How to lay decking: everything you need to know

How to lay decking: everything you need to know

A garden deck is an ideal addition to every garden. Yet, it does take time, effort, and patience to construct and install. Stick with us to learn how to lay decking and build your own outdoor platform. If you want to know how to install decking and need some refreshing decking ideas, make sure to check them all here!

How to plan the decking?

Think of the location

The initial step before building a deck is to choose a proper location for the decking project. Depending on what the purpose of the deck is and what type of a deck you intend to build, allocating the ideal spot can make your job a lot easier. 

Factors such as safety and privacy, natural sunlight, humidity, and garden layout, can be a game-changer. So think thoroughly about what is the purpose of your deck and try to avoid humid, damp, and shade-prone areas. Laying the decking on a sunny spot is always a good idea since it genuinely needs less maintenance and is perfect to display and grow potted greenery.

Consider the design and the size

Design-wise, laying a garden deck brings yard layering to the next level. It makes an outdoor space stand out as lively and socially-oriented. Building a deck starts with landscape design, so before any basic work is done on the decking, you have to figure out where you ought to install it and what size works with your available space. 

The first rule of designing a garden deck is to measure properly and plan out the layout. That way, you minimize the wasted material once the platform is built. 

Here are a few things to take into account when designing a deck:

  • Fall of the frame should be 1:100 away from the building
  • Try to fit only whole wooden boards to the frame
  • Leave small gaps of 5 to 7mm between boards
  • Be careful not to cover air bricks

Prepare the materials

Once you have planned out the garden deck design and its sizing, it is easier to accurately calculate how much wood and tools you would need. Consequently, you can go ahead and order the garden deck supplies without worrying about wasting material. 

Check this shortlist of the tools you would need to get the job done:

  • Circular saw
  • Hand saw
  • Screws 
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Tape measure
  • Chalk 
  • Drill 

The best wooden material for a garden deck is treated timber. The boards are strong, durable, and easily customizable to fit any commercial or residential landscape. Sand cut the edges to remove splinters and consider treating the surface with preservatives. As an alternative deck board material, you can consider PVC, hardwood, and wood-plastic composite.

How to install the decking?

Take into account the safety measures

Ensure you can work safely with protective gear. Before you start building a garden deck, change into working clothes you are not concerned about damage, stain, or tear apart. Wear safety goggles and a dust mask when sanding or working with power drills, saws, and other machinery. Protective gloves are a must throughout the whole building process, especially while handling wood and chemicals.

Check out these safety guidelines when installing a garden deck:

  • Tightly secure the boards when drilling or sawing
  • Ask for help when moving heavy joists and boards
  • Apply only anti-slip decking paint or oil when painting the deck
  • Do not burn treated timber wastage (it is toxic)
  • Dispose of any wooden leftovers at a recycling station
  • Treat timber outdoors or in a well-ventilated space
  • Follow the label instructions on wood preservatives for application, drying, and safety 
  • Have a full face and body coverage
  • Keep children away from the working area!

Let’s not forget hygiene. After you are done with the deck building tasks – wash your hands thoroughly and change your clothes. Be certain to dispose of your working clothes after handling wood preservatives. Any one-time-use equipment should also be safely disposed of or recycled.

Prep the decking site

Once you have set the perfect location for your garden deck and are done with the landscape planning, it is time to prepare the decking site for installation. Prepping the grounds is an important step, as it allows you to take precautions for future issues.

Start by designating the edges of the deck frame by fixing pegs, then connect them with a string or a line. By doing that you mark out the dimensions of your garden deck and can clear the ground underneath from debris, rocks, and weeds. Minimize the chances of vegetation regrowing after you set up the decking by putting up a weed barrier sheet to cover the oversite.

You may also build a deck over a lawn, a raised structure, or a solid foundation such as concrete and bricks. In case you plan to lay decking on a lawn be certain to dig the designated area to a depth of ~5cm and put a layer of landscaping fabric over the soil. For a final touch, add a top layer of gravel and put stones or paving bricks to support the joists. 

Good drainage is an essential part of a garden deck’s efficiency and functionality. This can be achieved by building an oversite construction with stones, gravel, and drainage gaps or installing an underdeck system so water could easily pass through.

Start the shaping and framing

When you are left with a cleared out site, it is time to proceed with the shaping and framing of the deck. Since you already know where it would be positioned (you prepped the ground already) and what size it would be, you should gather the support materials and start with the construction of the outer frame. 

Put the slats together to form the frame. Fix them by bolting or drilling joists along the perimeter. Use three screws – one on the top edge and two on the sides. If you want to set a footing to the raised frame, mark down the posts’ spots and leave 1m to 1.5m spacing between them. To fix posts, screw them through the frame boards, using at least three screws.

It is vital to know how to fix joists. Joists are the segments that provide decking support and platform stability. The right tools for the job are a nail gun or a power drill. If you intend to lay diagonal boards, the spacing between the internal joists should be around 30cm; and if you lay horizontal boards – 40cm. Joists are always evenly spaced out and aligned under the deck. And get attached to the frame using nails and joist hangers. 

Have in mind, depending on the size, location, and functionality of the garden deck, you might need to attach the deck frame to a building or add noggings. 

Lay the deck boards

Now let’s talk about how to lay decking and how to install decking boards. 

Start by laying your first board, aligning it with the outer edge of the frame. If the frame is attached to a building, choose the edge closest to it. Place the second board parallel to the first one, and leave an opening of 5 to 8mm for wood expansion and water drainage. Then add and adjust the next ones until you have positioned all the deck boards over the frame. Remember to keep the gap size between each laid board consistent. 

Once the decking frame is fully covered and the boards are laid and spaced out, it is time to fix them in place. Do that by fixing the garden deck boards one by one. Secure them at all four corners and at the center where they overpass frame noggins and joists. Note that if the boards are not wooden, you might need to pre-drill the holes to preserve the material from damage.

The last step is to hide the frame and edge the decking. It is done by vertically attaching and screwing boards along the platform sides, so the exposed frame is no longer visible and ruining the landscape aesthetic. You may also add additional features to give the deck a nice finished and polished look. Fascia boards, steps, balustrading, or/and a pergola structure can make your decking look amazing!

Maintenance and Aftercare

A garden deck needs constant care and maintenance attention. So even after the decking is completed, there is still some work to be done. Start by applying a decking stain to protect and preserve the wooden material and give it a nice polished look.

Make sure the garden deck is cleaned properly and thoroughly with a pressure washer. Use a leaf blower to regularly remove leaves, dust, and garden debris from the decking area. A jet washer is great for seasonal maintenance and when the decking platform needs a deep cleaning.

Brushing and sweeping is an effective way to keep the deck clean without damaging the wood. Another good strategy to preserve wooden decks is to do annual water-pressure treatments but make sure to reapply the protective coating when it starts to wear out. 

Don’t hesitate to seek help

Building and laying a deck is not an easy task, it takes a lot of time and energy. If you are new to the DIY world, it might be a quite challenging gardening mission. Nobody is born with the knowledge and the skillset of how to install decking or how to lay decking boards. So if you need help – we can land you a hand. 

Our team of professional gardeners in London is ready to help set up a plan, choose proper decking and install a stable and solid garden deck from scratch.

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