The Best Deck Design Software

Our top pick, Punch! Essentials, has templates for you to use

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Best Deck Design Software

Rich Legg / Getty Images

Relaxing on a deck when it's sunny and breezy outside is, in a word, serene. But building a great deck requires more than just lumber and power tools—you have to nail the design. With the right software, you can create a custom layout and visualize the outdoor oasis of your dreams through 3D models.

The best deck design software is intuitive and chock-full of features. It won’t bog you down with complicated processes, but there’s still room for customization. Check out our recommendations based on a full week of research.

Best Deck Design Software of 2022

Best Overall: Punch! Home & Landscape Design Essentials

Punch Essentials deck design software

Punch! Essentials

Key Specs

  • Cost: $49.99
  • Compatible Platforms: Mac & Windows
  • Experience Level Needed: Beginner

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Includes pre-designed deck and patio templates
  • 2D, 3D, and aerial views
  • PlantFinder tool
  • 3D workshop allows for extensive customization

Cons

  • Novices will have a bit of a learning curve
  • No free trial

Why We Chose It

Starting with a blank slate can be overwhelming, which is why we love Punch! Home & Landscape Design Essentials' selection of deck and patio templates. Edit them to fit the shape of your backyard, then use the software's drag-and-drop tools to play around with furniture, landscaping, and outdoor features, such as fireplaces and fountains. Users can design in three different views: 2D, 3D, or aerial.

If you're trying to decide what to plant around your new deck, Punch! has a PlantFinder feature that suggests flowers, trees, shrubs, and more based on the parameters you put in, like the amount of sunlight and soil conditions in your yard. If you'd rather not work off a template, the software's PhotoView function lets you upload an image of your home's exterior and layer in design details that way.

This particular version costs $49.99, and while there is a cheaper program for $29.99, you won't get any of the building tools that make Punch! our favorite deck design software. If you aren't happy with the program you selected, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can find something that better fits your needs.

Best on a Budget: Home Stratosphere

Home Stratosphere deck design software

Home Stratosphere

Key Specs

  • Cost: Free
  • Compatible Platforms: Mac & Windows
  • Experience Level Needed: Beginner

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Free access via the cloud
  • Exterior and interior design capabilities
  • Photorealistic technology and graphics

Cons

  • Not supported on smartphone or tablet

Why We Chose It

Home Stratosphere is immediately accessible online, easy to navigate, and—best of all—free to use. So whether you want to design a new deck from scratch or make updates to your existing one, the software's 3D floor plans will help you envision the final product at no cost.

Though Home Stratosphere doesn't have deck-specific functions, users can customize their exterior designs using partition, stair, path, and fence tools. Accessorize with a wide array of patio furniture and features to get the model as close to the look you want as possible.

Another reason Home Stratosphere made the list is that it doesn't need to be downloaded. Anyone with internet has instant access to the browser-based software through the company's website. Once you create an account, all of your projects are saved to the cloud, so you can always return to your in-progress designs.

Best Advanced Tools: Chief Architect Home Designer Suite

Chief Architect deck design software

Chief Architect

Key Specs

  • Cost: $129
  • Compatible Platforms: Mac & Windows 
  • Experience Level Needed: Intermediate

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Sophisticated tools allow for automatic deck modeling and manual editing
  • Trial version available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Ability to create gardens, pools, and more design elements

Cons

  • Price point is on the higher end
  • New users will likely need to review training documentation

Why We Chose It

Home Designer Suite is the pared-down version of the Chief Architect software that professional home builders use, making it perfect for DIYers who know a thing or two about construction. Users can auto-generate the framing and manually edit the deck. The railing, panel, and stair materials are all customizable.

Like other programs on this list, Home Designer Suite includes landscaping tools so that you can execute your full vision. In Chief Architect's 3D library, you'll find plants, trees, and flowers, all labeled so that you can formulate an accurate design filled with the actual types of greenery you plan to use in your yard.

The Suite software is available to buy for $129, but the Architectural version, which is $249, offers even more building features, such as the ability to tweak the measurements of your structure's. planks and access to an addition 2,300 library items.

Best for Big Projects: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home

Virtual Architect deck design software

Virtual Architect

Key Specs

  • Cost: $99.99
  • Compatible Platforms: Windows
  • Experience Level Needed: Beginner

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Builder Wizard feature helps users design decks quickly
  • Complete control over materials and dimensions
  • Ability to upload your own images
  • Lighting included in the design

Cons

  • Graphics are not as advanced as some other software
  • This version is only compatible with Windows

Why We Chose It

Virtual Architect's Ultimate Home with Landscaping & Decks Design 10 software is best for large projects because of its Builder Wizard tool. Simply put in the materials, dimensions, and shape of your deck, and the program will auto-generate the structure, saving you from having to construct it yourself. If the design looks off, you can still make changes manually.

The software also has a plant encyclopedia, which is filled with more than 7,500 varieties. Each option is tagged with its individual soil, light, and water needs so you can easily determine what plants are best for your yard. To further customize your design, there's an option to upload actual photos of your home's exterior, meaning you can place a rendering of a deck directly onto your property.

One downside to this version is that it only works with Windows. Though Virtual Architect does offer software that's compatible with Macs, it doesn't have the same deck and landscaping features as the Design 10 program.

Best for Existing Decks: iScape

iScape deck design software

iScape

Key Specs

  • Cost: $29.99 per month
  • Compatible Platforms: iOS 
  • Experience Level Needed: Beginner

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Incredibly intuitive and easy to use
  • You design directly onto photos of your yard
  • Access to thousands of products and plants
  • Option to hire a landscape designer within the app

Cons

  • Free version cannot be used for decks
  • App is not available on Android devices

Why We Chose It

With the iScape app, you can instantly transform your outdoor space on any iOS device. Upload a picture of your home’s exterior, then layer on objects like fences, pavers, and plants. Though you cannot build a custom deck with iScape, the app is great for sprucing up an existing structure because you can swap out materials and add new design elements like a pergola. If you're overwhelmed by the amount of choices available, iScape does have designers on hand who can help implement your vision.

While there is a free version of the app, it's limited in its capabilities and does not have many deck or patio options. We recommend signing up for the Pro plan, which is $29.99 per month and grants you full access to the thousands of products in iScape's library.

Final Verdict

You get a lot of bang for your buck with Punch! Home & Landscape Design Essentials software. The pre-designed deck templates are ideal for users who need a little help getting started, but they can all be modified to better fit your vision. We're also big fans of the program's PlantFinder feature, which suggests landscaping options based on your actual location's climate, soil, and sunlight exposure.


Each software program on this list has unique tools that'll make creating your dream deck easier. Chief Architect and Virtual Architect both tout automatic building functions that cut down on design time, while Home Stratosphere's large selection of materials lets you visualize every inch of your new deck. If you're looking to refresh the deck you've got, use iScape to design directly onto images of your property.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does Deck Design Software Cost?

There are some deck design programs that are free to use, but most paid versions start at around $30 for beginners and go up to $500 for professional-grade software. The average homeowner shouldn't expect to pay more than $150 for DIY-level software.

Is Deck Design Software Easy to Use?

Most deck design software is easy to use thanks to intuitive drag-and-drop tools. Some users may find it challenging to perform more advanced tasks, like designing multi-level or covered decks, but most software providers have support hubs with detailed tutorials and how-to videos that'll guide you through the process.

Is Deck Design Software Compatible With Other Programs?

Some systems are compatible with deck design software, but every program is different. For example, Chief Architect Home Designer can be synced with certain computer-aided design (CAD) functions. And many programs allow you to share projects via cloud services like Google Drive, DropBox, and Microsoft OneDrive, though that isn't always the case.

Methodology

In order to find the best deck design software, we spent a week researching and reviewing nearly 30 software programs that support exterior design. To best serve our readers, we removed software that caters to industry professionals or requires extensive training to use. We weighed the following factors when compiling our list:

  • Customization features
  • Access to deck-specific tools
  • Quality of graphics
  • Price
  • Skill level needed
  • Device compatibility
  • Free trial option

The most important pair of criteria we considered were the features available and the price of the software. If the program didn't make it easy to construct a deck or cost more than $200, we took away points. The software programs that performed best were designed for the average homeowner and contained tools that don't require hours of tutorials to learn.