Making this purchase can seem like a daunting decision, as there are many different options to choose from that come in different styles and colours.
This is a big decision, as installing decking in your garden can be a large investment, so you want to be sure that you are choosing correctly. To help you make that decision we have come up with this guide for you.
- Types of Decking
- Extra Considerations
- Decking Essentials
- Factors that Affect the Longevity
- How Much Does it Cost?
We have included information on the different types of decking as well as the advantages and disadvantages that each one has, the extra considerations that you need to be aware of when looking at decking and the essentials for both ground level and raised level decking.
Finally, we want to share with you how you can keep up with your decking maintenance by telling you factors that affect the longevity of your decking and an average of how much it will cost including labour and any extras.
By the end of this guide you will no longer be thinking ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’ but ‘I know which type of decking is best for my garden’, so read on!
Types of Decking
In order to answer your question ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’, we need to discuss the different types of decking. The main types of decking are wood (both hardwood and softwood) and composite. They all have different positive and negatives that come with them and have different reasons as to why you would want to use them.
Depending on where your decking is and how it is being used, you may want to consider different options based on the information that we have given here.
When thinking about which type of decking is best for my garden, you should at least consider the wood options. Hardwood decking is made from slow growing trees such as oak, therefore making it the more expensive option for decking. It is the more aesthetically pleasing option and is seen as more luxurious because of the beautiful colour and final look.
Even though hardwood is the most expensive option for decking, it does also last longer than softwood. If a hardwood decking is well maintained, then it can last up to 50 years! This is because hardwood doesn’t let in as much moisture as softwood as it is denser and less prone to deterioration and damage.
As just mentioned, hardwood does not let in much moisture, meaning that it can withstand the changeable British weather that we all know and love. This means that hardwood decking requires less maintenance than other types of decking. An annual deep clean and a refinish will keep it looking good for years whereas other types require much more maintenance.
Because hardwood is denser than softwood, hardwood can be more difficult to work with, with less room for error. This means that to ensure that the decking is well fitted, a professional may be required to do the job so that it lasts and is safe.
As mentioned, hardwood decking is made from slow growing trees. This means that choosing hardwood decking is a less environmentally friendly option as the trees will take a long time to replace. This means that if you are environmentally conscious and thinking ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’, then you may need to look at other options.
Softwood decking is made from fast growing trees such as pine. This makes it more environmentally friendly than hardwood materials as softwood can be replaced quicker.
This also means that it is a cheaper option than other materials as the trees grow faster so they are cheaper to produce. It should be noted, however, that even though it is a cheaper option, more maintenance is required with softwood decking.
So that softwood decking lasts, it needs to be well maintained. Softwood decking should be thoroughly cleaned at least twice a year with proper cleaning solutions, wood preservatives, and decking oils as needed. Cleaning should be assessed depending on the weather and amount of traffic on your deck. This maintenance is crucial in extending the lifespan of your decking to prevent any damages and keep the deck in working order. If well maintained, it can last up to 40 years.
Even when a softwood decking is well maintained, it does not last as long as hardwood. As it is less dense, it can degrade faster than hardwood meaning many people choose hardwood as they know it will last longer.
In terms of the colour options, softwood tends to come in a light-yellow colour which fades to grey after weathering if it is left untreated. This may not be the desired colour that you are looking for, however, there are wood stains or paints that you can buy to get the colour that you want.
Composite decking is made from a mix of plastic and real wood. Because it is made from a mixture of synthetic and real materials, composite decking lasts a long time. As the plastic will not break down due to weathering, they last a minimum of 25 years but are likely to still be going strong after 50 years.
This type of decking is the simplest kind of deck to maintain. Composite does not require re-staining/painting, resealing, or treating and it only needs a clean after it has been heavily used. This results in a deck that needs virtually no maintenance but still looks great!
Another positive to composite decking is that it is often made from recycled materials. This means that if you are looking for a more environmentally friendly option for decking, then you should consider composite as it has less of an impact on the environment than wooden boards.
Composite is less likely to grow algae or mould. As it is only partially made from wood, the material is less porous than decking that is made fully from wood. Composite decking makes it harder for water to penetrate the material, therefore making it harder for algae and mould to grow as they require air and wood.
There are also a couple drawbacks to composite decking. It is more expensive than softwood so it may not be a good option for all. If you are looking for decking that will last a good amount of time, then it may be a good idea to go for composite decking as it will be a worthwhile investment.
Unlike the wood options for decking, you can not change the colour of composite decking using stains or paints. If you are confident in the colour that you want then composite decking will be a good choice, however, if you think that you will change your mind on the colour then a wood option would make more sense for you as you can sand it down and repaint or stain it.
In addition to the advantages and disadvantages of each type of decking, there are other considerations to think about too when thinking ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’.
Anti-slip – if you are concerned about whether your decking is dangerous after a rainy spell, or if you have a hot tub then you may want to think about the anti-slip options for your decking. There are anti-slip boards that you can buy so make sure that your deck is safe, or if you already have decking then you can get anti-slip strips and inserts and install them yourself.
Who do you want to build it? – you should also consider whether you want to install your decking yourself or if you want to hire a service or professional to install it for you. If you are looking to save some money, you may want to have a look at decking kits that you can buy that are made to measure and include the materials needed to install the deck yourself.
Boards or tiles? – decking can come in different variations. A classic deck will have boards that slot together to create the look that you would expect when you think of decking. There is, however, the option to purchase tiles that are more ideal for small areas such as paths or balconies.
As well as the boards themselves, there are a few extra items that you need to purchase to complete your landscaping project. There are certain accessories that you may not have thought about that will need to be included to create the perfect decking.
For Both Ground-Level and Raised Decking
Decking joists – these create the sub-frame for your decking and are what the deck itself if laid upon. It is important that these are installed securely and evenly to create a safe and level decking foundation.
Screws – to make sure that your decking is secure you will need to insert the right screws. It is recommended that the screws are at least 2.5 times longer than the thickness of the deck boards (diy.com 2020). They can look discreet by purchasing screws that match the colour of the decking itself.
For Raised Decking
As raised decking is elevated, there are more additions required to ensure that the deck is safe. They are not only limited to raised decking as some of these accessories could both be for safety reasons and to make a style statement.
Balustrades – if your decking has a drop then you will need some sort of balustrade or railing to prevent anyone from falling. These are a safety feature but also can make your decking look more interesting and can help to frame the space.
Posts and caps – decking posts are built into the raised deck at the outer corners. Balustrades are then secured to them to make a complete and safe decking area. You can finish these off by topping them with a post cap that adds a little bit of personalisation as you can choose the post cap yourself.
Steps – a raised deck will require steps so that you can reach the rest of your garden. These can be purchased separately to the deck and installed by you or you can buy them along with the rest of the decking to have installed by a professional.
Factors that Affect the Longevity
Making sure that your decking is built to last is important as you want to know that your investment will be worthwhile in the long run. Here we will be discussing the factors other than the material of the decking that will affect how long it lasts.
We have touched upon the maintenance of your decking but it is important to mention here as it is arguably the most crucial factor in making sure that your decking lasts.
Regular maintenance will help to prevent moisture damage, splitting or warped boards and will minimise the risk of pests.
All types of decking require cleaning. This prevents to build up of mould and algae as any sort of growth on a decking will affect how it looks, can make the deck slippery, and will start to degrade the surface over time. As mould and algae store moisture, this will cause the deck to rot which will make it less stable.
If your decking is wooden then it is recommended that you use a deck cleaning solution, whereas composite decking can be cleaned using warm soapy water. You can clean them by hand or use a pressure washer on a low setting to avoid any damage to the boards and fixings.
Wooden decking will need refinishing which could involve staining or oiling. By oiling your decking, you are extending the life of the wood as it penetrates the fibres to prevent moisture damage. Oils are also used to replenish the wood which will prevent cracking and splitting, can revitalise the colour and sometimes can act as a UV protector to help with sun fading.
Minor repairs are also a part of decking maintenance. When a moist wooden board starts to rot, it can spread to other boards. This is why it is important to replace any moisture-damaged boards as quickly as possible. Obviously, it is also important to fix any loose or damaged fixings too as loose boards will affect how safe your decking is and also how long it will last.
Part of this is therefore checking your decking regularly so that you can fix any problems before they become more serious and require more time and money to make right.
For a long-lasting deck, it needs to be properly and safely installed. This process and the materials required can change depending on the type of deck that is being built. This is because different materials have different requirements. For example, wooden decking needs to be built with screws rather than nails as the natural expansion and contraction of the wood can make nails come loose.
This is why it is recommended that a professional installs decking unless the person has prior knowledge or has done their research. The safest way to get decking done is by hiring a professional or service as they can also guarantee that the decking will last.
Weathering and the local climate can have an effect on how your decking ages. There are a range of conditions that affect the deck in different ways, so it is important to know what to look out for.
High levels of moisture will cause mould and algae to grow on wooden decking and can lead to rotting which we have already mentioned in this guide.
Sunlight can create UV damage meaning the deck colours can fade and change which will mean that your deck is no longer the desired colour.
In addition to sunlight, high amounts of heat can dry up wooden boards which will lead to cracks, splits and warping that costs money to fix and replace.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, snow or frost can put pressure on the decking as they freeze. This can cause the decking to split and crack and can cause fixings to come loose.
In coastal areas, a build up of salt in the air can damage the deck surface and can cause corrosion on the fixings if they are not checked and cleaned regularly. The corrosion will cause damages that are difficult to fix.
- Use of the Deck
The final factor that will affect the lifespan of your decking is what you plan on using the deck for. If you want to use your deck for relaxing, reading, taking in the views e.c.t then the deck will not be receiving a lot of wear and tear. A deck around a pool or hot tub, however, will most likely be exposed to moisture, chemicals and people regularly walking around the area.
What the deck is used for will make a difference upon how much maintenance is required and therefore how long it lasts for. This is why when choosing a deck, you want to think about what it will be used for, where it will be installed and how often you’ll be using it.
How Much Does it Cost?
The different materials for decking have different costs. The material is not the only factor to consider when purchasing decking as the size of the area and location makes a difference to the price too.
According to myjobquote.co.uk the average cost for a pre-treated softwood decking with installation can cost up to £1,000 for a size of 15m2. This is compared to the hardwood option which will cost up to £2,000 and the composite decking which will be around £1,600.
As we know there are also additional costs that will be incurred including the wood decking, oil, or treatment which could cost an extra £25. A weed proof membrane that is rolled out at the bottom of the foundation to protect from weeds will be an extra £10 for a 20 square meter roll.
There is also labour costs to think about which, depending on the amount of time spent on the job and materials used, could be anywhere from £120-£200 a day. On average, it takes 2 days to complete a decking project so you could be looking at an extra £400 for labour.
Then there is the accessories to think about. Balustrade kits are around £100 per kit and the post caps range from £2-£7 each. Steps will also come at a price of anything from £50-£215 depending on the material and how many steps there are.
When thinking about costs, we should also consider how much it is to clean the decks. This is because certain treatments are needed to do so, and you may want to put those in the hands of a professional instead of trying to clean it yourself.
For a wooden decking, a yearly service of sanding, staining, and sealing costs around £10 per square meter. Keeping on top of it by using a decking cleaner will cost around £6-£15 which will keep the wood’s natural colour and make it appear brand new.
Overall, when thinking ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’, you need to consider what you are using the decking for and how often it will be used so that you can choose the most cost effective material for you. You should not only consider the cost but also the other advantages and disadvantages that come with each material.
This guide will hopefully have allowed you to answer the question ‘which type of decking is best for my garden?’, as you will have all you need to make an informed decision based on what we have gone through.