Build Perfect Decking archive

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Anthony Bailey and Rob Sandall weigh in on the finer points involved when building decking

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Build Perfect Decking

The garden deck has become a firm favourite in gardens all over Britain – here's Anthony's pirate-themed decking, for something a little different! Sometimes patio just won’t cut it, but it’s fair to say that calling in a company to put the decking together for you can be something of an expensive idea. You also have a huge number of options when it comes to decking, so you'll need something of a guide to basic best practice. That’s where we come in.


First of all, you’ll need to make up a plan for the decking, using either the style we’re showing here (diagram 1) or your own choice of design. For further ideas on the way you’d like things done, there are several useful books available for purchase at

Once you’ve decided, you’ll need to make up a scale plan of the design, being careful to choose the right site in your garden. Mark out where the decking will cover in your garden in advance, and make sure you’re happy with where you’re planning to put it – it’s all very well getting carried away, but once you’ve put the whole thing together it’s staying where it is!

The Ground Underneath

Now that you know where you want the decking, the next job is to level everything out, compacting and clearing until you’re left with an entirely flat surface, or as close as you can possible get.

It might be that there’s already a solid surface ready to use – slabs, paving or concrete. Any of these is completely acceptable, although in the case of paving slabs try to ensure that they’re all relatively level.

It might be, as with the picture here (pic 2) that you can set up your decking on the ground without any further hassle – harder surfaces should allow this without problems. However, if you’re working with soft ground on grass or soil, you’re going to want to use concrete to support the frame, as with the diagram (diagram 3). Dig out a cube of soil where each support post will go measuring 300 x 300 x 450mm (12” x 12” x 18”) and fill this with concrete. This will set and leave your support posts stuck firmly into the ground.

Press on

From there, continue to build the frame (pic 3), with the under supporting posts and boards first. It might be that the joists you’ve put down are going to struggle – watch out for telltale sagging and if necessary beef up your supports before you continue. Don’t start nailing your decking boards down until you’re completely satisfied that they will provide enough support.

Decking Detail

Decking comes in a hugely varied number of mouldings and colours, hardwood and softwood (pic 4) – this will all come down to aesthetic choice (although remember that finishing plays a huge part in this too) and budget. Hardwood will stand the test of time that much longer, but the price tag is likely to reflect this too. Thermowood, a baked wood/plastic alloy, is tempered to be deliberately resilient, but again will carry a higher price. When you’re nailing down, use decking screws and ensure that you’re using enough to stop any trouble when things start to shift.

Supporting The Decking Further

If necessary, you can bolt the decking itself to the masonry – the right bolts and an impact drill and bits capable of dealing with brickwork is all you need, and this will provide an incredible amount of extra stability. Be careful when working with heavy duty gear like this, and again make sure you know exactly where you’re drilling before you do, or you’ll end up with holes in the wall!


Once you’re happy with the basic decking itself you’ll be able to move onto stairs and rails. Included here are examples of both (diagrams 4 and 5). Be extremely careful to watch for any weakness in the wood or joints, and be sure to screw everything down tight – while a well built decking should hold its own, it’s a lack of care on the railings and stairs that are likely to cause the biggest accidents.


Finishing can be as complex as you want it to be. Simple tough creosote will more than do the job (pic 6), evenly spread. However, for protection against the summer sun, we'd recommend Osmo's UV protection oil, which should go a long way towards keeping your decking's colouring (


Once your decking is complete, you’ll doubtless want to light things up a little. Personally, the hassle of wiring everything up seems a bit OTT to us, especially when these days there are a huge number of excellent solar lighting products available for a modest price.

The Fine Lighting Company sent us some lantern and post models from their expansive range, but all manner of deck, pagoda and even aquatic lights are available.

Charge time was around a day, and afer that everything worked without any further tweaking – for the hassle you’ll save in sorting out electrics and all that, it’s well worth taking a look at, or getting in touch on 0844 445 7159

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

garden , Decking , Planning , Summer , Sandall , Pirate

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