Virtual Floorplans and Online Drafting Tools – Man’s Best Friend

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While moving is a total PITA, I have to admit that one of my favorite things ever is figuring out how and where to put things in a room. My husband, however, would rather punch himself in the face than fuss over the placement of our stuff, especially if it involves him having to lift things repeatedly. For us, the best of both worlds is for me to obsessively plot the furniture placement out virtually and have a decision made so that we just physically move our stuff into place once.

For the very first apartment I moved into as an adult, I used my trusty drafter’s ruler and painstakingly created a layout to scale of the rooms and then equally painstakingly created little pieces of furniture, also to scale, out of paper that I could move around the floor plan. That was over 10 years ago and now sounds like one of those “when I was your age” tales your grandparents would tell. The web is now overflowing with online and downloadable software, some that are free and some that are not, that allow you to create floor plans at the click of a button. I spent the day searching and goofing with them, and narrowed down two favourites, based on their features and ease of use.

gliffy floor plan
Floor plans are just one of the visuals you can create with Gliffy
Of the 2-D floorplan software available, I like Gliffy the best. It’s incredibly easy and intuitive to use. You’re drawing walls and plunking down furniture in no time flat. The software is online-only, which is fine by me as I like being able to access my design from any computer. You can start goofing with it right away, but it you’d like to save your drawing, you need to create a free account. Gliffy will give you a free 30-day trial of the software, which is usually good enough for someone just using it prior to a move. However, if you want to keep your plans after a month’s time, a “pro account” on Gliffy is available for just under $5 a month. Why so expensive? Gliffy’s software isn’t just for floorplans, but also for making graphs, flow and organizational charts, tech drawings, wire frames and more. It’s kind of a planner’s and plotter’s dream. There are also collaboration modes that allow different members of your team or family add parts onto your plan. The list of Gliffy clientele is impressive: Apple, Dell, Cisco, Harvard Business School, and Pixar to name a few – all organizations that have blended creativity with thoughtful design. So if you just LOVE to plan beyond arranging furniture about, a Gliffy membership may be worthwhile.

sweethome 3d
SweetHome 3D literally lets you take your design to the next level
Of the free 3-D floorplan software available, I got the most out of Sweet Home 3D. Like Gliffy, it’s highly intuitive and there’s no need for a tutorial in order to get your floorplan-loving ways on. As you’re drawing out your 2-D plans, there’s a window below showing the 3-D representation of what you’ve laid out. The obvious bonus to a 3-D element is being able to see how a room may “feel” with everything in it, especially if the height of furniture and / or ceilings is a big consideration in your layout. Sweet Home 3D can be either used with an online account or downloaded onto your computer. A word of caution though: If you start playing with Sweet Home 3D before registering for a free account, you can’t save your drawing. I learned that the hard way after creating a dream room – pressing register brought me to a whole new page and my perfected living room went poof. My annoyance was soothed by the fact that the program is free – not just free trial – but free, free, so it’s hard to get annoyed over something you aren’t paying for (although I still manage to do that all time. Right, Facebook?).

Are you getting architect-quality plans with Gliffy and Sweet Home 3D? Certainly not – and it’s no replacement for CAD or a professional’s expertise. After all, Gliffy only lets you type in measurements up to one decimal point (so if your coffee table is 38.75” long, you need to punch it in as 38.8” long). But it and Sweet Home 3D will definitely give you a good idea of whether something will fit or not … and it’s a heck of a lot easier than doing it all out by hand or in person. I’ve used Sweet Home 3D to figure out our living room … all while my husband has been sitting outside with his beer and a book. Suffice to say, he’s giving it two enthusiastic non-punching-himself-in-the-face thumbs up.

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About Jen

Jen (but never “Jenn”) Byck, aka the Fix'n Vixen, is a Toronto-based freelance writer and communication consultant who is undoubtedly home fixated (she is also TV fixated, really bad TV fixated and donut fixated). Her approach to home improvement has been rather trial and error, the latter of which is evidenced by the amount of spackle she buys on an annual basis.

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5 thoughts on “Virtual Floorplans and Online Drafting Tools – Man’s Best Friend”

  1. Also great for when selling a home. First got 3D Home Architect in
    1993 and played with it when I first bought my home and used the
    same file when selling it 6 years later – the prospective buyers had something to remember the house by and imagine how all their belongings could be arranged in it.

    • Ah, you beat me to it. This has always been a source of frustration for me when browsing homes. Photos are never consistently taken so it’s not always possible to figure out the floorplan without showing up. A floorplan from a tool like this splattered on a flyer or posted on a listing would not only greatly supplement the photos in understanding the flow of a property but also filter the people who show up to open houses; improving your odds of closing a sale with more interested, more informed buyers.


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