Should You Invest in a Professional Deck Design Before Building a Deck?

Deck design

If you're thinking about building a deck this year, the idea of professional deck design may be on the table. This service provides a detailed drawing of your proposed outdoor living space, often including landscaping, hardscaping (such as patios, walkways and retaining walls) and even patio furniture. Deck designs range in scope and quality--from highly customized offerings by industry professionals to a standard DIY deck design from your local building materials store. In any case, homeowners wonder if they should pay for this service, and what to expect when they do sign up for a design.

What is the Value of a Deck Design?

The answer depends on your lifestyle and personal tastes. A suburban couple looking for a comfortable, attractive place to set up their grill and patio furniture may be happy with a standard deck, and may not see much value in paying for a deck design. On the other hand, a homeowner looking for a more complete and customized plan may not know where to start; they would receive invaluable direction and advice from a professional deck designer.

Prices range from $250 up to $3,000 for the design, based on the circumstances, amount of detail included in the design and style of rendering. A typical 2D rendering or drawing costs much less than a 3D package, simply due to the technology and skill required to produce each option. Design services, including several sessions at your home, consultations and revisions, also drive up the price. The skills of your designer often dictates cost, as well as their geographical location and reputation.

Some manufacturers offer free deck design services on their website, including Trex composite decking. This is a software-based deck design service (click here) and limited to your own expertise and understanding of the program. It can be a fantastic starting point and provides a professional designer with a head start on your design.

Once you've decided on the style of deck design you want, consider whether or not you can "make up" the price during installation. Would a $250 simple deck design allow you to save time and money on a DIY deck project? Can you imagine appreciating your backyard more when $3,000 of design work has been put into the layout and features? Weigh the value for your family, and remember to keep these factors in mind:

  • overall cost of the project - more expensive and extensive projects require a professional design to allow for smooth installation and a seamless transition from the current state into the new layout. The more complicated the project, the more important a solid design becomes.
  • experience of the designer - established companies charge more for their services, but can often offer many more options in terms of creative ideas and personalized solutions. You get what you pay for, in any case.
  • lifespan of the project - if you're living in your starter home or planning to sell in the next few years, the price of a professional deck design may not make sense for long-term value. Those homeowners looking to remain in their home for 10 years and over have a better chance of recouping the cost.

What is Typically Included in a Deck Design?

Depending on who you obtain the services from, a deck design includes any or all of the following:

  • Aerial layout of the deck, including all measurements and drawn to scale
  • Detailed drawings of vital components, such as the railings, stairs, skirting and any other features
  • 3D rendering of the space from multiple angles
  • Revisions of the initial drawing
  • Information for the building permit application process
  • Material list
  • Installation schedule

Your contractor can use these drawings to speed along the construction phase, create more accurate material lists and smooth out the permit application process. You can use them to assess a contractor's expertise and compare quotations. Gauge the design packages offered based on the amount of detail provided and how well you can understand and assess the design.

What About DIY Deck Designs?

For tech savvy homeowners and those with a creative bend, DIY deck design programs offer another potential solution. Whether web-based or installed on your own computer, these software tools can provide basic deck designs, along with installation instructions, material lists and even a budget.

Several manufacturers offer design tools, based on their product specifications. Composite products like Trex (noted above) and Latitudes composite decking provide design software packages. Prepare for a learning curve and read through any tutorials or instructions available.

One major advantage that DIY deck design software offers is the ability to revise your design. Prepare several different designs and choose the plan that works best for your property. Or create various designs to suit space and budget limitations. DIY design programs put you in control.

Do Contractors Include the Cost of Design in the Installed Price?

Some deck builders offer free deck design services, provided they are hired to construct the project. You may need to pay a minimal fee up front, but that amount is deducted from the overall cost. Be sure to clarify this arrangement before the contractor begins working on the design process.

Other companies offer a “free estimate” which includes minimal design services. You should be able to utilize their expertise to create a beautiful backyard space, but understand that they cannot provide their full services without recouping some of the costs. Many contractors with free deck design services will not release the designs to the client without a signed contract. Since they have already spent the time to create the design, clients must commit to the project before obtaining the drawings

The question of whether or not you should invest in a professional deck design depends on your overall budget, the scope of the project and your personal tastes. Consider the value that expert deck designs offer and find out whether or not a DIY deck design program would suit your needs. There are several tools out there to help you realize your backyard living dreams.

Posted by: TrustedPros
Great renovations start with a great contractor.

Since 2004, TrustedPros has been helping homeowners find the right contractor for their home improvements and repairs.

Post Your Project

Within hours you'll be comparing offers from top-rated professionals. It's free to post and you're under no obligation to hire.

Search the TrustedPros directory and discover the best contractors in your area. Read real customer reviews, browse photos and compare credentials.

Find your home service pro
comments powered by Disqus

Trustedpros Inc. does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, safety, legality or usefulness of any Content, or Whether Content is Current and up-to-date, and TrustedPros Inc. Shall have no liability whatsoever with respect to your use or reliance upon any content or for content being removed or otherwise ceasing to be available. Please refer to the terms and conditions of use of this websites for more details.


Get quotes from top-rated contractors