One of the best things about decking is the fact that you can build it to suit your taste and your needs

Most homeowners love to add to their new homes, but there's one area that is extremely popular with those who like to build: the decking. Whether in need of a place to house an outdoor Christmas tree or host a Bonfire barbecue, or simply to enjoy the sun in the summer, a deck can bring out the best in your home value. 

On top of that, a timber decking built out back can give you the push you need to go outdoor a little more. Timber decking can give you a little extra living space, too, so whether you use it for dining, cook or lounge, it can be the right addition to your back garden.

One of the best things about decking is the fact that you can build it to suit your taste and your needs. If you want a deck sitting directly in the line of sunshine, you can have one. If you prefer softwood over hardwood, that's a choice that you get to make, too. 

Something as simple as adding or upgrading a new deck can change the aesthetics of your home, make your garden more functional and it can be a therapeutic task to build your decking yourself. 

The good news here is that building your own deck is a task that you can do for yourself, and the whole project can be tackled alone - depending on what you want to develop, of course.

What is a deck?

It's a flat platform that has been built with joists, uprights and flooring material

So, before we go into the finer details of costs and building your own deck, let's talk about what a deck actually is. It's a flat platform that has been built with joists, uprights and flooring material. 

It's designed purely for outdoor use, and while you find decking made with materials like cedar, timber, redwood, and pine, you can also use composite wood and even vinyl or plastic. Unlike the natural wood options, vinyl and plastic are usually resistant to the feasting of termites, and composite decking doesn't warp under the weather like natural wood.

If you want an aesthetically pleasing build for your home, your decking is affordable and can provide you with just that. A deck should be cared for and well maintained if you hope to keep a unique look for your outdoor space. 

With the right maintenance - which we will get to later - you can ensure your decking doesn't warp or erode.

What Is A Deck Good For?

It's an ideal way to level your garden if you are building it above ground

A deck can be one of the most essential components of your garden landscaping, and it can give you another option aside from a patio made with stone. We've mentioned the benefits of adding outdoor space to your home, including value and extended living space. 

You should also know that it's an ideal way to level your garden if you are building it above ground. It creates a flat surface to make your garden appear complete.

This guide to decking is going to teach you about costs, planning permission, timber types and more.

Close up of timber decking in red woodClose up of timber decking in red woodClose up of timber decking in red woodClose up of timber decking in red wood

Bring out the colour of your timber decking with a quality exterior grade varnish

Types Of Timber

You may have ideas about your deck, but nothing can beat the look of natural timber decking. The problem is that there are so many variations to choose from that you're simply spoilt for choice! 

You don't have to hunt down every single timber type on the planet, but you do need to do some thorough research about which wood types are right for your outdoor space. 

As well as this, you need to ensure that the timber you choose is going to be right for your budget, which is always a consideration.

Every decking project is different and has different requirements, so it can be hard to tell which timber would be right for your build. With this in mind, you need to consider what you want your decking for, and in this case, some timber decking types are better than others. 

You need a wood type that is hard-wearing enough to handle a lot of footfall, and you need to ensure that the appearance is maintained for some time. It also has to be the right decking to cope with the weather.

So, let's take a look at the timber species that are available for your decking project. With the right materials, you can build a deck of which you are proud of.

European Redwood

One of the most popular cladding species, European Redwood has a long history of being used for building both inside and out. It's also known as Scots Pine, imported from Scandinavia and is light in colour. 

It's a favourite for those who use timber for joinery work and machining, and because it's high pressure impregnated, it can repel most rot and fungal decay. It's a high-quality timber, and the quality is affected by the conditions of climate, soil, and elevation - growth conditions. 

These factors of growth can influence texture, size, and knots, and it's for this reason that a variety of European Redwoods can look very different from each other.

British Sweet Chestnut

For exterior decking and cladding in a golden colour, you want British Sweet Chestnut. The material itself is very durable and hard-wearing, which makes it the material you want to withstand the climate and footfall when you have your summer parties. 

It's famed for how eco-friendly it is, and it has a faster growth cycle, which makes it faster to replenish compared to oak and other species like Larch.

British Sweet Chestnut can be cut and nailed in a way that suits your requirements, but it needs to be protected with UV coating; otherwise, it weathers to a lighter colour. If you are looking for a timber that is receptive and suitable for staining and painting, you're in the right place with Sweet Chestnut.

The finish after a paint job looks professional and natural, so you can get creative with your decking in a way that suits you.

Larch

If you are looking for a secure and reliable timber for cladding, Larch is the way to go. It's in the softwood category because it doesn't require regular treatment in the same way hardwood does. It explains why softwood is extremely popular for cladding, as they are low maintenance. 

It could be better for your wallet if you choose a Larch that was grown at a higher altitude, such as Siberian Larch. UK Larch is a good option, but Larch that is produced higher is more durable overall. 

It's warmer in its appearance, so those looking for a more vibrant, darker colour will be in the right place with Larch. It lasts around 40 years, and over time it will weather down to a silver or light grey colour.

Western Red Cedar

When you are looking into how to build decking, you need to think about what's available in the range of softwood cladding. We've mentioned that softwood cladding is the more popular option for cladding, and Western Red Cedar is one of the most popular for those who want to start with how to build decking. 

It's a better-looking wood, and it's cheaper than most other types on the market, but the disadvantage is that it damages far more quickly than European Redwood and you must apply a finish to it as soon as it's installed. This will prevent discolouration over time which then saves you some money.

Canadian Western Red Cedar is very popular, but British Western Cedar is also a popular option now because the demand has made it so. For beautiful colour, this is an excellent option because of the slow growth making the grains very uniform.

If you want warmth for your decking, this is a good choice for you. To give you an idea of whether this is the right wood for you, this is the same choice for musical instruments and guitar boards.

Extra wooden pieces from scraps are often used as a deck, but you need to ensure that the wood you are choosing is more than just cost-effective. It has to have the right properties that make it work for decking and scrap wood may not be in the proper condition to make it worth your while. 

Not only that, but you can't be sure of where the wood has come from, and it may not last you as long as you hope.

What About Wood Composite?

This is man-made and as it's not like natural wood, has the possibility of absorbing water

Composite wood can be used for decking, but it's not pure or natural timber. It's combined with different wood fibres and has an added binding agent. This is man-made and as it's not like natural wood, has the possibility of absorbing water, which increases the risk of cracking. 

So, you could pay out for wood that isn't natural, doesn't look or smell as good and breaks much faster. Not ideal for your decking!

Exterior timber decking with a built in stepExterior timber decking with a built in stepExterior timber decking with a built in stepExterior timber decking with a built in step

It’s the finishing touches that make decking look great; it’s all in the details

Pros & Cons Of Building Timber Decking

The timber that is pressure treated is easy to cut, shape and sand

As with anything, there are always advantages and disadvantages in front of you. With decking, it's no different. There are pros to building a deck with timber, and there are also cons. The ultimate decision comes down to what you want from your deck. Let's go through your options:

Pros

  • Timber can be the best option for your budget. As timber is pressure treated, it has the smallest cost of any other decking type out there.

    As such, there's not as much demand on your central heating system. You won't have it turned on as much, and it won't be turned up as high. The result is that you continue to save money every single month.

  • If you're looking for decking with a natural look that suits your garden in the way you had always envisioned, timber is the right choice. A natural look can give your garden a little rustic charm in a way that composite or vinyl decking misses out on.

    You also get the chance to use any coloured staining that you want to use, which allows you to personalise your deck.

  • The timber that is pressure treated is easy to cut, shape and sand, which gives you the freedom to design your deck in the way that you feel is right for your home and its value.

  • Choosing cedar timber or redwood options do not warp as quickly as the cheaper options on the market. By choosing a good quality wood, you are choosing a wood that isn't going to rot or be eaten alive by insects.

    Did you know that your choice of hardwood decking can mean your outdoor deck lasts 40+ years? They're much easier to maintain, and they won't wear down as fast, which makes them a cost-effective choice for your decking.

Cons

  • As with anything, you get precisely what you pay for. If you chose a cheaper wood or a man-made wood, you're going to have a lower life on your decking, and even then, that life will only be that way as long as you maintain the wood.

  • Lower cost decking can often be prone to cracking and splitting. It scratches and stains far easier, too.

  • With timber decking, you have to deal with its high maintenance - even though it looks good. It will only remain to look good with regular painting and staining every year.

    This adds to your overall costs, so while you may not have spent much up front, over time, it'll cost more.

  • Decking needs to be cleaned and resealed every year to keep it going.

  • Durable hardwood can be more expensive to maintain and build, especially if there is a need to follow a made to measure design.

  • Eco-friendly timber is beautiful, but it's got to be considered that cutting down trees is still involved, even with renewable materials.

Applying decking sealer varnish to exterior timber decking boardsApplying decking sealer varnish to exterior timber decking boardsApplying decking sealer varnish to exterior timber decking boardsApplying decking sealer varnish to exterior timber decking boards

Make sure any varnish is applied thoroughly and evenly

Is There An Alternative To Timber?

Of course, timber isn't the only decking option out there. There are plenty of other options that you could choose from for your home build if timber isn't for you.

  • Composite. We've looked at composite decking already, but it's a mix of wood pulp and plastic which is then formed into longer boards. Maintenance free, they're designed to look like decking - but it's not the real thing.

  • Plastic. You can source 100% recycled plastic for this type of decking, and it's maintenance free so that you can spend less time cleaning and staining it.

  • Aluminium. Durable decking is, and aluminium is one option for you. It is weather resistant and isn't too expensive, either. It can get slippery in wet weather though, so be careful.

  • Fibre Cement. This is a softer alternative to the options above, and it can be expensive. It's resistant to warping and rotting, and it can hold up against most weather extremes.

How To Lay Your Decking

The better you prepare yourself, the more you will be able to get done in one go instead of having any hold-ups

You cannot get started on a huge decking project without knowing what to prepare, what materials you need and the exact steps that will take your deck from a pile of wood to a beautifully crafted space to relax. 

The better you prepare yourself, the more you will be able to get done in one go instead of having any hold-ups. The last thing that you need is to put down your tools halfway through your project; especially with the potential for adverse weather.

The Materials You Need

You're building a deck, so you'll need a lot more than tape and glue. You may need more equipment than the below list, but this is the basics in materials. You also need to know how much decking pieces and wood will be required to make your project go without a hitch.

  • Enough timber to cover the posts, decking boards, rail and joists

  • Chalk and pencils for marking off any measurements

  • Spirit level

  • Carpenter's square

  • Tape measure

  • Drill + bits

  • Screws, hammer and nails

  • Hand saw

  • Finishing stain and decorating touches

Preparing Your Deck

Designing your deck is your biggest job, and you need to be able to have the right materials to do a good job. You should ensure that you have a design that allows for a little space between boards, which will enable the wood the space to breathe and swell during different weather types. 

Ideally, you don't want to have to cut any of your boards to fit; you should be able to install it with ease and the least amount of cutting as possible.

Before you get building, think about whether you want the decking outside the garden door, or if you want it built at the end of the garden. This can help you to choose the supports that your deck will need and ensure you have a level area to get started. 

If your garden has areas that don't much see the sun, try and avoid building there as these areas are damper than others - this can lead to rot, and it's not what you need!

Privacy is also a concern; yours and your neighbour, so be mindful of where you plan to get started. Speaking of which, let's go over the steps for your new deck.

The Steps

  • Prepare the area you wish to build on. This involves measuring out the area, laying out the space for your deck and sourcing paving for a solid foundation.

    Concrete is the best base for your new deck because it prevents the whole thing from sinking into the ground during wet weather. This concrete surface must be level.

  • Your box frame should give you an idea of how your deck will sit when it's done. Make sure it fits the measurements of the deck that you want.

  • Next, add your joists into the frame. If you lay them out properly so that they are spaced with around 400mm between them, you'll have a space that works for support. Nail the joists into the box frame once you're happy with it and you've got your basic outline.

  • During this process, continue to check the frame is level. If your spirit level has an imbalance, you'll need to add even more support to raise any areas that are too low.

  • Use wooden posts or even spikes to secure the frame to the ground. These should be fastened into the corners of the frame to keep it steady.

  • Fasten the decking boards to the top of the frame with the screws, but allow for a very slight overhang on the first board you lay. This is to ensure that rainwater will run off just fine and stop pooling on the wood.

  • Leave at least 5mm before adding the next board. This will make the whole deck look uniform and sturdy.

  • Sand the edges for a finished look, and then you can begin on the finishing touches.

  • Treat the wood properly before you add painting or staining to the top, and once it's complete, you can then add furniture, plant pots, and other decorative items.

Timber decking during the installation process with cordless drillTimber decking during the installation process with cordless drillTimber decking during the installation process with cordless drillTimber decking during the installation process with cordless drill

Having the correct tools for the job will make things much easier

Decking & Planning Permission

As of 2008, it was passed that property owners are exempt from applying for permission to build timber decking in their garden

The best piece of news you could ever receive when you are looking into the costs of decking is that you are not required to get planning permission for it - by law. As of 2008, it was passed that property owners are exempt from applying for permission to build timber decking in their garden. 

This is inclusive for both stand-alone decks or extension of the floor surface. That being said, there are cases where planning permission is a necessity before you go ahead. These are:

  • If the platform of the decking stands more than 30cm from the ground

  • The garden is covered by more than 50% with decking and outbuildings

  • Your neighbours have their property value affected

  • Your neighbours' privacy is affected

These are the four cases where the law changes, and you will need to submit a planning application to the planning department of your local council. You must not continue to build if you notice that any of these have been breached, or you could be asked to take it down.

If your raised decking was created to make your garden more desirable, fixing issues such as a sloping yard or an uneven surface still require you to follow the rules.

Opting for a raised deck can bring about more problems than solutions, though, and while you can get a trendy new design for your garden, you also risk exceeding the height limits that prevent you from needing permission in your own garden. 

If your decking is bigger than expected or taller than you intended you need to get the right permission to keep it there.

A timber deck in a back garden in the evening timeA timber deck in a back garden in the evening timeA timber deck in a back garden in the evening timeA timber deck in a back garden in the evening time

Look how stunning this garden is with all that decking

Costs Of Building A Deck

The most significant cost to factor is in your choice of timber

Whether you choose to buy Redwood timber or you want to go for something composite, the cost of decking is going to be a factor. The bigger the deck, the more materials you'll need to build it properly. 

You'll need to assess the plans that you've made for your deck design and decide whether it's going to be the right size and shape for your home. 

You also need to be real about the costs, because a deck could set you back around £1500, and that's based on the assumption that you're building 20 square metres of timber at medium quality. 

For the highest quality timber, it could cost you more and factors such as location can even play their part in the total amount. If your home needs preparation or excavation, there are another few bills on top there, too.

As you're going to be in this whole job yourself, you may want to get some opinions before you go ahead. Decking and garden specialists may charge you for their advice, but it's better to double check you aren't going to be going through pipework underground before you get going. 

The most significant cost to factor is in your choice of timber. There are so many options as we've listed earlier in the article, and the option that you choose - from the ones you screw in yourself to the decking with the non-slip grooves that click together - could determine the expense. 

Always think with your wallet rather than your imagination when it comes to your deck; especially if you're only building one to level the garden. Softwood and hardwood differ significantly in their cost:

  • Hardwood. It lasts longer than the average decking, but hardwood is a luxury that comes with a luxury price. You can expect to pay upward of £750 just for a 15 square foot garden space. It's what you want to pay for excellent aesthetics though!

  • Softwood. The cheapest out there, but may not last you as long so you could spend more over time because you have to replace it later on. It could cost you up to £500 for the same 15 metres squared garden floor space.

It's also an important note to remember that hardwood is more challenging to shape and design in comparison to softwood. It may look fantastic and last for some time, but that doesn't make it the better option practically.

The beginning stages of building exterior timber deckingThe beginning stages of building exterior timber deckingThe beginning stages of building exterior timber deckingThe beginning stages of building exterior timber decking

Reduce mistakes by planning out your timber decking build

Care & Maintenance Of Decking

You should never install any softwood decking without treating the posts and boards first

If you want your decking to look good and last you for some time, you need to care for it properly. This means learning about the type of deck that you have and researching what keeps your deck as healthy as possible. Let's take a look at the different methods of care.

Caring For Softwood

You should never install any softwood decking without treating the posts and boards first. Buying wood preserves is a smart idea to keep your softwood decking well maintained against algae, mould and insect attacks. 

Ensuring you've added two layers of preservative to each wooden item is the best way to ensure that you avoid those threats to your wood. Once all of the wood has completely dried, it'll be ready for the primary decking treatment. 

You can buy decking oil or stain from any hardware shop that will sell it, and you should ensure you coat all the wooden elements with two coats before you install it.

Caring For Hardwood

Dense hardwood is usually oily naturally. This means that there can sometimes be issues when it comes to applying any other oils or staining. 

Hardwood decking that is on the dense side is far more resistant to rot and insect issues than the softwood options on the market, but it should still be appropriately treated. 

The newer hardwood out there has to be untreated for a couple of months after you install it; so there's no need for a monthly treatment at the start. Sometimes, hardwood has natural oils that need to disperse before you soak it all over again.

Hardwood decking often has trouble holding onto surface coatings like paint and staining because of the natural oil in the wood. Choosing a hardwood that is in the colour that you want can often be a better option than trying to paint the decking over.

Cleaners and Restorers

There are wood cleaners and restorers out there that can help to prepare bare wood or fresh decking for a new treatment. These are used for preparing your deck and maintaining it, too. These treatments are to ensure that mould and algae doesn't grow out of control.

Conclusion

Take the time to talk to the neighbours either side of you, too, so that you're not going to be impinging on their privacy with your new decking

Building a deck is not an easy job, and it comes with many components. You could want the best for your garden, but if the deck you have in mind is too high, too big or too exposed, you could run into trouble. 

Doing your research into your local planning department to ensure that you don't need any additional permission is just good sense before you spend any money embarking on a big deck job that you won't be allowed to finish. 

Take the time to talk to the neighbours either side of you, too, so that you're not going to be impinging on their privacy with your new decking. It's a big job, and you should be allowed to build the deck of your dreams to up your home value, make your garden look fantastic and give your home the aesthetics that you've always wanted.