Adding decking to your garden is a common and increasingly popular DIY project. It is quite a large task to take on, and so planning is very important; get it all down on paper before you start and make sure you have the skills and materials ready. A well done piece of decking is a great addition to your garden and will give you hours of joy as you relax in the sunshine with a well deserved drink. A badly done piece of decking however is at best and eyesore and at worst a serious danger. So, read up on the task ahead of you and prepare carefully.

Choose your style

Classic – this style is all about clean lines and simplicity. It works well in any place, but is especially suited to a smaller decking area as the lack of fussiness doesn’t over clutter a small space. The classic style has straight railings without any fancy bits and pieces and is generally in wood stained a plain color or just clear varnished. Classic decking is understated and will stand the test of time without looking dated, and will go with any style of garden or house.

Contemporary – This look is for the modern house and garden and involves glass and metal such as stainless steel in the railings or even the flooring. It compliments a modern building perfectly, and can make a more traditional home or garden look a little more modern.

Traditional – This is an old school look, with fancy curved balustrades and natural woods. This style goes best with a classic cottage garden and a more traditional style of house.

Preparing for your decking project

Building decking takes a lot of materials, so make sure you have everything you need ready before you begin. Draw up some plans to get an idea of the materials you will need, and always get extra to allow for mistakes; you can always return items that you don’t use.

Some materials and tools that you will need –

  • Wood for the frame and for stakes
  • Decking and railings
  • Fabric to suppress weeds
  • Decking screws, nails or staples and a nail gun (optional, but much quicker!)
  • Tape measure
  • Spirit level
  • Screwdrivers (electric ideally)
  • Concrete slabs for foundation
  • Miter and jig saws
  • Wood preserver, varnish or stain. Make sure it is weather proof to protect your decking

You may find that you need more tools as you go along, but these are the main ones you will need for a standard decking job. If the area you want to build in is uneven or you are doing stepped decking them you may need a mini digger to clear and level the ground, and dig holes for posts that will need to cemented in if your decking is any significant height above the ground level.

Step by step guide – this outlines the basic steps needed to complete a decking project; you will need to adjust it to suit your specific design and layout

  1. Prepare the area by compressing loose soil and clearing any plants or large rocks. Lay a weed suppressing fabric to keep plants from sprouting beneath your decking and poking their way through the boards. Plants can also damage the integrity of any foundations you have put in place.
  2. Create a solid foundation with regularly spaced concrete slabs to support the framework. It is very important to get these level so use a straight piece of board and a spirit level to confirm the angle at regular intervals. You could also concrete in posts as foundations which works really well if you are working on a sloped area as these foundation posts will remove the need to level the ground in advance. Foundation posts are also required to support a railing if you are including one; sink the posts to the correct depth and concrete them in to make a sturdy frame for your handrail. You can buy posts that are already drilled to accept the balustrades; just ensure that you space them correctly
  3. Make a solid frame with planks and supporting joists running perpendicular to the direction that the decking will be laid. This must be level, so check regularly, and a nail gun is really handy for speeding up this stage of the job. The frame should allow for an overhang of the decking boards so that it will not be visible when the job is complete. Insert noggins between the joists for extra strength
  4. Lay the decking planks. Cut them to size where necessary first, and use a miter to cut corners so that the angles are correct. Attach each plank to each joist with two screws; an electric screwdriver or a screwdriver head fitted to a drill makes this job a lot quicker. Fix a decking plank to any sides of the decking that can be seen in order to hide the framework, and add a step if there is a large drop down to the garden.
  5. Add your railings by fitting the major balustrades first, and then the smaller posts followed by the handrail. This needs to be sturdy in order to be safe, so construct it carefully. Sand down the wood and fill in any screw holes with wood filler before varnishing
  6. Stain, varnish or paint your decking; just ensure that whatever you use it is weather proof. You will need to do this on a yearly basis. Be careful with wet wooden decking as it can become very slippery; use a pressure washer to clean it, and consider adding staples or mesh in high use places if the slipperiness becomes an issue

Decking can be a very useful and attractive addition to your garden or yard, and doing it yourself is satisfying and cheaper than paying someone else. Careful planning and preparation will ensure that your decking remains safe and functional for many years to come, as long as you maintain it correctly.

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