job is to design the house/room on your computer with the graphics software of your choice. Do not attempt to replace the pipes or HVAC parts on your own. You will need professional help with those things.
A lot of this work may very well be required to be done by a licensed professional. Once you’ve finished your house design, turn it over to the building contractor and let him handle it.
8 Investments to Boost Your Home’s Value and try out your skills with this software
You’ve learned about the various graphics software you can use to create fantastic home designs. Great floor plans and 3D renderings are ahead of you. We recommend you try a few things with your own house to see how it feels to become a pseudo-architect.
It may jack up the price of your real estate property by a lot. At least in the 3D models, that is. Here are 8 suggestions for you to create the digital blueprint of your graphics software.
1. Furnace/HVAC Replacement
You can use any of the above graphics software to redesign and replace your old HVAC system. Show it to a professional designer to see if you’ve done it excellently. Get their critical opinion to improve your work further. Get a real estate appraiser on board to see how much money your property will sell for once this new furnace is installed.
The 3D model of your renovation will probably look great on your computer screen even if you don’t sell your property. It will give you the pride to know you made the drawings!
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 to keep your house warm at night. The fall and winter seasons don’t need to mean a huge heating bill. Go as far as labeling the insulation materials and calculate how much you’ll need to spend to do this upgrade. Don’t forget to get the professionals to look and ask for some comments to help you make necessary changes.
3. Brighten Up Your Space
This one is good for SmartDraw. It can help you create realistic 3D representations of what you want for your house. It includes additional lighting for your living room and other areas in the home that you wish to ensure are well-lit. Try out recessed lighting. Don’t forget to 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. It allows you to design the most basic stuff and the complicated piping layout. Complete it with the measurement details and material types. From the rough design to the 3D rendered model, impress experts with the structure of your new plumbing system. Real estate appraisers consider plumbing an essential aspect in determining the value of your home. You might as well create those layouts for future use. Nowadays, re-piping is done with cross-linked polyethylene. The names are abbreviated as PEX, XPE, or XLPE. They are flexible plastic tubing that can fit into your walls without tearing them down. Tearing them down is how 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. Are you adding new light fixtures or replacing the tiles? Adding a new mirror will vastly improve the overall look of your bathroom. The Roomstyler is great.
It offers photo-realistic details to give your designs a feeling of being real. It will make you and anyone appreciate the look of your bathroom if you decide to proceed with the plan. It’s something to be proud of, even if it’s just a viewable image file on your computer.
With the help of this design software, you’ll hopefully soon be exploring various building options. It includes ones in these styles:
|Styles to consider|
6. Basement or Attic Renovation
Don’t let your basement or attic be left to rot and be a backdrop for a horror movie flick. Use the HomeByMe graphics suite and give them a big makeover.
It can 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 a sleepover. You can set up extra space for your laundry equipment or storage room for all your tools in the basement.
You’ll have a lot of fun designing both parts of your house with the HomeByMe software. Be ready to get compliments from your family and friends for being an excellent amateur graphics designer.
7. Kitchen Is King
They say the kitchen is where the magic happens. Well, that’s very true indeed. If you don’t have a presentable kitchen, you can kiss your guests goodbye. They may not come back after their first visit. Give them something to be impressed by.
Do you know what they say about first impressions? Start putting the layout together using Home Designer Suite 2020. Make awe-inspiring designs for the “triangle.” It is the:
- cooking area
- the sink
- and the dishwasher.
Have them meet to create an effortless flow when cooking.
Create a 3D walk-through and add an audio commentary to add a dramatic touch when making your final presentation.
With all these modern technologies within reach, you can design your own house using the best CAD software. The possibilities are endless when you’re using this cutting-edge graphics software. You will even be amazed by drawing floor plan layouts to making full-blown 3D models.
This graphics software is easy to learn, making it even more compelling to try out your skills. Go crazy with whichever graphics software you’ll choose to design your dream. It can be anything from floor plans to landscaping—Pat yourself on the back for doing some good work.