Model Making 101

So you’re excited to see what your house might look like before it’s built.
And you want to use something a little better than Microsoft Paint and a little more flexible than LEGO City ™.

What you want is a 3D CAD package.

CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design and used to be the preserve of high end architectural firms with expensive and powerful computers – and the requisite high priced drafting personnel to operate it. Now it is within reach of enthusiasts and DIYers alike thanks to falling computer prices, rising compute power, better graphics processing and rendering and cheap storage.
CAD is what your builder’s drafting department have used to create your floor plans, landscaping plans, engineering diagrams and other drawings.

A major improvement is the ease of use that modern CAD packages now have. No longer do you have to attend a 5 day course in physical modelling to create usable models that give you visualisation power and insight into spatial interactions. You can now build something useful in the comfort of your own home at a fraction of the cost.

There are a wealth of CAD packages out there. Some leading options on the market are:

  1. Live Interior 3D Pro (BeLight Software)
  2. SketchUp (Trimble)
  3. AutoCAD (AutoDesk)


Live Interior 3D Pro

A good entry level CAD package, Live Interior 3D Pro is reasonable priced at $114.99.


  • Extremely easy to use. Floor plan centric – by drawing your floor plan the walls, roof, etc are automatically created.
  • Instant rendering and walkthrough mode.
  • Import objects from the Trimble 3D Warehouse.


  • Photorealistic rendering requires additional Render Boost for $150 USD.
  • Pro version only available for Mac.

This is what we used to model our house and it has proved a lifesaver in catching issues before going to Wisdom estimating.



SketchUp used to be owned by Google where it really took off amongst users due to the fact it was free. Since being acquired by Trimble there is a free version called SketchUp Make and a professional version Sketchup Pro priced at $590 USD which allows you to create your own objects.

The benefits of SketchUp:

  • Free (SketchUp Make)!
  • Really easy to use
  • Vast library of ready made objects in the 3D warehouse including Samsung fridges, Miele ovens, etc. You can easily search for an object and add it to your house design. Do a search and chances are your item has already been modelled.
  • Ability to export to more advanced CAD packages such as AutoCAD (Pro version only)
  • Seems to be adopted by some builders so you may be able to start with their base design and go from there.


  • More advanced feature require the Pro version at $590 USD.




This is the grandaddy of them all. Infinitely flexible, there is nothing you cannot model in AutoCAD. Also expensive at monthly subscription of $370. This one is for the pros.


  • Can model just about anything
  • It’s what your builder is probably using for floorplans so you can directly import them


  • Learning curve
  • Cost is prohibitive for most people



Give it a go!

These are just some of the options out there. I’d recommend going with SketchUp and trying out some basic design element of your house first. Whatever you choose, don’t be afraid to give 3D modelling a go. It’s lots of fun and you get to build your dream house before the builder does!



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