Adding a deck to your home is exciting, as it puts you toward an outstanding entertainment and relaxation space. But designing that deck is potentially tricky. A rough sketch on a napkin isn’t going to do it. Instead, using deck designer and planning software is the better choice.
Deck designer and planning software comes in all shapes and sizes, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Free tools are potentially good choices but aren’t as feature-rich as paid software. That’s why we’re diving deep into deck design programs, making it easier for you to choose.
We’ve put together a list of our top ten deck designer programs, outlining the pros and cons of each one. Whether you’re a DIY novice or a home construction pro, here are ten deck design and planning software solutions worth considering.
- Top 10 Deck Designer Programs
- 1. TimberTech Deck Design Tool
- 2. SketchUp
- 3. Idea Spectrum Professional Landscape Design Software
- 4. Trex Deck Design Tool
- 5. Home Depot: DIY Deck Designer
- 6. Decks.com Deck Designer
- 7. Home Designer Landscaping Software
- 8. Lowe’s Deck Designer
- 9. Planner5D Free Landscape Design Software
- 10. MiTek Deck Designer
- What Is the Best Free Deck Design Software?
Top 10 Deck Designer Programs
Below is our list of the top ten deck designer programs. When using these programs, it’s critical to remember that all designs require appropriate approval from structural engineers or local building authorities. That ensures your plan aligns with local building codes and is safe for use.
Also, remember that there isn’t a single best solution that’s ideal for everyone. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so it’s critical to review what they all offer. That way, you can find the one that best meets your deck designing and planning needs.
1. TimberTech Deck Design Tool
The TimberTech Deck Design Tool is a free option that you can use on your computer or select tablets. The supported browsers include Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari, making it highly accessible. For tablets, you need a screen size of at least 8 inches and either Android 10 or newer or iOS 13 or newer.
After setting up a free account, you can design your ideal deck. The creation tools are reasonably easy to use, and the application covers essentially every deck-planning step you need to take. You’ll be able to develop your concept, refine your design, and even prepare for the build.
Visualization is easy with this tool, too. You can view 2D and 3D renderings, and the presentation view helps clarify what the deck will look like in your yard.
Once you’re done, you can get a materials list to help you estimate costs or purchase what’s needed for the design. Sharing the design with anyone – including household members, contracts, family, and friends – is also easy to do through the app.
Generally, the major drawback is that this deck designer isn’t smartphone compatible, regardless of the size of your device. Additionally, the building recommendations and materials list is focused on TimberTech products. If you’re planning on using another material, you might need to adjust your plan or materials list accordingly.
- Covers all deck-building needs
- Very intuitive
- Templates are available
- Share features
- Not smartphone compatible
- Focuses on TimberTech products
SketchUp is available in two versions: free and paid. SketchUp Free is browser-based, so you don’t have to install any software to get started. However, you can also view 3D models on the SketchUp Viewer App if you want to take the designs while you’re on the go.
The feature set for the free version is reasonably strong, too. Plus, you can design far more than decks, making it a solid choice if you want to redo your backyard.
With SketchUp Pro, you get far more features. Along with desktop software and an iPad design app, you can still use it through a browser. You also get access to 2D renderings, unlimited cloud storage, VR viewing tools, and design recommendations.
You can also take advantage of pre-designed objects for designing an entire yard. Plus, you can modify terrain to better mimic your backyard, which is beneficial when dealing with elevation changes near your house.
Regardless of the version you use, SketchUp comes with a learning curve. Additionally, it is closer to a freehand experience and isn’t architecture-oriented, so you won’t necessarily see drag-and-drop options based on standard lumber sizes or common elements. You also won’t receive materials lists or cost estimates.
- Detailed designs
- Freehand experience gives you more flexibility
- Works for designing more than just decks
- Ample online tutorials for new users
- Not architecture-oriented
- Doesn’t use standard sizing for components
- No materials list or cost estimate features
- Steeper learning curve
3. Idea Spectrum Professional Landscape Design Software
Ideal Spectrum Professional Landscape Design Software – also known as Idea Spectrum Realtime Landscaping Plus – is paid deck designer option that’s incredibly feature-rich. While the upfront cost is substantial, you don’t have to worry about ongoing expenses as it’s not subscription-based. Additionally, a free trial lets you see if it’s right for you.
Overall, this is one of the most comprehensive solutions. Along with 2D and 3D renderings, you can take 3D walkthroughs to see how the design looks and functions from a user’s perspective. Plus, you can get plan drawings to simplify your future building needs.
The photo-based designs are also reasonably realistic, making it easier to envision the final look. This deck designer also includes features for planning more than just decks. You can add pools, landscaping, ponds, patios, fences, irrigation systems, and more.
Unlike deck planning software from a materials company, this solution isn’t locked into a single set of products. Since that’s the case, you can explore a wider range of looks. Just keep in mind that the renderings don’t necessarily represent a specific available product, so you may have to look for similar ones in the drawing.
As you design, the software also creates a materials list. You can even generate cost estimates, though you do have to manually enter pricing for each item.
While this solution is oriented toward professionals, it’s easy enough for beginners to use. Plus, the company offers a strong selection of online tutorials, and you get free email and technical support.
One significant drawback is that it’s only available for Windows computers. If you have a Mac or want to use a smartphone or tablet, it’s not compatible.
- Free trial available
- Full-feature landscape design software, going beyond just decks
- Get materials lists and cost estimates
- Cost estimates require manual price entry
- Only compatible with Windows computers
4. Trex Deck Design Tool
The Trex Deck Design Tool is an accessible, user-friendly option that’s free to use. Whether you want to use a computer, tablet, or mobile device, this deck designer works well.
The overall design process is also simple. You select the dimensions, choose from a range of Trex materials and finishes, and view the results in 3D or 2D. If you’re unsure whether a material is right for you, you can quickly order samples to see them firsthand.
You can begin with three starting shapes, a rectangle or one of two L-shaped designs. However, you can also use a custom shape if you need something less conventional. Once you have the shape and size right, you can begin adding railings, stairs, and other features.
Along with receiving a materials list when you’re done, the tool also provides a cost estimate. Plus, you can click a button to find local dealers and builders.
In many cases, the biggest drawback is that the design tool is Trex-specific. If you’re planning on using other materials, the colors might not align with the ones you have in mind. However, if you want to use Trex products, the colors, styles, and scale are highly accurate.
- Computer and mobile device compatible
- Highly accurate depictions of Trex decking colors
- Materials list provided
- Find local dealers or builders from the design platform
- Trex-specific design options only
5. Home Depot: DIY Deck Designer
The Home Depot: Do-It-Yourself Deck Designer is a free program that you need to download. It’s Windows-compatible, but it won’t work on Macs, smartphones, or tablets.
One nice feature of this free program is that you can design a deck against a photo of your house. When you complete the design, you’ll get a comprehensive materials list. Pricing information is also included, giving you a reasonably accurate estimate.
Overall, this deck designer is easy to use, and the image quality is reasonable. You can also choose from an array of popular colors for deck boards, railings, and more, making your deck easier to visualize.
One drawback is your only viewing option is 3D when designing, so this won’t work if you prefer a 2D view. Additionally, it requires a download, so you can’t make changes on the go unless you have it on a compatible laptop. That also means your designs aren’t stored in the cloud, so you can only get back to them from the original device.
However, you can download plans. Those you can provide to your contractor or use yourself if you’re going with a DIY installation.
- Easy to use
- 70 available templates
- Materials list and pricing information
- Can place the deck on a picture of your home
- 3D designs only
- Requires a download
- Not smartphone, tablet, or Mac compatible
6. Decks.com Deck Designer
With the Decks.com Deck Designer, you can avoid software downloads and fees. This tool is free and runs through most browsers, so you can use it on a computer or tablet with reasonable ease.
Using this deck designer is simple, making it ideal for beginners. You can also view 2d and 3d renderings, helping you visualize your deck better. There’s also the ability to create multi-level designs or take advantage of unique shape presets.
Once you’re done, you can quickly download build specs and permit plans. Plus, you can receive a recommended materials list to simplify shopping or point your contractor in the right direction. There’s also a deck construction guide available for download, giving you more helpful tips about footings, stair attachments, beams, and more.
For added convenience, you can also start with one of the 100 deck templates, all of which are customizable. The interface is mainly drag-and-drop, which is best for the less tech-savvy. Finally, there are cost calculators to help you create an estimate.
On the downside, this option isn’t as feature-rich as some alternatives. Additionally, the graphics aren’t particularly inspiring and may not accurately reflect the colors you’d see on your deck once it’s built.
- Easy to use
- 100 handy customizable deck templates
- Recommended materials lists
- Cost calculators
- Helpful guides and instructional articles
- Not as feature-rich as some alternatives
- Graphic representations of the deck are plain
7. Home Designer Landscaping Software
The Home Designer Landscaping Software by Chief Architect is a comprehensive program for serious designers. It’s a paid-for program that you can use month-to-month for a monthly fee or buy outright, giving you options based on your budget. You can also explore a trial version before committing.
This is a larger program that’s compatible with Windows or Mac computers. However, you can’t use it on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.
The visuals are pretty striking and far more detailed than you find with many free programs. You can also choose from a wide array of styles. You can work with various foundations, railings, and planks and even add roofs, making it easier to design your perfect deck.
When it comes to views, both 2D and 3D are available. You can customize the lot based on your yard’s dimensions, even accounting for elevation and terrain changes. Adding outdoor kitchens, pools, ponds, walkways, and landscaping is also simple.
Another nice feature is the ability to upload an image of your home. With that, you can see how the deck looks from the exterior. Plus, there are viewing options from interior windows to test the resulting view. Once you’re done, you can get a comprehensive materials list to assist with planning.
- Ample style options
- Upload an image of your home to see how the deck looks
- Check views from interior windows
- Materials list provided
- Offers more ore than just deck design
- Potentially expensive
- Not smartphone or tablet compatible
8. Lowe’s Deck Designer
The Lowe’s Deck Designer is a free browser-based solution that’s very user-friendly. You can access the planning app through computers and mobile devices, making this option flexible, too.
With the ability to start with one of the deck templates, you can design a deck from scratch. Either approach is fully customizable, so you can tweak template designs to meet your needs.
This deck planner has drag-and-drop and drawing tools, so you can use either approach. As you create your deck, you can transition between 2D and 3D views. Plus, there’s a presentation option that helps you see how the deck may appear once complete.
You do need to select your nearest Lowe’s location and create an account to begin. One benefit is that you can see if your local Lowe’s has all the required materials available once you’re done designing. Plus, that allows you to view local pricing for an accurate material cost estimate.
As you design, you can choose from a wide array of product options, allowing you to see reasonably accurate colors for planks, railings, and more. Sharing and saving your designs is an option with this free tool. You can also download a building plan.
If you want to hire a contractor for installation, you can get the service directly through Lowe’s. In many cases, that can simplify getting the work done.
Even if you decide to hire Lowe’s for installation, that doesn’t guarantee your design meets local code requirements. You’ll still need to get approval, so keep that in mind. Additionally, some users have experienced glitches or errors when using the tool, so double-check the details.
- Easy to use
- Materials list and pricing available
- Can hire Lowe’s directly to handle the installation
- Presentation, save and share features
- Glitches or errors can occur
- Hiring Lowe’s doesn’t mean the deck is guaranteed to meet code requirements
9. Planner5D Free Landscape Design Software
Planner5D Free Landscape Design Software uses a simple drag-and-drop interface to make designing your deck simpler. You can view plans in 2D and 3D, making the deck easier to visualize. The images are also incredibly detailed, allowing this option to stand out from many other free programs.
One unique point about this solution is that it’s only available as an Android or iOS mobile app. That makes it compatible with smartphones and tablets but not computers.
You begin by creating a basic layout for your home and items in the yard like trees and plants. Then, you can add the deck and its various features, including railings, stairs, furnishings, and more.
Once you’re done with the design, you can virtually tour it. Plus, you can landscape the entire property, giving you a better idea of the look of the final design.
When it comes to drawbacks, the biggest is that you don’t get a materials list. As a result, you may need to determine that yourself or work with a professional to see what’s required and what it’ll cost.
- Detailed, striking visuals
- Mobile device compatible
- Add your home’s footprint for more accurate renderings
- Not compatible with computers
- No materials list
10. MiTek Deck Designer
The MiTek Deck Designer is user-friendly and surprisingly comprehensive for a free program. You can add different levels, alter the plank direction, change material colors, and more. Remember that you have to download the software, and it’s only Windows-compatible.
The available design options help create a more realistic picture of the final project. Overall, it’s simple to use thanks to the straightforward menus, requiring very little technical skill. Many of the features you can add are drag-and-drop, allowing you to add them with ease.
Adding some less traditional shapes is an option. You can also make holes for pools or hot tubs. By including house walls as you design, you can better understand what the deck will look like and account for needed items to correctly attach it to the structure.
If you prefer, you can also view the deck on a picture of your home. With that, you can see how the result may look more easily.
You can either design a deck in a space or upload an image of your house as a starting point. Any design is savable, printable, and shareable, allowing you to send them to your contractor, family, or friends. When you’re done designing, you can get a comprehensive materials list, making it easier to move forward or create your own cost estimate.
- Relatively feature-rich
- Upload images of your house
- Savable, printable, and shareable designs
- Materials list provided
- Requires a download
- Not mobile device or Mac compatible
What Is the Best Free Deck Design Software?
Ultimately, which free deck design software program is best depends on your unique needs. Examine the points above to see which options have the features you’re after or whether a paid product is a better fit. Everyone’s preferences are unique, so it’s better to let that be your guide. Plus, with free options, you can try them all without spending a dime, so feel free to experiment.
Did you find out everything you wanted to learn about some of the best deck designer programs? Make sure to share the article if you know someone who’s trying to design their own deck.