HELP: Software to plan home renovation

Does anybody have a recommendation for a software that will help me to

  • Draw plans for finishing my basement so I can deliver them to the building department to get permits

  • Draw plans for a 2 story addition so the first discussion with the architect is based on my general ideas

So the resulting plans do not have to be contractor-quality but should be professional. I.e., a library of pre-defined elements such as walls, windows, doors, stairs, etc. would be great. I don’t need 3-D, but if the SW has it, that’s fine.

Needless to say, the less money I need for this, the better


The pros I work with use Softplan or Chief Architect, both of which are expensive but very powerful. They each contain large libraries of blocks, an extensive customization options and 3D rendering capabilities.

Far less expensive (and therefore limited) is 3D Home Architect. It was originally produced by the same folks who did Chief Architect but I understand Broderbund has bought it out and made significant changes. It has all the basic functionality that you require and its interface is relatively intuitive which is startlingly rare in CAD software packages. It’s also cheap enough that if it doesn’t suit your needs, you won’t be out a huge chunk of cash.

If you want to share files with your architect, there’s a good chance that he may be using AutoCAD or one of it’s derivatives, Architectural Desktop. If this is the case, then you may run into problems with format conversion (AutoDesk jealously guards its proprietary DWG format) and using DXF (Drawing eXchange Format) is a less than perfect compromise. A low cost alternative is IntelliCAD which uses DWG as its native format. Unfortunately, it’s not really a design package but a straight-ahead drafting program. I don’t know whether it would suit your needs or not, but I thought I’d mention it for your consideration.

If you are going to have an Architect draw your plans, 3D Home Architect is pretty cool. And easy to use. It should give your architect an idea of what you have in mind.

Real drawing programs do take some skill.

You may also want to try Quickcad

It’s less than 50 bucks. I used it to design my 2 story addition to my house, printed my plans on legal size and got them accepted by the building dept. All building departments are different though.

I’ve used older versions of AutoCad. They bought out quickcad.

No drafting program is going to be easy for someone without experience in CAD. It could take you a while to get used to /scale/pagesize/printing/. And all the other things that it takes to draw on a computer.

If you want to share files, you want to be able to export them in a .dxf format. The AutoCad standard.

I agree with Hodge I would go with 3D Home Architect to start. It will give you an idea, and the ability to present them to someone.

Then you will need to decide it you want to design and submit it yourself.

I’m building mine myself, but I have quite a bit of basic building knowledge. And I suppose it will take me about 2 1/2 years to do everything (very short building season).

I’m being the general contractor. I subbed out the foundation, though I did do the excavation (rented a small track hoe).

I did get bids on the whole thing. Out of 6 request for bids, I got ONE. Sorta, it wasn’t even on paper.

Thanks for the replies. I checked out 3D Home Architect, and some reviews on the newest version (5.0) are abysmal (as in “the old stuff was much better”)

Nevertheless, it sounds like it gives me what I need for low $$, and I really didn’t see anything better. Maybe I try to hunt down an older version…

Thanks again for the help


Strangely, I bought something called “3d Virtual Reality Architect” today for a tenner. Haven’t had a chance to install it yet, will report when I have tried it out.