Choosing and Using Decking

Long-established as the hard-surface of choice in warm, dry climates, decking has become increasingly popular in Britain over recent years – as its frequent appearance in the many gardening programmes on TV will testify.

As a result, the range of types available – and the uses to which it has been put – have grown considerably, with most garden centres and builders’ merchants now stocking a good enough selection to give anyone more than enough choice.

Part of the reason for its popularity lies in the variety of effects it lends itself to creating, while its relative ease of use places it firmly within the ability of the average DIYer to produce a good looking outdoor area in a fairly short time. Moreover, the range of styles available to choose from means that there is sure to be something to suit any garden design, whatever the overall look.

Choosing Decking

Although there are many different types of decking, the real choice comes down to deciding between slatted or parquet. The range of timber available for either is much the same and while western red cedar is widely accepted as a good choice – its has a natural resistance to rotting – there are many woods which will do just as well, if properly pressure treated with a suitable preservative.

Parquet decking is made up of individual squares, up to 1m across. Originally intended principally for paths, they have become increasingly popular for creating interesting effects in larger scale projects. Available in a range of styles, including parallel, herringbone, jointed angled and checker-board, they can allow the repeating pattern of the decking to become a feature in its own right.

Slatted decking is the more traditional approach, with long, parallel lengths of timber laid at 90 degrees to the supporting joists, and a small gap between each slat to allow for any movement in the wood and drainage.

Whichever style of decking you opt for, while laying it on a level or gently sloping site should be a fairly simple undertaking, if the platform lies over a steep incline, or water, seeking professional advice is almost certainly necessary to ensure the construction will be safe.

Routine Maintenance

Like all other wooden constructions in the garden, decking needs routine maintenance, including checking for splits and cracks, rusty or broken fixings and the appearance of fungus – taking any appropriate action and re-treating with a suitable preservative.

Many problems can be avoided at the outset by choosing suitable materials – brass screws, for instance, do not rust, while fungicide treated wood should not easily rot. However, no matter how careful you have been in your selection, given the vagaries of the UK weather, sooner or later it is likely that some level of maintenance will be necessary – and if so, the old proverb that “a stitch in time, saves nine” certainly holds true. Dealing with any problems that you notice in a timely manner is a sure-fire way of keeping decking in tip-top condition – and is likely to save you a whole lot of heart-ache later on!

Choosing timber which has been factory pressure treated goes a long way towards avoiding rot, although some level of treatment is probably called for on a regular basis. The most suitable preservative depends on the type of timber and the sort of finish you want to have on your decking – but there are sufficient brands and colours available to ensure that finding the right one should not be a problem.

From providing an alternative patio to a false-jetty over a garden pond, decking is a remarkably versatile way to indulge our passion for a well-floored outdoor space to entertain our friends or simply to let us, ourselves, relax. Wisely chosen and properly maintained, wooden decking brings the look and feel of warmer climes into our own back-garden. No wonder it has become so very popular!