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What is it about a deck that makes it feel so much more like a real outdoor living space than a patio? Maybe it is because it is slightly raised, which gives it more definition; it feels like a room. Or perhaps it is because timber decking boards feel more like floorboards: warmer and a little softer than stone. A deck is atmospheric. You have probably dined on decks abroad or by the sea, when you were on holiday or enjoying a weekend away. But why not have your own? A wonderful outdoor living space for you to enjoy whenever you like; just a step or two from your living room.
What’s more you can personalise it, accessorise it and style it to suit your home. It can become a transition between house and garden, or a destination all on its own, depending upon where you position it. It could be a place to soak up the sun, or somewhere to sit under the vines and enjoy a bottle of wine. It might be your outdoor kitchen and eating area, or just somewhere to sit and chill and enjoy a book. The choices are all yours. Just treat it like another room. You will find everything you need to realise your dream deck at your local Wickes store.
If you are starting from scratch the obvious place to site your deck may be right outside the patio doors, perhaps where you have a few paving slabs already. However this may not be the best place, depending on how you want to use it. If you want to be able to sit in the sun, and the back of the house is in the shade for much of the day, you may want to reconsider. A corner at the end of the garden which is drenched by the evening sun might be a better position. Somewhere to head with a glass of wine when you get home from work.
The great thing about a deck is that you can design and style it to fit in anywhere. It will not look out of place away from the house, and if you do it well it could make an appealing focal point. Because it is made of timber it is easy to integrate it with trellis and other timber structures. These may be really useful in providing screening and privacy. They also offer the opportunity to grow climbing plants around your deck: colourful clematis or fragrant honeysuckle perhaps?
Often the size of the deck will be determined by how much space you have, and the lie of the land. In a level garden you may be limited by the width of the space, but be able to extend outwards. In a sloping garden you will need to consider the drop and how to incorporate steps if necessary.
Ideally try and plan the space based on what you want to put on the deck. It may be a good idea to choose the garden furniture first, then plan the size of the deck. If you really need a six-seat patio set, the clear deck area needs to be big enough to take it with plenty of room around to allow comfortable access. Also you may need space for a barbecue and a few plants. On the other hand, if there are just two of you most of the time perhaps you could go for a smaller set of furniture and squeeze guests in occasionally.
In addition to the practical aspects you need to think what the deck will look like when not in use, especially in winter. Will it be a big empty space waiting for better days? Or will it look inviting enough to brave the cold and enjoy a cup of coffee occasionally? If you choose attractive, all-weather furniture and some nice pots and containers, your decking area can look good whatever the weather.
In narrow gardens it may well look better to leave a space between the deck and boundary fences. This would allow room to plant some climbers or upright evergreen shrubs to cover the fence, enclosing your deck in a leafy boundary. This will soften it and it will avoid having climbers in pots which need regular watering.
We tend to think about decks as straight sided rectangles, but they don’t have to be. You can make your deck curved, whether attached to the house on one side, or free-standing. This softens the appearance and may mean a deck will fit more easily into an informal garden. A rounded deck surrounded by planting is almost like an open-air summerhouse and can be a very attractive focal point in the garden picture.
Of course it is trickier to fit side panels and rails around curved deck edges. However you could use posts and ropes instead of rails if necessary.
We tend to think of a deck as a place in the sun, but it doesn’t have to be. In damp, shady situations timber deck boards may get slimy and slippery in winter, but you can overcome that by regular cleaning and use of a non-slip wood treatment. You may prefer to sit in the shade anyway. If you need to create shade over a deck think about incorporating a pergola; this can work well whether the deck is attached to the house or at the far end of the garden.
Drape it in a large leaved vine and create a shady Spanish courtyard outside your back door. Or, if you want a floral spectacle grow a wisteria over it and let those fabulous fragrant flowers hang through the rafters in early summer. The foliage gives great light shade in summer too.
In a sheltered situation it may also be possible to suspend a temporary awning over a pergola if it is not draped with climbers. This could be for shade or to give shelter from showers. If your deck is alongside the house this type of shelter can be really useful when entertaining, you just have to be careful that a pergola in this situation does not take too much light from the house.
If your deck is raised far from the ground you will certainly need some sort of barrier across the open sides. Your deck is a living space and you will need a barrier for safety. However decking panels and railings are also a design feature and another way to personalise your deck and make it an extension of your home. They also add a sense of enclosure to the space, making it more room-like and inviting.
Railings and deck panels come in a great variety of styles to suit any garden. You can treat them to integrate them with the deck, or paint them in a complementary colour. If you want a simpler effect you might choose a combination of handrails and spindles. These may be easier to fit to awkward dimensions that do not suit the panels.
Garden lighting is notoriously tricky to get right. You will find an array of solar lighting available, but the light can be rather harsh for your deck, especially if it is right outside the house. LED deck lights, which come as neat little fittings countersunk into the deck boards, can be extremely effective if you install them when you construct your deck. The wiring goes under the boards and they go unnoticed until dark when they add a little magic at ground level.
They also add wonderful soft uplighting around your pots and plants. Also they are more than just pretty; if you position them to mark the edges they are an unobtrusive safety feature.
Wickes Decking Boards come pressure treated, but they will be out there in the elements and you need to protect them to keep your deck looking beautiful. There are a host of different treatments including deck oil, deck seal and deck stain.
If you want to retain the light, natural wood colour of your decking you may be best with Wickes Nearly Natural Decking Stain which dries quickly and is harmless to plants and animals when dry. Some decking treatments take some time to dry; it is always worth checking the tin before you apply.
Decking oil sinks into the wood and is easy to apply. Use it on dry timber and it is excellent at both preserving new decking and rejuvenating tired wood.
Decking stains add colour and give you the opportunity to change the character and presence of the timber completely. Obviously when the deck is furnished there will be less timber visible, however if you already have garden furniture now is the time to think what it would look like on different backgrounds.
Before you reach for the tin, think about what effect you are trying to achieve. As with anything in the garden, you need to consider how the colour you choose will work in the surroundings, and how well it works with the rest of your home.
You can create a completely different look with non-timber shades. Grey and black work well with metal furniture and contemporary black weave. They suit modern garden design and look good with green foliage. Blue is great for coastal gardens in bright, sunny situations. Green might seem to be an obvious garden colour, but it can look surprisingly awkward with plants.
Blend your deck to the garden by incorporating well-chosen and grouped pots and containers. Maybe the deck is your whole garden? That’s not a limitation. It is a fantastic opportunity to focus the planting into containers. In any case you need to allow space for them. Be bold and use nice big pots and plenty of them.
Try to choose subjects which are clean living, in other words ones that do not shed faded flowers and leaves which can stain the timber and be a slip hazard. Strong foliage subjects such as phormiums and cordylines can look contemporary or even tropical, depending on how you use them. For a softer effect, nice big pots of lavender, rosemary and sage are aromatic and textural.
Decking boards are extremely versatile, and if you are feeling creative you can use them to make your own boxes and planters to match the deck. Treat them in the same colour and they become part of the structure. These are ideal for aspiring chefs to grow their herbs and maybe a few edible flowers near the barbecue.
If you are going for summer colour, be bold and not fussy. Pots of a single subject in one colour have great impact: a pot of red geraniums, or orange begonias or maybe blue verbena will add that wow factor, whereas fussy, mixed pots may well get lost. If you want to be really stylish co-ordinate your flower colours with your garden furniture or the shades of your living room.