Comparing Chief Architect Premier and Chief Architect Interiors

The covers of both Chief Architect Premier and Chief Architect Interiors.

Phillip Gibney Profile Image By Phillip Gibney

Chief Architect Software offers two home design software options for professional designers: Chief Architect Premier and Chief Architect Interiors. This article will explore the primary differences between the two products and help guide your decision for which product would be the best fit based on your specific needs.

The cover of Chief Architect Premier.

Chief Architect Premier covers all aspects of residential and light commercial design. This is Chief Architect’s flagship program used by builders, remodelers, contractors, architects as well as kitchen, bath, and interior designers whose designs require additional architectural tools. Chief Architect Premier includes all of the features of the Interior program, plus framing and exterior tools.

The cover of Chief Architect Interiors.

Chief Architect Interiors is used by kitchen, bath, and interior designers who focus solely on rooms inside the house. Structural features such as framing and exterior features such as landscaping are excluded from Chief Architect Interiors.

Why Choose Chief Architect Premier?

In addition to all of the features in Chief Architect Interiors, there are several areas where Chief Architect Premier gains extensive tools and features. See the full product comparison for a detailed list of the individual features gained.

Chief Architect Home Design Software, residential rendering.

Chief Architect Premier offers more comprehensive foundation features. While you can create a crawl space, basement, or monolithic slab in the Interiors version, Chief Architect Premier’s foundation tools can design additional foundation types and have total control over the fine details. For traditional concrete foundations, you have control over the footing size, sill plates, slab thicknesses, rebar amounts for material lists, and more. Automatically build a pier foundation, where piers are either a round or square shape, a specified size, and a specified distance from one another. Create monolithic slab foundations with inset ledges for masonry wall construction and garage-specific settings. These additional foundation features in Chief Architect Premier make foundation material lists and construction documents more detailed.

A foundation from the Chief Architect Bachelor View sample plan.

Automatic and manual framing are key features only included in Chief Architect Premier. You begin by automatically building the framing for floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, openings, headers, decks, and more. This will automatically add framing members throughout all areas of the plan to your specified size, spacing, type, and other characteristics. Once the automatic framing has been generated you can manually edit it or add new framing to the plan. The framing can be viewed and modified in both 2D and 3D views, making it easy to visualize how the structure is coming together. If you don’t want to build framing for the entire plan, you can build framing for a single room, wall, or roof plane, which can be ideal when remodeling. With the click of a button, you can create a wall or truss framing detail that can be further edited or notated and saved for your layout sheets. Once the framing is how you want it, you can create a framing materials list that can be displayed in either a buy list or cut list. You can include your lumber costs to generate a lumber estimate, which can optionally be exported to BuilderTREND for further editing.

A 3D framing render of the Bachelor View model completed in Chief Architect Premier.

Building & Remodeling
Building, remodeling, additions, and exterior room projects are easy to manage in Chief Architect Premier. With a single click, the automatic story pole dimension feature saves you time by adding a dimension string to exterior elevations marking key locations. You can add R values, U-Factors, and the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient to many objects and define rooms as conditioned or unconditioned. This data can then be exported to REScheck™ for energy analysis. When remodeling, overlay an “as-built” plan and a “remodel” plan to show where changes occur in both 2D and 3D. When framing remodels or additions, you can build framing only where new framing is needed and show how it will connect to the existing structure. Outdoor living spaces are growing in popularity. With Chief Architect Premier, there are tools to design covered porches, patios, sunrooms, entertainment areas, and other exterior rooms. You can design these rooms to include roofs, ceilings, can lights, fireplaces, furniture, dining areas, and more.

Stone Creek Overview

Image 1 of 6

Rendering of the Stone Creek Sample Plan designed in Chief Architect Premier.

Chief Architect Premier gains extensive CAD features to save you time when detailing plans. There are over 500 pre-made CAD details available for Chief Architect Premier. You can use these details in your plans and layouts or modify them to your specifications. If you modify the premade CAD details to your building standards, they can be saved for use in future plans. You can take a section view through the model and in Chief Architect Premier there is a feature called Auto Detail that will automatically add fill styles to the objects in your view. There is a feature called CAD Detail from View where any 2D view of the live model can be converted to CAD lines for further notating. This feature is extremely useful when needing to precisely detail a view. These features and more in Chief Architect Premier result in a fast and accurate workflow for detailing your plans.

CAD Detail

Image 1 of 7

Chief Architect Premier includes tools for creating custom deck designs. You start by choosing whether your deck includes or excludes a railing and then you draw the shape of the deck. Once the shape of the deck is drawn, the deck will automatically frame with planks, joists, beams, posts, and footings to your specified size and spacing. From here you manually edit the deck framing as desired. You can add character to the deck by specifying whether the deck has a herringbone border pattern or by creating an inlay plank design. For deck railings, choose the style of the newels, balusters, and handrails from the library browser or custom create these components to give the deck a unique look. Deck stairs automatically go from the deck to the terrain and can be designed to your desired size, style, include railings, and more. To further customize the space, you can also build a roof over the deck with rafters or trusses, a finished ceiling, and more. Once the deck is designed, you can easily create a deck materials list in a buy or cut list and add your lumber prices for estimates.

Deck Framing from Chief Architect Premier.

Chief Architect Premier has tools for creating existing terrain conditions, generating cut and fill plans for sloped lots, site plans, landscape, and hardscape plans, and much more. The terrain can be manually created and modified or you can import survey data in various formats such as a .dwg file. The terrain can include the size and shape of the lot, terrain contour information, and the home’s setback, along with landscaping elements such as retaining walls, fences, water features, garden beds, stepping stones, driveways, sidewalks, roads, and more. There is a Plant Chooser™ feature, where you search for plants based on their hardiness zone, water and sunlight needs, type of plant, and other criteria. Once plants are placed, there is a Grow Plants feature that can grow the plant up to 20 years from its current maturity. Other terrain tools allow you to add swimming pools, gazebos, trellises, sports courts, fire pits, exterior furniture, and more into your design.

Bachelor View Landscaping Plan

Image 1 of 2

A landscaping plan designed in Chief Architect Premier.

Key Features Unique to Chief Architect Premier

View Full Comparison

Pier Foundations
Automatically create a Pier Foundation, controlling the size and shape of Piers.

Monolithic Slabs
Create monolithic slab foundations with curbing, garage-specific settings, and inset ledges for masonry wall construction.

Footing Controls
Specify the size and placement of automatic footings under bearing walls and manually edit them.

Foundation Sill Plates
Generate Sill plates for foundation walls while specifying the number and size of plates.

A foundation layout from the Chief Architect Austin Sample plan.

Automatic Framing
Floors, walls, ceilings, roofs, openings, headers, and more can be framed and updated automatically as the structure evolves. Define Trimmers and Headers based on opening sizes.

Manual Framing
Select and modify automatic framing already in the plan or manually draw framing members into the plan.

Roof Framing
Choose whether to frame your roof with rafters or trusses.

Create floor, ceiling, and roof trusses that automatically fit the structure. Truss options include scissor, attic, step down, girder, sub-girder, drop hip, jacks, kingpost, gable end, reduced gable, and energy heel.

Custom Framing
Build custom framing for the entire plan or a single wall, room, or individual roof plane – ideal for remodeling and additions.

Wall and Truss Framing Details
Automatically create framing details for individual walls and trusses, then send them to your layout pages for highly detailed plans.

Assembly Controls
Create floor, ceiling, and roof structures with multiple layers

Framing Plan done in Chief Architect Premier.

Cut & Buy Lists
Set the price of lumber materials in the Structural Member Reporting and use it to calculate framing costs.

BuilderTREND Support
Export Material Lists with accounting codes, descriptions, quantities, and pricing to Builder Trend. Accounting codes conform to NAHB Standards

Automatic Story Pole Dimensions
Automatically generate dimensions marking key locations in Elevation and Cross-Section Views.

Advanced Reference Display
Display information from one plan file to another for reference in both 2D and 3D views: ideal for showing remodel changes and construction options.

REScheck™ Support
Export energy calculations to U.S. Department of Energy’s REScheck™ software

R Values, U-Factor, SHGC
Set energy values for walls, doors, windows, and other objects to be exported to REScheck™

Defined Rooms as Conditioned or Unconditioned
Specify whether a room is conditioned or unconditioned to generate insulation calculations on the materials list and REScheck™ energy calculations

The exterior of the Bachelor View sample plan designed in Chief Architect.

Architectural and CAD Details
Choose from over 500 customizable details or use the CAD Tools to create your own.

Auto Detail View
Auto Detail section views with fills for the floor, ceiling, and platform layers and insulation.

CAD Detail from View
Generate a CAD Detail of a view and edit it to add or remove lines, dimensions, fill patterns, text, and more.

Revision Clouds
Encircle objects with the revision cloud tool

Line Style Management
Create new and edit existing Line Styles in your project

Custom Dimension Text
Replace dimension values with text or insert text before or after any dimension value.

A CAD Detail from Chief Architect Premier of a stem wall, brick ledge, and joist.

Terrain Tools
Generate a 3D terrain model with elevation you enter or import.

Landscaping Tools
Add garden beds, streams, stepping stones, sprinklers, fences, and more.

Landscaping Plants
Choose from over 4,000 plants to view in 2d or 3d. Use the Plant Chooser™ to show plants based on attributes such as common name, type, height, water and light needs, hardiness zone, and other criteria. Use the Grow Plants tool to grow plants up to 20 years from current maturity.

Deck Designer™ Tool
Design straight or curved decks and control the size and location of planking, beams, posts, joists,

Road & Sidewalk Tools
Add sidewalks, driveways, roads, curbs, gutters, cul-de-sacs, and more.

The exterior of the Chief Architect Austin sample plan.

Distributed Region and Path
Automatically generate groupings of an object in an area or along a path (garden beds for example). Set variances like size, position, and angle for a natural look.

TAB Input
As you draw or move objects, press TAB to input the exact values you would like to add or modify objects.

Isometric View Tools
View designs from any of the eight standard isometric viewing angles

Control Shadow Intensity
Control the darkness in Vector Views and Technical Illustration views using a shadow intensity slider

Wall Corner boards & Quoins
Automatically or manually place Corner Boards and Quoins at wall intersection corners.

Stepped Cutting Plane Cross Section
Generate Cross Section Views along a custom plane and use breaks to create steps in the Cross-Section.

3D section view through the Stone Creek sample plan designed in Chief Architect Premier.

Why Choose Chief Architect Interiors?

If your plans focus solely on kitchen, bath, or interior design, then Chief Architect Interiors is a great program for you.

A kitchen design from the Chief Architect Nashville sample plan.

Floor Plans and Space Planning
Efficiency features make drafting floorplans and space planning quick and easy. The software comes with a template for kitchen, bath, and interior design that has the default settings preconfigured to common interior design drafting standards. You can draw floorplans using the architectural tools, or use the Space Planning Assistant to arrange predetermined room types. With the click of a button dimensions locate items common to interior design plans and are formatted to interior design standards. For example, National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) and automatic interior dimensions are formatted in inches and quickly locate wall surfaces, window and door casings, appliance centerlines, and more. Plan Views is an efficiency feature that quickly optimizes the program’s tools for the task at hand. For example, working in the Kitchen and Bath Plan View has the tools configured for working on kitchen and bath tasks, while switching to the Electrical Plan View has the tools configured for electrical tasks. These features and more can increase your productivity and produce drawings fast and in a high level of detail.

A 2D kitchen floor plan from the Nashville sample plan.
A 3D kitchen designed in Chief Architect.

3D Visualization and Presentation
3D visualization and presentation features allow you to show clients what a design will look like. The software has nine rendering techniques for 3D visualization. One of the rendering techniques is real-time ray tracing, which produces a photo-realistic image of the design. Presenting Photo-realistic images of a design not only impresses clients, it easily shows what the design will look like once they build it. Video walkthroughs allow you to create a video navigating along a path through the design that can be presented or sent to the client. Video walkthroughs can include lighting, shadows, reflections, and other highly detailed effects to make the presentation stand out. You can connect a virtual reality headset with Chief Architect for clients to experience a first-person view of the model. The 3D Viewer app is a fun way to send the client a link to an interactive 3D model that can be viewed on their own time in a web browser or the mobile app. When viewed in the mobile app they can use the augmented reality features to virtually walk through the model and see what views looking outdoors and windows may look like. And all of the content produced from these visualization features can be posted to your website, social channels, or other marketing materials.

Nashville Kitchen

Image 1 of 8

View Nashville Kitchen in Chief Architect’s 3D Viewer.

Kitchen, Bath, and Interior Design
The software is packed with kitchen, bath, and interior design features. Smart cabinetry features let you design fully custom cabinets or design cabinetry using a specific manufacturer catalog. Cabinet’s automatically display to NKBA standards in floor plan and elevation views. Kitchen islands can be a key selling point of a design. Chief Architect’s kitchen design tools are flexible, allowing you to configure islands to any shape, style, custom countertop specifications, include appliances, pendant lights, seating, and more. A bathroom vanity can be designed to your specifications and any style. Once you create a kitchen island or bathroom vanity you can save it and quickly reuse it in future plans. Interior design may require fixtures, furniture, materials, appliances, and more. With over 130,000 items available from the Chief Architect 3D Library, it is easy to design rooms with items and materials that match your client’s design style. You can also create custom furniture, fixtures, cabinet door styles, moldings, and more using the 3D modeling tools built into the software. If you have created or modified an object you can save it to your User Library and reuse it in future projects. Your design may span multiple stories or include rooms with stairs. Chief Architect’s stair tools provide full customization for staircases, landings, stairwells, handrails, newels, balusters, and more. Showing design options is quick and easy. In seconds, quickly change materials or design styles using the software’s Material Painter or Style Palette tools. Unique ceilings can add distinctive character to any room. With the ceiling tools in the software, you can show clients a variety of ceiling options including tray, cathedral, barrel, and more.

Grandview Kitchen

Image 1 of 4

Kitchen render of the Chief Architect Grandview sample plan.

Wall Elevations, Schedules, and Layouts
Creating wall elevations with dimensions is fast and easy: simply take an elevation view of a wall and use the NKBA Auto Elevation Dimensions feature to generate dimensions that conform to NKBA standards. You can also work on the design in the elevation view and notate it further using the text, CAD, callout, and other tools. The software can generate schedules that show a list of items in the plan and add a callout to the plan matching up with line items from the schedule. The schedules are fully customizable to include your desired information about the items such as the size, quantity, labels, descriptions, and more. Once you are ready, you send views from the design to a layout at a specific scale. The layout sheet is where pieces of information are assembled for formal documents. On the layout, you can include anything you’ve added to your design – scaled floorplans and elevations, schedules, 3D renders, text notes, and other project information.

Layout of a kitchen from the Nashville sample plan designed in Chief Architect.

The cover of Chief Architect Premier.
The cover of Chief Architect Interiors.

A free trial along with access to training resources of each program is available to evaluate the features of each program.

Our sales department is happy to assist you if you have any questions!

Contact Chief Architect Software


Michael Stilinovich

Thanks for making such wonderful products.
Michael A. Stilinovich

Chief Architect

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your kind words! Your success is our main goal.

Happy Designing,

Chief Architect Sales

I genuinely enjoy studying on this website, it contains good posts.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.
*Required fields