Tutorial for drawing building plans for home construction with Google SketchUp
April 1, 2012 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Is there a step-by-step tutorial on how to create working construction drawings with Google SketchUp? This must be on the Internet somewhere but after a weekend of searching and watching tutorials, I still haven't found it.

I need to draft up a framing plan for the building rehab that I'm doing. I'm looking for a step-by-step tutorial for doing this with Google SketchUp. Can you point me to one? Surely this exists online somewhere (as a handout for an architecture class, an e-book, a FAQ in the Google SketchUp or Sketchucation forums...). I wouldn't mind paying a little money if it's really what I need. We're not making that many repairs, so this is mostly an "as built" plan. Several people will review this for me and make corrections, but I need to get a draft done.

If I'm using the wrong software, let me know. I picked SketchUp based on answers here and the fact that SketchUp was free, though I've since used my part-time student status to cheaply buy SketchUp Pro. I downloaded the free HouseBuilder and SketchUpBIM plugins for SketchUp. I haven't tried downloading a trial version of Revit. (I could, but I didn't start there, because I'd ideally like to have access to the files after 30 days.) I could try that if Revit would be much better.

I'm making slow but steady progress, but I do have a lot of questions about whether I could be doing this faster or better. If I want a framing plan and an image showing the finished surfaces, are those separate layers? Is it easier to build one first, or the other? I know how to quickly draw floor joists with the HomeBuilder Plug-In; now is there a plug-in that will install blocking and a detail for seismic clipping? What should I group together? Should I frame up my exterior walls for each level, then create a continuous exterior plane I can "stucco?"

In case my question still isn't clear, here's what I imagine a tutorial might sound like:

- First establish your house perimeter and ground floor plane. Create one large rectangle, and if your bottom floor is below grade, use the push-pull tool to offset it downward. Leave this rectangle on Layer 1,* but create a new layer for your wall framing. (* this might be completely wrong)
- Next, use the HouseBuilder plug-in to frame walls with the studs and spacing that you choose. To add windows, first build the entire wall, then use the WindowBuilder Plug-In* or manually...
- Once you're finished, select your walls and group* them. Create three groups: exterior walls, interior bearing walls, and non-structural partition walls.*
- If you want to draw in your foundation footer, download the new Structural Plug-In* and ...
- If you want to use this to show your client what the finished surfaces will look like, the easiest way to "drywall" this floor is to select your framing group, then use the offset tool... Create these on a new layer, since you will often want to see either the framing or the finished surface.*

Thanks for any pointers you have.
posted by slidell to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Number one Sketchup tip: use groups. Everything should be in a group. A joist is a group (or a component), a window is a group made of other groups (glass, mullions, etc). Groups. If you've gotten yourself in a corner by push-pulling a big conglomerate which then turns into an uneditable mess then you know what I mean.

Beyond that, the program is really easy to pick up just by playing around, and part of its value is that the learning curve is so shallow that you don't need best practices, you can just jump right in. You shouldn't need plugins at all (I work at an architecture firm and I've never heard of any of those you listed, are you making them up?)

From your question it's not clear whether you need to output 2d or 3d files - if a contractor will be working with them, then you want 2d and Sketchup is not the standard tool (that would be AutoCAD). If you are working in 3d with the goal of taking 2d plan cuts, be warned that this isn't the most efficient way to go if you don't need the model for other purposes - you'll end up doing way more building than you actually need. But if this is more of an exploratory project for yourself and you want the 3d visualization to play with, test out finishes, and create renderings, then this is where Sketchup excels.
posted by ella wren at 9:15 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I need 2D files, but several (plan view and many elevations), so I thought it'd be easier to build something once with three dimensions (length, width, height) than to draft it from many viewpoints. Maybe I was wrong about that?

I did not make up those plug-ins. Here's a 1:30 video on HouseBuilder (which is actually more functional for me than the other I named).

It sounds like I might be overthinking things. After years of Photoshop, I definitely like to do things in a very specific way to avoid wasting time, so I've been leery of making a mistake and discovering I've wasted lots of time.

Speaking of rendering and visualizations, though, does anyone use SketchUp to test out lighting plans? (That's up next after framing.)
posted by slidell at 9:37 PM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: I am surprised not more people have commented. I guess because it is such a big, complicated question (not your fault - mostly because modeling is big and complicated).

Disclaimer: I use Sketchup, but for producing construction documents I use Revit. If you were going to do this professionally, or ever need to share electronic files with other people, I would recommend that you jump to Revit. But there is a significant learning curve - it is very powerful, but it takes a long time to ramp up and build all the components you need. I think Sketchup sounds like the right tool for you. Although I do think you should look into LayOut, which is Sketchup's tool for producing 2D documents from a 3D model. Without that, I am not really sure how you would create a deliverable set of construction documents.

In terms of how you organize your model, it helps to think about how you want to peel back or filter the information in the future -- by phase? (existing/to be demolished/new) By material? By sequence? (Footings/framing/drywall/trim). Groups allow you to create elements that do not glom onto their neighbors, but layers are the best tool for applying "top-level" structure like phase/material/etc. One thing to be cautious of, as you become more and more group-crazy, is that you may find it is best to draw everything on Layer 0, and then just assign the group itself to another Layer. Deeply nested groups with a cascade of different layers makes it impossible to toggle visibility of anything. (There is a plugin to help with cleanup, where you can right-click on a group, and set all child elements to a specific layer)

If you are going to build individual framing members, I would build framing members as components, and then use the scale tool and stretch them to length (ONLY grab the center handle, so that it scales in the length axis only). Then, if you somehow need to change from 2x4 to 2x6, you can do it in a few components, not in 1500 separate groups (or change material, etc).

The Sketchup blog has had some case studies of contractors and architects who use Sketchup/Layout for documentation - you should check their older posts.

I feel like I have only touched on the high points of your questions, but I am going to stop. Let me know if you want me to run on about any specific questions.
posted by misterbrandt at 11:19 AM on April 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all of these answers. I've actually gone back to paper for the time being, because it turns out that the city needs less than expected. But I an still interested to learn all of this, so I appreciate these detailed suggestions!
posted by slidell at 8:56 PM on April 18, 2012

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