The Best Home Design Software Programs for DIY Architects to Buy in 2018

Computer Software for Building and Design

Chief Architect rendering of modern house called Hillside Contemporary, flat roof overhang, glass walls on two stories and basement
DIY Home Design Software Rendering. Chief Architect, HomeDesignerSoftware.com (cropped)

Home design software has come a long way over the years. If you have a dream, you can render the plans at a very affordable price. These easy software programs are made for beginners, but some rival the sophisticated applications used by professional architects. Which is the best home design software program? You'll have to decide that on your own. However, if you can hold a hammer, you can hold a mouse — and if you can hold a mouse, just jump right in with these cost-effective and fun applications.

Home Designer Suite by Chief Architect

Complex and powerful, the Chief Architect Home Designer Suite has sophisticated tools for designing and remodeling houses, kitchens, baths, decks, landscapes, and interiors. Start with one of the 1,500+ sample plans, or follow your own inspirations. With just a few clicks you can change colors, styles, and materials, and also generate 3D views of your project. This much power can be complicated, so you may want to take advantage of the free step-by-step videos on the Home Designer website. In fact, Chief Architect maintains a variety of helpful information. Amazon offers an array of Chief Architect Home Designer software products, but a review of Home Designer® Suite will inform your decision — and the Suite will give you most everything you need for days of fun.

TurboCAD TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape

Pro or Deluxe? What used to be IMSI TurboFloorPlan is now part of TurboCAD.com. Before the Internet, architects the world over had turned to TurboCAD to do their work, and now the company is developing a line of FloorPlan products with various capabilities — some are still a version of the old Instant Architect software.  The ease and adaptability of Home & Landscape Pro make it an especially good buy for the CAD savvy, yet a Deluxe version is offered at half the price. TurboCAD's product line is in flux, as  Amazon.com still offers older IMSI Design versions. TurboCAD has also taken over IMSI TurboFLOORPLAN Instant Architect.

Remember that a company with a history of great professional software may not be the right fit for a DIYer. Although they advertise their software as drag-and-drop for the beginner, you might want to try out one of the many Free Trials listed on the TurboCAD website before you buy.

Punch! Home & Landscape Design Essentials

The Punch people have been pumping out home design software since 1998, so by now they know what people want. It's also difficult to change technology when you've been so long on the frontier. Like many other software companies, Punch was bought out by another tech business — Encore, Inc. The Punch! brand still offers a variety of respected home design software programs that will let you move from simple home designs to complex electrical and plumbing systems. Finding the program that best meets your needs might be the most difficult task — do you want Essentials? Premium? Professional? Complete?

Sweet Home 3D Premium Edition

The focus of Sweet Home 3D is interior design — that is, you can create the walls and move the furniture, but don't expect a roof or landscaping! The open source software is available for free from sweethome3d.com, so if you've never had any experience with home design software, start here. You might quickly realize what you're missing and what you want to do.

Virtual Architect

It advertises itself as "Wizard-driven," but would you want Harry Potter designing your dream home? NOVA Development is a leading developer of consumer software — think designing greeting and business cards, creating scrapbooks, and learning Spanish — so if you're used to the way these popular products operate, you may enjoy their take on being a "virtual architect." Many people have found this product to be less than a professional attempt.

Total 3D Home Design Deluxe

Individual Software creates home and school software with many drag-and-drop features. If you're in the market for popular titles readily available from Target and WalMart, then give this home design software a try. Just like buying a book or spending your money on a movie, it's always a good idea to look into the publisher or developers of the applications that interest you.

HGTV® Software

Home and Garden Television (HGTV) has become an industry, so it's not unexpected that home design software would be part of what they offer. Created by Nova Development, developers of Virtual Architect, HGTV software has received mixed reviews, but if you're a fan of the cable station, you might want to give it a try.

Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer Suite

Better Homes and Gardens Home Designer has been replaced by Chief Architect Home Designer Suite (above), but you can still order the older software. Why would you want to order outdated software? If your needs are modest, (1) sometimes older software is cheaper, and (2) sometimes older computers appreciate older software. The down side is that there is usually little technical support and the product will be discontinued, no doubt.

FREE Floor Plan Tools

If all you want to do is draw a simple floor plan without fancy 3D views, you might not need the high powered software listed here. Instead, check out these easy, free (generally) online drawing tools and mobile apps. For arranging furniture, planning kitchens and baths, and creating 2D plot plans, this software is a great help in visualizing space. For whiz-bang fun, download an app to your mobile device, and touch the wall. The results are magic. And if you need to measure your plans, check out Amazon.com for digital plan measurers by Calculated Industries.

Now, a word about "free" stuff on the Internet. It used to be that you could download the free Google SketchUp program, and you could draw 3D images of your building project — even if your project involved a Star Trek spacecraft. Then you could print out or upload your 3D image to the "3D Warehouse" to share with others. The Warehouse also had drawings to add to your own 3D picture. In 2012 Trimble Navigation Limited bought SketchUp from Google, and they continue to provide a free version. However, remember this: these companies exist to make money. Sometimes they offer free or trial versions to entice you to buy a full-featured application. Beware of what you agree to when you use something that appears "free"  —  they may be harvesting you and your good ideas. SketchUp is still tons of fun — it's so easy to be seduced at 3D Basecamp.

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