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Fine Deckbuilder
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402 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
To all of you,
In the fall of next year Professional Deckbuilders Magazine will dedicate pretty much their entire magazine about deck softwares. Me and three other deckbuilders are assigned to learn different softwares and write a review for each of them. There will pick probably between 5 and 7 softwares that can generate decks and outdoor structures.
We have about 8 months time to do this.
Sounds like a lot of time but each of us has to learn each individual software, so that will be a challenge.
I downloaded last week Softplan and it is a monster with a manuel that is bigger than the bible!!!
As of now we have DeckTools, Softplan, Chief Architect, Cadquest.
We have received already the full versions of each software.
Sketchup and a few others are still in progress to be picked.
Some of us already use Decktools, softplan and autocad. The person who is the guru about a specific software will be the teacher for the other three person. I will be the DeckTool guru teacher LOL.
I will update any software that is coming up.
I'm asking if any of you guys is a guru in one of the softwares and use it to create deck designs. If so we would like to ask you to dedicate a few hours in a "go to meeting class" online to share your knowledge with the other guys.
Thanks,
Clemens
 

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David Festa
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2,561 Posts
Deck tools Software

I use Better Homes And Garden Home Designer suite 6.0 and professional 8.0
I use the 6.0 in the field on my tablet as it is a simple and easy program to use
Then I export into 8.0 make better drawings if need be
Two week ago I sat down with two reps from Simpson Strong-tie to see their new deck program,
“Deck tools Software” it’s a nice program but it needs work.
The biggest hurdle I’m faced with is that I can’t justify spending $1800.00 for a design program that I cannot submit as plans. My 6.0 software cost me $60.00.
Simpson has created a double edge sword. I live in the shore area of NJ. Decks are big here and Simpson has put a lot of energy incorporating there product into decks. Some towns will no longer accept homeowner drawn plans. I have spoken to a few architects and they will not pay for the program. I was hoping I could do the leg work and have an architect sign off on it.
My deciding factor in buying this program or any other program would be that I could have the plans signed off by an architect
 

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Fine Deckbuilder
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402 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Well we have to draw a fine line somewhere, since most of us are deckbuilders and not architects.
The purpose here is to found out what is on the market right now and see what is the ideal software for a deck builder to generate a deck easily, quick and with enough options to customize the design to create a realistic design that can sell.
Not only a 3d rendering but also different elevations views and a framing plan that can be submitted for permits.
We are not looking for the cheap $ 50.00 softwares that you can buy at a local store but also not software that cost over $ 5,000.00 that can generate industrial parks.
 

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I have just done my last ever deck job for customers on sketch-up but i mainly use it as a layout tool to find issues with framing and work out layout before i start the build. I did start to use it to show the customer the final look but they were never impressed as much as i would have liked and it never gained me the work. They already have a picture of one they like the look of or an idea in their head of final layout so the design for me was pointless. Being 3x times the price of local hacks didn't help either but it got tiresome putting in so much effort to lose to a lower price.
 

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The Duke
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14,746 Posts
I use Better Homes And Garden Home Designer suite 6.0 and professional 8.0
I use the 6.0 in the field on my tablet as it is a simple and easy program to use
Then I export into 8.0 make better drawings if need be
Two week ago I sat down with two reps from Simpson Strong-tie to see their new deck program,
“Deck tools Software” it’s a nice program but it needs work.
The biggest hurdle I’m faced with is that I can’t justify spending $1800.00 for a design program that I cannot submit as plans. My 6.0 software cost me $60.00.
Simpson has created a double edge sword. I live in the shore area of NJ. Decks are big here and Simpson has put a lot of energy incorporating there product into decks. Some towns will no longer accept homeowner drawn plans. I have spoken to a few architects and they will not pay for the program. I was hoping I could do the leg work and have an architect sign off on it.
My deciding factor in buying this program or any other program would be that I could have the plans signed off by an architect
That can get dicey in some situations. For the most part, it shouldn't be any concern. Technically though, it is illegal for an architect to sign off on plans and I think you might find it difficult to find someone to put their stamp on your plans.

I would think a SE would be a better fit for you to have someone sign off. Most architect firms are not engineer oriented and usually have someone else (SE) do the structure. You will get charged though.
 

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The Duke
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14,746 Posts
Well we have to draw a fine line somewhere, since most of us are deckbuilders and not architects.
The purpose here is to found out what is on the market right now and see what is the ideal software for a deck builder to generate a deck easily, quick and with enough options to customize the design to create a realistic design that can sell.
Not only a 3d rendering but also different elevations views and a framing plan that can be submitted for permits.
We are not looking for the cheap $ 50.00 softwares that you can buy at a local store but also not software that cost over $ 5,000.00 that can generate industrial parks.
You listed AutoCAD. That's at least $4K the last time I checked. Rhino is $995 and once set up properly, will blow away anything you test for deck software by a factor of 10. Add the VRay plugin and you have photorealistic renderings.
 

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David Festa
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2,561 Posts
Drawing Simple Plans

My Better Homes And Garden Home Designer suite 6.0 does rendering and elevation views
It’s nowhere near as versatile as deck tools, but for 1640.00 cheaper
I agree with BC, spending too much time designing in front of a home owner gets you nowhere. I have looked at many jobs that the homeowners cousin, LOL, made these plans for him and if I could give them a price. You end up doing the leg work for nothing. Everybody knows nothing is for free!!
I draw my own plans in a simple 2d format so that the plans can be submitted to the township, Why? It has to look unprofessional; otherwise the township will not believe the homeowner drew up the plans and end up kicking it back
 

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I'm not a expert at those pieces of software, but I'm decent at another, that is not listed.

DataCad or DataCad light are probably much more affordable and possibly easier to learn. It was created by architects for architects.

However, unlike some of the other pieces of software mentioned, DataCad does not produce photo realistic drawings on it's own. Third party software is required for that.
 

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David Festa
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Sorry I didn’t make myself clear
If the architect had the program and I gave him a drawing using the same program, he would verify info and signoff on plans. I have given architects 2d plans in the past for additions. Al I’m doing is cutting out some of the architect legwork to keep pricing down. The architect still looks at the job like if he was starting from scratch, butt I’m cutting out the design phase, which usually runes about $150.00 hr
 

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Sorry I didn’t make myself clear
If the architect had the program and I gave him a drawing using the same program, he would verify info and signoff on plans. I have given architects 2d plans in the past for additions. Al I’m doing is cutting out some of the architect legwork to keep pricing down. The architect still looks at the job like if he was starting from scratch, butt I’m cutting out the design phase, which usually runes about $150.00 hr
Its a engineers stamp that you need
 

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I think drawings like Redwoods above would be easier to sell than the cartoonist looking renderings on some 3d software.
It looks a lot more professional.
 

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The Duke
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I agree with BC, spending too much time designing in front of a home owner gets you nowhere.
That's too bad you feel that way. It's not an easy field to grasp. We are, for the most part, in the rougher end of construction. Framers, deck builders, GC's, etc. we have similar qualities.

It interested me to get into CAD, BIM, and visualization. I worked in this field for about 6 months before I realized that I made no money doing it professionally. It takes a long, long time to master this stuff and that includes how you handle yourself in front of a client and how to use the software for your advantage. This is not something you grab off the shelf, start drawing decks and think this is easy, piece of cake. Your reputation and character is attached to that drawing.

IMO, if you show the client some ****ty rendering, you will get a ****ty response and the job will most definitely be given to someone who didn't even bother with any CAD work or renderings in the first place. They'd scoff at you, call you silly CAD boy or something. And you give up.

But if you persist and find out what programs can do for you, they are a definite benefit for the business. I got this job solely because I know how to present renderings. This was a slam dunk.

This is all modeling, nothing is real in this picture. I did this in an hour (once set up) with a few different programs that cost me less than $2000. For someone to get to this point requires dedication and persistence. Almost all in construction do not. I have met few here that understand what I mean by all this.

 

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The Duke
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14,746 Posts
Sorry I didn’t make myself clear
If the architect had the program and I gave him a drawing using the same program, he would verify info and signoff on plans. I have given architects 2d plans in the past for additions. Al I’m doing is cutting out some of the architect legwork to keep pricing down. The architect still looks at the job like if he was starting from scratch, butt I’m cutting out the design phase, which usually runes about $150.00 hr
Exactly. That is what I meant also. They can't just rubber stamp it, they need to actually do work on it. I know Jersey is different than most states and it wouldn't surprise me that architects do most of the structurals there.
 

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David Festa
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2,561 Posts
Reading a customer is key to an estimate.
I ask a lot questions, knowing what their intensions are will help you and the costumer decide what the scope of the project will be. This will also help me determine how much info you will be willing to show them. Too much is as bad as not enough. I myself I’m pretty good with the programs I use, I decided whether or not how much info I will share.
Getting back to the topic: the cheaper program works well, although having deck tools will help me on the back end for material pricing
 

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Fine Deckbuilder
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402 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Duke, that rendering is awesome.
Autocad is probably out of reach for most of us, not only in cost but also the learning curve.
Of course Andy Engel the editor of the magazine will make most of the decisions what will and what not will be tested.
We are however in a trade we have to give free estimates that comes with a design (at least most of us)
The way I see it is that I want to show the client a design (just a nice 3d rendering for now) that they love and tell me "that is exactly what I'm looking for". I should be able to create this design fairly quickly since we don't get paid "yet".
I admit that Decktools still has a long way to go but the software is dedicated to decks only. I throw the 3d renderings sometimes in a landscape software to add patios and plants etc. and then create a slideshow.
If you do additions and/or remodeling also than Decktools is not the right software.
If you have the right software that works for you than it should pay it self back fairly quickly despite the cost.
 
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