Doing a home improvement project on your own isn’t always a simple matter. Sometimes it seems simple enough when you get started, but before you know it, you realize that if you had just taken proper measurements and planned out your renovation in a little more detail ahead of time, it would have saved a whole lot of headache.
Since I happen to have a DIY project that I’m planning out this year, I needed a program that would help me plan out the entire project. The project in question is a basement renovation. I am planning to convert our basement into a finished basement, with both a bedroom and a laundry room.
Before getting started with laying out my plan, I took all of the room measurements required to put together a good sketchup of the room so that I could plan out walls, furniture and the rest of the project. To do this, I needed software that would let me draw up the room using all of those measurements.
There are a lot of CAD applications we’ve covered here at MUO, including Angela’s review of LibreCAD, which I used for a little bit of interior design as well. Then, in Directory we’ve covered apps like BabyCAD and DesignYourRoom. However, I think the absolute best application to “sketch up” a room design like this is obviously SketchUp!
Planning Your DIY Project With Sketchup
A while back, I covered SketchUp 7.1 to create 3D buildings for Google Earth. It was very clear to me back then that SketchUp was some pretty impressive CAD software, created with the regular user in mind. It’s simple to use, very easy to learn, and the things that you can do with the tool rivals a lot of paid drawing applications out there. For DIY room renovations in particular, SketchUp offers a bunch of tools that make it ideal for the job.
Today, it is now SketchUp 8. When you first launch the software, the welcome screen is the same as it was back in version 7.1 – where you can choose the starting template to use for your project. In my particular case, I went for architectural design for drawing out the room plan.
When you first start out with your drawing, you’ll find a woman standing at the X, Y, Z coordinate intersection. This is your starting point for the drawing.
Ready to get started? Like I said, the learning curve is not steep at all. Just click the rectangle tool in the menu, and click and release one corner of the rectangle. Then, click and release the next corner along the same axis where you want to place your wall. Finally, draw the third point to place the rectangle along your chosen second axis. This can be a little tricky, so play around with cursor movement to get the rectangle to align with the axis that you want.
Keep in mind as you lay out the walls, that you can see the actual length of the wall at the lower right corner of the design screen. Using these measurements, I was able to quickly lay out the outer basement walls using the dimensions that I had taken earlier.
Another nice feature is the Tape Measure Tool. You can use this tool to click from any position and measure a distance in any direction. As you bring the tape measure up, you’ll see a dotted guideline associate with it. This is really cool for setting wall or object heights before you draw them out.
Within less than 15 to 20 minutes, I was able to finish drawing out the outer walls of our future finished basement. Want to know how to draw the stairs? It’s easy, just draw a rectangle and then use the push/pull tool in the menu to stretch it into a long, square rectangle. Just copy and paste each step and place them edge to edge.
To set up measurement guides to use then you’re building your project later, you can use the nifty “Dimensions” tool in the Tool menu. Just run your cursor along the edge that you want to show the measurement for, and the dimension will pop-out just like you’d see on any professional drawings.
A useful way to carefully draw in any stationary objects in the middle of a room is to take measurements to the object from two walls. Then, on your SketchUp drawing, all you need to do is use the Tape Measure tool to take those measurements from the walls you’ve built. Where the lines intersect is where you need to draw that object. In my case, the object is a pole from the floor to the ceiling.
Once you’ve got your new room drawn, you may want to play around with wall colors just to see how different color designs work. You can do this by clicking on Tools and “Paint Bucket“, choosing the color you want to try, and then clicking on the surface that you want to paint.
Under Tools, you can also use Text or 3D Text to add notes anywhere in your drawing.
Also, I think one of my absolute favorite features is the “Walk” tool under the Camera menu option. This is a really cool tool that lets you place a cursor anywhere in the design you’ve created, so you can take a look at how your new room looks from ground level, as though you’re walking through the room yourself.
It’s interesting to see a design from this angle, rather from just an overhead design-view like most CAD systems. Using this view, you can take a look at different hallways or room layouts to make sure that the room will really look like you expect it to when you’re done.
The nice thing is that if you’ve taken accurate measurements of everything, this “walk around” view will offer a pretty accurate representation of what you can expect.
During your DIY renovation design process, don’t forget to use the Paint Bucket tool to also add the right materials for things like floors and doorways. Making the door wooden in your drawing will make the whole layout look closer to reality, and it’ll help you picture the look that you’re actually going for.
As you can see, SketchUp goes beyond just designing a DIY project. It lets you test out different colors and materials, it lets you you maintain the accuracy and dimensions you expect from a professional design, and it also lets you take a look at your project from the ground – which is about as close to a realistic simulation of your project as you can expect to get with a computer.
Can you think of any cool projects that you’d like to use SketchUp for? Have you ever used SketchUp for any of your own projects? Share your experiences and feedback in the comments section below.