Workflow?: Designer workflow question: Draw interior finishes as 3d thickness or paint on studs as texture?

Here’s something I’ve talked with Dave R about, however I’m still not happy with what I want to do yet, how do you designers deal with this in Sketchup?:

In a room where there are cabinets against a back wall with a drywall finish say, and each side wall has for example a 2" brick finish. When placing cabinets in this example against the back drywall wall, the dimension of the back wall width has to be exact to fit the cabinets between. In the case where each side wall has 2” brick for example as an interior finish, I have to remember to hold my cabinet away 2” from that wall if I don’t draw my internal finish brick as a 3d thickness against the side stud walls. I need my interior and exterior walls to be the thickness of stud framing so that I can dimension off stud framing in my plan drawings. @Sonder in his book, paints his finishes on as textures directly on the stud walls. Painting a brick texture on a 3.5 inch stud wall does not represent the stud wall plus the 2” brick, so when I place my cabinets, I have to remember to hold the cabinets back 2” and than I’m left with a gap between the cabinet and wall in my interior elevation view, which most likely looks odd. Therefore I found it better to draw all my finish layers on the inside of the wall studs. To save time, if there was multiple layers on the interior wall I would still draw that all as one big thickenss against the studs and the outside face I knew would be my finish face dimension. How do you get around this by following nick saunders method where he just paints on his interior wall finishes. My fear of doing this is having gaps etc in interior elevation views, especially when it comes to renderings. Wondering the best way to approach this and how you guys do it?

A good example of why to draw 3d finishes, is this column. There is supposed to be brick that is flush with the top of the base wrapped around the concrete column. Therefore if I didn’t draw in the finish as a 3d thickness, it would look like it does, instead of showing the brick flush with the base of the column with a for example 2" wrap… I just wish I didn’t need to draw in 3d wall interior finishes but every time I come to this topic it seems like I must, especially for rendering purposes and even when looking at sketchup interior elevations, things just wouldn’t look right…

Hi Tucker, any finish that is thicker than the drywall, I do model - such as wall furring, stone veneer etc. If those finishes are behind the cabinets (not typically) you would need to accommodate them. Just be sure they are a separate group so you can still dimension to the framing.

The reality is no contractor wants to deal with finish dimensions when they frame. I know there are designers and architects that do show and dimension from the finish and I can guarantee the poor contractors on the other side are cursing, and mistakes will be made.

Also remember, I don’t know of any contractor or cabinet supplier that hasn’t field measured the finished space where the cabinets will go before fabrication - at least in my area of work.

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Thank you! I completely agree with you on your last comments. Ok so in my example I feel like I need to draw a concrete column to dimension that in my drawings, than I need it’s finish layer over top so it looks flush with base and good in renderings, do you agree or would you paint this on? If I painted it on, it wouldn’t look realistic and if I put it all as one thickness, I wouldn’t have anything to dimension to as normally it would be dimensioned to the size of the structural part of the column…

It’s my experience that cabinets go against the drywall finish, therefore I don’t want to have a gap, but in your example sketchup model in your book, you have cabinets tight to framing. Sorry, could you explain a different way, you said you would draw in brick as 3d object, but than if there was drywall abutting that brick when you looked at it in elevation view, since you paint on your drywall, you would see the full brick exposed instead of the realistic 1.5" of brick sticking out and the drywall covering half an inch of it… It just seems quite complicated to figure out how to do this, sorry if I’m not understanding.

Here’s what this column should look like, but if I draw this all as one thickness, I have nothing structural to dimension to. I should also note I was a builder for 10 years, so what you’re saying makes sense to me from a builders point of view, I just don’t see how it’s realistic to not draw in drywall and than have a gap between the cabinet and the wall studs…

Cabinets are a non-issue as they field measure before fabrication. Structural components have to be dimensioned. Something like the concrete column you are showing should be dimensioned in plan view which is easy if you keep the concrete and the stone as separate groups. Elevation drawings should only be dimensioning heights, which would be unaffected by what you are showing since the veneer is only affecting the plan view.

Oh to answer your question in that case I would model the veneer. Typically true exterior stone veneer is modeled at 5" thick. But I would always model that in a separate group on a different layer - OB_TRIM in my case is where I place all trim and veneers.

Don’t feel it is too complicated. Think about how it will be built as opposed to how it will render. The main frame of the design is the most important aspect including foundation, studs, steel frame, concrete frame etc. Everything else is installed to that frame so their critical dimensions are not as important. You just need to understand that you do want to accommodate for it. As an example, if I want a 4’-0" wide min. hall, I’ll model that hall at 4’-1". Same for closet interiors - 2’-1" for a 2’-0" finish depth. All other elements like cabinets and even windows and doors are always field verified for exact dimensions for shop drawings. You’ll drive yourself and the contractor crazy if you do otherwise.

Sorry for the clarification, I just am trying to understand and ask a specific question.

Your comments are definitely helping me be at more ease, I have been struggling with this for a long time and now it’s just giving me delays… I think I get what you mean for the most part, to clarify though, you say you’d draw in the trim layer as a seperate group (which is what I’ve done on the exterior column), so what about inside where cabinets are supposed to look tight against the face of drywall. If I don’t draw the drywall as a thickness sitting cab against the finish face of drywall, in the elevation view there will just be a gap showing, do you personally just disregard that gap and move on, is that what I’m missing here? I can think of other scenarios where there might be gaps against objects in rendering views etc and it wouldn’t look realistic, that’s my issue I guess. I feel if I have to draw in a 3d brick thickness on interiors in some scenarios as you say you’d do, I have to make sure that entire wall has the correct wall finish layer thickness and not just a portion of it…?

Not trying to make this a run on conversation, bit of a rabbit hole this one.

Wondering though if you think I could get away with dimensioning to center of columns and stuff outside and than I wouldn’t need to draw exterior column finish thicknesses either, I could just merge it all into one thickness and have notes that it is seperate items and list their thickensses?

I would always draw the structure in a separate group. Then in both plan and section view you can clearly identify what is what for the contractor. It will make both your and his life less complicated.

Ok. I don’t know if you understand what it is I’m getting at, after reading your comments a few times in a row now. I’ll run some more scenarios and see if I can accomplish this… Thanks a lot for your help today, really appreciate it.


I think I could add here that an underlying question you are asking here has to do with how much detail is too much detail for certain areas of the a drawing package.

You are fighting with how to control all the different layers of any particular stud wall - interior veneer (stone) drywall, stud, exterior sheeting, furring, exterior finish material. This is because you have chosen to model all those details which is not necessarily a bad choice from one point of view. However the way @Sonder has laid out his workflow is to economize the amount that needs to be modeled for each scale.

This is a powerful concept and shows up in the book he and @Matt have written and is in numerous videos of his presentations. A plan view at 1/4" scale just doesn’t need to show all those layers. It’s too much detail and should be left for sections and details

It would then be more important to ask @Sonder how thick he models his standard wall thickness. He has said above that he always models anything outside the standard wall thickness. But if Im reading him right, he doesn’t model the drywall or the studs or the insulation. Reading how he models a 4’-0" hallway is to model as if the drywall isn’t included. It is in effect removed in order for the dimensions to be accurate for those contractors who will use the plans. So my assumption would be that a 2x4 wall in his walls are indeed 3 1/2" thick. No drywall to mess with.

As an aside, since I have been in cabinet making for almost 25 years, I can tell you that we always preferred to install cabinets before any other material layers were installed on top of the drywall. Fillers from cabinet to wall are always easier to install to drywall instead of cutting them to stone, brick or any other uneven surfaces. And yes, we very rarely ever “trusted” the architecturals for accurate dims because what gets framed very rarely is perfectly in line with the architecturals as well.

Back on topic, I can say that having that background in 2D drawing board drawings is a leg up in understanding what is needed for efficient drawings. Level of detail increases as you move deeper into a set of drawings. Plans and elevations are there to communicate intent and construction dimensions. Sections, Details and Schedules are there to communicate the details that can’t be communicated at 1/4" and even 1/2" scale on the plans and elevations.

This would in effect mean that you would have to assess the foundation of how you model. How much detail is required for the main model? The danger in 3D modeling is to model every single part for the sake of “accuracy”. But serving up documents that the professionals building the structure can build from is as important as communicating the design to the owner and therefore @Sonder has made a decision to constrain his models to only that detail that is needed for any one scaled drawing. This is where architectural drafting conventions work because the basics of that presentation haven’t changed and won’t change until VR takes over the whole industry and said contractors are using augmented reality 3D projectors to view a 3D overlay of the site as they build it.

I say that last part in jest…or…maybe not.

Big decisions. Don’t give up. Keep working at it. You will find the balancing point.

Thank you guys for the comments! It is certainly helping me.

  • I know that sonders models his walls to be framing thickness only and paints on his finish textures on top of that.

If I was to model say multiple layers inlcluding a final finish, say a final finish layer and sound proofing layer that sat on top of a 3.5" interior wall, I’d group all that geometry together as one single thickness and my final face in that thickness would be my finish material face and I’d tag that entire thickness as Interior finish layers.

I just struggle with the fact that although it might seem like I’m sweating the small stuff, I just find it very unrealistic to model finishing layers as textures only on top of stud walls where the finish layers have no thickness. I took a look at sonders model from his example book and he’s got kitchen cabinets tight to the framing wall, tight. For me if there was supposed to be drywall there that is tight to the cabinets not to framing, than either his rear wall supporting the cabinets is the wrong width and should be 1" bigger, or his cabinets are wrong on the ends in size because if they don’t accomodate for drywall by leaving a gap to the wall which if there is no drywall is unrealistic looking in elevation view and in rendering views, than I don’t get how he does that… Perhaps he’s got it figured out, but I’m still quite clueless as to the best option because funny enough modelling finishing materials even as one big thickness, takes more time than I’d like. Even sonders says model the exteiror stuff as seperate thicknesses from structure representing the finish layers like I do on that column in my above example, but than from what I understand he picks and chooses when to model finish layers on the interior of the house. Unfortunately I’ve gotten no practical answer as to why he does this, at least for me anyways. Maybe I’m doing a bad job at asking the question here, but either way I’m definitely getting some useful info here so I do appreciate that and thank you to you both. Still running through scenarios and I’ll post back some practical answers if I come up with any on my results.

This has been helping me, I hope these posts help others as well in here. This is a heavy topic, that I wish wasn’t so tough to figure out.

I think you are missing the relationship of sheathing vs finished exposed material.

I do model finishes when they are beyond sheathing. So I model furring depth, interior metal and masonry finish, tile, pavers etc. the key is modeling with the frame in mind.

Everything beyond the frame is simply attached to the frame.

Always think about the level of detail and the scale it’s presented.

I appreciate you coming back and giving a response! Thank you!

Hey @Sonder ! I just wanted to say that I’ve finally figured this out. Thanks so much for your help on this question! I think we were having a communication issue but your responses certainly gave me some context. I don’t have to draw my drywall anymore as individual layers in my model, (thank goodness), I do still draw in specific layers though as you do as well. Like you, for the most part I now
just paint on the finish material to the wall studs face, I wasn’t sure how to do this before because of what it would look like in a rendering when there were gaps between objects, but I’ve solved that now. Took me a long time to figure this out (months going through multiple scenarios). Finally solved… :slight_smile: