As a great addition to any garden, timber decking can completely transform your outside area. Whether you’re looking for a place to relax on a sunny day or you want to create valuable extra room for entertaining friends and family, decking opens up a whole world of possibilities.
Choosing the right decking material for your garden can seem a bit daunting, some people love it, and some people hate it, however it can be an excellent solution if your garden has slopes, or uneven grounds, as it can turn a fairly unusable garden space into a stable, level and useful area.
Timber decking can work well when used to create pathways and steps — blending nicely with other natural materials in the garden.
I would suggest you consider where your decking is going to be installed first, because this may have an influence on what may be the best material to use? Factor in the amount of light your decking boards will receive as it may affect their colour over time. Also, you should consider the general environment that your decking will be subjected to.
Timber decking can in the wetter months become a little bit like an ice rink. There are various ways around this:
Some swear by pressure washing a couple of times a year to remove algae build-up, although others believe this will lead to the timber rotting at a faster rate. There are gentler deck cleaning solutions available which are worth a look.
Securing chicken wire to the surface — effective, but not necessarily attractive.
There are also products on the market specifically tailored to deal with the problem, such as GripDeck. These are anti-slip aluminium inserts that are easy to fit and blend in well.
Now let’s look at the type of decking materials on offer. In general, there are three types of decking material for you to choose from: treated wood, untreated wood, and composites.
Treated Softwood Decking
Treated softwoods are often used as a real wood decking material that is cheaper to install than untreated hardwoods and easier to work with. You also must regularly maintain treated softwoods by adding further treatments every couple of years to avoid rot and splintering, adding to the volume of chemicals that will eventually contaminate the environment.
These decking materials are lower initial cost than a hardwood alternative, they are easier to work with and they feel and look like wood (because they are wood). However, if you were to look at the cons of these products, it would be the regular maintenance they require to maintain the appearance, you have to use chemicals that could damage the environment and if you don’t treat them, they will degrade.
However, if looked after and treated regularly, softwood decking can last a long time.
Hardwood trees take many years to grow, and as softwood are quickly replaceable, some people view it as more environmentally friendly to choose softwoods.
Untreated Hardwood Decking
Untreated hardwood decking is the crème de la creme of decking materials and what most other decking tries to imitate. Completely natural and long lasting, it has the feel, look, and even sound that everyone hopes for when installing wooden decking.
Life expectancy of hardwood decking is approximately 15-25 years without treatment, and they do not pose any risk or damage to the environment.
Although initially more expensive than treated softwoods, the quality, durability, and longevity of hardwood decking easily offset the initial cost in the long run.
Untreated Hardwood Decking
Composite and engineered decking can be made in many ways, but they are generally made by blending a mix of plastics and wood fibres, or solely from plastic, giving them a long lifespan. The boards need little maintenance other than regular scrubbing to prevent mildew. From a distance they look like wood, but up close they don’t have the feel or look of real wood and they may suffer from movement with temperature changes. Installation costs are generally higher than real wood decking and they contribute more plastic to our global waste at the end of their lifecycle.
They are generally easy to install, they require little maintenance, and they have a long lifespan, however installation costs are normally higher than real wood and if you wanted to go for the natural feel and look then these are not the way to go.
Whatever the type of decking material you choose, expect that one way or another, you’ll need to perform periodic maintenance to keep your deck boards clean and in top condition. Maintaining your deck boards properly ensures their long life and prevents premature rotting, warping, mould spotting and staining. Wood is more susceptible to these problems and may require more maintenance compared to composites, where a mere annual cleaning will suffice.