Timber garden decking never seems to lose its popularity, and why should it, when it's such a useful way of extending your living and entertaining space. Andy Taylor explains why decking is so easy to install and how best to look after it.
Timber decking is very adaptable and the ideal answer especially if your garden is a challenging site. Starting from scratch a medium sized deck might take the weekend to construct, it lends itself to uneven surfaces, awkward shapes and particularly different levels.
Compared to other styles of patio, decking is not expensive and looks stunning whether it's left with a natural finish, stained or brightly coloured.
Although construction is less demanding for someone who is a competent DIY enthusiast, you do not need any very special skills to install decking and, to make your life much easier, you may consider assembling one of the range of decking kits that are also on the market.
What Tools Do I Need To Build Decking?
Make sure you have the basic range of tools that are required, a minimum of saw, spirit level, tape measure, hammer, drill and screwdriver (preferably powered) with countersunk screws.
Mark out the decking location with pegs and string using the tape measure. Clear the area where you plan to place the decking, removing any vegetation, stones and debris including grass if the decking is over an existing lawn. Level the ground, using a spirit level to check.
How Do I Construct A Decking Base Frame?
After laying a waterproof membrane and spreading gravel over it to a depth of approx. 1½ ins, it's time to construct the base frame. Saw the outer joists (6cm x 2cm timber) to the required lengths so they overlap at the corners, check the diagonals are equal so that the frame is square and use a spirit level to check everything is level.
Remember that if you are building the decking on permanently wet ground it's wise to raise the base above the ground. Also allow for any drain covers that you will need access to and do not build above the damp course if the decking is adjacent to your house.
After deciding which way you want the decking boards to run, cut the inner joists to the correct length and place them in the base frame in the opposite direction, they should be no more than 400mm apart. Screw the joists into place. Large decks should also have small pieces of timber between the cross joists to add strength.
How Do I Fix Decking Boards Into Place?
2.4m planks should be cut to the required lengths, and with the decking at right angles to the supporting joists and starting flush with the edge of the deck, fix each board with two screws at both ends and a 3-4mm gap between them. If more than one board is required to cover the width of the decking, fix them in a brickwork pattern, they will look better and add strength. Before screwing anything, have a 'dry run' to see whether your measurements are correct and the decking fits snugly.
Finally fit deck boards to cover the exposed ends and sides, and seal with a wood preservative.
What Garden Patio Decking Kits Are Available?
Forest, who are a well established supplier of quality timber products of all kinds, offer three decking kits. The Garden Decking Kits come with full instructions and you can rest assured that all the boards are kiln dried pressure treated structural grade timber that is guaranteed for 15 years.
With an attractive balustrade, the 8ft x 8ft Patio Decking Kit will form a very useful area for relaxation and entertaining friends. Made from smooth planed softwood timber, assembly is simple following detailed instructions. As with all Forest kits, posts, rails, fixtures and fittings are all included
There's another kit of the same size that includes a pergola, again tremendous value for money. The 8ft x 8ft Patio Decking Kit with Pergola adds height and structure, shade will also be advantageous on a hot day.
By hanging baskets from the pergola you'll introduce colour and scent, making this a very pleasurable environment.
A 16ft x 8ft Patio Kit with Pergola is an impressive sight that will transform your garden. Again with a balustrade, you can perhaps dine under the pergola before stretching out on a lounger, topping up your tan in the full sun.
An alternative to Decking Kits are Zest Wooden Decking Tiles and Forest Ridged Deck Tiles which are 500cm x 500cm (1ft 7½ins x 1ft 7½ins).
They come in packs of three, four or five with seven pressure treated boards to each tile.
What Is The Best Way To Maintain Decking?
Garden Decking needs regular cleaning and maintenance as the timber needs to withstand more wear and tear than an ordinary wooden shed or fence. Its horizontal surface will take longer to dry out after rainfall and it must be able to endure scuffing from continuous foot traffic. Regular treatment will result in your decking looking good and will also prolong its lifespan.
The ideal preservative for treating cut ends of pressure treated timber is a clear one as it can be over-coated with a wide variety of other finishes. However, if you choose boards that have not been pressure treated you will need to protect the entire deck.
Wood preservatives come in different colours including clear, light brown, dark brown and ebony. If you are looking to add some colour to your deck this is an inexpensive solution that is also easy to apply.
If you are looking for a wider choice of colour another option is looking at wood stain. But remember that not all wood stains are suitable for decking. Cuprinol produces Ultra Tough Decking Stain in a variety of colours. If you are looking for a bigger selection of colours consider Sadolin Classic.
Another option is decking oil. This is simple to apply and for the best results should be used annually. Decking oil is a good choice for hardwood decks as it replaces the oils and resins lost through weathering and enhances the natural beauty of the wood.
How Do I Clean Timber Decking?
Decking that has been down for a while will need a good clean before applying a stain or oil. A bucket of soapy water, a stiff broom and plenty of elbow grease are sufficient for the job. To speed things up considerably, a pressure washer will help and you may need a treatment which kills mould and algae.
How Can I Get Rid Of Black Mould?
When mould becomes apparent, brush or scrap it off along with any other debris and apply a fungicidal wash or cleaner according to their instructions, then scrub with a stiff brush.
If you have allowed the decking to become very weather beaten, then use a brush or pressure washer to remove the mould and previously applied protection.
Then apply restorer with a brush normal garden broom or brush, working it all over and well into the surface. You then wash the surface with a hose.
Let the surface dry for several days before adding preservative
How Can I Prevent Timber Decking Becoming Slippery?
If algae is a problem you will probably find that your deck becomes very slippery when wet. The Cuprinol Decking Stain mentioned above is a good all-around solution that contains an algaecide to kill any green algae and microbeads to prevent slipping.
But, for the ultimate solution to slippery decks choose Anti-Slip Deck Coating. This product was chosen to provide a slip-resistant finish to the decking at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth. New decking looks fantastic but without the right maintenance can soon become tired and grey. Yet it only takes a couple of hours work each year to keep your decking looking great.