Product Review: Home Designer Professional 8 Software

The Home Designer Professional 8 is a fantastic software suite that could easily be used for a business tool to design professional quality home blueprints.

Ease of Use, Performance: 23/25, Look & Feel: 22/25,
Features 25/25, How much I enjoy 25/25

Total: 95/100

While this may not be the best and most fully featured software suite for designing homes that a professional engineer or architect would use it is one that has all the needed features. I could easily see a home designer using Home Designer 8 Professional to give a full and complete set of blueprints to a builder or contractor.

The Home Designer 8 Professional edition is the third software suite for designing a home that I have reviewed from Better Homes and Gardens collection for home design. Chief Architect creates these software programs and also has their own line of professional software for home design but this is the best you get at the user level.

This program is by no means to be used for the professional building home plans and selling them to customers, but it would not surprise me one bit if someone was. This complete a home design suite is going to cost and this one does, about $500 but is so complete that you can go from not knowing much about home design to a blueprint in a few short weeks.

While I have spent some time working with this and other Chief Architect programs I have learned alot dealing with home design and construction from them. I do have a little background in construction but nothing more than common sense and having a very handy attitude as well as several years of volunteering at Boy Scout camps and a handy father who taught me some.

It may surprise you readers, and even Chief Architect, to know that I do not do this kind of reviewing often and the line of Better Homes and Gardens software is the first I have used. But I have learned a lot and know so much more about home design and you can too.

The full pro version of Home Designer 8 comes with a video tutorial DVD with 70 videos to help you learn things from the defaults of the program to changing roof planes and framing. The program allows you to build your dream home from placing blocks of rooms down on a blank slate and arranging them how you want to framing and adding electrical, plumbing and landscaping.

You probably have seen those blue print drawings with the big square of information in one corner or side that has all those neat views of the building and floor plans. You can create those with Home Designer 8 Pro easily with the layout mode of the software.

There are two main modes that are part of your software package; plans for an individual drawing and layouts for a combined sheet of drawings or plans for printing. You can easily start or work on either and add a plan drawing to a layout or create custom templates for your layouts quickly. Those square information boxes that start all plans and blueprints are a few minutes away using the CAD and text tools.

Simply open a new layout, draw the boxes you like for name, address, date and any other pertinent information that needs to be included for permits or building plans and add in the information with the text tool. After you have your final information box called Blueprint Title Blocks you would save the layout as a template plan by just saving to a location you will remember and naming it accordingly.

You can also set up plans like this by opening a template file plan that is already on the software and changing any styles you like and saving the blank plan so you always start with the same defaults for any drawings. It will take awhile of playing around with the program to figure out all the styles and other things you are going to be using so it would be a good idea to find out all you can before starting your project well ahead of time.

This software suite has included a great set of templates for various styles with eight main choices when you start a new plan. The styles are things like Colonial, Urban Chic or American Casual and basically mean the main color scheme of wood and paints used. You can choose one of these, especially when you first start to use the program, and later change the default settings when you get to know more.

All the settings from the wall siding and color, trim color and type, molding, type of materials and just about anything you can think that could be changed is in the default settings. This way when you start out your design you can set up defaults with things you know are available to you for building and with what you want to build.

Building a home from the designs you create is the ultimate goal and the Home Designer 8 Pro is a great tool to use that adds so many features above the other versions. This version has a host of tutorial videos to help you as well as the fully featured automated tools like framing, roofing and advanced cabinet tools.

You can do things like designing cabinet fronts or create countertops that are unique and particular to your situation and take these designs as a blueprint to a company and show them what you want. The program has some great features like roof designs and being able to change the roof planes so you have realistic designs that a construction company can use.

If you are worried about taking your final blueprints to a contractor you should not, there is even a checklist that helps you with the permits and what you need to worry about for building codes called the IRC Residential Design Checklist. This list will guide you through all the various items that need to be covered on your designs and ensure you have at least the minimum things on it.

Some people might say that this is all too much work and time to put into a home design but you can stand out as an individual among all those cookie cutter home owners. You can proudly design your home and add the things you want as well as change things later if you find some things are just too costly without having to go back to the drawing board and pay that designer again to redo your plans.

There are several sites that have lists of helpful guides for what you will need for drawings and this program has no problem creating all of them. Of course you may need to leave some of it up to the contractors due to laws or zoning or just things like actual wall construction because you don’t want to bother with it but the Home Designer 8 Pro can do all of it if you want to.

I took a home design I have been playing with and worked on all the new features in this version without any problems; foundation plan, floor plan, elevations, details, sections and interior elevations are all here. I had no problem getting the hang of what these types of drawings were and how to accomplish them. Of course I would have to put more work in on them if I was to print them out and take them to a city for permits or a construction company.

That is what this whole program is all about though, taking an idea of what you want your home to be, realizing it on the screen and taking those plans to reality. You can easily do that with the Home Designer 8 Pro and then some, automatic and custom roofing, framing, lighting, camera views and much more.

You can do so much with Home Designer 8 and the Pro version has the top of the line features like custom roofing and cabinet tools so you can create the design you want and not go with the one the program only has. You can customize the roof planes, the foundation planes and other main things so you can have the main structure you want to start with.

The camera is another feature that has been let loose in this version with not only being able to move the camera around on the plan but total control. You can open up your design in full 3D view and pan, tilt or move that camera in all dimensions as well as rotate and move the plan around to get any view you would like. You can also change the time of day and landscaping to see what your final work will look like at different times of the day or year.

The CAD tools allow you to take a side picture of a wall, save it to a certain format then import it and change some of the aspects then add in with the CAD tools to get your detail drawings. Things like foundation footings, wall sections and roof truss joints are going to be needed on final blueprints and why pay someone else to do this if you can.

Of course this is something you may want to just skip over and let the construction company take care of but the nice thing with this program is you can do it, easily. The Home Design program gives you all the choices from colors and materials to the manufacturers of the common home construction materials out there like Benjamin Moore and Armstrong.

The new and added features of the Professional version give you all the tools you need to design and print a full blueprint of a home. You can also use the program to perform some very detailed remodeling work or even some great deck and landscaping but this is the add on parts and not the main features.

The professional version has all the added features that go beyond the do it yourselfer wanting to redesign a room or give a floor plan to an architect to show what you want in a home. The only thing missing here for a full sized blueprint is the large matrix plotter to handle the 18″ x 24″ layout blueprints this program can produce.

The Home Designer 8 Pro version comes with the full program on a DVD, the DVD tutorial video and a reference manual that is over 800 pages that covers all the main features. You also get the website support and added downloads the company offers and continues to add to like new kitchen appliances and landscaping that companies continue to make.

The Home Designer 8 Professional version is a great fully featured software suite for home design that has all the tools to build your own blueprints. The next best thing that I could see is the much more expensive version that is more for the professional from Chief Architect.

If I was doing some remodeling projects and just wanting to see what things were going to look like or handing a set of plans to someone else to make the blueprints I would stick with the Home Designer Suite 8. For a more complete suite of programs that goes into the finest details the Home Designer 8 Professional may be all you need to hand a complete set of blueprints to a construction company or city for permits.

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