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Home Design Software


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By RogerC in Phoenix, AZ on 10/28/2009


Right now, I'm considering Chief Architect Home Design Suite 9 or Punch Home Design Pro Series (they seem to be comparable products based on price range). I was wondering if anyone has recent experience with these two packages, or recommendations for others at a similar level of functionality.  


The two areas I'm particularly interested in hearing reviews on are the software's cost estimating functions (is this a worthwhile feature in the planning stage) and image quality of the final 3D output (smoothness of edges, gradient fills, lighting/shadow accuracy, etc). Also, any other features you thought were particularly useful.

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By Mary in PA on 10/28/2009


Hi Roger,

I've used both the Punch (for about 40 hrs. in January) software and switched to CA (for several hundred hours starting in August). I wrote some basic review type stuff and how I used them in my blog, if you're interested check these posts: The Chief Option and A Floorplan is Born.

Basically, for the way my brain works, Chief Architect was much easier to use than Punch. But I could see where this could be a very personal thing. You could download the free demo version of CA to see if you like it. Punch may have that option too - I'm not sure.

I've not done much work using the cost estimating part of CA yet... and likely won't do much with that either. Since I don't have a construction background, my floor plan and 3-D model have flaws that I'll have a professional designer fix when he/she makes me a set of code-compliant construction drawings. These flaws could cause some errors in the auto-generated building materials lists - so that's why I'm not relying on those lists. I did take a look at the list though - seemed easy to use. You can view it in an Excel-type format and sort and filter by part or type of material and so on. You can fill in unit costs and it will auto-calculate total costs. For a detailed and correct drawing, I could see the material list being a useful item.

In CA, the 3-D models of the house seemed fine. I could view them on my laptop and print them with smooth lines, good fill color - easy to see/understand. I used default colors and lighting because I just wanted a concept model - not a highly detailed final look. Also the ability to do multiple buildings and terrain and then view it in 3D has been really helpful to develop a feel of what the configuration of buildings will feel like on our property.

I hope that helps a bit. If I can be of any further help, just let me know.

Regards,

Mary


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By Joe in Johnstown, PA on 10/29/2009


I bought Chief Architect XI last year. At first, it was overwhelming how involved it is. (The user manual supplied was over 1,000 pages). To learn how to use the product I first recreated my current house in Chief, everything exactly laid out. It took a few months, but eventually I felt comfortable. I then started to design my new house.

The program is a vital tool to creating my house. The small details that you can add and then render in 3D help you see if it looks right. The best part for me is you can customize everything yourself. So for example, if I find a great deal on windows, doors, or cabinets, I can fit them into my plan - unlike stock plans that have a rough opening and you have to find items that fit. 

I also have a Chief Architect designer who I pay to do touch-ups on my plan and double-check that everything is up to code. I probably have a little over $1,000 invested in my plans (including the Chief Software I bought on eBay and designer fees).

Not bad for custom house plans.


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By RogerC in Phoenix, AZ on 10/31/2009


Mary,

Thanks very much for sharing your experience with both softwares. My intent for the software seems similar to what you've done... getting ideas on paper, checking flow and just making sure things make sense before taking my ideas to a designer. The first phase of my project includes a guest house to be built in advance of the main house, that I'm incorporating a good deal of green building concepts into. I'd like a modeling tool that can be edited easily as I learn, add and subtract various ideas. 

Your posts were helpful and your experience seems to mimic the reviews I've read for each software. Most reviews mention difficulty in using the Punch product. This wasn't exactly the answer I was hoping for; as I've found a very good deal at a local reseller for the top-end version of Punch product. It would cost me about $250 less than the comparable CA product version. I guess I need to remind myself of the adage 'you get what you pay for'... we'll see what wins out - my better judgment or my wallet.


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By RogerC in Phoenix, AZ on 10/31/2009


Joe,

Thanks for your thoughts as well. I hadn't been planning to create my own final construction drawings, because I'm hoping to involve a designer or architect to provide their design expertise, particularly in the green area, in addition to the drawings. 

Although, your strategy is certainly tempting from the budget aspect. I like the idea of using software that my designer could also use. I would think that might help in the final cost, even if I have the plans done by the designer.


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By RogerC in Phoenix, AZ on 10/31/2009


Mary,

One other question, if you don't mind... did you have any trouble with the Punch program from an installation or stability of the software standpoint?

Thanks!

Roger


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By Mary in PA on 11/2/2009


I didn't have any stability problems with Punch that I can recall, although my use of it was rather light. It installed fine.

In my more extensive use with Chief Architect 9.0 it has been very stable - until recently. I've been using it for hundreds of hours and was at the point where I wanted to export a drawing file so that I could attempt to take it to Staples to print on a larger piece of paper (someone I was working with had requested I do this for them). Anyway, the program crashed every time I tried to export the file. It could be I'm not doing it correctly - I certainly didn't read all the directions or spend hours trying to figure it out. I ended up printing across multiple 8.5x11 sheets and then taped them together.

On the upside - since you said you were into doing a green design, some of the material list features might be helpful to you. In the list it gives how  many sq ft of conditioned wall space face a certain direction (like north vs. south) and how much of it is glass. I guess a pro could really make use of this info but I just sorta' used it as a sanity check.

Good luck with you project!


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