Decking Dilemmas by Nicki Jackson

We do love a good deck but as with most built elements in your garden not all decks are created equally and we’ve generally found that when people say they dislike decks, it’s often because their experience hasn’t been with a ‘good’ one. Unfortunately, exploding the myth perhaps, good decks tend to be expensive decks, and are not the cheap alternative to paving that many people think they are.

Even just thinking about the parts of a deck that you will see (i.e. not the frame), there are things to think about when considering a deck so we thought we’d touch on a few of them to help you make your own choices.

Firstly, if the place you’re thinking about putting a deck has poor air circulation, it will be prudent to think again; damp, moist conditions will reduce the lifespan of your deck though materials will influence longevity, of which you have two main choices for decks – natural wood (soft or hardwoods) or man-made products.

Low price decking tends to consist of ridged, tanalised soft wood which doesn’t last and becomes super-slippery mainly because water and debris tends to gather in the grooves. But this doesn’t mean that soft wood is a bad choice for decking because this isn’t the case. What it does mean though, is that if you want a longer lasting, more sustainable, better looking deck, choose better quality soft wood such as Western Red Cedar or Larch, neither of which need chemical treatments to make them durable, though as with all natural products they will require some form of regular maintenance. If you prefer to stick with the more budget friendly option though, it’s worth committing to a far more frequent maintenance and cleaning regime in order to keep it better and safer for longer.

Hard wood decking is more expensive again but is a higher quality wood and much more luxurious product. Hard woods can be difficult to work with however so a skilled installer is a good investment and if sustainability is high on your wish list hard woods such as Balau and Iroko are imported from much further afield (South America and Africa respectively), and the sustainable credentials of some supplies may not be as assured as perhaps other hardwoods like Oak and Sweet Chestnut that tend to be sourced from more regulated areas. Whichever natural wood you choose though, always opt for certified, sustainably sourced and managed timber.

Man-made deck boards (or composite decking) are usually made up of wood fibres, plastics and bonding agents. Some suppliers (but not all) use recycled components in their products and like most things there’s a wide price and quality range available. The beauty about composite decking is its longevity as well as its need for very little maintenance. Additionally, many suppliers will offer a warranty on their products which brings extra peace of mind.

Both hard and soft woods tend to look and feel better underfoot than their man-made counterparts – the grain and gradation of colour is often deep and rich; something that man-made options struggle to imitate. All natural wood will turn silver over time too as part of the weathering process, something that we love because it enhances the natural beauty of the wood and helps anchor it even more in a garden – but not everyone does so staining and painting could be added requirements here too. Man-made options on the other hand will retain their colour and often look visually sharper than natural wood, though the colour tends to be very flat (getting flatter the less expensive the product is). Darker man-made decking also retains heat more which can be a problem on bare feet (human and pets alike) on a very hot, sunny day!

There is no right or wrong choice for decking and everyone has their own criteria for choosing one product over another but in our experience it’s always the case that the higher your investment is, the better your deck will be.

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2021