Building an attractive timber decking garden feature

Published: 16th August 2011
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Timber decking can quickly add character to a garden. It is one of the most popular and rewarding ways of changing a bland and uninspiring garden layout into a focal point for pure enjoyment. You can easily build a perfect sun-trap where, after a busy session working to enhance your garden's colourful beauty, you can retreat and relax with a refreshing iced drink.

Timber decking is not one of those DIY tasks that appears either intimidating or beyond anyone's limited building skills: however, it does need careful planning and a thought process involving everyone in the household. Otherwise, it might cause disagreement and become a thorn in your side, forever.



Planning

Timber decking can be assembled and located in the sun or shade at ground level, elevated, or even built over a water feature or slope. People might enjoy split-level decking designs with one or more steps featured in its layout.



Modules of varying shapes can be built separately, and easily bolted together to create a wonderful, inviting, peaceful retreat, with garden furniture and plants added afterwards to form an attractive, decorative focal point in the garden. Designs in squares, or rectangular, hexagonal, or overlapping formats with triangular sections possibly bolted alongside are entirely dependent on the gardener's own imagination and the residents' unanimous agreement. Pergolas for climbing plants and hanging baskets can be built into the design, plus balustrades on an elevated platform.



Variety is the order of the day and it's what inspires everyone's creative penchant which ensures a decking feature becomes characteristically inviting. Timber decking can even be combined with other hard surfaces like gravel or stone pavements to deliver uniqueness in a garden design.



The best advice we can offer any DIY and gardening enthusiast is: 'KEEP it SIMPLE.'



Stick firmly to the following basic principles if you want your timber decking feature to be a resounding success.



Site Preparation



1. Inspect the garden at regular intervals and make a note of the sun's movements across it. Your choices and options become increasingly apparent as the planning and daytime research will highlight the garden's best sun-traps and shaded areas.

2. Decide whether the decking is to be built in a hotspot, or in the shade.

3. Begin your decking plans by measuring and staking the chosen ground area, and drawing your first design thoughts on paper.

4. Do you want complete privacy in a sheltered area of the garden, or do you want it to be out in the open where everyone can relax in the sun? Remember, erecting any timber decking in a permanently shaded area can see it being affected by damp and algae growth.

5. Don't make the design too big for your garden: I've seen enthusiasts create 'A ROAD to WIGAN PIER' across the landscape and wonder why it turned into an unsightly feature?

6. Take my advice: any aspirations towards a new career in civil engineering construction and thoughts of erecting a 'stairway to heaven' will result in problems and criticisms you won't enjoy.

7. Take advice from professional builders' and timber merchants about the deck bearer timbers (80mm x 80mm size) and ensure they are stress graded joists, if the decking is to be elevated. Inspect all the decking timbers (140mm wide) available and decide upon their overall length and surface finish.eg 2400mm lengths x 140 mm wide with a 5mm gap between each board.

8. Having listened to the views of everyone in the home, peg out your final decking design plan in the garden exactly where it is to be built: then get their overall agreement that the site is perfect.



Ground Level Surface Preparation



If you intend laying the decking over a grassy or weeded area remove all surface turf and lay retardant growth fabric over it to prevent re-growth under the decking. Areas that are naturally moist or soggy and retain water should be additionally covered with pea shingle up to 25mm in depth – this will help prevent any unwanted rotting or distress to the timber. Lay the decking bearer frame structure on the shingle and it will bed down above any water surface. Ensure it is laid horizontal and flat, by using a spirit level to check its accuracy.



Drawing and Design



Finalise your decking drawings and their unique characteristics by examining the surface areas of all modules to be constructed and assembled, and ensuring that, together, they will accommodate all the seating and garden furniture you require.



Having planned your modules' decking design meticulously, you can order the framed bearer timbers (80mm x 80mm) and 500mm centred (80mm x 80mm) supports to size, plus the elevating posts (if needed) and the decking panels you have finally agreed in your accurately drawn plans. If elevated, be sure to ensure the height is no more than 600mm above ground level without first seeking specialist advice.



Elevated Decking

Support posts (positioned at each corner and alongside 500mm centre bearers, and at 1200mm perimeter spacings around the framework), should be set into the ground on a medium density concrete block and cemented in at a 700mm depth, depending on the garden soil types.

Use a spirit level to ensure each post is vertical. Secure all posts to the decking frame and centre bearers using 130mm coach bolts. Build the frame first and use temporary legs to get the framing in its correct position and level. It will make the positioning task easier at the structure's final assembly. Your bearer frame timbers should be bolted to the outside of the perimeter posts and also bolted to the rows of cemented in 500mm centred support posts. When installing pre-treated, decking support posts take care not to damage any underground pipes or drainage and ensure the site does not cover any manhole covers.



Fixing decking boards to the bearer frames



Decking boards can be cut to size to affix across the bearer framework and 500mm centred spans or cut oversize and trimmed back upon completion, especially if any surface edge is curved or shaped in any way. Timber decking boards can be laid in horizontal, diagonal or even a chevron design surface pattern to create an eye-catching garden feature.



TIP: Use a thin timber strip shoulder guide (temporarily nailed in place on the decking) to act as a guide for a power saw when sawing and cutting off over-sized decking timbers.

Always add deck board fascia’s to the exterior bearer framework when all the decking work is finished; it covers any bearer frame timber from view.



SCREWS: Use two No. 8 exterior wood screws at each end of the 140mm wide decking boards and space them apart when fixing 15mm in from either ends.



TIP: Always lay timber decking boards down loosely on the bearer frames and supports before screwing down in position to see what gaps are best suited to your surface design. Screw down and affix each board on the bearer supports once you are happy with the surface pattern desired.



SAFETY ISSUES



Always prioritise your own - and any assistants' safety - while undertaking any gardening or DIY work, especially when using power tools.



Equipment:



Dusk mask for the face and nose when cutting timber.

RCD Adaptor Eye goggles.

Safety gloves for handling timber.

Knee pads.



Assembly Tools



Power drill and drill bits and driver system for screwing down decking boards.

Power saw for cutting and shaping the decking boards and surface areas.

Spanners and socket set for coach bolt timber assembly.

Tape measure, hammer, spade, wood clamps, string lines and wood pegs for staking out layouts.

Paint brush (wide bristles) for applying wood preserve or wood stain protection.

Chisels if adding balustrades or pergolas to the decking design structure.



Summary

If you follow our advice and guidelines, and take professional advice from trade experts when purchasing your decking timbers and materials, we know you will be pleased with the final results. A beautiful garden is a reflection of its owners' creativity and hard work; it is a work of art and focused dedication, and will be greatly admired by everyone who sees it.



This article is written on behalf of Anglia Tool Centre. The UKs leading supplier of power tools and home improvement equipment.

Comments
Article Alley on August 17, 2011 said:
Decking certainly makes a garden as far as I am concerned. Its also a nice area for children to play on.
Baybitz on August 17, 2011 said:
Hi, I've been doing home renovations on my own properties for some time now and building steps is always one of those things I just could not get. Thanks for laying it out.
Adrian Lawrence on August 17, 2011 said:
Thanks for sharing this great hub! Looks like you have listed all the steps I need. I will pass this onto my neighbor, as they could really use some new steps. Will save a bundle to do it themselves.
Handyman on August 17, 2011 said:
Handyman, Good job my man! I did decks before selling my company. I was into the Brazilian hard wood stuff. I'll tell you, they were beautiful, but I'm glad I wasn't doing the work. I'm going to run down some of my followers for you. We need to get this stuff out. It's good. jim
Retromum on August 17, 2011 said:
Wish I first had my own home again! But definitely when I do sometime in this lifetime I will want to build a nice deck! Always loved one and never had one. Even when i did have a house with Ex... he never wanted to build me one.

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