How to: pick the right decking for your garden
There are few greater, pastoral pleasures than spending a lazy day in the garden with friends and family soaking up the sun, when the weather permits. On these days being inside feels like a crime, but a garden without a decent seating/eating area can force you to spend much of the day locked inside.
Funnily enough, if you ask an Italian if they would like to join you for a meal, drink or any other activity in the open air by calling it ‘al fresco’ they will think you are saying “would you like to join me in jail?” — as the phrase is more commonly used as a euphemism for being locked in a prison cell.
If you however, want to be able to enjoy more time al fresco (in the English interpretation of the phrase, that is!) then adding some decking or a patio to your garden is a fantastic idea to let you spend as much time outside as possible. But, which is the best choice between the two for you? Here’s our rundown of everything you need to know about the two options to help you decide:
Decking generally comes in two principal styles, either raised above ground level, which is slightly faster to construct and more economical or decking can sunken in to the earth similar to a stone patio. Decking tends to suit more contemporarily built houses than older, traditional properties, though that is not to say that you won’t be able to find a style that suits an older home. The price is somewhat dependent on the choice of timber you use, each having their own aesthetic and durability and this can further be customised by paint or varnish.
A really great thing to do with decking, if you have a property with a subbasement at the same level as your back garden, is to construct decking, with stairs that lead up to a balcony constructed out of the same material on the first floor.
The two main downsides associated with wooden decking is that, it does require a little TLC to ensure it keeps its looks . Another consideration is that some materials decking are made from can become slippery when wet, although many of these varieties come as standard with textured grooves cut into them to add a little more traction under foot.
Pressure treated softwood
Treated softwood is the most economical, and widely available type of wooden decking used in the UK. It's typically made from Scandinavian pine which has undergone a series of treatments to make it resistant to things like rot and insects that bore into wood. These treatments give the wood a slightly greenish colouring. While this type of wood is normally the cheapest available, it is less robust than other options so it will need to replaced sooner, but a well looked after treated softwood deck could still last up to 30 years.
Cedar is another type of softwood. However, it has a natural resistance to rot and insects meaning it does not need to be chemically treated, permitting a more natural looking finish. It is slightly stronger than treated softwood and will need less maintenance, but this does come at a price costing up to three times more than pressure treated pine.
Varieties of hardwood include oak and mahogany. They are extremely hardy and strong meaning hardwood decking lasts an incredibly long time if well maintained. Hardwood's cost about the same as cedar, but it needs to be treated with a protective finish specifically for hardwood as it lacks some of the natural resistances to the weather of cedar. It's strength also makes it harder to work with, which means that installation is usually more costly and time-consuming.
Composite decking is an increasingly popular alternative to traditional decking. Made from a mixture of plastic and wood the end result is an inexpensive, long lasting and weather-resistant material that requires next to no maintenance. However, it's faintly artificial aesthetic will not be right for those who want a truly organic looking material for their decking.
The look of an aluminium deck will not appeal to all and it is considerably more expensive than some other options. But it will last an extremely long time and on modern properties can provide a clean, almost space-age look — it also does not need any regular maintenance to keep it in top condition, apart from the occasional clean.