Before I visit a client’s home to take measurements, I always visit the assessor’s webpage for their property. Here in Iowa, the assessor’s page includes a very basic plan of the house drawn up by the assessor. I download that image and save it to my DropBox folder for the client. Then I draw a SketchUp floor plan from the image file so that I can print it out and use it as the starting point for my field measurements.
Here is the assessor drawing for our house…
Once I’ve save this file (usually a .gif or a .png), I open up a blank file in SketchUp.
Then, I click on File (in the top menu) and select Import from the drop down.
Navigate to the location where you saved your image file from the assessor’s site. You’ll notice there are two drop down options at the bottom of the page. In the top drop down, select the format of your image file. My file was a .png so that’s what I selected.
Click on the name of your file in Finder or Windows Explorer and then click the Import button at the bottom.
After you click import, it might take a few seconds, but then the image will appear on the screen attached to your mouse. The next step is to pick the point where you want to insert the image. I always choose the origin.
After you click on the origin, you’ll notice that your mouse is still attached to the image as you drag it back and forth the image gets smaller and larger. Drag your mouse out diagonally from the origin until the image is big enough to read easily and then click your mouse on the image. That click will place the image at the size you specified.
Now we need to resize the image so that it corresponds to the exact (or pretty exact) dimensions that we can see on the plan. First, let’s switch the camera view so that we are looking straight down on the plan. In the top menu, click on Camera, hover your mouse over Standard Views and then select Top from the menu.
Now your plan should look something like this.
In order to resize the image, we need a frame of reference. I’m going to zoom in on the center of my plan using the wheel on my mouse. The length of wall in the center is labeled as 8′ on the image.
Next, I’m going to use the Tape Measure tool to resize the image. Click on the tape measure in your tool bar to activate it. Click once on the left side of the 8′ long length of wall and then again on the right side. Click as accurately as possible. As you drag your mouse, you’ll notice the length indicator changing. Mine is in the top tool bar but yours may be in the bottom menu bar.
After you click the second time, you’ll notice the command prompts in the bottom menu bar have changed and one of the prompts reads “Enter value to resize model.” Without clicking anywhere, type 8′. You’ll notice the value in the length indicator changes. Hit Enter on your keyboard to confirm the value. A window will pop up asking you if you want to resize the model. Click Yes.
Another important point to note: as you drag your tape measure, you should make sure that the line is either red or green. That indicates that the line is snapping to either the X or Y orthogonal axis. If the line is black, it means that it’s off axis or crooked. When we’re drawing floor plans, we almost always want to be sure that we’re snapping to one of the two axes unless we’re drawing an angled or curved wall.
This video will walk you through the process up until this point.
Now that our image is resized, we’re ready to start drawing our walls. Since this image is from the assessor’s site, I assume that all of these dimensions are exterior dimensions. Let’s begin by drawing a square for our garage that’s 24′ x 24′.
Click on the rectangle tool in the tool bar to activate it. Then hover your mouse over the image at a point as close as possible to the top right corner of the garage. You may have to zoom in to get a better look. Click on the top right corner of the garage and drag your mouse diagonally towards the other corner.
If you look at the dimension box, you’ll notice there are two dimensions separated by a comma that are changing as you drag your mouse. These dimensions are the length and the width of the rectangle you’re drawing. Without clicking, type in 24′, 24′ and then hit Enter. The square will automatically be drawn to those dimensions.
You’ll notice a gray rectangle now covers the area where the garage was. Whenever you draw lines with a closed loop, they create a face. We’re not going to delete the face just yet. First, we’re going to use the Offset tool to create the thickness of the walls.
Click the Offset tool in the tool bar and then click inside the gray square. Drag your mouse towards the center of the square. Notice that the value in the dimension box changes as you drag your mouse. Without clicking, type in 6″ and hit enter. You should have a second square inside the first square.
Click inside the center square and then hit the delete key. Now you should have two squares outlined with a face in between. That face represents your 6″ wall thickness.
Now we can start drawing in the rest of the walls. First, we’ll draw a construction line to establish the right wall of the main portion of the house. Click on the tape measure tool in the tool bar to activate it. The click on the left outside edge of the garage wall that you drew previously. Drag your mouse to the left and notice the dotted guide line that appears. Without clicking, type 8′ and hit Enter. This will establish a construction line exactly 8′ to the left of the garage wall.
Once we have our guideline established, we can use it to draw the main portion of the house. Click on the Rectangle tool in the tool bar. Then click on the guideline close to the top right corner of the main portion of the house and drag your mouse towards the bottom left of the screen. Without clicking, type in 57′,28′ – the dimensions of the main part of the house. You should now have a gray rectangle.
Repeat the steps we used for the garage to create a 6″ wall thickness inside the main portion of the house.
Now, we just need to draw the little connector between the garage and the main part of the house. Use the Tape Measure tool to draw one guideline 19′ up from the bottom wall of the house and 23′ down from the top wall of the house.
Use the Rectangle tool to draw a rectangle between the house and garage. You’ll notice that the mouse will snap right to the intersection of the guideline and the line that represents the outer edge of the wall.
You can use the Line tool to draw down from the top corner of the new rectangle 6″ and then draw over 6″ to create a wall thickness. Repeat to create the bottom wall thickness.
Once you have all of the walls completed, you can delete the guidelines. Go to Edit in the top menu and then select Delete Guides. You can also delete the original image. You should be left with the basic exterior floor plan of your house, which is fairly accurate, or at least as accurate as the assessor’s field dimensions.
This video will show you the entire process from start to finish. Next time we’ll learn how to print our drawing to scale so that we can take it to the client’s house for field dimension verification.
Obviously, the dimensions on the house you are drawing will be different, but you can use the same exact steps to draw your floor plan as accurately as possible before every taking dimensions.