Tools for enhancing your curb appeal and garden

If you're a DIYer looking to improve the design of your home's exterior spaces, you're ready for this roundup of tools, for deck building, landscaping, and even paint choices.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

Now that summer is finally here, homeowners will be spending time outside, fixing up their homes' exterior and improving the backyard. Whether they want to do some landscaping in the front of their home, build a deck in the back, or paint the house, they'll be able to design great outdoor spaces with the help of these tools.

Home design tools

Dave's Garden Dave's Garden is a social network for landscapers or people who enjoy landscaping. Once you register for the site, you'll be able to create your own gardening blog to inform other users about the improvements on your home. Dave's Garden also lets you trade seeds with other gardeners who want to barter. It's a neat site that is ideal for landscaping, but I would like it more if it had a more attractive design.

Dave's Garden
Dave's Garden lets you barter for seeds. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Deck Designer Deck Designer is a great tool for anyone who wants to add a deck to their house. The tool walks you through all the steps of adding the deck, including how tall it will be, whether you want to add benches, and more. Once complete, it produces a full list of all the materials you will need to build that deck. It will even provide you with step-by-step instructions on installing it.

Deck Designer
Deck Designer helps you build your own deck. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

DIY Network Gardening At first glance, the DIY Network's Gardening & Landscaping page won't look like it can be of help. But when you start digging a little deeper, you'll find a variety of great how-to videos on landscaping. The site has videos on topics ranging from installing torches in your backyard to adding art to a tomato garden cage. My favorite video taught me how to install a weatherproof cedar TV cabinet.

DIY Network
DIY Network's how-to videos are great. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Fetch-A-Sketch Fetch-A-Sketch.com lets you search for sketches of backyards, front yards, or other areas on the exterior of your home. If you want to add a pool and outdoor kitchen, you can search for mock-ups on the site. It will list a series of sketches that you can bring to a contractor.

There's just one catch: you'll need to pay for the sketches. Luckily, they aren't very expensive--most basic designs cost about $20. You'll find a slew of ideas with Fetch-A-Sketch. It leaves the hard part--planning--to the professionals and helps you generate design ideas.

Pick your favorite outdoor sketch with Fetch-A-Sketch. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

James Hardie Exterior Design Center The James Hardie Exterior Design Center lets you design your home's exterior.

Once you pick the image that best matches your type of home, you can pick the kind of siding it will have, choose your roof, and change the color to match your taste. The app is simple to use. All you need to do is choose the part of the house to modify, pick a color, and you're all set. When you're ready, you can print a copy of the home you designed, e-mail it to others, or save it to compare to other designs you create.

James Hardie
James Hardie lets you design the exterior of your house. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Lowe's Landscape and Garden Planner The Lowe's Landscape and Garden Planner is a great way to find all the plants you want to transform the exterior of your home.

Once you register for the site, you can first add "hardscapes" to your land. You can then get down to the business of adding trees, flowers, and shrubs to customize your outdoor spaces. When you're done designing the landscaping around your house (it will take a while, thanks to so many options), Lowe's gives you a listing of all the products you want. Simply bring that to your Lowe's store, give it to a sales clerk, and he or she will take care of the rest.

Lowe's makes it easy to design your home's landscaping. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Plan3D Plan3D is a really great design tool that will let you easily create a 3D layout of your home's exterior. You can work on landscaping, paint colors, and design changes. If you want, you can also work on the interior of your home.

The app lists hundreds of trees, flowers, and shrubs for you to choose from and add to your design. You can even add a pool and adjust terrain. It's a powerful tool, but you'll need to pay for it: plans cost $2.95 per month when you buy for a year or $15.95 per month when you pay month by month.

Plan3D gives you a full-feature design tool. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

1. Lowe's Landscape and Garden Planner: It makes landscaping fun and efficient.

2. Deck Designer: Even a novice can design and build a deck with this tool.

3. Fetch-A-Sketch: With so many designs to choose from, everyone will be happy with at least one.