Building stuff is tough. It’s never easy work digging holes, hammering nails or slinging plywood – but somebody’s got to do it! While many building projects are filled with physical challenges, it’s the brain strain that’s really the toughest part of some projects. Difficult calculations, precise measurements and detailed blueprints can all give your mind a workout that would make any hands-on building project feel like a tea party (the drinking kind). Guessing how much concrete you need usually doesn’t result in as smooth a project as using a concrete calculator. In fact, we’ll see the disastrous results of one concrete mishap as you read on. Save the drain on your brain by using the following free online building resources and building material calculators so you can focus more on all that heavy lifting and sweating.
(Not) Google Sketch Up
Years ago, Google bought out a small upstart company that created a program that generates 3D and 2D models. All was going well (it appeared) until 2012 when Google decided to sell Sketch Up to Trimble. Maybe Google couldn’t see a future with the program, but I use it constantly. It’s super easy to create 3D models and I use it often for furniture projects and other small woodworking projects (you can see more of my Sketch Up pics in my article on how to build a chicken coop). But what really makes this tool bad to the bone is that it’s free. Just download the program to your computer, watch a few tutorials on how to work Sketch Up and get to work creating your own 2D/3D models for your next building project.
You can download Sketch Up right here for free, and there is also a commercial version of the CAD program for just under $500. It’s comparable to other CAD prices but the free version online can be used by your clients to view your work in real time.
Pouring the right amount of concrete is crucial to keeping any building project under budget. Too much concrete and you’re going to be stuck with expensive piles of rocks. As an example of that, check out this concrete oops on HomeFail.com. Too little and your concrete project is going to have a nasty seam that will never look right. Basic concrete calculations for delivery trucks use a simple formula, but what happens when you need to calculate for columns, holes or tube shaped pours? That’s where a good concrete calculator comes in handy. I often use the one found at Calculator.net for truck delivery jobs. But when I need to calculate bag goods like stucco or mortar, I prefer to use the calculator found here at Quikrete.com.
Insulation Calculator – For The Itchy Stuff
I’m no fan of fiberglass insulation. It’s itchy, it smells weird, and pink isn’t anywhere near my favorite color. But more often than not, I get roped into dealing with the stuff. When it comes to finding out how much of the pink stuff I need; I visit the Owens-Corning website and use their insulation calculator. Simply enter in the dimensions of your attic or walls and poof! You’ve got an estimate for insulation materials. But the best part is that you won’t get all itchy in the process, unless you’re allergic to computers!
Sheet Goods Calculator – Holy Sheet!
Sheetrock, gypsum board, drywall – call it what you will. I’m going to call it heavy. Nothing is tougher than lifting up heavy pieces of sheetrock over your head and trying to secure it in place with the hands that you’re holding the sheet goods up with. Before you work out your muscles (or your hired hands), put your mind at ease by using the Georgia Pacific Gypsum calculator. Enter in your rooms’ dimensions and you’ve got an instant estimate for your sheet goods. Now all they need to invent is an online drywall hanger and I’ll be set for life.
Paint Calculator – Show your True Colors
Where there’s drywall, there’s always paint close behind. But how much do you really need? More often than not, you end up with a bucket of leftover paint that’s going to sit in your shed until the top rusts shut. Avoid the waste and estimate your paint projects (both interior and exterior) with ease using the Sherwin Williams paint calculator. But what’s really cool about this website is that you can take a picture of your room with your smart phone and change the color of the walls, without actually painting them. This way, you can see exactly what your paint will look like before you buy.
We hope these building material calculators and online tools help make your next project a success. If we missed any of your favorite online building tools, or you have opinions about the ones we suggested, please share them in the comments below.