Learning SketchUp: A framer's perspective

I was directed to check out SketchUp by Mr Larry Belk.

We have been trying to isolate the issues in Chief Architect’s roof framing, and he said, “this would be so easy in SketchUp.” So I listened to his decades of experience and jumped in.

He also said that SU can be as precise or loose as you want to make it. That’s a huge plus. I never knew SU was for precision CAD work.

He recommended some books and people to follow on YouTube:

John Brock - Book and videos
Duane Addy - master user and presenter at SU conferences
Matt Donley - Book(s) and YouTube

I have 10s of questions daily, but I want to finish these books before I start to launch a barrage of new user questions without some due diligence on my part first.

Thanks to all those people who have helped and inspired me.

More to follow.


Good advice from Larry.

SketchUp is great for loose, representative sketches as well as high precision models.

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Wow that website has some, how do I say politely - interesting plan and roof designs.


But yes, SketchUp is just a smarter pencil. What you get out of it really depends on what you put in, and what you want to do with it…

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I’ve unknowingly framed some of the mansions that Larry has designed. Very beautiful homes…very challenging roof systems. These are mostly southern homes…stick-built roofs. Always fun.


So I’m using sketchup to make a set of 3D framing drawings to include with an initial RFI to the builder / Architect. It was pointed out to me that there is the ability to make the edges stand out as lines.


The SU community is really great. Thank you!

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Nice work.

There are a lot of options for the way you show your model. Different options to emphasize details and communicate information.

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Nice work mate, I love seeing construction details and designs. Them three links shown above I havent seen them before so I will be noting them down for watching also. :+1:

So the upcoming project has a lake view. The plans call for this so I used SU to create a framing model. I completed the front wall. The others will come over the next few days as time permits.

I can’t wait to get into more typical applications where I can use the Medeek systems.


I created a 2D image in CA first, so I could have everything dimensioned.

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Looks nice.

I would have done it the other way around. I’d have made the 3D model first and then used it to create the 2D view for dimensioning in LayOut.


I’m heading in that direction but, honestly, it still feels odd to me to work completely in 3D. I’m sure that sounds odd to people who are more familiar with SketchUp.

I used the 2D component of chief so that I could have easily displayed dimensions before I started in SketchUp. I dont feel like I know if I am 100% correct or not in SketchUp by just trusting that I had inputted the correct information during the design.

I did learn that it would’ve been helpful for me to make the blocks under and over the windows as components instead of grouped. The idea of editing one and they all reduced to that edited size would have been a good timesaver. And I’ve seen in a video where someone used the push/pull tool to adjust an item and then double clicked on the remaining similar items and they all adjusted to the same dimension as the original edited item. I’m going to have to try that out.

It does to me, I guess. I tend to see the things I create in SketchUp almost as if they are real, tangible objects. For me it just makes sense to work in 3D from the beginning. Besides, it seems like double the work to draw it all 2D first and then model in 3D.

Frankly I would have used components throughout and no groups.

Push/Pull remembers the last distance so when you double click with the tool on subsequent faces, they will get extruded by the same distance. That can be useful in many cases.

Thank you for taking the time to respond with shared experience. It’s still exciting and new so I’m capitalizing on that energy to get the basics down solid as quickly as possible. (We have 2 new puppies and design work is picking up so I’m a bit distracted)

Your comments will definitely help in my workflow evolution in SU. Thank you.

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One thing I like with SketchUp is that at the base level it’s a general 3D modeler that you can make just about anything with. With plugins, you can make a lot of whole assemblies very fast. With a package like Chief Architect, if you don’t like the way it does something, your choice is to look at a completely different package like REVIT or Vectorworks. With SketchUp, if a plugin isn’t to your liking, there are other plugins, and if you’re ever stuck with a situation your plugin doesn’t handle, you can always get down with native tools and push through anyway. I’ve been using Medeek plugins for a while. They handle the most common framing situations, but I almost always have a situation that’s out of it’s bounds. It still works by doing the obvious stuff first quickly, and then I go in and tinker with it with native tools.

I put an example in this post.

Your examples on the other thread give the kind of clarity I want to include in my plans for permit, so that the guys on the ground have a deeper understanding of what they’re putting together. Very nicely done.

Most permit offices doesn’t care for 3D at this time, but we’re heading that way I believe.

Again, amazing work.

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A common gotcha is having “Enable Length Snapping” enabled in Window->Model Info->Units. Many users disable that option.

Wallmax, I use both sketchup and home designer pro, (CA is $$$) did you know they are somewhat interchangeable? CA has the stupidest pay for use components setup. some are free but not all. What you can do is build the component inside sketchup and import it to CA. It also goes the other way, the CA file can be put into a 3d file for sketchup. It is so fast to draw a house in CA but very hard to get it to do things that are not Vanilla. I used CA to check the design of my house I had an architect design. He is old school ACAD and sent me the file I was able to take the PDF and turn it into a fully 3D drawing in less than 3 hours. The combination of both CA and sketchup is crazy fast. I was able to add custom appliances to CA using the sketchup and also able to take CA items and manipulate them in sketchup. I fully outputted the CA file so I could “double” check the framing. I then looked at the areas not so easy to frame. It was so good I caught the engineer using the outdated Simpson catalog for hangers. He was using one they no longer supply form the old catalog. You can also take the truss files supplied by your truss supplier and check for the fit. I found several mistakes on the design package supplied by the truss company. The combo is really good- :slight_smile:
Oh, the roof in CA did not even come close to the design supplied by the manufacturer of the trusses so I converted to sketchup and literally dropped it onto the double top plate. Second Oh, I like the thermal break in the wall drawing, any reason your not doing 16 on one side (shear side I assume outside) and a flat 24 on the inside? I assumed the inside has no shear so why not go flat if you can?

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Hey, thanks for the comments. I hope to get proficient in SketchUp for the same reasons that you have pointed out.

I am modeling from a set of plans where the architect has already specified certain details. The wall for example, has no drawing other than a generic 2x8 wall detail. I’m including some of these 3D drawings as part of my shop drawing submissions for architectural approval before we frame.

On this project I don’t get to create solutions only clarify understanding of how the architect wants things assembled.

As a former framer and current architect, I use SU to generate my overhang/eave details, but rarely ever create roof framing models. The roof plans on my houses are often times very complicated, usually involving several different pitches, intersecting curved elements, etc. It would take as long to create them in 3D as it would to frame them… almost. Besides, there are so many framing methods and tricks used by different framing crews, that trying to create an accurate model would be futile, and a waste of my time and my client’s money.

I often do the framing when my clients are the builder. Framing is fun to me.
I have done some of the most complex roofs around and I love the challenge.

John Brock has developed a business where he completely models all aspects of the home to check for possible issues in the design. I like his philosophy.