Buy­ers’ Guide to deck­ing Choose deck­ing for style and longevity. Here’s what’s good, in wood

Choose deck­ing for style and longevity. Geoff Hodge looks at what’s good in wood – and the newer com­pos­ites

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

Wooden gar­den deck­ing reached its height of pop­u­lar­ity in the mid-1990s, but then fell out of favour, as own­ers com­plained about its slip­per­i­ness in winter and the need for an­nual main­te­nance. Yet with the re­newed in­ter­est in in­door-out­door liv­ing and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als, it seems deck­ing is fully back on trend – with more op­tions than ever be­fore. Beau­ti­ful, good qual­ity deck­ing adds a lux­u­ri­ous touch to the gar­den. It’s bril­liant for mak­ing roof ter­races and bal­cony floor­ing too, pro­vid­ing the per­fect sur­face for all man­ner of out­door so­cial­is­ing, en­ter­tain­ing, re­lax­ing and even sun­bathing. It’s also easy to adapt to suit a tricky slope or awk­ward shape. You can split the lev­els and in­clude steps for fur­ther in­ter­est, cre­ate walk­ways around hot tubs and swim­ming pools (as long as you use low-slip boards), or use it to make board­walk paths through the gar­den to cre­ate a sea­side or grass­land look and feel. There’s now a wealth of deck­ing ma­te­ri­als avail­able, from tra­di­tional soft­woods to harder-wear­ing hard­woods and the more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly com­pos­ite deck­ing boards, which are made from re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als and last longer. These are per­fect for mak­ing larger ar­eas, while deck­ing tiles are ideal for smaller cor­ners, as tem­po­rary floor­ing or even for adding in­set de­tails to a boarded deck.

For a more cre­ative re­sult, you can stain or paint your deck in a huge va­ri­ety of colours, in­tro­duce a curved edge to cre­ate a softer fin­ish, or lay the boards in hor­i­zon­tal, di­ag­o­nal and her­ring­bone pat­terns. When mea­sur­ing up, make sure you’ve cal­cu­lated the area ac­cu­rately. If you don’t buy the right quan­tity of boards at the out­set, you can find that match­ing them for colour, style and de­sign is tricky. Once you’ve worked out how many square me­tres you need, add an ex­tra 15% to al­low for cut­ting and wastage dur­ing in­stal­la­tion.

Which boards?

Soft­wood and hard­wood deck­ing boards both re­quire reg­u­lar main­te­nance to pre­vent rot­ting and can splin­ter and be­come worn. With soft­woods, look for pres­sure-treated boards be­cause these will last longer; guar­an­tees can range from 10-15 years. (Pres­sure-treat­ing in­volves forc­ing a wood preser­va­tive into the board to give added pro­tec­tion against rot.) If you want some­thing more-or-less main­te­nance free that can last even longer, com­pos­ite deck­ing is your best bet; some have guar­an­tees last­ing up to 30 years. Hard­woods are gen­er­ally long last­ing, with a bet­ter qual­ity look and feel, but have a price tag to match. GA’s de­sign guru Dawn Isaac is a fan of close-grained, trop­i­cal hard­wood deck­ing, such as ipe and iroko. “They last well, you can treat them to keep them rich brown or just go low­main­te­nance and let them sil­ver down.” They re­sist warp­ing, split­ting and rot­ting. Soft­woods need more reg­u­lar main­te­nance, un­less you look for slow­grown wood, which can usu­ally be iden­ti­fied by dense growth rings. This means the boards will be strong, sta­ble and less likely to twist and warp. Kiln-dried soft­wood has lower mois­ture con­tent, fur­ther re­duc­ing the like­li­hood of shrink­ing, twist­ing and warp­ing. Kiln-dried wood will ab­sorb more wood preser­va­tive when pres­sure treated. Com­pos­ite deck­ing is made from a mix of wood (or bam­boo) and plas­tic; both ma­te­ri­als are of­ten from re­cy­cled sources. This mix is ex­truded to form ei­ther a hol­low or a solid-core deck­ing board that’s durable. Com­pos­ite boards won’t rot, split, dis­tort, splin­ter or warp. They won’t fade in strong sun­light, never need sand­ing, stain­ing or oil­ing and are easy to main­tain – just wipe clean with warm, soapy water! It can be given a nat­u­ral wood-grain pat­tern and colour to re­sem­ble nat­u­ral tim­ber. Hol­low-core com­pos­ite boards (pic­tured left) are light­weight, mak­ing them eas­ier to work with and less ex­pen­sive than solid-core boards. The lat­ter pro­vide greater strength and bet­ter sound ab­sorp­tion once laid.

For­est Ridged Deck Tile £6.49 Pres­sure-treated soft­wood; ridged sur­face; 50cm long x 50cm wide, 3cm thick; 15-year guar­an­tee

STEPS WITH STYLE These low-main­te­nance hol­low com­pos­ite boards come in three colours. £10.43 per 2.2m long board, Cladco Pro­files

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