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.
Patios have a timeless quality which means they suit both traditional and contemporary properties, as long as you go with a material that is cohesive with the overall aesthetic of the house (a red brick patio will in most cases not look good on a period home of stone construction).
A beautiful modern design trend is using the same patio material for the room it adjoins through your French windows or patio doors, this creates a seamless transition from the inside to the outside.
A well-constructed patio, made from quality materials can last as long as the entire home and requires very little maintenance. However, in most cases a patio will prove more costly than decking the same area and construction can also take longer.
Concrete patios are cheap and quick to install, but are also one of the most durable varieties. Polished concrete looks great on contemporary properties but can turn slippery when wet. If you don't like the look of plain concrete, consider having it coloured or using a stamped concrete technique to imitate more expensive materials such as flagstone.
Made from a variety of base materials including stone, clay and plastic. Pavers come in a huge selection of styles and colours, and can imitate other finishes like cobblestones or brick, they are relatively inexpensive and are available in many pre-cut shapes, ensuring a quick installation time. However, they will need to be resealed every few years in order to maintain their appearance.
Clay bricks are quick to lay and their uniform rectangular shape means they can be laid in a wide array of patterns, to create different effects. It's a fairly durable and inexpensive material which is commonly available. Although it can chip, this is easy to rectify as single bricks can be removed and replaced in a matter of minutes.
Flagstones are a popular choice, as they generally suit any home but are one of the more expensive options, depending on what material you opt for. They come in a diverse range of shapes and colours, and are most commonly made out of slate or limestone, but if you're willing to spend a little more go for an even more luxurious material like granite or marble.
What base material the flagstone is made from will affect the overall robustness of the patio and how much maintenance it will require over the years. Limestone for example is a porous stone so will need to be re-sealed more often than granite or slate, to prevent it staining.
Making your mind up
If having read this you are still unsure of what you would prefer then consider using both! In recent years a combination of both patio and decking in gardens has become a popular design choice; a marvellous way to accentuate a patio is to have it centred by a square of decking in the middle on which you can place a dining/seating area.
If after reading all of this you are still umming and ahhing about what’s right for you, then why not check with us at Opun? We have an extensive network of Trade Partners who are experts in all aspects of garden landscaping who will make sure you get what’s right for your home.