Hints for doing Deck Design in Home Designer Pro


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I just finished (and received permit approval of) my Deck Repair Plan and Layout. As an experienced tech and engineer, but 100% new to HDpro, here are a few lessons learned along the way:


The Plan

  • This software works with surfaces (walls, floors, joists, beams, roofing, foundations, etc) in wonderful detail, including composite buildups containing many internal layers (eg an outside wall has gypsum board, studs, maybe a vapor block, and a few layers for stucco).
  • It has no concept at all of connections between those items. (Joist hangers, post mounting, ledger / LedgerLOKs,  Normally, don't waste time worrying about that in the plan Just add text notes to the various elements of the plan, with arrows pointing where you're talking about. Do ensure the ledger board etc is in there ;)
  • HDpro understands a "deck" based on the Rail Walls that surround it
    • Easiest thing: draw the rail-wall outline, including if needed along the side of the house. Then make the house-side rails invisible.
    • Crucial: get the deck-walls in the right place before doing any further customization (eg of framing, posts, stairs and more)
      • Why: the decking surface is defined by the deck-walls, is auto-created, and can only be adjusted by auto-building it while adjusting the walls!


  • Once you have the deck boundary right, there's amazing flexibility for tweaking other aspects.
    • I am reusing existing footings, posts, etc -- not a problem
    • I ended up rebuilding the frame design myself
  • While there's a lot of flexibility, there are also limits based on built-in assumptions
    • Deck rails are made of one material (we have a composite "drink rail" -- I would have to manually create that as separate objects to get it to look exactly right)
    • It knows nothing about fascia boards (Hint: use a "soffit" object, which can be made into any size, and turned in any way ;) )
    • There is no option (for auto-deck framing) to have joists butt up to the rim beam. Only joist-on-beam. So I "built" that by hand in the software
    • No options for how the decking is laid out. You can choose how many picture frame boards exist, but that's about it. (This is actually important in some cases. Our MoistureShield decking requires support for the ends of boards, so a carry-joist is needed when long boards meet in the middle of the deck. Rather than have double-joists everywhere, I use two for our looong deck. HDpro knows nothing about this, and lays out long decking in a staggered pattern rather than alternating boards. So the 3D view is not quite right in this regard. The manually-creating framing underneath is 100% correct however, and that's the important thing in my book.
    • It wasn't worth the trouble to recreate the actual (complex) roofline of our home. (I did try.) Fortunately I'm not touching that ;) . I simply called it out on the layout as not being accurate; it was not questioned.
  • Other tidbits
    • creating a white-background CAD rectangle to overlay an unwanted element can be the simplest workaround ;)
    • Added text that overlaps the design can be tweaked to have a translucent background (eg white but 25% visible). Looks nice, easy to read, doesn't fully hide the design.
    • If something simply does NOT make sense, don't tear your hair out too long. Tech Support is incredibly helpful... and yes there are occasional bugs to be found. (For me at least, there was a workaround for each bug.)
    • Don't be afraid to use the terrain feature to show and work with the lay of the land. Not that hard, and very helpful in many cases.
    • For final presentation, I changed Edit->Default Settiongs->Dimensions->Format->Accuracy to be 1/1 inch. That eliminates all nigglies in presenting the dimensions :) 


The Layout

  • Find out what layout is needed by your building department. Ours requires Arch D size in landscape orientation (wider than tall), and all primary text to be upright in that orientation. So I took the default template and changed all the text on layer 0 to fit, before adding anything else.
  • Play with the various options for how elevations and plan layers are rendered. Some of them are custom to when you paste the view into the layout. I'd recommend playing with that several times before continuing, to ensure you know what you want. (Because it may not be easy to re-apply the same view into your layout, even though the layout and the plan files are linked.)


(NOTE: my subscription runs out on 7/11, so any questions requiring me to open my plan files need to be pretty soon ;) )


final - floor 1.png final - floor 0.png


 3d-1.png   3d-2.png

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