Deck Design Software Review
Why Buy Deck Design Software?
The top performers in our review are Realtime Landscaping Plus, the Gold Award winner; Virtual Architect Ultimate, the Silver Award winner; and Virtual Architect Platinum, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a program to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of landscaping programs.
Why Buy Deck Design Software?
You're ready to build a deck. The addition should not only increase the value of your house, but also help create priceless memories – warm summer nights talking with family, festive barbeques with friends, delicious dinners under the stars. The deck will make life more enjoyable, but planning one can be difficult.
How wide should it be? What kind of design should it have? What about railings? A fire pit? Furniture? Which type of wood would match best? How much will it all cost?
Deck design software makes the process simpler and helps you answer these questions before you start building. It helps you plan the perfect deck. Rather than simply guessing or relying on the opinions of others, you can plan the deck that you want, customizing it to your personal specifications before you spend a dollar on construction. With deck building software, you can be confident you’re making a good decision.
Deck Design Software: What to Expect
Deck designers vary in effectiveness. The higher ranked programs give you the most ability to customize a deck, while the lower ones are quite limited. For example, the top program we reviewed, Realtime Landscaping Plus, has an advanced deck wizard that guides you step-by-step in building a customized deck. You have numerous choices available, including railing types and wood materials. On the other hand, the lowest ranked programs only have a few pre-built decks that are not customizable.
The design process will likely be more difficult than you expect. These programs are generally complicated to use. You'll need to watch training videos or read user guides to master them. A few of them are especially frustrating due to a poor design. There is one exception though. Our Gold Award winner, Realtime Landscaping Plus, is by far the easiest to use. The intuitive design of this program allows you to start creating right after installation. With it, you can create your deck without the hassle of learning a complex program.
Deck Design Software: What We Tested, What We Found
We purchased all 10 programs and experimented with them to find the best. After installing each program, we created a blank project and added a house and landscape. We then added a deck to that property, exploring all the customization options each program offered.
We did this without any prior training, wanting to see what it was like to build a deck from scratch. This gave us a better indication to the quality of the program's design.
In the 100-plus hours we spent in researching and testing, we determined four factors critical to deck design software – ease of use, functionality, content and help & support.
Ease of Use
The ability to use deck building software without prior experience is key. A program is useless if it's too complicated to use. This was the case for most programs. Their interfaces were cluttered with countless buttons that made simple tasks feel overwhelming.
Realtime Landscaping Plus was the most user-friendly of all the programs. Its interface made navigating the toolbox nice and simple. The buttons were designed in a way that made sense. You could build a deck right after installing the program.
The best deck planners allow you to create a deck to your specifications. They have all the tools and features you need to customize a deck that fits your unique situation. These include the ability to adjust the size and color of the deck, as well as making modifications, like adding a railing or stairs. These programs also provide sample decks for you to easily add into the design, helping you get started.
Functional programs allow you to design your deck in either 2D or 3D, and they let you drag and drop premade decks into the design. They also give you the ability to preview your design as if you were walking through it in person, producing highly realistic graphics that bring your design to life.
The program that does this best is our number one product, Realtime Landscaping Plus. It was not only the easiest to use, but also the most functional. You can either select a premade deck and modify it or you can use the deck builder tool that takes you through the custom design process one step at a time.
The best deck design tools have a wide selection of materials to choose from. These include the materials, such as vinyl, wood and aluminum, in multiple color options. This allows you to try out a wide variety of styles and preview them before buying materials. The top programs also allow you to add railings and outdoor furniture. You can read about other products that would complement your deck in our outdoor articles.
Software with a large plant library will let you enhance your deck plan with a border of plants and shrubs. A large library lets you add plants that are suited to your climate. This prevents the loss of expensive flowers, trees and other vegetation when the seasons change.
Help & Support
Having access to support is important when considering the best design software. You should look for software that offers video tutorials and FAQs so that you can find help after business hours. Most companies offer both telephone and email support. In our experience, most of the companies have knowledgeable customer service representatives.
Deck design software helps you design a deck that fits your personal tastes and enhances the appearance of your home. You design the deck and add the decor you want, and you make the actual blueprints to do it. Not only can designing your own deck save you money, but you get to control exactly what the final product will look like.
Contributing Reviewers: Linda Thomson, Noel Case