Introduction to Garden Decking

One of the most common home renovation projects, a garden deck can improve a property in a number of ways.  You can make a garden look more interesting, create new spaces for entertaining, increase the value of your home and much more.

There are many options available when building a garden deck in terms of materials, design and construction.  This article will take a quick look at the reasons why you might add a garden deck to your home, the choices of materials available and some potential issues you should think about before building your deck.

Benefits of Adding Decking to Your Garden Design

Timber or plastic decking can be used in a variety of ways throughout a garden to dramatically improve its appearance.   However, a garden deck is also a simple and pragmatic way to solve issues you might have in a yard.  Here are some of the key advantages of adding a deck to your yard.

  • A Deck Provides a Platform for Backyard Activities
    A garden deck gives you the perfect space for a garden feature like an outdoor BBQ, fire pit or jacuzzi.
  • Adds Resale Value
    Garden decks are a great way add resale value to your home. This is particularly true if you have a smaller home that does not have much square footage.
  • Increases Your Living Space
    Garden decks provide you with a fantastic outdoor space where you can enjoy the company of your friends and family. Garden decks are great for enjoying outdoor dining, board games, sun-baking or partying!
  • Decks Add Form to a Garden
    Garden decks can be cleverly placed to give the garden structure and provide specific areas for specific activities. They can be focal points and be used to draw people into your garden.
  • Decking Can Link Spaces Together
    Decking is great for joining multiple areas of a garden together. For example, if you have a pool close to the house, decking can be used to link it to the building and create the feel of a large entertaining space.
  • Adds some Height to Your Garden
    A raised deck can provide a great platform from which to enjoy your garden. Having one of more garden decks also adds some variation in height for your garden, which can improve the overall look.
  • Cover Unsightly Areas of Your Yard
    If you have a patch of dirt that you can’t growth anything in because of a lack of sun or poor soil, a deck might fill the space perfectly. You can also use the space beneath the deck to hide gardening tools and your lawn mower.
  • Decks are Aesthetically Pleasing
    Garden decks can add a great looking architectural detail to your home. Some of the materials which decks are made from are also beautiful to look at, especially tropical hardwoods.
  • Decks Can Add Privacy to Your Yard
    Decks can be covered and have awnings, lattice or curtains that provide some privacy from your neighbours.
  • Decks Provide a Sheltered Outdoor Space
    There is nothing worse than having your family BBQ rained out! If you have a covered deck, you can still enjoy your outdoor BBQ without scurrying inside.

Decking Materials

Decks have traditionally been built from timber that is highly durable and can tolerate harsh weather conditions.  In recent years the types of materials used in garden decks have increased and there are now many options to explore. Each material has a number of advantages and disadvantages.   Which one you choose will depend upon your budget, the style of your home and the design of your garden.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure treated (PT) lumber is perhaps the most popular and inexpensive option for building a deck.  Pressure treated lumber is most commonly milled from pine trees and is chemically treated to resist fungus, rot and wood-eating bugs.  The major downside of using PT lumber is that it warps and splits easily.  Routine maintenance is required to maintain the structural integrity and look of the deck.

Pressure treated timber once had a bad reputation because it treated with dangerous chemicals like Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA).  Modern PT lumber uses less-toxic chemicals that are much safer for humans and the environment.

Tropical Hardwood Timber

There are many hard-wearing hardwood timbers from around the world which are ideal for garden decks.  The fine-grain and density of trees including ipe, ironwood, balau decking, tallow wood, ironbark and Philippine mahogany make them ideal for garden decks.

These hardwoods are naturally resistant to bugs and decay, fire resistant and can last 20 or 30 years if well maintained.  Unfortunately, quality hardwood decking lumber can be quite expensive.

Softwood Timber

Some softwood timbers are naturally high in components that make them resistant to rot and wood-boring insects.  Some of the most popular choices for softwoods include redwood, pine, douglas fir and red cedar.

Softwoods are easier to work with than hardwoods, but are less durable.  Some of the colours available are very beautiful, but a soft wood deck must be carefully maintained.

Composite Decking

A recent trend for garden decking, composite decking typically uses boards made from wood fibres and recycled plastic.  It does not require much maintenance and is very hard-wearing.  Manufacturers offer composite decking products in a wide variety of colours and patterns.

This material is low-maintenance and will never need to be sanded or refinished.  It is very hard-wearing, but composite decking can eventually show signs of decay as the years progress and the timber component of the boards breaks down.

The main drawbacks with composite materials are that they often don’t look as good as natural timber, they can sometimes be slippery when wet and they are prone to attracting mould.  They are usually easy to install and can come in decking kits with all of the fasteners provided.

Synthetic Lumber

Similar to composite decking, synthetic lumber also involves plastic — a lot of it.  Synthetic lumber is made from 100% plastic and is extremely hard-wearing. Manufacturers claim that the plastics used are 100% recyclable and environmentally friendly.  When you decide to replace the deck, the materials of the old deck can be broken down and re-used to make more decking or another product.

A major advantage of synthetic lumber over timber is the ease with which is can be made to form various shapes including long curves.  Synthetic lumber can also be shaped like wood — using standard woodworking tools.  Even after it has been shaped using tools, it retains its waterproof and weather-resistant characteristics.  It can also be purchased in pieces that have slip-resistant designs and drainage systems.

Aluminum

If you want a deck that is extremely hard-wearing, aluminium is perhaps the best choice.  It can provide a very modern look and is easy to make water-tight.  Unfortunately, it can also be very expensive.

Things to Think About Before Installing a Deck

The key considerations you should think about before purchasing your deck include:

Cost

If you wish to maximise your return on investment, it might be more appropriate to buy an expensive deck only if you know you will be living in the house for a few decades.  If you are selling the house in the next few years, perhaps a pressure treated lumber deck is more appropriate.  You have to weigh up the cost of the deck against the value it returns.

Maintenance Requirements

You should think about how much work the deck will take to maintain.  Perhaps you are happy to clean your pressure treated lumber deck now, but will you feel the same way in 10 years time?  Some materials are easier to clean than others which can make your life easier in the long run.

Location

A poorly located deck will rarely get used.  A general rule of thumb is to place decks as close to the house as possible if you want them to act like additional living spaces.

Purpose

The desk might be built for a specific purpose like holding a jacuzzi.  If you know how it will be used, ensure that the materials and construction methods used are suitable for that purpose.  For example, you should probably avoid using composite decking because it can become slippery when wet.


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