Decking creates the perfect focal point for a low-maintenance garden, and is cheaper and easier to use than paving. We show you how to choose and use this versatile surface material with our selection of the best deck ideas for your outdoor space.
See our decorating section for more ideas, advice and inspiration
Although decking has been a staple of the boat building business for centuries, this design approach didn’t enter the interiors world until the Sixties. Many Americans hankered after an indoor-outdoor style extension to their home on which to host their BBQs, so built elevated patios directly off their living spaces out of decking – chosen because it’s lightweight and easy on the eye.
When timber decking first started out, it was very much as a fashionable fad beloved by garden makeover programmes, but its versatility, beauty and durability has outlived the hype, and decks have become a practical addition to gardens great and small, rural or city.
Over the years, decking’s usage has expanded, and it has become the go-to material for a contemporary patio or roof terrace. Materials have also come on a pace. While early decks were made out of first-generation hardwoods, now it’s hard-wearing composites and eco products made of recycled materials that are all the rage. We are also experimenting with stains and widths to give the timber a very contemporary feel.
It is important to consider certain factors before laying your decking. It’s a fairly big project, so you want to make sure you have a clear end goal in mind before starting out.
Want more garden deck ideas? See: Garden patio ideas – for a welcoming outdoor living space
WHICH WOOD SHOULD I USE FOR MY DECK?
Decide on softwood or hardwood, which is more durable, but double the price. There’s a vast variety of decking available, so make sure you have a good look at what’s out there before making your choice.
WHERE SHOULD I LAY MY DECKING?
Avoid areas that are situated where huge numbers of leaves will fall. Choose a sheltered spot offering both sun and shade. Decking should be placed on even ground, so the area will need to be levelled in advance.
HOW DO I GO ABOUT DESIGNING THE SPACE?
You could consider laying planks at different angles or creating curves, but remember, construction is more time-consuming on a larger site. Sketch out your plans, take accurate measurements and mark the ground with posts and strings.
WHAT ARE THE PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS?
It’s really important to plan around existing fixed structures and features – the last thing you want is to lay a perfect deck, only to find that you can’t open your garden gate. So, before you finalise plans, check it won’t restrict access from paths and gates or obstruct outside taps, electrical sockets, drains and manhole covers.
HOW DO I CLEAN MY GARDEN DECK?
Using a pressure washer (or a garden hose and brush, if you don’t have one), together with a specialised decking cleaner, give your decking a once-over. Repeat the process to ensure a super-clean surface. If you have the time and the wood looks like it could do with some extra love, give it a coat of decking stain – it’ll make the deck look great and help it last longer.
1. CREATE A COSY CORNER
Bespoke fencing and decking teamed with rattan furniture turn the end of the garden into a cosy, secluded spot that’s perfect for entertaining.
2. ZONE A SPACE
It’s not surprise that decking is now used so widely. It can be widened into platforms or narrowed into paths to link different areas, binding together a garden’s design. In tiny gardens, decking may even be used to replace lawn and paving, flowing in an unbroken series of paths, terraces and seating. With forward planning, lighting cables and water pipes can be concealed beneath.
3. TAKE YOUR DECKING TO A NEW LEVEL
Decking is a godsend for split-level areas – built up into a platform or stepped downwards to cope with a sloping site. In narrow plots where the planking zigzags through the garden, it draws the eye around the area, making it appear both wider and longer.
4. DECORATE YOUR DECK
If you love container gardening, decking near the house can provide the perfect platform for seasonal pots, which also help to soften any hard edges.
5. COLOUR COORDINATE
An outdoor room that is an immediate extension of the home suits a scheme in which all furnishings – decking, pergola, fencing, seating, cushions, containers and plants – are colour coordinated. In such a scheme, there is scope for imaginative designs using wood stains, available in a wide selection of colours. And the advantage of timber instead of paving or stone is that its colour can be easily changed. Experiment with different shades on some timber offcuts first.
6. KEEP IT AU NATUREL
An informal look is created when decking is left natural and allowed to weather with time, turning a silvery-grey which blends beautifully with plants and the natural landscape. A good compromise is to treat the decking with a wood oil. This will simply enhance the natural beauty of wood – products made for treating timber boats are ideal.
7. FIT PLANTS AROUND YOUR DECKING
When drawing up your plans, consider adding raised beds, benches, screening, tables, planters, storage and bannisters. Think about where your chosen plants will fit best – whether in pots, borders adjacent to the deck, or in beds countersunk within it – before you lay the decking.
8. GO FOR A TRUSTED TIMBER
At its best, a timber deck is a handsome, hard-wearing surface that complements most garden settings. It’s a natural material that provides a sympathetic background to plants, blending beautifully with water, stone and trees. Timber lends itself to different styles of architecture and design. A deck can be designed in a smart, contemporary look, as easily as in a more traditional style.
But decks don’t only look good: other advantages include being relatively lightweight in comparison to stone, quick and easy to install and forgiving. Timber can be cut to size to fit perfectly round awkward corners, or over manhole covers and is easily extended at a later date.