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tyjy_gw

Need Advice! How can I ''See'' ideas before choosing???

14 years ago

I'm at my wits end and NEED ADVICE!!

We own the lot...

We've spent the last 2 years thinking of this & spending $$$ paying a "designer" (not actual architect) to draw up plans for the house that fits a very specific footprint/site. We keep tweaking all the features but mainly it's a:

Prairie/Usonian FLW style 1-story w/exposed basement

4:12 hip style low pitched roof w/4'overhang

Y-Shaped

I just cannot visualize ANYTHING and I'm driving myself crazy deciding on materials to use so we can start getting actual bids on this house.

All I want is to SEE what different building products will look like if I choose it...ie: Stone style/colors next to siding styles/colors; soffit/trim style/colors, etc.etc.etc. AHHHH

Does anyone know if there is a VERY EASY computer program where I can put actual products on a mock up of the house?? I am not very savvy with pc programs.

OR where should I focus so I can start making decisions?

My husband & I are pretty much designing the whole thing and it's like the blind leading the blind. We've already spent enough money paying the guy who kinda mislead us into thinking he was an "architect" but that's a whole different story.

Can anyone Please help? I just can't choose ANYTHING

Thank you SO MUCH in advance!

Terri

Comments (55)

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Terri, There are a variety of $25-$50 3d software out there. You can search 3d home design software. Many people have varying success with them depending on the complexity of their design and understanding of the design /building process. Your knowledge and patience in using the programs is also a factor. There are also a few expensive options. in the $1500-$2200 range like Chief Architect and Softplan and others. Some have high end and consumer oriente software. I use the Chief Architect but its more high end and has a reasonable learning curve.You can also download google sketchup for free and do nice things but its again a learning curve

    You can hire people to do it for you as well . You also need to be sure your getting a well thought out plan that take into consideration aesthetics, proportion, scale and knowledge of design principles and practices. As many others have done you may want to post your plans online for "review and comments"

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    We have both Punch (AS3000) and Chief Architect (Home Designer Pro 9.0); we've become relatively proficient with these programs, but we both are very facile with computers and have CAD experience in other areas.

    That said, I'd like to point out that even if you do have to input your plan wall by wall, this can be greatly sped up by using some form of "trace" function (name varies by program). You have to get your plan into a form accepted by the CAD program (generally jpg & doing that is a whole other story), and then it is used as an underlay to place the walls over. If you just want to get "close enough" to tell how you like the look of something, this shouldn't take long.

    Textures - well, both Punch & Chief Architect have libraries that you can import that bring in materials from major manufacturers. Often, you can go to a manufacturer's site & get pictures of textures that can be manipulated to be compatible with your architecture program. For example, I went to the Nichiha site, found color samples of the Sierra Premium Shakes & by slicing, dicing and a bit of Photoshop magic, I had textures that we could use for our plan.

    Honestly, I think the suggestions of using a little cut & paste from printouts, etc. will likely work as well for you with much less hassle & the cost of SW. Also, what you see on your monitor, as good as it may be isn't the same as real life. When we chose our shake color, we took our physical samples to the lot, placed them against the trees & went with our gut. Also, we had chosen an architectural shingle from a sample board that the roofer brought to the office & "matched" against our shake sample. But, we got him to give us the address of a house that had that color on it so we could see an expanse of it. Luck thing we took the time to do that. It wasn't anything like what we pictured; we thought we had been sent to the wrong address. Coincidentally, we had gone to another house to see how we liked the stone. We held our shake sample against the stone & were pleased. We looked at the roof & realized that it was perfect for us. Given the address, the roofer knew what was used there, so that is what we are going with.

    Anyway, in your case, I think low tech methods will be faster & more satisfactory as selection aids, in your case.

    HTH - Jo Ann

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  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    For the exterior view, I scanned in my actual elevation plan and materials i.e., brick, siding, shutter colors, metal roofing, etc. and integrated those in PhotoShop onto the plan. It worked great for color composition, the "real" house really looks like the material plan. I used a couple 3d programs with moderate success, mostly for kitchen design. In the end you really can't get a clear picture until it's done. Good luck, we're all in the same boat.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bevangel, rethree, scrapbookheaven, creekside, bigkahuna, drjoann:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your insight, advice, time and effort!

    Your ideas sure put things into perspective for me, helped me understand that yes there are software programs but it takes time to learn plus it's still not the "real thing" as I obviously have realized I need. (I've tinkered a little with the free Google Sketchup)

    I think that the cut (from brochures) & paste idea (like 1st grade, haha) will be my choice unless I can find someone who will put some particular ideas onto a program for me. Does anyone know if a place like Home Depot/Menards/Lowes will plug in something like that for customers (if the products are from their store)? Or would I actually have to call architect offices?

    I also think getting an address of homes with particular choices is something that would work great for me too. We've already driven around and taken some pictures of homes we've seen which does help but doesn't give one the actual name of a product. Have you ever heard of actually knocking on someone's door and asking them: "Hey, what kind of stone is that on your house? I want to copy it!" haha

    I sure wish it was as easy as clicking a mouse though. With such an expensive, personal endeavor it would be great to be as close to 100% certain that it's exactly what we BOTH dreamed of!

    Thank you all, so much, again!
    Terri

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bjandtom:
    Huh, now PhotoShop is one I've heard of (but haven't used myself)! (As in, a kind of standard, more available program). I think even my daughter/son-in-law has that! Wow! You may have solved my "seeing" it with a pc problem anyways.

    May I ask...where did you obtain the pictures to use for the material choices? (ie: brick, siding, shutters...)From the manufacturer's websites?

    Also everyone: thank you for making me feel less alone too! Knowing "we're all in the same boat" made me feel less of a loser, haha. I was beginning to feel so stupid and inept : /

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Our local building supply store was able to give a list of homes in the area that used their products. We were able to view stone, hardiplank and roof colors and found that very helpful.
    Nap time for my 2 year old usually takes place in the back seat of the car. She sleeps & I drive. I take lots of pictures of things I like & have gotten brave enough to ask an owner questions but only if they have been outside. No knocking on doors yet but I figure I should let people know why I am taking pictures of their house if they see me- better that then them calling the cops- LOL

    Good Luck to you!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some, perhaps most architects can provide 3D renderings for their clients these days. They tend to be rather expensive.

    The 3D home design programs include building materials, furnishings, plants, etc in their basic programs. The better (more expensive) versions contain thousands of different items. In addition, they usually can import samples from various building material companies, such as paint suppliers.

    To me, it is a waste of time messing with programs such as Photoshop and Sketchup. They have their place, but neither of these are architectural design programs. They will not do what a 3D architectural design program will do. If you are going to put time and effort into learning a software package, you might as well make it one that can return the best investment for you.

    I strongly suggest you consider Home Designer Pro. It is based on and compatible with Chief Architect, which is used by many professional architects. It comes with an excellent tutorial package. You can download a free trial version at the page linked below.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Home Designer Pro

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you all so much! You guys are coming up with some excellent ideas for me! It's so helpful!

    I am going to tinker with that free trial of the Home Designer Pro. (My biggest worry is creating a Y-shape building! To anyone who uses it...(to save me the time & aggravation): do you think it'll be easy enough to learn to make a Y-shape? Or is that a super advanced procedure in the program?

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    It's always interesting to hear what tools people imagine architects use for design and visualization.

    Sketch Up is the 3D design program of choice of all the architects I know and it has a extraordinarily loyal among architects around the world. I use it on every project and know of no substitute for it at any price.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Sketch Up demonstration

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    RE - knocking on doors and asking people the specifics about the products that were used on their homes...

    I wouldn't advise doing that BUT if you go to www.freeality.com, you can do a "reverse address" and find the name of the occupant and any listed land-line phone numbers that are at that address. (The link is below, scroll about mid-way down the page for the "reverse address" search engines.) I think most people are less put off by a telephone call than by a stranger walking up to their door asking questions abou their house. Its quite a bit less threatening.

    If you introduce yourself nicely and explain that you're in the process of building a home somewhat similar to theirs and just happened to notice their gorgeouse brick (or whatever), they probably won't be too concerned that you're casing their homes. Just don't go asking other questions that could be interpreted as getting too nosy.

    Be prepared tho, unless the home is fairly new AND clearly a custom build, most people won't have a clue what their brick is called or who manufactured their siding, or the exact color of their facia, or even what company made their windows.

    Here is a link that might be useful: reverse search engines

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I use BH&G Home Designer version 7, it's not pro. It can easily handle the Y. Creating the terrain takes some getting used to, but it's do-able.

    Here's a post over in the kitchen forum about Chief Architect and my version, it includes some samples of my plan that I'm modeling for similar reasons.

    Post on other forum

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    What form are your plans in? Do you have them in a cadd drafted plans yet ? Can you post any or part of them ?

    This may help us let you know if you can handle it yourself. Or you can email me a copy to see it if you can post it for some reason. Much depends on if you have time and patience to do it and how exact you are wanting it to be.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Some of my pictures I got from manufactors websites, some from brochures and some from digital shots that I took of interesting houses.

    As for the stone, I went to the local stone yard and they gave me addresses in my area of houses that have the stone that I am interested in. We are doing cultured stone and colors vary from dye lot to dye lot, so we will have to make our best guess on matching the stucco color to the stone.

    And yes, we did knock on the door of a home to ask about a stone. The house was farely new, but the owner had no idea what her choice was. I just can't believe it, but some people are just not as house obsessed as some of here on this site! I mean, don't they have a file where they keep each and every choice that they made or considered for their home? LOL

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Sorry for being absent today...getting hit in all directions for some reason...Is it Monday?

    Re: Plans (To potentially make it easier to send copies of the plans to bidders by email) we had the large paper drawings transferred to a disk (pdf format). bigkahuna: I will TRY and figure out how to put it on here tomorrow (Tuesday). That would be absolutely awesome if you would at least just look it over. WHAT a FAVOR!

    Re: Programs: I checked a little today the different programs that were referenced. I thought the newer version of SketchUp (from something I looked at last year) was a lot harder than I remembered or at least the initial tutorial seemed kinda complicated. The Home Designer Pro had an easier to understand tutorial intro that seemed POSsible to figure out once I get a chance to really try the free trial download. The BHG seems like it's a part of that Chief Architect group...right? And I was happy to read the link for Rhome, brickton, regarding the versions, so thank you for that. Ultimately I'm happy to find that there really is SOME things out there to TRY anyways. I'm not sure I'm seeing if there's actual products from specific companies or not but guess just seeing a generic reflection of any stone/siding placed in different locations on the house will at least help me figure out where I'd want it... or not. (Although, the tutorial for the Home Designer Pro I thought I heard say Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore brands for interior paint, so that's specific).

    Everyone's suggestions are so helpful though and I appreciate you guys so much.

    Again, tomorrow I will do my utmost to put a copy of the current homeplan on here to give you an idea what I'm working off of. THANK YOU for asking : ) You guys rock!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Both the ease and difficulty of typical inexpensive 3D home design programs is that they allow you to assemble predetermined elements after giving them a size. This works fine until you get to something more complicated like a roof, especially the eave and rake intersections.

    Sketch Up works the way you would draw with a pencil which is why architects like it. You draw lines that snap to an invisible orthogonal grid (distinguished by colors). When a plane is defined by lines, a surface is automatically shown. The program shows you possible alignments with dotted lines so it is very fast and easy to use. The shapes created in this way can then be modified (extruded, stretched, etc.) with simple but powerful tools so there are no restrictions to the possible design shapes. Then preformed elements can be added like windows,people and cars and then surface materials can be customized and added. You can also add shadows for your location on a particular date. Moving the date scroll bar moves the shadows.

    Sketch Up is a very serious professional design and visualization program not a CAD program. CAD is a very poor design tool since it is intended for production of contract documents and material takeoffs. CAD programs that have good design oriented 3D tools cost many thousands of dollars and still have serious limitations.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I scanned the actual materials not pictures, i.e. bricks, siding samples, shutter color samples, etc. I only mentioned PhotoShop because many people are familiar with it, any graphic program would work. I used the rendering from the plan, the CAD drawing and copy/pasted the materials onto that image. Best of luck on your journey.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    The Home Designer software series is all from Chief Architect. HD Pro is actually version of Chief Architect. As far as I know, the BHG part is just a marketing tie in. BHG has nothing to do with the software itself or its support.

    If you have any questions, you can call the folks at Chief Architect in Idaho. They are very accessible.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    macv - Help! I know that Sketchup is supposed to be the bee knees, but it has me bumfuzzled. There is just something I'm not getting about this program. I can't figure out how to set exact dimensions. The Google tutorials aren't getting through to me. Do you have any links to 3rd party tutorials that might click for me?

    I do love the way you can extrude shapes & make cutouts, etc. I love that there are so many free models available. If I could just get good with the program, then I could take those models & manipulate them for what I want.

    Thanks - Jo Ann

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bigkahuna: I can't figure out putting plans on here. Would you mind if I e-mailed you so you could take a really quick look? (I don't want to take up too much of your time though.)

    Thanks a MILLION : )
    Terri

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Jo Ann

    While stretching a line from a point along an axis with the line tool (pencil) enter the dimension by typing the number of feet, then the "apostrophe mark", then type in the number of inches (with fractions or decimals) and hit enter or return key. If the dimension is only inches that's all you need to enter.

    There are a lot of additional tutorials on YouTube.

    Here is a link that might be useful: sketch up

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    tyjy

    In what format are your digital plans (jpg, pdf, dwg, etc)?

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Hi macv: PDF

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    "All I want is to SEE what different building products will look like if I choose it...ie: Stone style/colors next to siding styles/colors; soffit/trim style/colors"

    Terri,
    Unless you have no idea of how the "volume" of the home will look and you want to see it, I think all you need is a rendered elevation that shows the real materials and you (or someone) can accomplish that using Photoshop. At least, that is what I use (Photoshop Elements).

    The option of buying a program: You have to learn it and maybe spend some money (most of them offer a free trial), the only thing is, you still will need some skills putting together a color scheme. Hope you have those skills.

    Driving around to see something that you like is fun. You could contact the owner but also you can go to the brick/stone supplier and tell them that you want the one that they used at "x" address - They do that for you.

    Finding someone who do that for you is a good option. A rendered elevation is not too expensive, a 3d is more expensive, but if you provide the cad drawings is a bit less.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    tyjy

    You can use a free PDF hosting website or you can convert to JPG photo format and use a free photo hosting website like TinyPic.com.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Okay...this is how dumb I am:
    What's a "rendered" elevation? and I don't really know what CAD is.

    I know, I know... : /

    I AM on board with driving around to SEE stone on other people's homes and asking at the material suppliers! THAT's a great idea. I'm also going to see if one of my kid's has PhotoShop.

    PS: Thank you ALL for your help! I really appreciate it!!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    tyjv what kind of computer are you using?

    JoAnn, what computer and what version of SketchUp are you using?

    CAD is Computer Aided Design and has come to commonly mean any kind of 2D and or 3D computer drawing program.

    A rendered elevation is a drawing of a building facade dressed up with line textures and colors.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    tyjv you can email them to me if you cant get them loaded.

    bigkahuna@aol.com

    You ca also open the pdf and do a save as...and save as a jpeg to upload if that is easier.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    To save as a JPG I believe the full version of Adobe Acrobat is needed.

    To Post a photo on the forum:
    Go to TinyPic.com and BROWSE til you find your photo on your computer. Then resize if necessary (see below) and then click on DOWNLOAD, then click once on the top address line to copy it, then paste it into the "message" box on the forum.

    When you Preview the message on the forum you will be able to see if the photo size is acceptable (too large makes all posts as wide as your photo and that can force others to scroll to read subsequent messages).

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    bigkahuna: this is all getting way over my head and I'm really, really embarrassed about it. I would so rather email you now...thank you so much for the offer.

    Again, thanks to ALL for all the help. I can't thank you enough for the suggestions!

    Terri

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    macv: I TRIED the Tinypic and it came back: UPLOAD FAILED: Invalid format! I think I am doomed. Maybe my email to bigk.will work. (Subject: "always get rejected" is right!)

    I have a hp Windows: Vista I guess.

    Thanks for your definitions too! Makes sense! : )

    Appreciate your help!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    macv - I have a laptop PC running XP. It not fast & doesn't have much RAM, but I can run Home Designer Pro 9 (or Punch) simultaneously with Paint Sho Pro + be on the net, etc. so power & speed aren't an issue. I've D/L'd Sketchup 7.1.

    Well, you've helped me with one thing, so far. When I was drawing a rectangle & it would say "Enter Measurements", I'd try to click on the box and put in a number. So, it turns out that you just type in the number while you're drawing & that is how it enters. That little piece of info is enough to tamp down some of my frustration so I will give it another try.

    I'll admit to being a typical engineer who just jumps into a SW tool, sees how far I can get with it before reading the manual & it usually works. (hangs head) Somehow, Sketchup managed to defeat that tactic, for me.

    OK, so once I have my rectangle & extruded it & removed a cutout (that part is so much fun), what happens when I've decided that my original dimensions were wrong? I haven't gotten a grip on resizing things.

    So, if learn how to use Sketchup with more precise dimensioning, I could do the outside walls of the house, extrude it, put on the roof, add doors, windows, exterior materials, etc. (since many of the major manufacturers have their products modeled), place it in the actual terrain via Google Earth & watch the sun & shadows through the seasons. A part of me feels excited & the other part wants to cry. ;^P

    Jo Ann

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Of course, you're going to have your camera to take pictures. However, if your camera can do movies, use that feature to capture your thoughts at the moment.

    When we go looking at slabs, I take a few pictures & then I put it into movie mode so I can record audio and scan more of the slab. I try to say the name of the slab & my impressions of it. Your gut reaction when you first see something is often worth more than pouring over a ton of pictures. You could do this with paper & pen, voice recorder, etc., but the camera makes it easy to tie the verbiage to the image of the item.

    HTH - Jo Ann

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Any 3D rendering program needs decent graphics capabilities. The graphics card/chip set is more important than either the main processor speed or RAM. However, more RAM helps too, and a fast processor never hurts. The more complex the rendering, the longer it takes to paint the screen. This is where real fast graphics chips shine.

    Most of today's Windows laptops/notebooks can do decent 3D rendering. A few years ago you needed a middle to high end model. Gaming cards work find in desktops.

    I haven't tried a netbook, so I can't comment on those.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    creek_side - both Punch & Chief Architect render just fine on my machine(s). DH beefed up the graphics card, RAM, etc. on our computer with the largest monitor. I just like the mobility of my laptop + having a graphics tablet works great for input.

    I'm interested in macv saying that most architects use Sketchup. At this point, we have our plans & our exterior materials, but I always like to learn new things.

    Jo Ann

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    My impression is most architects use AutoCad. I know a lot of them also use Sketchup for modeling 3D objects for importation into other software. Macv apparently uses it for a lot more than that.

    I think Sketchup is a huge mistake for people like the forum members here who want to design their own home or study someone else's design. It takes a lot of effort to learn a complicated software program. To me it makes sense to learn the one that can do the most for the non-professional.

    HD Pro, for example, understands things like framing, truss design, foundations, roofs, building materials, building codes, etc., etc.; does schematic design, and it can render any part of the house in 3D. It is designed specifically to do all that. As far as I know, SKetchup is a general purposed conceptual design program.

    Specific purpose software generally produces better results than general purpose software when used for the purpose it was designed for.

    Architects have been trained to do all these things without the aid of software. They already know how to visualize designs in their heads. Software that will help assist them with their work may be fundamentally different to that which will help someone who hasn't had years of prior training and experience.

    One thing is for sure. If someone is going to use a software design program, they should start to learn it as soon as possible.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Jo Ann,
    AutoCAD has 28 years in the market and is used worldwide.
    In the state of Illinois, if an architect wants to do business with the state, the plans needs to be submitted in AutoCAD. The trend that I am noticing among architects is called Revit, at least where I live.
    Google Sketchup has 4 years in the market. Maybe it is popular among residential architects?

    I came across to a software called SOFTPLAN and they claim to be the leading solution for residential and light commercial. So far, they sent me 2 trial CDs (if someone wants to try it, send me an email). The 2D and 3D samples looks really nice. When I saw a plan, I thought it was an autoCAD one.

    If macv is recommending Sketchup, I am going to give it a second chance. When I used it, I thought it was complicated.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    AutoCAD has 28 years in the market and is used worldwide.
    In the state of Illinois, if an architect wants to do business with the state, the plans needs to be submitted in AutoCAD. The trend that I am noticing among architects is called Revit, at least where I live.
    Google Sketchup has 4 years in the market. Maybe it is popular among residential architects?

    I came across to a software called SOFTPLAN and they claim to be the leading solution for residential and light commercial. So far, they sent me 2 trial CDs (if someone wants to try it, send me an email). The 2D and 3D samples looks really nice. When I saw a plan, I thought it was an autoCAD one.

    If macv is recommending Sketchup, I am going to give it a second chance. When I used it, I thought it was complicated.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Jo Ann
    SketchUp does not have the command line/data entry/element sizing user interface commonly used by CAD programs. Those CAD programs are written by engineers for engineers and then someone grafts an architectural interface over it (like Windows sits on top of MS DOS).

    What is unique about SketchUp is that it allows you to draw directly in 3D "on the fly" and that means it must have a very different set of drawing tools compared to a traditional CAD program.

    Dotted reference/witness lines automatically pop up to indicate cursor alignment with other parts of the drawing. If there is a particular point you want to align to, pass the line tool cursor over that point, then resume drawing the line and the reference line will appear. After drawing a line segment pass the line tool along the line and it will show you the mid point. To make a line longer just add a new segment to it and the two lines will become one. The line tool will usually remember the last dimension entry so you can add multiple lines of the same size. When a line intersects another plane the line will find and indicate when it is on that surface. A line will tell you when it is perpendicular to another line.

    Drawing angled lines with the protractor and constructing arcs is a bit more involved but easy when you understand the logic.

    When you move or stretch things you must select the elements first then select the tool, then move it the right direction, then add the dimension.

    The result of this drawing technique is a simple 3D representation of your design ideas instead of a construction document or a takeoff of materials.

    To change the size of a cube, select the Push/Pull tool (or type "p"), then use it to select the face you want to move, then push or pull it in the direction you want it to move, then enter the desired dimension, then hit enter.

    When you discover how to use the "follow me tool" you will be permanently addicted.

    Use the URL below to download the SketchUp 7 Quick Reference Card for your computer. Many of the special features are best accessed with preset keyboard shortcuts.

    Press the middle mouse button (or the scroll wheel) to temporarily access the Orbit tool and press the space bar at the same time for the Pan tool. Right click to access many options.

    When you get the hang of it you can quickly create alternate exterior designs and email interactive files to to someone for review in SketchUp Viewer or just send JPG single views.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Quick Reference Card

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I bought he first version of SketchUp 10 years ago from @Last Software in Boulder, CO, long before Google bought it.

    I have owned many CAD programs including AutoCAD, MicroStation, ArchiCAD, Architrion, FlexiCAD, IntelliCAD, ClarisCAD, VectorWorks and have used or demoed many others. AutoCAD is, without a doubt, the most difficult to use and has the greatest limitations. Each years there is a CAD shootout at Build Boston run by the Boston Society of Architects and teams of architects try to prove their favorite system is the best. To my knowledge, AutoCAD and Chief Architect have never even been entered.

    AutoCAD is not required for public project submissions but often their .DWG format is. All CAD programs (except the very cheap ones) can export in this format although some are better than others. I have produced whole projects in another CAD program and then translated the final files to DWG then opened them up in my copy of AutoCAD to be sure everything transferred properly. I have no other use for AutoCAD and would find another line of work if I was forced to use it.

    Revit is a more sophisticated BIM (Building Information Modeling) program that was bought by AutoDesk (authors of AutoCAD) about 8 years ago. It is intended for large complex projects involving coordination with many design consultants. It costs over $5,000 last I checked. It's main competitor is ArchiCAD which is favored by many of the large Boston firms.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    TYJY,

    I am sorry I left you an incorrect email address. Its bigkahuna9@aol.com I just saw I left the 9 off.

    I have simple /free version of Sketchup but too find it cumbersome to work with. I must admit having not spent much time with it though and keep telling myself I will make the effort.

    I have Chief Architect and have had Softplan. I prefer Chief but they are very similar. Chief is primarily used for residential and its geared to that end. It allows me to import sketch up models from 3d warehouse that google has put together and is quite extensive as anyone can add models and many companies now offer their products in 3d format.

    I still use autocad for construction documents since I still dont like the feel and look of chief's plans.

    MacV Man you have been through just about the whole spectrum of programs it seems. I believe I know this but can you export a dwg file from sketchup ? I'm curious... Do you do your 3d work first then export it to Autocadd for CD's ?

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bigkahuna: Got your message. Thanks, I'll resend!

    I'm marveling at this discussion. What incredible folks you are! Us novices are sure LUCKY to have this caliber of experienced help out there! You must be so busy, yet you help anyone who asks. Just so you know...it's appreciated very much!

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    SketchUP 7 Pro can import and export every 2D and 3D file type you've ever heard of including 6 versions of AutoCAD in .dxf and .dwg format. I've never used the free version so I don't know what it can do.

    I keep my 3D design work separate from my 2D work because I've never seen a good integration of the two and I doubt I ever will. I export from my old custom modified program to AutoCAD for consultants who need a dwg background drawing or a client who wants an as-built drawing set in dwg format for facility management. AutoCAD is a great program for engineers.

    By the way, in SketchUp 7 Pro if you put the cursor over a tool the name and shortcut key stroke will appear. If you select the tool, step by step instructions will appear at the bottom of the screen. The start up screen gives you a link to extensive video tutorials. Jo Ann, if you couldn't figure out how to draw a specific line length you didn't watch the LINE tutorial.

    The reason digital things are so much easier for kids to learn is that they can pay attention to what is in front of them long enough to understand it.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    When I was using HD Pro, one of the features I found most useful was the Doll House View. It allowed me to see the interior of the home as it would look with "our" furniture in it.

    HD Pro's furniture objects can be resized, so you can select those that are similar to what you own and give them matching dimensions. This gives you an idea of how open or cluttered a room or area will be with your own "stuff" in it.

    You can also populate the house with people. This lets you see exactly how much "people space" you will have in a confined area such as the kitchen.

    You can also tell the program your latitude and longitude, and it will show you how the sun will play through the windows at various times of day throughout the year. If you use the terrain feature, it take that into account in its calculation.

    It's really amazing what you can do with this software if you take the time to learn it well.

    Here is a link that might be useful: {{gwi:1449123}}

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I thought the OP was concerned with visualization of exterior finish materials on a house that had already been designed.

    In my opinion, to do that effectively it is best to accurately draw the proposed shell based on an imported floor plan with convincing detail at the roof eaves and intersections.

    Unfortunately, inexpensive "kit-of-parts" home design software programs perform these tasks poorly if they can perform them at all.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Inexpensive home design software is usually frustrating due to its limitations. I've looked at quite a few versions. Even some of the expensive versions aren't all that good.

    Home Designer Pro is the only one that I have found that I thought worked well. It works very well, in my opinion. There is a high end home owner oriented design program whose name I forget put out by another company (Softplan, I think) that is even more expensive than HD Pro, but I haven' tried it, due to its cost.

    I tried the top end Punch program a few years ago, but found it endlessly frustrating.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    A computer program is primarily for preparing contract documents but it can be effectively used to test and communicate design ideas but because the information they contain is so specific they can be a major hindrance in the design process and should not be used as a primary design tool. If you want a stiff lifeless building be sure to design it with a machine.

    Because of this problem architectural offices are generally divided into designer/managers and CAD operator/technical detailers.

    The arrival of SketchUp 10 years ago finally brought the two groups closer together (and it works on MACs and PCs). Principals and senior designers who would never touch a CAD work station can now do the entire schematic design in SketchUp, including the client presentations, then export it to the CAD people.

    I usually stop before the SketchUp model gets too detailed and trace it so I can keep the major ideas uncorrupted by smaller details that should be developed later.

    Controlling the design procedure from big to little is one of he most important things an architect does because it allows the smaller ideas to support the larger ones - probably the most essential aspect of any good design.

    A well designed house is more than an assemblage of interesting design elements and bad big ideas cannot be saved by good small ones although such approaches lead to the most common residential design cliches.

  • 14 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Well...I'm the OP and macv is right, we DO have plans already and all I THOUGHT I wanted was to SEE stone/siding ideas on the exterior. We'd been feeling like chickens with our heads cut off and thought at least let's focus on THAT.

    What nobody here knew, and I didn't think was important at the time to mention, is we're still tweaking interior walls/rooms, etc. Now, after a recent conversation, we might even move out an exterior wall! PLUS, the whole thing was drawn using one brand of ICF with certain dimensions and we might not necessarily use that particular brand. We thought this was irrelevant if just wanting to try and figure out stone choices! I see now maybe it's not.

    Because I'm finally understanding (from this whole discussion) that the "shell" and interior walls and roof, etc. need to be accurate and drawn in first, in order to see the house in that awesome 3-D! format, I can't even begin to start with the outside look until the floorplan is figured out once and for all!

    BACKGROUND: I don't know if any of you have experienced this, but...because our building site is sooooo particular (ie: 1 side goes uphill, two sides go downhill or is close to a CLIFF, and one side is possible to alter) we actually did hire a designer to put our ideas to paper. The PROBLEM is that he charged us for every discussion (NO, we weren't pains in the butt and didn't bother him or change our minds over and over, it was just a major misunderstanding about how he charges and we didn't know any better). We've already spent $5,000 when we finally said enough is enough...and as I said before, we're discovering the floorplan is still not really right. (example: he drew a "winder" stairway that's only 36" wide not counting railing); the master suite is really, really cramped, etc! We trusted him as the "expert" and let him draw in a "bedroom" and the "stairs".....(in his defense, this is a Y-shaped home so spaces are a little tricky to fit everything in.)

    So. My dilemna wanting a program suggestion is probably NOW more to do with HAVING to DIY while we tweak the plans ourselves and THEN hiring someone AGAIN to put it in usable blueprints.

    ALL that everyone has said here has really helped me to understand the guts of architectural design and what one gets with one program over another. Being a real novice, I'm in the boat that I feel I HAVE to learn something (so, please...user friendly) because we just can't keep paying and paying and paying for more and more discussion about it. Don't get me wrong, I RESPECT the professional and I don't presume to be able to take their place when we need the REAL building plans.

    Does this make sense?

    PS: The above "cut & paste" idea is about my speed right now, but I intend to learn the technology to automate this process! One primitive thing I've already done though is make a foamboard model that I can hold in my hands and SEE! My original inquiry on this forum was resorted to because even my model is NOT FAST and easy to CHANGE if I'd come up with different ideas.

    ohhhhhhhhh boy...This project is fun...and isn't fun sometimes!

    Thanks for reading.

    The OP

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I wanted to post a Follow-Up for others walking in my shoes...

    I originally posted my inquiry about 1 month ago. As you might see from any of the "tyjy" postings, I did not know one single thing about ... well, even what I was asking! The conversation wound up way, WAY over my head.

    That being said, I've since spent my time downloading the free trial version of the Chief Architect Home Designer Pro software and all I can say is YAY!!!!!! And guess who just ordered it for real! Yup! The manufacturer normally sells it for $495, I've seen it for as low as $439 from NewEgg, but today I found it on Amazon for only $399 w/free shipping! WOO HOO (PASS IT ON!)

    As a complete and utter novice all I can say is it was pretty darn easy to figure out and I've got the dollhouse view, many camera 3-D views, a floor plan, furnishings (from the library), etc in my view! and I feel like I can actually "SEE" our new house now!! I'm so happy : )

    I tried using SketchUp again and found it complicated to get started on. I am sure it is awesome too once mastered but I just found that the Home Designer Pro was more user friendly for a novice like me.

    I just wanted to follow-up and say "thanks" for turning me on to this program. It has helped a LOT!

    PS: the reviews on Amazon mention it being hard to do the landscaping portion. I have not worked on the contouring or anything more than flat grass under the base floor yet, but HOPEfully that'll be okay for me too.

    PSS: I also utilized technical customer service when I had to call about my view literally disappearing!! Yes, disappearing! I found that I must have clicked some random item (like a sink or chair) into the outside borders of the house perimeter and the camera picked it up in "outer space" haha. Technical Customer Service totally helped me through that PLUS I also checked on the "HomeTalk" forum on the company's homepage and also found the answer. THAT particular support is another reason I liked this software.

    Sooooo, for what it's worth. Maybe this'll help others in the future!

    Thanks again!

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Just a thought - if you find something you like on the exterior of someones house, what about a note in their mailbox? I have done this a couple of times and have had great success. I have also emailed a couple of architects (one uber huge firm in Atlanta and another solo architect) asking about particular bricks used on a particular house. Of course, I told them that they did a beautiful job on the house, one of my favorites, etc. Both were super helpful - giving me brick color, mortar color, name and phone number of supplier, when I just asked for brick color. The worst thing they can do is ignore you :) (which another one did!)

  • 13 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    athensmomof3: Thanks for the tip! I'm feeling a lot happier now that I've "seen" a mock up on this HD Pro program I've practiced with, so now that I kinda have an idea where the stone will actually be, I am now going to drive around so I can "see" it in real life! Hopefully the "flattery will get you everywhere" idea will also get me stone and mortar identities! WOO HOO! Thanks a million for offering some more advice! I need it!