Basement Design Software - 3 Options (one is free and one is terrible)

Which basement design software should you use to layout your new basement? Whether you plan to finish your own basement or hire a pro, a well designed plan will make it a much easier and cheaper project.

basement design with framing and wiring

I'm just spit ballin' here… but let's suppose that you have a good idea of what you want in your basement. You have a rough idea of the cost. Now you're ready to start sketching out what your dream basement will look like.

  • Will the pool table really fit in that room?
  • Can you squeeze in a full shower in that bathroom?
  • How far back do you need that projection screen to be in your theater room?
  • Will that crappy old queen bed your mother-in-law gave you really fit in your new basement guest bedroom so she can sleep there next time she comes to visit for two weeks!?

What you need is some way to diagram or design your basement before you starting finishing it.

If only you knew someone who has done a few basement designs in his life… Dang it!

Who… Who could you get advice from… ?

I thought you'd never ask:

Here are 3 options for basement design software:

3D Home Design Software -

Basement Design Software

Home Designer Essentials 2017 is the best software I've come across for designing basements.  It's easy to use and has enough features and flexibility to give you what you need.

There are several different variations of this software, some of which are more expensive. Make sure you get the "Essentials" version.  If you think you'll use it for other areas of your house - then go for the bigger version - you'll also get essential included.

buy on amazon

If you want to buy it from Amazon you can get the boxed version or download it straight from the site and get started today.


Microsoft Visio

Visio for basement design ideas

At $250 Microsoft Visio is expensive but some of us nerd type guys get it for free through our jobs.  If this is you then you may want to consider using it to design your basement.

I used Visio for my basement.  Even as an avid Visio user it took some time to adjust to using the different framing, doors and window objects.

Once I got the hang of it though, I really, really liked it.  Just like with Home Designer Essentials - You can plan down to the inch and it has several icons for common basement furniture like pool table, ping pong, couch, etc.

Pencil and Paper

basement design software - paper and pencil

Say whaaaaat???  Are you kidding me?  No.  I'm not kidding.

Paper and pencil are a great option. If you're a patient person and don't mind doing a good bit of erasing you can layout your basement design using this caveman technique.

Many a fancy and elaborate building was designed and drafted using paper and pencil.

What I Don't Recommend

google sketchupGoogle Sketch-up - Look, honestly I wish I could recommend this cause I think it's like the coolest thing ever. The problem is I've never been able to learn it! I'm good at learning new things, trust me, and I just haven't figured this one out yet.

If you're familiar with Sketch-up already - go for it! (here's a simple sketch-up basement on YouTube)  But if you're thinking, "oh, I'll just download Google Sketch-up for free and rock on with my bad self"  well.... good luck but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Avoid Paralysis by Analysis

Whatever you do, don't get too hung up on the designing part. I didn't do a serious design until I was well into framing. Start here first, then design. Sounds backwards, I know, but it's good advice.

If you want something a little more basic but fun try "Interior Design" for your iPad.

I walked into a basement once and this guy literally had drawn his in crayon. His framing was flawless. Each person is different. Most people like some sort of plan at some point, but go with what works for you.

Basement JasonHave you used any other software / techniques for designing your basement? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Cheers - Jason



Gimme' Some More:

  • Design Time - Once you have your medium selected, here's how to create your basement design.
  • Need some inspiration - Here are some basement ideas collected since the dawn of basements.
  • Start here. Not sure what to do once you've finished your basement design?
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Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

  1. Eric Barnard says

    Jason - Sketchup (now owned by Trimble) is an awesome tool for doing anything construction-wise. I will agree, however, that it is a very different animal than Visio or a home designing program. (It's technically 3-D modeling software).

    I took a couple drafting/Auto-CAD classes in college, and all of those principles/skills came right back when working with Sketchup. If you've never worked with drafting software, then I would definitely encourage folks to investigate a short drafting course online/local community college.

  2. js says

    When getting your permit, what kind of requirements did your inspector have when it came to plans?

    Did he also require electrical & hvac plans?

    I have been using Live Interior 3D for the mac. It has been ok so far, but I might also checkout HDE 2014.

    • says

      JS - Very little in the way of plans. I'm not sure if its like this everywhere but the only thing they were interested in was how many rooms I was going to have in my basement and what they were.

      I supposed because if I marked a room as "basement bedroom" then they would put down that I needed to have an egress window in there. I literally drew my finished basement outline with a pencil, labeled each area (family room, kids playroom, bathroom, workshop) and they were happy with it.

      I did not need to bring any electrical or hvac plans with me to get the permits.

      Good luck!


  3. Daniel says

    Feel compelled to mention a software option I found incredibly easy to use and quite powerful. I was able to put together a 3D model of my basement design in less than half a day. And best of all, the software is open source and free (but you will feel bad if you don't donate a few bucks, cause this software is so well designed!)

    PS: I tried SketchUP, but I agree Jason, there is a steep learning curve here (and my background is IS and CS)

  4. says

    Ah, phooey -- looks like Home Designer Essentials 2014 is only available for PC. Do you know of any good basement design software available on Mac?

    Thanks for your site, by the way!

      • David Grauer says

        I am also interested in knowing what would be a good floor plan design software for mac. I can't seem to find anything that is good.

    • Jeffrey Henn says

      SketchUp has a Mac version. I have used both Visio (for 2D planning) and SketchUp (for 3D rendering). Comments above about steep learning curve are a bit misleading.

      SketchUp is intimidating when you open it, but it has an incredibly deep and rich community of users who are more than happy to share their experiences. I have yet to type in a topic on Google and not find a detailed video on how to accomplish a task. On the one occasion when I needed more help (to convert a model so it was suitable for 3D printing), I posted my question on their User Forum and had an expert exchange posts with me until the task was completely explained and demonstrated.

      Beyond that, there is a warehouse of 10's of thousands of ready-to-use objects so you can finish and furnish your space so it looks realistic - actually drop in the pool table and queen size bed!

      For me, SketchUp is on par with Home Designer software packages, but it is free. And there is something to be said about being part of an on-line community that adds something more.

  5. Andrew Corbett says

    I use Live Interior 3D for mac. I've used it for years and it's a simple to use design package. It also plugs into Google Sketchup repositories if you want to download different pieces of furniture, but I haven't used this feature. It's all I've ever needed.

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