Making construction details

is there a better way to do construction details? I thought I would make scenes of different components and draw rebar cages etc. on them prior to sending them to layout. So I used parallel camera, and tried to draw the rebar on the image - the line weights would change, trying to color in the small circles for the bars would some times work, sometimes not, and I would select the circle in order to paint them black.

My logic, if it could be called that, was why draw the components a second time when I have them already drawn? Just draw the rebar on them. But now I think I was wrong, I have spent gobs more time than if I had drawn newly the 2D details.
I still have to import them into Layout, and then use the line weight tool to make the rebar look correct.

There has to be a better way. Right?


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If you’re using an extension (like Skalp / Curic Section / or the like) for sections then you should be able to have some level of control over the line weights of modeled geometry being cut through. Adjusting those values / settings is a minor task once properly set up and if model was properly grouped and layered.

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Without seeing your drawing, it’s hard to say. My answer would be, yes, probably.

Perhaps I should ask what is the best way to draw these details? on a typical set of plans there can be as many as 50 of them - I realize they have a library of them and they cut and paste, but I am not an engineer, architect nor a drafts man but I am a general contractor so I draw them as needed, but it is becoming time consuming.


No, what you should do is to upload a drawings so we can better understand what it is you are trying to show.

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Try a small sample from SU to finished print, pdf whatever to see if the graphic result and process work at all before working on your model. I am sure this will require a specific approach to get what you want.

The quoted bit indicates to me that you haven’t fully bought in to the SketchUp/Layout paradigm!

You don’t “draw” in SketchUp, you create a 3D model of whatever it is you plan. This includes modeling the rebar in place, and using components, layers, and scenes to control various views of your model. Then, when you’ve got a good model, you create scenes - which become Viewports in Layout - and proceed from there to add dimensions, annotations, etc. SketchUp is Modeling, Layout is documenting your model with Drawings.

Well, not necessarily. I use SU for both 3D models and 2D drawings. I like that you can do both. I agree that Layout is purely for output and is therefore 2D by nature.

I am not sure we will get to the bottom of what @gerretw wants to achieve. Judging by his past posts, he doesn’t like uploading his drawings and as we all know, that severely limits the advice that can be given. We try but it’s a guessing game.

I have on occasion uploaded my models. If it helps any I will upload this one. It contains several versions of the model which I was drawing variations of, to show the client & the landscape designer.

What I am trying to achieve is a set of plans to submit to the engineer for his stamp based on his notes he gave me, and get it approved by the client and submitted to the Los Angeles Building Department so we can break ground.

As to sjdorst’s comment - for me to attempt to make a model a 12 x 24 x 13 ft grade beam between two 3 x 3 x 4 pads and all the interior rebar in the correct locations sort of floating there, is a daunting process that I have little idea how to proceed on. On a set of construction plans those are done as 2 D details, such as these.

Maybe there is a way to extrude rebar with a follow me process. I dunno how one would do it on a grade beam cage. If you have a cage consisting of 5 horizontal #6 bars wrapped with #3 tie rings, that are bent into the bars wrapping around in the pads, plus the #5 vertical bars in the pad, the #4 bars for the CMU all sitting on the grade beam - phew.

Perhaps my mistake is trying to learn LO by watching videos - it is not a very organized approach for something this complicated. I am now reading Brightman’s book to see if I can get a better grip on it.

BBQ engineering.skp (2.6 MB)

We can see now where you are starting from and then understand the questions more. There are different ways, of course and some better for different people. Some people are more proficient in SU drawing and would to more in the model. Others would finish more of it in LayOut. I’d just use CAD for this, because that’t what I’d be faster at.

I hear you find it daunting to draw all rebar in 3d , and there’s no need for what you want to do. One could also just draw a representative set. Or not do 3d at all

“So I used parallel camera, and tried to draw the rebar on the image - the line weights would change, trying to color in the small circles for the bars would some times work, sometimes not, and I would select the circle in order to paint them black.”

This may be just graphic issues due to drawing on a surface. Group the model before drawing on it. The circles should fill when you draw them, but because of Z-flashing with the surface you may not see them. The surface could be slightly translucent. When going to LayOut you can hide or erase the surface. So put the surface group on a separate layer so you can hide it and see how your lines and circles look without it. You may want to group each rebar—so they won’t be cut up wherever they cross in the 2d plane. Explode your view in LayOut so you can change the line weights etc. for drawing conventions. Don’t take your model notations into LayOut. Do all the notation in LayOut. (Also remember one circle for each size of rebar is enough-use copies of a component–so for this project maybe you had to draw two or three circles. )

“My logic, if it could be called that, was why draw the components a second time when I have them already drawn? Just draw the rebar on them. But now I think I was wrong, I have spent gobs more time than if I had drawn newly the 2D details.”

If you are more proficient drawing in LayOut then take a section view (or plan view etc.) of your foundation into LayOut and finish the drawing there.

(What I would do myself is either draw a 3d version of a “mockup” part of the foundation in SU, or use my CAD program for 2d only— I don’t like to draw in LayOut much.)

There are two fundamentally different approaches to this:

  • Pull detail drawings out of the over all model itself
  • Make detail drawings or models that are separate from the over all model

You could just do 2D detail drawings of what you want to focus on, which has been a lot of what I’ve done in the past. That’s the least challenging in terms of SU modeling, but Layout isn’t a great drafting tool per se (I use PowerCADD for that stuff). Nick @Sonder uses the second option except with 3D models, and buys into what it does for you over 2D drawings. He cuts away each layer of material more like an illustrator would rather than traditional architectural drawings. His models are separate little models, so the same issue applies for detail coordination as old school drafting: it’s up to the grey matter of the guy drawing it, not the computer, to ensure that the details agree with the over all model.

You might consider making such separate models by copying the larger one into a new file and then hack away parts of it to pull out one chunk to focus on, like a footing and stem wall.

Not sure if I understand correctly, but this sort of sounds like what you’re after.

  1. Edit the 3D drawing to accurately represent the overall shape and location of parts.
  2. Place Section cuts where you need them.
  3. Create Slices from Section cuts.
  4. Open each Slice and explode until you have raw geometry, then start drawing to close shapes and augment section.
  5. Create Section layer(s0 and place Slices onto new layer(s).
  6. Create Views of each section.

There are variations of this, depending on how you want to organize. In LayOut, it’s nothing but a matter of bringing in those views then adding notes/dimensions.

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Dang - that looks good. How do you create a slice from a section cut?


Funny this comes up. I’m in the process of setting up all new scrapbook details that we’ll be getting ready for our (Matt Donley and I) next book which will include a section on architectural detailing. I do approach it as individual details which helps with overall model file size, modifying and creating libraries for reuse. Placing that much info into individual overall project models currently makes for bloated models and reuse difficult. I’m sure that will change in the future but it is a task challenged in all current architectural software.

I do enjoy the process though. Detailing has become a lost art, and we all now what lies there!


That sounds like a good idea - almost all of the engineers and architects I know use auto cad and cut and paste details all the time, in addition to using standard detail sheets. it’s just the custom, job specific details that they draw to order.


Note: Inactive Section cuts are indicated as grey (you can just barely see one in the lower left-hand corner of the image); Active cuts are orange; when you select a cut, it turns blue as shown.

There are good reasons not to explode the component(s) down to raw geometry, but eventually you’ll end up exploding everything so that you can get the thick outside line weight. Dunno why, but the components are just a bunch of lines; you need to retrace some of the lines to get the shapes to fill.

Note: Don’t explode the slice; just explode all the components inside of the slice.

To draw in the lengthwise rebars (the cage), offset the outside edge of the concrete by the minimum coverage required (2"/3"). Draw the arcs for each of the edges (I set them to 3-6 segments). Offset that by the thickness of the bars used. The cut horizontal bars are merely circles. All are painted black, obv.

As I suspected, uploading your drawing is quite revealing. One of the first things to note is that, although you have set up a few layers, everything seems to be on Layer 0. You have some things grouped (but not ascribed to a distinct layer) and also have loose geometry. I guess none of that matters too much if you can produce the output you want.

You have text in the SU drawing but if you use Layout, that is normally the best place for text and dimensions.

On a non-CAD matter, why are you using reinforced concrete for something as minor and lightweight as this? Are you on dodgy ground or is it a local standard? If I were designing such a barbecue here in the UK, I’d just have a concrete slab, not particularly deep or thick, and build off that. At most, I might have some lightweight steel mesh to prevent cracking. I wouldn’t bother to draw the mesh, I would just put in a note that the builder should embed it in the concrete when specifying the concrete mix.

Having uploaded the SU file (and thanks for doing that - it helps a lot with suitable advice), maybe you should also upload the Layout file so that we can see what you are trying to show to others. Different people use LO in different ways but, speaking for myself, I do almost no drawing in LO. It’s far too clunky for anything but the most basic graphic representations. The main purpose of LO is to organize scenes already set up in SU (suitably positioned and scaled) and to add notes and dimensions.

Well, I will have to remove any indications of the owners address etc. before I would post my completed plans, which I spent most of today working to achieve.

This is why the plans are as they are:
A) back in the 30’s a 2 ft tall garden wall was constructed - one lot being 2 ft higher the adjacent lot. The wall held back the dirt of the higher lot - it also had no L or T footing.
B) Some time later it was extended 5 ft higher albeit without any reinforcing
C) The current owners had a BBQ built up against the wall
D) a few months ago 75% of the wall fell into the lower neighbors back yard.
E) now we have to replace the 2 ft high wall with a proper garden wall with an L shaped footing on the uphill side.
F) the owner wants a screen wall behind the BBQ. They do not want to demo and rebuild their BBQ
G) therefore, we have to build a grade beam partially under the BBQ tied into two pads, one on either side of the BBQ, to counter weight the grade beam and the CMU wall on it, to prevent it from over turning.

Now you know why it was designed and engineered thus.


Yes, I would too but that’s not hard is it?

Thanks for explaining that the wall is retaining. However, 2’ of retaining is nothing. The bigger significance is that the wall may end up being 7’ tall. That would certainly dictate a minimum width for the wall but I doubt it would be high enough in the UK to require RC foundations. But maybe it’s different over there.

Is any of this obvious form your drawing? If so, my bad.

Yes Simon, you are correct, it wasn’t obvious because it was only a partial model or more accurately a work in progress. Were we to put the full height of the wall back the footing would be wider on an apx. 2 /1 ratio. What they are doing in lieu of a higher wall, is to plant a hedge for privacy.

Well I would have to delete the survey, and some imbedded documents, prior to uploading it. I have a busy day, however, maybe I can find the time.

Let’s instead focus on your comment about my lack of layers. True - it was my first time trying to use them and I need to study up on how to use them in conjunction with components and groups which I have little practice with. It rapidly turned into a mess, not being able to get components on different layers, so I ceased to fool with them.

Similarly I had difficulty working with components, perhaps because they were not on their own layer, so I would try to work on a part but the part it was sitting on another component which prevented me from accessing the component - resulting in overlapping components.

So I need to study further and learn the relationship between the 3 concepts to use them efficiently.