In my everyday experience, I usually start drafting a floor plan in SketchUp one of two ways. Either I start from scratch using measurements I’ve taken at the home, usually in combination with a basic floor plan that I drew from the assessor’s site, or I work from a PDF floor plan provided by an architect or builder. I’ve already covered how to start your floor plan from field measurements, so today I will be discussing how I draw a floor plan from a PDF plan.
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Before you get started, you will need to have your PDF someplace that you can easily access it.
Open SketchUp and begin with a blank file. I will be using the Architectural template in Feet and Inches. The first step is to import the PDF into the SketchUp file. Click on File in the top menu and then select Import from the drop-down menu.
Navigate to where you saved your PDF file and open it. Click on the origin in the SketchUp file and then drag out along the XY plane. When it’s large enough to read, click on the XY plane.
We are going to switch the view so that we’re looking straight down onto the plan like we’re working in a 2D space rather than in a 3D space. Click on Camera in the top menu bar, then under Standard Views, click on Top.
Once we’re in top view, we’re going to turn on Parallel Projection, which creates a flat view like a 2D drawing space. Click on Cameras in the top menu, then Parallel Projection. I like to turn on Parallel Projection as I start to draw my floor plan because it keeps me working in the XY plane. I have found that when I try to draw in 2D on a specific plane, it can be easy to slightly draw askew. Turning on Parallel Projection will ensure you are drawing a true orthographic plan.
Now that the floor plan is in place and we’re working in Parallel Projection, we need to scale our PDF as closely as possible to the actual drawing scale so that we can trace on top of it accurately. Make sure you do not have the PDF selected (if it is selected, it will have a blue outline) by clicking in the workspace off to the side.
Next, click on the tape measure in the toolbar. Choose a measurement in your drawing which you can easily identify. I am going to use the length of the wall on the left side of the plan. With the tape measure tool active, click on the first corner of the length you chose. Then drag your cursor towards the second corner and click again.
Zoom into the second corner before you click if you need to. You want to be as accurate as possible. Without clicking again, type in the measurement of the wall in feet and inches. You can see what you’re typing displayed in the bottom right corner.
SketchUp will ask if you want to resize the model. Confirm that you do by hitting the enter key. Now the PDF is rescaled and we can begin drawing the plan.
I like to use guidelines to draw my plan. I find it’s easier to use guidelines to establish the locations of the walls and then draw on top of the guidelines, snapping lines or rectangles to their intersections. To begin drawing my floor plan, I click on the green axis with the Tape Measure tool and begin dragging to the right. You will see that a guideline is traveling with the cursor. Zoom in if you have to and click as cclose as possible to the exterior edge of the closest wall.
Repeat the same process with the red axis. You should now have two guidelines that intersect at the bottom right corner of your plan.
This is a simple floor plan, so I am going to use the Rectangle tool to draw the exterior of the plan. If your plan isn’t a perfect rectangle, you can use the line tool to trace around the outside edges. In this case, I select the rectangle tool, click once on the intersection of the two guidelines (you should see a red x when you hover over the intersection) and drag up and to the right.
To create a rectangle to exact dimensions, lift your hand off the mouse and type in the horizontal dimension in feet and inches followed by a comma and then the vertical dimension in feet and inches. Then hit enter to complete the rectangle command.
If you have a rectangle like this, an easy way to establish the thickness of the exterior walls is with the Offset tool. Click on the Offset tool in the top toolbar Then click on the blue-gray face created by your rectangle.
Drag your mouse inward. Before you click again, type in the thickness of the walls in inches and then hit enter. My exterior walls are 6″ thick.
Now you should have two concentric rectangles. We’re going to delete the inner rectangle. Activate the Selection tool (arrow) by clicking on it in the tool bar or by hitting your space bar. Then click on the inner rectangle and then hit your delete key.
You should now have two concentric rectangles and the interior face that they form. Together they represent our exterior walls. The next step is to create a group of the exterior walls. I like to group the exterior walls and interior walls separately so that they don’t affect each other. It is easier to adjust interior walls if they do not stick to the exterior walls.
To create a group, triple click on the face. You will see that the face is selected as well as all of the lines that touch it. Right click on the face and select Make Group from the pop-up menu.
Now that we’ve established our exterior walls and created a group for them, we can start to add our interior walls. Use the measurements on your plan to add guidelines that you can use to draw the interior walls accurately. Using the tape measure tool, click on the edge of the exterior walls and drag your mouse in the appropriate direction. Type in the distance between the two walls and then hit enter.
If you have walls on your plan that aren’t dimensioned, you can zoom in and drag your guideline until it as as close as possible to the line in the PDF for that wall and then click to set the guideline. I like to watch the dimension in the bottom right corner as a I drag and click as close to a round number as I can. In other words, don’t click on a dimension followed by 25/32″ or 13″/16″, etc. It’s unlikely the architect used such a dimension, and you want to keep your plan as simple as possible.
Draw the interior walls by connecting the dots between the guidelines, tracing over the plan. You can use the Line tool or the Rectangle tool. If you use the Rectangle tool, you can be certain that your lines aren’t crooked as long as you click on the guideline intersections.
Start with one wall…maybe the longest straight wall, which will be the easiest, and then move on to the walls around it. Add more guidelines as needed.
If you no longer need your guidelines, you remove them by going to Edit in the top menu bar and then Delete Guides.
Here is my plan with all of my interior walls. You can see I used many more guidelines.
Before we group the interior walls, we need to erase any line segments that are dividing the face of the interior walls. We want to create as few faces as possible. Zoom in on all your wall intersections and delete any of those extra lines.
One all of the extra lines are gone, triple click on one of your interior walls to select the face and all of the adjoining edges. Then right click and select Make Group from the pop up menu.
You may need more than one group for your interior walls. I also needed to create a group for the lines that made up the walls for the fireplace surround in the living room.
One all of the lines and faces that make up your interior walls are in groups, select them all. Using the Selection tool, click on each group while holding down the shift key. When they are all selected, right click on one of the groups and select Make Group from the pop up menu. Yes, you can absolutely make groups of groups, which is one of the best ways to keep your model organized. In future tutorials, we’ll discuss some of the other methods – layers, components and scenes. In combination, they are very powerful and allow you a huge degree of flexibility in how you display the information in your model.
In my next tutorial, we will continue with this same plan to cut out the openings for the windows and doors and add 2D symbols that will represent the windows and doors in plan view.