In this article I’ll be addressing the need to convey design ideas and construction procedures to your workers, often remotely. One of the most challenging aspects of project management can be relaying what’s in your head, to your contractors.
Back in the day, this was basically done via blueprints and artistic renderings. That meant you had to be high-budget if you wanted your idea to be realized with any reasonable facsimile. Today though, a little knowledge and the right digital tools can basically get you the same result. That means a weekend warrior can actually design a kitchen layout as well as match paints, textures and more. Ultimately, you can show your contractor a photo of what you want, along with dimensions.
Now, let’s not mince words here — there’s a learning curve. If you know a little about drafting, that learning curve will be very manageable. On the other hand, if this is all new to you, the whole 3-axis concept might be a challenge. But if you’re serious about rehab-flipping, you’ll save yourself time and money in the long run by adding 3d apps for remodeling to your arsenal. At the very least you’ll avoid a lot of misunderstandings. There are a lot of options out there for 3D design, but for this article, I’ll only be mentioning the ones we use.
Floorplan & Layouts
For doing initial floorplans (and calculating square footage for flooring and lineal footage for baseboard) I like to use magicplan. This app uses your smartphone’s camera to map out the entire floorplan of a rehab, room by room, including measurements. Now, I’ll mention right upfront that you will always want to confirm the measurements the app gives you, but in general, they’re pretty darn close.
The process is simple — use your phone’s camera to pan the room. You’ll set corners and ceiling height. You can also identify doors and windows. In just a few seconds, you’re presented with a layout that includes dimensions.
Now the room that I used in the above example is actually full of furniture and other items, so it’s surprising that magicplan did so well with the dimensions and layout. Typically I only use this app on a jobsite and all the rooms are completely empty — in this case, I’m writing from my home office.
At this point, you can make corrections, move walls, adjust openings — and even start to add objects. For example, you can add cabinets and furniture. You’re limited to the available preconfigured objects, but for a rough layout, I think you’ll find them helpful. There’s even a 3D view of the floorplan to help make it all more real:
Depending on how much renovation you’re doing, you can then add more rooms and connect them so that they accurately reflect the floorplan of the entire house.
Keep in mind, this entire time you’ve just been on your phone or tablet. So really, you can accomplish quite a bit even when completely mobile.
I keep a handy laser measuring tool on me, something I bought from Lowes. This laser allows me to confirm measurements and it’s much more accurate than the phone — although the phone measurements are typically only fractions of an inch off. The app lets you manually adjust dimensions quite easily.
How Floorplans Help Remote Project Management
I cannot stress enough, how beneficial it is to have a full-house floorplan on your jobsites. This can be used to help identify rooms, plan materials purchases, and help with any modifications you’re planning. Trust me, working on jobsites without a floorplan, can be tough to manage remotely. Which bedroom are you referring to? Which wall in the bedroom are you talking about? You want the floor oriented to which window?
We have a job board on all our rehabs. Included on that job board along with permits and contact info, is a printout of the floorplan with all the rooms clearly labeled. When managing a project remotely, there’s never any question as to what we’re referring to because it’s all labeled on the job board.
Designing Custom Modifications
While apps like magicplan make it easy to show a finished design idea, they’re not quite as helpful when it comes to under the hood type stuff. In fact, you’ll find dozens of 3D apps for remodeling that focus mostly on interior design. Those apps will be very little help when it comes to structural changes and complex conversions. For example, if you need to explain how framing should be done for a wall modification — most apps are only going to show the finished product. That’s when I typically jump over to SketchUp so that I have more control over individual components like wall studs.
Case in point, one of our current Pool C Rehab projects had two bedrooms that shared a wall. One room had a built-in dresser and wardrobe.
Due to poor design, this built-in actually took up a lot of closet space in the other bedroom. You couldn’t so much as hang a t-shirt in the other closet. I had my contractor remove the existing wardrobe. During the process, we discovered that the common wall was built sub-par and would need to be redone.
I quickly jumped into SketchUp and was able to convey exactly what I wanted done, including dimensions for the opening. We were able to extend the size and my contractor knew from the very beginning exactly what I expected.
SketchUp Pro offers a photo matching technology that let’s you orient axis based on a picture that you import. As you can see from the above example, that’s pretty freakin’ handy. I was able to virtually frame out the new back wall and door opening, and incorporate it right into the photo — and it’s all to scale. That way, my contractor knew exactly what I wanted and how it should all look when complete. That’s a very helpful feature when you are dealing with workers who need to be told exactly what and how to do a job.
What About The Learning Curve?
I’m not going to claim that you’ll be installing an app and mastering it in 2 minutes. But if you’re somewhat savvy with phone apps, you’ll be up and using these apps relatively quickly. The thing is, it’s well worth the initial time spent learning the basics.
Doing a quick search in the Apple app store, you’ll find a handful of apps for design and layout but my experience is they are either too basic, or are quite costly with monthly/annual subscription fees. Gone are the days of buying an app (we called them programs back in the day) and using it until you absolutely want to/had to upgrade. Now a days you’re forced into subscriptions.
Plans And Subscriptions
Good 3D apps for remodeling aren’t free. They might offer a free version, but those are typically limited — with the most helpful features only available with a paid plan. Magicplan’s free version only lets you have two projects. Their Sketch plan lets you create unlimited projects for $9.99 a month. They also offer Report and Estimate plans that add features for exporting reports and estimate data, $29.99/month and $89.99/month respectively. I just use the Sketch plan and build my materials list in a separate spreadsheet. I can then import the floorplans I’ve created into SketchUp to do customized modifications or build kitchen layouts.
As far as SketchUp goes, the Pro plan is $299 annually (currently a discount of $233 is available). They offer cheaper plans but that photo matching feature is pretty vital. Boy, this SaaS marketing model is surely working out well for developers!
With SketchUp, you can create components that can be used over and over again. For example, we use a Shaker-style kitchen cabinet on all our rehabs. In about 10 minutes I created a 3D model of a 36″ base cabinet and saved that as a component. Now I can use that cabinet in any new projects. It was also easy to create a copy of the cabinet and modify it to different common dimensions (e.g. 24″, 30″).
All things considered, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and money by implementing 3D design into your rehabs. Not only can it help you visualize changes (if you’re doing all the work yourself) but it will help you relate your vision to others (if you’re hiring subcontractors). You can add colors, textures and materials to your models, and ultimately render a photorealistic version of your designs, if you want.