Building a custom home - Design software - Any good? Other thoughts?

I may be getting transferred (if all goes well) late this year/early in the new year. I’ll have the flexibilty of having several months before my wife joins me at my new city, so we are toying with the idea of getting a custom home built for us and I’ll just rent for a while to begin with.

I have seen “Punch” brand home design software at Staples/Office Depot but I have not had much luck finding out if they are good or not… they are not cheap and I can’t find a demo version on their website, so I am not planning on buying it without doing a bit of fact finding first.

What I would probably plan on doing is doing some “design” with some software such as that, than taking the plans we draw up with it to an Architect to get any other input and get the formal blueprints drawn up.

I guess the GQs I have are:

Has anyone used house design software before? Was it worth it? (venturing into IMHO territory) Can you recomend a particular one? Any other advice?

Punch! Pro home design is the one piece of software that I can’t find a suitable equivilent for on my Macintosh (well, unless running Virtual PC). It’s a great piece of software.

But first, I can’t vouch for whether it produces “legal” blueprints – you may still want to take your finished project to a real architect or building engineer before you hire a contractor to build according to your plans.

There are simpler programs than Punch! Pro, but I like the flexibility and “all-inclusiveness” that Punch! Pro offers. I’ll let you read the features on their website rather than try to cover all of them here.

I’ll vouch for it as a happy customer. Of course I think we’re getting out of GQ territory, so… let me hijack just a little bit: is there yet anything that’ll run on Mac OS X that does the same thing? I guess under Classic is okay, but native or under X system would be better. I’ll admit that I VNC into my Windows box currently just so I can do the work on my Mac (even though the PC is doing the processing). No, I don’t want a full CAD system – that takes too long.

Thanks for your vote. Actually, it isn’t quite as expensive as I thought by looking at their website.

Damn, I wish they had a demo though!

Anyone else have experience with this or similar products? Where they worth it?

I bought Punch, but I could not get it to work properly. Whenever I tried to paint or brick a wall the program would paint or brick the lawn. I contacted the supplier but they were unable to correct the problem.

Other than the aggravation nothing was lost because they will promptly refund the purchase price for any reason whatsoever and this is why they say they don’t offer a demo. Buy the program and it you don’t like send it back—no questions asked.

I bought Expert Software’s “Home Design 3D” and it did the job. However it’s not quite as snazzy as Punch, but on the other hand it’s cheaper.

I use DataCAD to do the drafting, it can do 3D renderings too.

But it’s probably overkill for your little project :smiley:

Well, I am not having much luck finding “Expert Software” Home design program, although I did see that Broderbund makes some as well, but it doesn’t appear as polished as Punch!'s stuff. Staples actually has a good deal on Punch software right now so I think I may pick it up… if they have a money back promise, I guess I can’t lose.

Thanks for the help!

Feel free for more input if anyone has any though.

Check out Sketch Up. It’s a relatively new program that set out to make 3D design more intuitive. It is available for both Mac and PC. The full version is $475, however they do offer a full-functioning demo to try out.

Be sure to check out the videos in the Training section. They had my eyes bugging out at how simple yet robust it is.

Another cheap product that will let you get ideas down on “paper” quickly is 3-D Architect. It allows you to snap walls by merely getting close, gives you dimensions, allows doors and windows insertions, has a library of electrical, mechanical, appliance and furniture symbols, and will give you a ‘rendered’ view of the house and allow different camera angles. Very easy to use, but will not give you blueprints, which will have to be done by a draftsman.

I went back and played with the two programs I have, and Punch is without doubt the superior product. It’ll do everything Chefguy says 3-D Architect will do and much more. It’s more expensive then the Expert Software package, but in my opinion its worth it.

I just wish it would stop painting the lawn, but I’m sure thats just a problem with the specific program I was unfortunate enough to purchase.

And yes I was suppose to delete it but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I don’t use though.

This is really more IMHO than GQ, so I’ll shoot this thread over that way.

moderator GQ

I’ve got to admit that I don’t have much experience with the programs mentioned already, but if you are looking for a cheep, easy-to-use piece of software, give Blender3D a try. It’s an open source 3d modeling program that, while having a bit of a learning curve, is really quite easy to use if you have the time and inclination to learn its finer points. Knowing Python is an added benefit, but not a prerequisite (I have yet to learn it, but plan on doing so in the near future for use with Blender). If you are in any way interested in 3D modeling/architectural programs, check out Best of all, its free.

[ul][li] Central heating, A/C, humidification and air intake filtration.[/li]
[li] Central wet/dry vacuum[/li]
[li] Full house water purification[/li]
[li] At least one full scale wood burning fireplace[/li]
[li] Complete laundry facility[/li]
[li] Double glazed windows[/li]
[li] Wet bar[/li]
[li] Environmentally controlled wine cellar[/li]
[li] Full pantry[/li]
[li] Solarium[/li]
[li] Herb garden window greenhouse[/li]
[li] Bird feeding window sill[/li]
[li] Flower beds[/li]
[li] Spa or sauna[/li]
[li] Walk in closets[/li]
[li] Exterior and interior low voltage lighting[/li]
[li] Exterior electrical outlets and spigots[/li]
[li] Attached garage[/li]
[li] Full basement (critical)[/li]
[li] Monoculture lawn versus butterfly yard[/li]
[li] Fish pond or water garden[/li]
[li] Southern exposure[/li]
[li] Drainage[/li]
[li] Proper [/li]
[li] Shade trees[/li]
In-law apartment[/ul]

Thanks for pointing out those Mac solutions!

I really, really like Punch!, and when I get home I can’t wait to see what they do for me. Looking at the websites makes me feel they’re more CAD oriented, but I’ll give it a shot. Maybe I should go over to Punch! software and plead for a Mac version, as well. :frowning: Well, I do have the x86 box, so I guess I should use it for something.

Thanks for all the advice people. I hade a $10 off coupon for Staples and I picked up the “Punch! Professional Home Design Suite” for $50.

[li] Home Design[/li][li] Landscaping[/li][li] Ultimate Deck[/li][li] Electrical[/li][li] Plumbing[/li][li] HVAC[/li][li] Foundation Planner[/li][li] Estimating (nice!)[/li][li] Autoframing (nice too!)[/li][li] Floor plan trace (so you can sketch a design and scan it in and build on it)[/li][li] 3D Custom Workshop[/li][li] Model Builder (so you can build an paper model of your home)[/li][/ul]
I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I plan on farting around with it for a few hours this weekend. I’ll post back and give a quick review of it.

Thanks so much for all the advice!

Incase anyone is slightly curious,

that is what I ended up with.

For $50 CDN, I suppose that was a pretty good deal!