Long-established as the hard-surface of choice in warm, dry climates, decking has become increasingly fashionable in Britain over recent years – as its frequent appearance in the many gardening programmes on TV will testify. Particularly trendy in the 1990s, it is not as ubiquitous as it once was, although it is still a popular option with designers and clients alike.

As a result, the range of types available – and the uses to which it is put – have grown considerably, with many garden centres and timber merchants now stocking a reasonably good selection and on-line specialists able to supply exotic hardwoods at affordable prices.

Part of the reason for its popularity lies in the variety of effects it can create, while its relative ease of use places it firmly within the ability of the average DIYer to produce a good looking outdoor area in a fairly short time. Moreover, the range of types and finishes available means that there is sure to be something to suit any garden design, whatever the overall look.

The first thing to consider when building your deck is location. You will probably want to site your deck in the sunniest spot in the garden, unless it has a particular purpose (such as extending dining space on the back of the house, for example). Think before constructing decking under a large leafy tree, as it will be covered in slippery leaves in the autumn and winter, and if permanently in the shade it may be colonised by algae and moss.

In October 2008 planning regulations changed regarding decking, which means that for many installations you may now need to obtain planning permission. If your decking falls into one of the following criteria, it is worth checking whether you will need planning permission with your local authority:

  • Where the deck is situated within 20 metres line of sight of a highway.
  • Where the deck is more than 300mm (1ft) from the ground.
  • If the structure or its use would affect the amenity value or privacy of neighbouring properties.
  • If the deck is attached to a listed building or situated in a conservation area or National Park.

Once you have decided on the best location for your decking, think about its design. Do you want straight edges? Curves? Will it be rectangular or circular? What direction do you want the boards to go in? Plan it out and draw it on paper, including dimensions. It is never a good idea to ‘wing it’ with any construction project.

Your choice of decking may well be based on your budget. However bear in mind that opting for a cheaper softwood can sometimes be a false economy as it is likely to have a shorter lifespan than hardwood. Even if you are employing professionals to build your deck it may be worth getting a cost comparison for soft and hardwood decking, as apart from the boards themselves the materials and labour costs should be the same whatever grade of wood you use. Whatever type you choose it is essential to make sure your decking is from a FCS supplier and a reputable company. If you decide to use a professional always check their credentials and make sure you are happy with them. If you are not sure, ask to see some of their previous work.

In our next post we will look at installation of the decking.