I love decks and patios. I don’t have a preference; I think it depends on your yard and home as to what works best. Obviously, if you need something elevated, a deck is better. Fortunately there are a good number of solid fence desing software options (just as there’s quite a few design software options for the home).
I’ve never had an extravagant deck, although now our home has a beautiful private patio. I never gave much thought to how cool decks could be until I watched Paul LaFrance’s “Decked Out” show on HGTV. That guy builds some amazing decks. I really like how he’s constantly experimenting with new features which gives viewers like me great ideas if ever I need to build a deck.
This year was very exciting for our website because we partnered with a publishing house to provide us with a professionally written and illustrated guide to building decks. It’s massive and detailed with plenty of illustrations.
Our Hunt for Deck Software
When we started looking for deck design software we were amazed at all the options, especially free options. And they’re not bad either for free. They’ll get you a graphic design of something you want to build. If you’re actually going to build a deck, you may upgrade to a paid software for refinement, but the free will get you started.
We’re big fans of design software for all types of projects both inside and outside the home as well as the home itself. While purists may prefer pen, ruler and paper, I think using some of the more robust platforms can actually give you ideas for your designs because they have a huge library of elements you can implement in your drawings.
After weeks testing options, we put it all together in a convenient list with screenshots so you can find the right option for your deck project. We organized the options as free vs. paid, starting with the free options since most people like to test the waters with free software before plunking down a few hundred on premium software.
A. Free Deck Designer Software Options
It’s amazing, isn’t it? There are 10 free deck software options. But, don’t be fooled. They’re selling something. For example, it totally makes sense that Lowe’s offers free software because they want to sell you deck building material. Remember, there’s no free lunch, especially on the internet.
Here’s our list…
1. Aztek Deck Designer: #1 Free Deck Software (by FAR)
This is the BEST free deck design software in my view. It’s fast, has many options, is super easy to use and the level of detail is amazing. Watch the video.
Aztek Deck Designer Demo Video
2. Decks.com Deck Designer
Decks.com designer is slow. I prefer navigating and designing online to be a little faster. While the graphics aren’t bad, there are better.
Here’s the video overview:
We gave their deck designer a test-drive. Here are a few screenshots (scroll sideways):
Decks.com Designer Demo Video
3. Lowe’s Deck Designer
Lowe’s deck designer is worth trying IF you can get it working. One problem is it requires that you use Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox. It doesn’t work with Chrome. I couldn’t get it loaded because I use Chrome and when I tried it on Safari, it required the installation of some plugin that I couldn’t find. That ended my Lowe’s experiment. It’s too bad that a company with such resources couldn’t make it more widely and easily available. Anyway, their loss.
4. Trex Deck Design and Planning Software
Trex offers a fleet of free software options including desktop and mobile versions. However, sadly, it never loaded for me so I couldn’t use it. I tried using it on Chrome and Safari browsers.
Looking at the images they provide, I can tell it’s nothing like Aztek’s software above. By all means, give this a shot; maybe you’ll have better luck than I did.
5. USP Structural Connectors
Well, I tried using it on Chrome. I signed up and launched it, but sadly, like others in our list, it never loaded. I waited for 5 minutes but got nowhere. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me.
I then tried on Safari, and like Lowe’s software required the installation of a plugin… something I’m not prepared to do when there are other options available.
USP Structural Connectors Tutorial Video
6. BHG Deck Designer
And yet another online deck software that failed to load. I tried on both Chrome and Safari.
SketchUp is a big player in design software. The free version is very robust and can be used to design almost anything.
If you want something more robust and like the SketchUp platform, you’ll have to upgrade to the landscaping pro version.
Here are some screenshots and a video showing what can be done with respect to designing a deck:
Sketchup Video Demo
FYI, you must use internet explorer for this software which kind of renders it useless. I have a Mac so I couldn’t use it and so sadly we have no screenshots to provide you.
Big Hammer Deck Design Demo Video
That wraps up the free options.
9. Fiberon Deck Visualizer
If you plan to use Fiberon products, this tool will let you inspect what will go well together. Mix and match with the design software, which you can use for free. First, pick the scene that resembles how the deck you are working on looks like. Then, you can start designing using the products given on the left-hand corner.
Configure the deck’s style, color, fascia, railing, and lighting. You can also modify the exterior wall using the options given. This online software allows users to change how the photo’s house trim looks. When you are done, save your work (needs registration) or you can print it.
B. Paid Deck Design Software
Below is a shorter list of paid deck design software options. These are much more robust than the free platforms, but they aren’t cheap. Only buy if you know for certain you’re going to build a deck or you enjoy playing with design software and it’s worth the cost to you.
1. Punch! Landscaping Design
I have Punch! Complete Software package which includes deck design and landscaping options. You can read our full Punch! review here.
Overall I’m pleased with Punch! You have decent options for designing a deck. It’s ideal when designing a home as well because it’s all in one whereas just deck software will only design the deck. So, if you’re designing all of your landscaping, home and deck, something like Punch! is great to get.
One thing I really like about Punch! is the video tutorials are great and plentiful.
Punch Design Software Video Demo
2. Home Designer Landscaping Software (Chief Architect)
I also have Home Designer Professional software which includes their landscaping/deck design software. I like the more robust option so I can do interiors design, kitchen design, closet design, landscape design and deck design.
It’s quite good; I’m impressed with it. Very robust and great if you’re designing an entire yard and/or home.
Like Punch!, there’s a learning curve. I think overall, this is a bit better than Punch!, but it costs more.
Watch the deck and landscape design video:
Home Designer Chief Architect Software Video Demo
3. Idea Spectrum
They offer 3 tiers: Plus, Pro and Architect. What I really like about their pricing is the really expensive option (Architect) only has a few features that only a professional would need such as the ability to put logos on the designs. This way, a non-professional gets most of the features for far less money. I do strongly recommend you pay an extra $20 for Pro since Pro offers quite a few features that Plus doesn’t have. But, unless you serve clients, Architect tier isn’t necessary. Click here to see all the features you get.
With respect to deck design, it comes with a deck wizard. Watch the video:
Below are some examples of the landscaping and deck design features:
Idea Spectrum Video Demo
4. Sketchup Pro
SketchUp Pro is by far the most expensive, but probably the most robust deck and landscaping design software available. It’s $695 USD. It’s definitely worth the cost if you’re a professional, but I wonder if it’s worth it as a DIY person. It’s a tough call.
Actually, there isn’t a “decks-only” version. You would get the SketchUp for Landscaping product which includes deck design.
The learning curve is steep and long. While Punch!, Home Designer and Idea Spectrum have learning curves, SketchUp pro is less user-intuitive, but if you persist in learning it, you’ll be able to do amazing things.
Sketchup Pro Video Demo
SmartDraw offers a free trial period. The thing is it’s a monthly cost and while you get access to many templates, not just landscape and deck design… the fact is you won’t need them all.
I used to own a download license to SmartDraw, but never transitioned to their new cloud-based software.
Idea Spectrum Video Demo
FYI, we do not have this software and have not tried it. Therefore, I can’t give you an opinion; instead, we include it in our list so you can check it out for yourself.
CadPro is a robust premium design software that can design pretty much anything including decks.
Sadly many deck design software options don’t work very well or at all. We include them to maybe save you time. We also acknowledge that they may work on other browsers and so if you have another browser, they may be worth trying.
Best free option: Aztek by far. It’s amazing. Simple, fast and the detail is awesome.
Best paid option: Too close to tell. I like Home Designer, Punch! and Idea Spectrum equally. Home Designer and Punch! are good because you can do interiors too; however, you can’t argue with the insanely beautiful details you can design with Idea Spectrum.