How to lay decking
Installing garden decking
Installing decking is an excellent way to create a space in your garden which can be used for relaxing and entertaining. Decking can either be freestanding or attached to your house, and it really gives you a chance to be creative with design and function. A single level deck is relatively straightforward to plan and build. A more complex decking project would include features such as balustrades, railings and steps.
This guide outlines the method for building a single level deck with timber frame and installing it on a patio next to a house. But depending on your plans, decking can also be a freestanding structure anywhere in your garden.
Where should I build my decking?
The size and location of your deck will be linked to its function – are you planning an area for entertaining, for BBQing, or perhaps you want a children’s play area? Are you installing it to complement other garden features such as paving or turf? Consider how big you need the decking to be when you’re deciding a location. If in doubt then be conservative – you can always extend in the future.
There are a few other factors to think about when planning your decking:
- Is the ground level or does it have a noticeable slope?
- How much sun will the decking get, and what’s the view like from the site?
- How much privacy will you have?
- Is the ground dry underfoot? Wet or boggy ground isn’t suitable for decking.
- Are there any existing features to work around such as trees and posts?
Carefully plan your decking layout and try to limit cutting and wastage. Take into account the following:
- The material of your deck boards
- The size of your decking area
- The size (length and width) of deck boards you’re using
- The required expansion gap for your deck boards
How far apart should decking boards be?
Expansion gaps are essential when constructing decking. The gap between each individual deck board allows for rainwater runoff, plus the natural expansion and contraction of the wood throughout its life. You need an expansion gap of 5-8mm between the boards.
If you are going to build your decking next to a house then make sure it’s 150mm below the damp-proof course and that you don’t cover any air bricks.
Try to plan your deck to fit only whole boards, to avoid having to awkwardly cut a board lengthways to fill a gap.
How to build decking
A simple single layer deck is relatively straightforward to build if your planning and preparation have been meticulous. Because of the size and weight of the timbers and the frame, it’s easier and safer if you can get somebody to help you.
Always use structural treated timber and screws specifically designed for the job and treat all cut surfaces and drill holes with two coats of preservative. This will ensure a hard wearing, long lasting deck.
When sawing use the 90-degree guide marker on your saw, or a set square, to make accurate cuts, and sand the cut ends to remove splinters. When drilling mark out all pilot holes to ensure your fixings are as accurate as possible.
If you do need to cut a decking board lengthways then do it either with a handsaw or a circular saw. Place the board in the area of the least through traffic and begin laying your deck boards from the opposite end.
Make sure that you wear appropriate protective clothing, such as gloves, a face mask, or safety goggles, when cutting or sawing timber or applying preservatives or other timber treatments.