Decking can transform any garden, especially sloping sites
One way to increase the size of your empire, apart from buying out your neighbours and razing their houses to the ground, is decking. In suburbia decking proliferates, but wherever you live, the feeling of something solid underfoot as you dish out the sausages or huddle beneath the patio heaters cannot be underestimated.
That feeling of solid ground underfoot requires, unfortunately, some hard graft. If your garden slopes away from the house, levelling the site can be a job in itself. Otherwise, learn from tropical climes and build a subframe on stilts. On a gentle slope, a concrete block laid every metre or so may do. Ideally, decking should be laid over a concrete base, but if you have one of those you could make a real terrace.
However easy it looks on TV, decking is a big step to take. Think carefully as you mark out your new territory. Clever people incorporate plant areas and/or a sandpit with a lid. Squares and rectangles are good shapes, but curves are not much harder.
You will need
To hire or buy a ‘chop saw’ or Mitre saw. This is a bench-mounted circular saw which will breeze through all those cuts – perhaps 20 per sqm through thick wood. This will easily pay for itself in saved effort (and precision of cutting). Often the cost of a week’s hire of a professional tool will buy a lower range one, which will be utterly undaunted by your tiny decking project, and will live on, good as new.
Your required area of decking plus 20 per cent for waste. Available in softwood planks grooved on one side or both, 5-6 ins wide. If you go for hardwood you must be rich. Check its origins. Go for ‘pressure treated’ as dipped decking won’t last as long.
Subframe wood of 100x50mm joists. Check for knots, as too many will weaken the wood. The timber merchant should accept that you may reject some bits, but if it’s more than one in ten, go somewhere else. Concrete blocks or solid posts to go into the ground. Lay your foundation blocks in a shallow bed of mortar a couple of inches deep. Posts look better but need deeper holes, also filled with concrete. Thousands of 60mm screws.
Erect your subframe and lay the decking
Make a lattice with your joists, which shouldn’t be more than a metre apart. Use noggins (offcuts braced at right angles between joists) for rigidity. When laying decking some people like horizontal strips, others like vertical, or alternating squares of both. Forty-five degrees is a good way to use odd lengths without drawing attention to them, and your chop saw will have a setting to cut those angles. Your cordless drill can probably push screws through the decking into the joists with relative ease, but always drill pilot holes towards the ends of the decking timber to prevent splitting. When you’ve finished your purpose built leisure platform, sit back, iced G&T in hand, and admire your fine work.
Planning Permission is Required if...
Any part of the deck exceeds 3m high.
It is at first floor level or above.
The deck is situated within 20m of a highway.
Its structure will affect the privacy or amenity value of neighbouring houses.
The planned structure is going to be attached to a listed building or a national park.
Words: Ben Mee Image: Chris Tubbs