Kitchen Remodel Rendering

Advice on software to create images showing how a new kitchen will look. April 14, 2005

Do any of you remodel kitchens and if so, how do you help get the customer to have an image of what the finished product will look like?
What I am wondering about is the various computer programs that provide a 3D picture. Is it practical to try to build a 3Dd image of the new kitchen, so that the customer and you have a shared vision of what the project will look like at completion?

I wonder if this is way too much trouble and time to take during the estimating, but wonder if someone has some real experience on this.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
I think 3D drawings help a lot. E-cabinets is free and you can do it with some learning curve. I also use Auto-cad (2D), but find that most customers can relate far more to a pretty picture than to an engineering drawing. It certainly adds time to the quoting process, but it seems a lot of shops and even the big boxes are doing it, so I think people are almost expecting it.

From contributor B:
I agree with contributor A - the more of a visual you can provide the better. Like he said, it takes more time, costs more money (not only the program, but the investment in labor to learn it and maintain it), so be sure to factor this into your quotes. If you have a laptop, you can do it right in front of the clients, which has a great impact, but you'll find that they will want you to leave a copy with them. Do not - unless you charge them for it. People love free stuff, so you can tell them you charge a design fee just for drawings, but it will be deducted from their final invoice for their project.

From contributor C:

It would not hurt to learn a little about perspective rendering. There are lots of art books that help. If you have any talent you can do this easily with a pencil for your client. The most successful salesmen that I know all know how to free-hand sketch and they have a very high rate of closing sales because of it. Most people do not understand or relate to 2D so this is of no help to the customer.

I am currently remodeling a 5000 sq. ft. lobby and to get the message across I am constructing a 1/2" scale model of the space. The board that I am dealing with is a tough crowd so I have to take drastic measures. It's the money that's involved that makes it worth it.

Everyone has some sketching ability. Just take some time to practice and it will pay off. Even learning to draw simple isometric drawings with an adjustable triangle will bring results. The final drawing does not have to be a DaVinci to work.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. What software have you seen used or would recommend? I am not familiar with E-cabinets, but will be checking them out today. Are there any others? From some of the comments I have read, Auto-cad seems like overkill and not simple enough to do in front of the customers, on the fly. Any comments?

From contributor C:
20/20 is about the fastest that there is. Home Depot uses this. You can run this program right in front of the client. If all you are going to do is give a new face lift then this is the fastest but a little Mickey Mouse in my opinion and limited in its capabilities. If you are trying to show just new doors and a refinish, then samples of doors and drawers with some Corian and such will get the job done also. After all, the client knows what their existing kitchen looks like - you are just showing new finishes. If you are going for a complete overhaul then there is no substitute for a professional drawing from a draftsman. I see the client today. I work out the new design tonight and I get the deposit tomorrow. This technique is used usually for high-end work.

From the original questioner:
How much does 20/20 cost? I have looked at their web site a couple of times and it seems, well, vague at best. Do they do all of their licensing through 3rd parties? Anyone had experience with using them?

From contributor C:
I thought that there might be some 20/20 users out there but I guess not. I don't know what they charge. I would not spend beyond your budget for a program like this. If you really want to get into doing your own drafting then you should buy a program that will get the job done.

You have to ask yourself some hard questions. Like, “what do I expect this software to do? Can it take care of my needs in the future as I get better?” Support, support and support. No one program does it all so you really need to address what you want to accomplish, then you can try out the software that matches what you would like to do. The more you want to accomplish the more cost involved. If you want to go this route then you should try the free demos that most quality programs offer. If they don't let you try it then I would not buy it.

If you really want to go the CAD route, then it will cost you money now and into the future to keep up, and lots of time. Drafting to me, is a full time job. I don't own a woodworking shop. If I was building then someone else would be drawing or vice versa, as it is.

From contributor D:
We do kitchen installs, built-ins, custom kitchens etc. When the kitchen is low and middle range, I call in a kitchen designer from a local retail center. They do a CAD, customer orders the cabinets, and we install. I can't compete with their prices. When doing a high end kitchen, I ask the customer to do some homework first. Find as many pictures she likes as possible from magazines. I use these to determine the general style, not to copy anyone’s work. I look for beads, flat or raised panel doors, face frames, color, hinge type, etc. Once I have an idea of what she wants, I draw the kitchen to scale in a series of sections. We go for the furniture look, and I'm not prepared to invest in the software and training to attempt this on the computer. Custom cabinets get custom drawings - simple enough. These projects are generated word of mouth from other customers, and don't involve a competitive bid, and the time involved for the number of projects we do is a lot less than learning a new skill which can't express what I am building as well as my drawing can.

From contributor E:
I do mostly kitchen remodels, which includes adding or removing a wall, floors, electrical, plumbing, etc., with cabinets. I use E-cabinet Systems to render a job and help estimate it. I used to print the pictures and attach them to the proposal. Then I got smarter and just bring my laptop to the presentation. Then show them any changes they suggest. I believe my close rate has gone up since I started using the laptop. A picture is a very strong sales tool and the customer has helped, with their small changes, to design their own kitchen.

E-cabinet Systems is free and you can buy your cabinet hardware through the system at discount prices. Any software program you buy is going to have a learning curve. I don't care if you spend $5k or $20K - you will have to learn how to use it. They are all different and I don't believe that one is that much easier to learn than another. I think anyone not using a computer today in this business or any business will be left behind.

It can save you a lot of time. When I have these renderings done and the job sells, one day or months later, all I have to do is print out my cut list and start cutting. Let’s see that done without a computer.

From contributor C:
E-cabinets definitely seems worth looking into and it's right here on the WOODWEB and with the discount program then that has to pay off somewhere down the line.

From the original questioner:
Thanks everyone for the responses. I have ordered E-cabinets and will let you know how it goes.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor F:

I am an interior designer working for a kitchen and bath remodel company. We use 20-20 design as our primary software. We use a multitude of manufacturers catalogs for cabinets and as they are released, catalogs for appliances and fixtures. The newest version of 20-20 is a good tool.

Floor plans and cabinet designs are easy to lay out. With some experience the renderings can be fairly photo realistic. Getting tech help can be a time consuming process. As with any software it works perfectly on its own, but as you add more software (catalogs) it can become a little unstable. I don't know how well it works for custom cabinet companies but for a designer or a manufactured "box" company like ours it works very well.