A decking area can really transform your garden. It can give you valuable extra space for entertaining your friends and family, a great outdoor dining area or simply a pleasant spot to relax in. Often fitted as a raised platform directly onto the back of your home, it makes a good transitional space between house and garden.
Types of decking
Softwood and hardwood decking
Softwood is perfect if you're looking for a classic style of decking that's easy on your wallet. Hardwood is very hard-wearing, weather-resistant and simple to maintain.
Heat treatment gives these softwood boards a tough, water-resistant finish - and a long lifespan of 15 years or more.
Composite deck boards are made from a blend of recycled timber and PVC. That means they give you the best of both worlds - combining the attractive appearance of wood with the low maintenance and durability of plastic.
Grass effect deck boards
If you prefer a softer surface, try grass effect decking. It's comfy enough for sunbathing sessions, but robust enough to stand up to the rough-and-tumble when the kids play on it.
Deck tiles (which slot neatly into place) give you a versatile alternative to boards for your ground-level decking, pathways and patios.
There's a wide choice of deck boards on the market to suit every budget, garden and lifestyle. They vary in terms of how resilient they are and how much maintenance they need.
Try and lay deck boards with a 3mm gap between, so rainwater can run through. Reversible deck boards can be laid smooth or ridged side uppermost, or you can combine the two finishes for decorative effect. The easiest way to arrange them is at right angles to the supporting joists - but you don't have to. Decide on the pattern before you start, as the choice will affect the spacing and number of joists.
Horizontal deck boards
For standard right-angled decking, measure 400mm between the centre of one supporting joist and the next.
Diagonal deck boards
If you lay your boards diagonally, you'll need joists spaced 300mm centre-to-centre for your structure to be secure.
Chevron deck boards
For a chevron pattern, your joists should measure 300mm centre-to-centre, and you'll need to lay a double joist where the boards meet so you've got enough space to fix them securely.
Additions to your decking
Balustrade, steps and skirting
Adding posts and a balustrade is a good way of making your deck safer - and giving it a touch of style at the same time.
If you've got an elevated deck, it's easy to add steps by using pre-cut treads and risers. Putting up a handrail is a wise move, too. It'll stop people from falling - and is an absolute must if you've got more than five steps or they rise more than 600mm above the ground.
And if you don't need to store garden equipment under your deck, why not give it the perfect finishing touch by adding some attractive latticed panels? You could fit some wire mesh behind them to stop leaves collecting.
If you want to enjoy your deck on warm summer evenings, how about fitting some integrated lights? It's easy to get a low-voltage kit that suits your garden. And you can save plenty of energy - and pounds - by choosing the latest LED spotlights, or fitting solar-powered lights which take their energy from the sun's rays and don't need any mains power.