Imagine being an outcast on a desert island. All you can take are eight songs, a book and a luxury. Now the songs part is easy, the book simple, but the luxury? Hmmm, obviously (obviously!) it’s between a concrete or a wooden post. Now there’s a dilemma.
Concrete will weigh in heavier. A six-foot fence panel requires a heavy frame of concrete and they do need a couple of people to handle, manoeuvre and get in place. And once in place there is absolutely no tweaking or phrases like ‘don’t worry, the screws will bring it all together.’ Once in place that is the place. Forever. Wood, however, is slightly lighter, still heavy mind you, and - as with all posts and fencing - a helper is still a great idea. There is a bit of tweak-room with wood as it is a natural material and will be slightly more forgiving of a millimetre tolerance or two.
Concrete lasts for a long time. How about a lifetime? No need to worry about upkeep there. Wooden posts can carry a 15-year guarantee against rot so can be relied upon without the need for any maintenance. Just make sure you check before you buy.
Concrete is white. Of course, you can paint it but they usually flake after a few years. Algae will tone the colour down but fundamentally your posts will remain white. Some consider this a clean, modern look (it is!) or too brash for some gardens (again, it is!). I guess it depends on your style of garden. Wooden posts start either orangey brown or light green depending on the pressure treatment. But both quickly tone down to the colour of ash. They then blend into most garden designs. And you can easily paint or stain wooden posts using a rainbow of colours.
Concrete posts require little or no maintenance. A wash down with warm soapy water will dislodge algae and moss and a pressure washer will remove stubborn colonies. Wear safety goggles if doing this. And that’s it. Wooden posts will also benefit from a yearly check over, even with that guarantee, and preservative, stain or paint re-applied where necessary.
To get fixings into a concrete post you need a drill and fixing plugs along with screws and screwdriver. And eye protectors just in case shards of concrete go flying. Of course, the actual fence panels slide in easily but wires, hanging basket brackets and pot holders all need secure fixings. When fixing these same items to a wooden post, it’s as simple as a screw and screwdriver. For heavier items such as planting mangers you may need to plug holes, but tensioned wires for training fruit or climbers across fence panels are a doddle to sort.
Concrete or wooden posts? It’s a tricky call to make. Both are the right choice depending on your garden circumstances. But if I had to choose one as my desert island luxury I reckon I’d go for …wood. I can lift it on my own, and I can always fashion it into a flagpole to attract attention. Or maybe concrete? If I’m on the island for a long time it will provide support for whatever I build around it. It’s also bright and may attract attention. But I could burn the wood if it gets cold. Concrete could be used to start building a more permanent house, yet wood could be the beginnings of a boat. Oh, I don’t know. When do I go to this island anyway? I’ve got some garden fencing to finish putting up before I leave. (And don't forget, before you leave, have a browse through our superb range of fence posts.)
This problem is easily corrected with a little know-how!
- Firstly, use one nail at each end of the decking to to secure it to the end joists.
- If the deck board bows towards the last board laid and fastened, carefully force a chisel between the two boards and pry the bowed board outwards to the correct position, then nail or screw into place.
- If the bow curves outwards, away from the last board, you will need to drive the chisel into the joist on the outside of the curve until it is in the correct position and then nail or screw into place.
It is important to get the frame exactly right to succeed when building decking to ensure that you will have a firm and easy to maintain deck structure.
Here are a few simple steps to take to make sure that your deck is structurally sound and will last for years.
How to build a sub-frame
The first step when building decking is to create the frame upon which the decking boards will be laid.
The main joists of the frame need to run in the opposite direction to the way the deck boards are laid, at approximately 40cm apart.
The decking level needs to be worked out prior to construction; the decking will need to be slightly sloped one way (a slope of about 1cm) for drainage purposes.
Decking can either be built straight onto a patio or placed on top of brick pillars in order to increase the height. Bricks will need to be placed at frequent intervals of around 1.25 metres along every second joist so that the decking is not too springy once placed on top. If you are planning ion raising your decking by 3m or more, then planning permission will need to be obtained.
If you are building a frame on top of a patio the timber to be used for the base frame should be around 5cm by 10cm.
It is a good idea to put some weed control fabric in the decking base to stop unsightly weeds growing up between the deck boards. For added weed suppressant we would recommend also laying pea-gravel on top of the weed control fabric.
The best way to hold all the timber together is with galvanized screws to minimise the yearly level of up keep of the decking.( You will need to drill pilot holes for galvanized screws, however if you use decking screws this will not be necessary).
Once the frame is completed it should be strengthened using cross members.
Before you lay the decking, we would recommend that any remaining work to the sub-structure, such as applying protective finish, is completed before starting to lay the deck boards. Take a look at our guide on building the sub-frame.
The deck boards we supply are 28mm x 120mm in size which are the most desirable type of decking as they are less prone to sagging, warping, twisting or cupping.
The exact size of the deck boards is dictated by the area that you are looking to cover with decking, the joist span and the layout / pattern that you choose for garden decking project.
Before fastening any boards, lay out all but the last few boards on the joists, this way you will be able to see the final effect and make changes where necessary for the best appearance.
Position the deck boards ''bark side'' up to minimize the splitting / warping of the wood that can occur. The way to tell that this is the right way, is that the grain of the timber will resemble a rainbow.
For a more uniformed look, position the boards so that the top grain will run in the same direction.
Ideally you should use deck boards that are slightly longer than the width of the deck, so that any mis-measurements can be rectified and boards cut exactly to the length required.
If it is necessary to 'butt up' the deck boards, ensure that this is done over a joist and staggered for maximum strength and durability of your garden decking.
In time wood that is left untreated becomes that familiar silvery-grey colour with a rough, bark-like surface, as the grain gradually opens and lets in moisture. But be warned, wait this long and it may be almost impossible to reverse!
Instead, when timber is around one-year-old, sand off any old, flaking stain or dirt from the dry surface and apply an annual coat of good quality wood preservative. This will enrich and revitalise the surface of the wood just like a skin moisturiser. They also contain anti-fungicides that will help prevent rot, mould and lichens.
There is a wide choice of timber care products, some combining treatment with a coloured wood stain for extra impact.
To keep your timber decking ship-shape, you will ideally need to treat it regularly using a specialist deck treatment. We recommend that you carry this out once a year for the first two to three years after you first install the deck, and then just once every other year. Follow these four simple steps:
- Remove all surface dirt, algae and grit. Before you start, use either a pressure washer or a stiff brush to clean off the debris – something like an old-fashioned scrubbing brush is ideal!
- Deep clean. Specialist ‘decking cleaners’ are now available to help you remove all grease and dirt, and prevent the re-growth of algae and fungus. Remove any soapy residues by washing thoroughly with clean water – again, with a pressure washer if you have one.
- Apply stain or preservative. When the decking is dry, a deck stain or preservative can be applied. If you have a hardwood deck you should also consider an annual treatment of revitalising decking oil.
- Seal and protect. Finally, you need to seal the wood with a decking protector. This is a clear, water-repellent coat that contains waxes to help prevent moisture damage, a preservative to keep the surface free from decay, and an algaecide to prevent mould growth.
All decks involve some basic construction techniques to ensure that the finished project will provide many years of service.
Weather resistant screws and galvanised nails and bolts should be used for your decking project; these will prevent rust from discolouring your deck.
Drill pilot holes
It is a good idea to drill pilot holes for your fasteners especially when nailing near the edge or end of a board.
Space deck boards evenly
Spacing deck boards 3-5mm apart will allow for and natural movement of the timber as it takes on, or loses moisture.
Use an end coat preservative
On all saw cuts and drill holes.
Apply weather resistant finish
Our pressure treated timber is guaranteed against rot for 15 years, but adding a weather resistant finish will increase the longevity of colour and finish of your deck.
Any deck can benefit from railings. The boundaries and the visual lines that the balustrades create adds a sense of enclosure, privacy and safety.
Most building regulations require that any decks that are built 30'' or higher have railings that are 36'' to 42'' high and that all stairs that are greater than 4 treads have a railing on each open side.
Installing balustrades and rails
- First, measure the distance between the posts at the base rail and cut the handrails and base rails accordingly to the length required.
- Position and fix the bottom rail, then using your baluster length as a guide, position and then fix the top handrail.
- Attach all the balusters to the deck rails at intervals not exceeding 100mm (4”).
If you're thinking of laying a flat surface in your garden, you are probably torn between the range of options available from concrete slabs to decking or even decorative aggregates.
Love it or hate it, garden decking is the more economical option and allows for the finish of your choice. Our decking boards and tiles are all pressure treated which gives them guaranteed 15 years of protection from rot and fungal decay.
Decked areas of your garden are great for entertaining friends with alfresco dining or providing a stable BBQ area. You could also use your decking as a family seating area or even as a setting for garden games.
Of course, you will need to get the balance between decked and natural area of you garden, you don't want too big or too small a decked area. Here are some of the issues you may want to think about.
Planning your decking area
1) Where to place your decking boards?
If you choose to place decking against your house's walls then you need to think about proper drainage. Ideally place the decking over a porous material such as gravel or hard core. If building onto concrete you will need to make sure this is tilted away for your house. Lastly, if you are building directly onto the ground you may need to use a weed proof membrane.
Always make sure that the decking touches your walls below the damp-proofing course and always check building regulations before starting to construct garden decking.
2) How much of your garden do you want to cover?
You will need to plan how large area you'd like to have decked. Make sure that you accurately measure the area so that you can figure out how many decking boards that you need to buy. Always add 10 % extra to your order to make up for cutting boards to length.
3) Type of decking: Softwood decking tiles, decking boards or kits?
Using decking boards requires the most DIY skills but will look best over larger areas, but must use a base. Decking tiles are great for small areas and do not need to be assembled on base kit. Tiles are also the best option for decking a roof garden area and are the simplest to assemble. Lastly, Decking board kits feature all that you need to assemble a decking area.
The Easy Deck-Bearer system which allows a ground level deck to be built in just a morning, leaving the afternoon for relaxing in the sun.
This new system comprises of pre-notched deck bearers that simply slot together to form a strong decking base framework with minimum effort.
Available in two lengths, the spacing of the bearers on the 3m length is perfect for supporting the Checkerboard tiles, Patio Deck Tiles and all Deckboards, 2.4m bearers are suitable for use with the Deckboards Installing your Pre-Notched deck kit has been made as simple as possible and installed in 3 easy steps!
Building the decking area
Step 1: Make sure the ground surface is level and cover with plastic sheeting or weed control fabric.
Step 2: Make an outer frame, then slot the Easy Deck-Bearers into place, one-by-one. Fix together using Galvanised Screws or Decking Screws to each joint.
Step 3: Fix your chosen decking on top of the Easy Deck-Bearers and enjoy the finished result.
There has some press coverage suggesting that garden decking is partly to blame for flooding in the UK. This is a complex issue and clearly reducing the area available for drainage can't be helpful. But there are ways you can still get the decking area you always wanted, but also be mindful of the environment.
Plan your garden
The simplest solution to decking drainage would be to not cover too much of your gardens surface area with paving or decking. Or to set up a system to collect the water from your decking into a water butt.
You can also slop the earth underneath your decking towards open ground, away from house walls. Installing french drains could be another solution.
Use porous concrete
When building garden paths or a hard standing for a greenhouse, shed or decking area, you may want to consider using porous concrete. This will allow better drainage under your decking area and will reduce the risk offlooding.
Improving your garden drainage
If your garden is often water logged or floods, then you need to think about drainage. The simplest solution is to plant shrubs and trees that like standing in wet soil. You should also make sure that the soil under your lawn is loose and you should add a layer of sand / grit before laying turf. This will maximise drainage in from your lawn area. If all else fails you may want to invest in a garden drainage system.