The Top Home Design Software Programs for DIY Architects

Computer Software for Building and Design

If you have a dream, you can draw it. These easy software programs are made for beginners, but some rival the sophisticated CAD software used by professional architects. Which program is best? For tips in choosing, read How to Select Home Design Software. Otherwise, if you can hold a hammer, you can hold a mouse—and if you can hold a mouse, just jump right in with these affordable and fun applications.

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. Amazon offers an array of Chief Architect Home Designer software products. Read Review of Home Designer® Suite 2015.

A Google SketchUp Booth at a Star Trek Convention In Las Vegas in 2006
A Google SketchUp Booth at a Star Trek Convention In Las Vegas in 2006. Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment

Download the free SketchUp program, and you can draw 3D images of your building project—even if your project involves a spacecraft at a Star Trek convention. After you've created your 3D image, print it out or upload it to a "3D Warehouse" to share with others. The Warehouse also has drawings you can add to your own 3D picture. In 2012 Trimble Navigation Limited bought SketchUp from Google. Trimble intends to support existing users and continue to provide a free version. More »

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. Some programs are for the MAC, others for the PC. Browse this list to find the program that best meets your needs.

What used to be IMSI TurboFloorPlan is now part of TurboCAD.com, who is developing a line of FloorPlan products with various capabilities—some still a souped-up version of the old Instant Architect software. "We consider this our professional version," says their website, "but only because it offers the most easy-to-use features. Even a novice can get started right away!" 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 and a TurboFloorPlan 3D is listed on Amazon for even less. TurboCAD's product line is in flux, as  Amazon.com still offers older IMSI Design versions.

Read Review of IMSI Home & Landscape Pro Version 12. TurboCAD has also taken over IMSI TurboFLOORPLAN Instant Architect.

Source: Welcome to the new TurboCAD.com [accessed August 7, 2016]

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.

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, HGTV software has received mixed reviews, but if you're a fan of the cable station, you might want to give it a try. The latest versions of HGTV home design software will be found on their own website.

A digital measuring device looks like a pen for measuring distances in floor plans.
A digital measuring device for floor plans. Hisham Ibrahim / Moment Mobile / Getty Images

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. More »