Decking is a really great way to make the most of your outdoor space. You can use it as an extension of your indoor space by attaching the deck to the back of your home, or as a standalone feature somewhere else in your garden. In the summer, a decking area really comes into its own as you can place rattan furniture or even a hot tub on it, to create a great space to entertain your family and friends. Building your own decking area requires a lot of materials and some DIY knowledge, but it can be done. Let’s take a look at how to build your own decking area.
A Quick Introduction on How to Build Your Own Decking Area
- Get someone else to help you. Building your own decking area is a big project and not one that you’ll want to undertake alone! You can reward them with a beer and a BBQ on your new decking area when it’s all finished.
- Wear protective safety gear when necessary.
- If you buy timber that has been pre-treated, don’t burn any off cuts as the ash that they produce is toxic!
- Make sure that there are no cables or pipes underneath where you want to dig, to avoid an expensive mistake.
Tools and Materials
You will need the following tools to build your own decking area:
- Tape measure
- Optional nail gun
For materials, you will need:
- Wood for framework
- Wood preserver
- Nails/nail gun clips
All these materials and tools are readily available online and in your local hardware store.
When choosing the timber for your decking project, you need to ensure you have the right type of wood. Whichever wood you choose, it must have been pressure treated for outdoor use, or you can treat it yourself in wood preserver. You should purchase your timber approximately a week before you build the deck so that it has a chance to adjust to the outside temperature – store it near where the deck will be built, and cover it up to keep it dry.
Preparing the site
The key to building a successful decking area is all in the planning. Do you want the decking to be in a sunny or shaded area? Do you want to build it where you have privacy from your neighbours? Is it going to be level on the ground, or will it be raised with timber set into concrete? Plan it out to scale on paper – the more carefully you plan your deck, the less waste you will have from off cuts. If you’re planning to build a ground level deck, this is much easier than building a raised deck. Decking built in the shade can suffer from damp, so you’ll need to treat this at least once a year in order to preserve the timber. Raised decks may require permission from local authorities, so check this before you begin building your decking area.
Prepare the ground of your decking area by using your drawing to measure out the area with pegs and string. If the ground is slightly uneven, you’ll need to level it and if you’re putting the deck over grass or weeds, you will need to remove them and possibly cover them with landscaping fabric. You can check that the ground is level using a deck board and spirit level.
Ground Level Deck
To build a ground level deck, there are two options for the surface – you can lay it onto concrete pads for extra stability, or straight into the ground for an easier project. Using concrete pads will help your decking last longer. Concrete pads must be placed precisely and be square for the deck joists. You must then dig holes around 150mm deep and 150mm square to be filled with concrete just above ground level. If you’re laying straight into the ground, you can cover the area with landscaping fabric and gravel. To cut your deck boards, mark and measure it at the appropriate length, place it on a stable surface and cut the board using a mitre saw, a panel saw or a jigsaw. Remember to add a treatment to any timber that you cut.
You will then need to make your deck frame. Firstly, lay out the joist frame and measure your decking boards on it to ensure that you have enough to cover the frame. You can then measure the frame and cut to size – make two pencil marks on the outer joists, at a right angle to the inner joists. The marks should line up with the centre of the outer joist, making eight marks in total. You’ll then need to drill into each of the eight marks. You can then fit the screws and secure the corners. To lay your deck boards, start in a specific corner and lay the first board across the inner joists, before marking a cutting line. You should allow for a 3mm expansion gap. You can then secure your first board by using a drill and screws. When you have laid all of the boards, don’t forget to use sandpaper to smooth over the ends, and paint over the timber with a preserver and a stain.
To build a raised deck, you must prepare the site – use pegs and string to mark out the area, and ensure it is clear of any plants and rocks. You will need to ensure that the sides of the deck are completely square – you can do this using the 3-4-5 triangle method. For a raised deck, you will need to use joist support posts, which sit near to the corners but not exactly in the corner to allow deck posts to be slotted in later. When you have your posts in place, you can prepare the area with landscaping fabric and gravel. You will then need to build a sub-frame around the joists, fixing the wood with coach screws. You’ll then need to add balustrades to your decking area to make it a safe space – you must do this before you lay the deck boards as the posts slot in and then the boards are laid around them. There are plenty of different options for railings – glass balustrades can make the area look bigger, and you can add a gate to keep pets and children safe. Once the railings have been placed, you are able to begin placing the deck boards using the steps above.
Finishing the Decking Area
How you finish your decking area depends on the type of deck that you have built. Raised decks need stairs – open stairs work well for a low deck, but you’ll need handrails for a higher decking area. If you have a balustrade, don’t forget that it will need to be treated in the same way as the decking itself – it should be recoated at least once a year.
Once you have completed your decking area, it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Invite your friends and family around for a BBQ, buy a new set of table and chairs, or get that comfy-looking outdoor sofa that you spotted in the store. You deserve it!
Leila Jones is a content writer for Cheshire Mouldings, a supplier of decking materials in the UK.
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