Installing the perfect decking for your client
You’ll know by now that when a client hires you to install garden decking, their goal is almost always very much the same: to create a practical outdoor space for barbecues, alfresco dining and possibly kids’ play. The specific priorities might vary, but getting the decking right tends to come down to ensuring it’s an appealing social space.
Once you’ve chatted with the client and done your usual assessments of the area (how much does the ground slope? Will the decking adjoin the house directly? And what’s the best spot in terms of sun, views, and avoiding obstacles?), it’s time to get stuck in!
1. Measuring, clearing and levelling
No matter what kind of decking you’re laying, you’ll always start with the familiar process of measuring the required space with your tape measure and marking it out with pegs and string. Then, if necessary, you can move onto shifting the turf and topsoil and levelling the ground.
From this point on, you’ll start heading down slightly different paths depending on the type of decking.
2. Ground-level decking
Putting in a ground-level deck is a fairly standard gardening and landscaping task, so you most likely know what the steps involve. But if you need to give your client an idea of the processes you’ll be carrying out as you install a typical wooden timber deck, the following points offer a rough overview. We’ve also included some links in case you’re looking to pick up some new tools or other supplies.
- As with most jobs, you’ll start by thinking about placement. When you’re ready to measure and mark out the positions for your bearers, use your paving slabs as measures of the distance between each bearer.
- Next up, it’s time to move on to swapping out the top layer of soil under each slab for gravel. Lay down your landscaping fabric, cut it to size and start spreading your gravel.
- This is where you might start marking and cutting your outer frame, then finally connecting it at the corners with screws.
- Measure out and cut your bearers then start installing them in the frame. It goes without saying that a lot of your focus at this stage is likely to be on ensuring their spacing works with the planned layout of the deck boards.
- Drill the fixing points in your deck boards, countersinking the points for that flawless finish. Alternatively use self-countersinking decking screws, this can save a lot of time!
- Screw the boards to the bearers. As you’ll no doubt have learned from experience, the key consideration here is keeping the spacing even.
- Finally, trim the edges of the deck boards with your jigsaw or circular saw and create a neat frame around them with additional deck boards.
For more about building and laying timber decking, watch this video by Silverline.
3. Raised decking
Installing raised decking does, of course, involve a lot of similar steps to those that are involved in laying a ground-level deck. But where it differs is that it comes with the additional task of building a joist sub-frame. As you know, building a safe and lasting sub-frame is all about making your crosspiece and joist support posts as strong as possible.
You won’t need to be told that perfectly square angles and functional levels (allowing for drainage) are key to a job like this. As with any task that involves installing something on irregular ground, you’ll be reaching for your spirit level a lot whenever you’re working on raised decking.
Decking attached to buildings
If the decking is going to be joined to the client’s building rather than standing free, you’ll need to attach a wall plate to the wall. It seems obvious, but it’s important not to forget to leave a space between the timber and the wall to allow for rainwater. You can make your own spacers from steel washers.
If you’re adding a balustrade, it’s got to go on in between building the sub-frame and screwing in the deck boards. After measuring and cutting as required, then double checking the spacing for all your different elements, move onto fitting your hand rail, spindles and base rail together.
This video by BSW offers a handy guide to installing deck posts.
4. Extra features
Additional steps that your clients might request for their decking vary. You’ll have encountered all the main ones many times; from adding steps to decorating the edges of a raised deck with lattice panels or other ornamental skirting. If steps are required, you might also need to add a handrail and composite stair treads.
Our supplier MetsäWood provides a helpful guide to installing their Walksure decking, we’d recommend this if your client is worried about decking safety.
You’re probably most used to clients asking for standard horizontal or vertical arrangements for their deck boards, but as you may have noticed, diagonal and zig-zag patterns have their fans too. For these you might use a couple of joists where the deck boards meet, rather than one.
Your top priority when choosing boards may tend to be sturdiness, perhaps with the grip offered by the surface a close second. Obviously, colour is important to many clients too. Selco’s deck boards are all designed to be anti-slip and come in various colours, as well as neutral tones that can be easily stained to a different shade.
When do I install decking balustrades?
Balustrades should be added between the sub-frame and screwing in the deck boards.
Are there different patterns to lay decking?
Most clients will ask for standard horizontal or vertical arrangements for their deck boards, but they can also choose from diagonal and zig-zag patterns. For these you might use a couple of joists where the deck boards meet, rather than one.