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About our Decking Service
Acorn Landscape Gardening offer expertly installed decking. We supply and install all types of decking including composite and hardwood.
We can build most types of decking with inbuilt features such as planters and benches. We work for private and commercial clients.
Our project manager Ian is a qualified Joiner with who can flawlessly install most types of decking.
As landscape gardeners its common to install decking as part of a larger project or as a single improvement. Get in touch today to discuss your project with our friendly staff.
Complete guide to choosing garden decking
It can be hard to choose garden decking. There are 1000’s of types, styles and materials to choose from. Its also very easy to make mistakes which will cost in the long run.
To help you make the best decision we have put together an in-depth guide to choosing garden decking. Everything here is from our own experience and research over the past few years.
Why do you need to read this article?
Decking popularity over the last few years has soared. This is because it transforms outdoor living spaces and is relatively easy to install. it is light, cost effective and is easy to handle because it doesn’t require cement.
Decking should be thought of as an outdoor extension of you living space. An ideal area for parties, relaxation, getting some sun or having a bbq.
If you are planning on buying decking you may be tempted just to pick some that looks nice and is cheap enough. This is how most people do it.
But doing it this way will cost you in the long term both in time and in money. This guide is written so that you will know how to make the best choice when choosing, installing and maintaining decking.
This article isn’t here to sell anything. It’s here to make sure you know what the sellers wont tell you. To make sure you are properly informed about the hidden costs and pitfalls behind each type of decking.
This article will give you a good overall understanding of decking so that you can make the best choice when buying. Topics covered are:
- Types of decking
- Composite decking
- Hardwood and softwood decking
- Alternatives such as grass, plastic and rubber decking
- Installing decking
- Ideas to improve your decking
- How you can used decking if you have a small garden.
Read the whole article or use the navigation tabs to jump to the areas you are interested in
Because of its light weight properties, decking can work well on roof terraces. However, by far the most popular is garden decking.
Garden decking can create fantastic and highly usable outdoor living spaces. On modern buildings and urban spaces this works well. The same cannot be said for older properties where the straight lines will clash with the designs.
If you have a period property consider whether decking will be the right choice. Sometimes mixing old and new works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Garden decking can enhance a garden in a variety of ways. Awkward slopes can be turned into terraces and barren patches of ground can turned into raised platforms.
Types of Decking
There are hundreds of options when it comes to decking materials. This section will give you a breakdown of the three primary types of decking and talk about some less used types. The three primary types of decking are composite, hardwood and softwood.
All have different strengths and weaknesses so it’s worth while gaining a general understanding of them before choosing.
Decking Comparison Table
(best = 5, worst = 1)
(best = 5, worst = 1)
Quick answer to which type of decking you should buy
- Composite – Overall the best, composite decking will look good, be easy to maintain and last a long time. It is pricey but if you are looking long term then this would be our recommendation.
- Hardwood decking – Not as durable or easy to maintain as composite but definitely the best looking. Hardwood decking is for those that want it to look the part and don’t mind paying for it.
- Plastic or PVC decking – Like composite decking but with more downsides. Its an option but overall the one we would least recommend. Composite costs a similar amount, looks better, is less slippery and easier to install.
- Softwood decking – This is the “buy cheap, buy twice option”. Great for getting something quickly and cheaply however you will need to replace it far more often. It also requires a lot of attention to keep it looking good. The best short term investment.
Long answer to which type of decking you should buy
The next section goes into depth on each type of decking. If you know what types you want to look at you can skip to a section using the buttons below.
As nice as wood decking is, its notoriously difficult to maintain. As a result, lots of people are switching to composite decking.
Composite decking is a man made alternative to traditional wood decking. It’s made using mix of recycled wood and recycled plastic. The idea is to look real but last much longer. It is coated with a rubbery resin which was originally developed in the tyre industry. This resin acts to make it strong, durable and grippy.
The internal strength if each composite will depend on its makeup and manufacture process. There are manys way to make composite decking and even more materials it can be made from. The two categories that matter to you are capped and uncapped.
Uncapped Composite Decking
Uncapped decking will be a little weaker and more prone to staining that capped. This is because it still has wood fibres exposed on the surface. This happens because of a faster (and cheaper) manufacturing process.
Capped Composite Decking
Capped decking is harder to make and more expensive but overall more durable. It is sealed with a plastic “cap” which stops the wood from being exposed. For more information on how its is created follow this link
Composite decking offers both the look and the feel of wood with very little work to maintain it. Typically, composite decking can last between 20 and 40 years. Far longer than the 10 years you can expect from your average wood decking. If you are buying for the long term you should consider spending a little more to get something which lasts.
Colours and Styles
As you would expect with a product that is part plastic, the range of colours is extensive. Each brand and manufacturer offers their own. The most popular non-wood colour according to Google searches is grey. This is because it works with so many other colours. It offers something different yet versatile.
All composite decking should be very easy to maintain. Compared to the hours spent annually cleaning wooden decking, composite only need to be scrubbed down once or twice a year.
Its non porous which means there is nothing for dirt to grip. Compared to wood which needs a wire brush to clean, this stuff can be cleaned with a sponge and some soap.
Mould and Moisture Resistance
In some uncapped composite decking there are wood fibres on show which makes it susceptible to mould. Cleaning this every 6 months or so should keep the mould away. It’s also possible to cap the ends in order to cover the exposed wood fibres.
Softer wood deckings can get easily scratched by furniture or anything that is dragged across it. This leaves marks and can cause splinters. Composite decking offers a higher resistance to scratches than most wood.
You may be worried that composite decking would be slippery when it rains? Fear not, the majority comes with a non slip surface which is highly effective. There is also a possibility that in the long run it will be less slippery than wood. This is because wood is porous and is prone to build up of algae and moss. It’s unlikely that this will happen with composite as it has nothing to grip or feed on
Hollow composite decking is available for domestic use. This is for normal day to day use and a small amount of foot traffic. If you want it for commercial purposes or just to be sure that it will stay safe, there is a solid version. The sold decking offers high durability and rigidity. Ideal for walkways, outdoor eating areas and rooftop terraces.
Composite Decking Prices
As you would expect, the price increases with the durability. With hollow boards starting from around £15 for 4 meters and solid boards starting from £25 for 4 meters. In general It’s slightly more expensive than softwood but less expensive than hardwood.
Read this before you read on. Hardwood and softwood are not classifications of wood hardness. Some softwoods are harder than some hardwoods and vice versa. Soft and hard wood are distinguished by their means of reproduction. A classification which is entirely useless for choosing decking materials.
In general, hardwoods come from slower growing trees which are usually more dense. Softwood usually comes from faster growing trees which tend to be less dense. This is a general rule but the classifications should not be used to assume the strength of the wood. To illustrate; balsa wood is classified as a hardwood. (NZ Wood)
The hardwoods mentioned below are a selection of the more dense, stronger hardwoods. So in this case the classifications are closer to their literal meanings. Hardwood being hard and softwood being soft
Hardwood decking is stylish and versatile. It is characterised by its high resistance to fungal growth and its durability. Unlike softwood, hardwood decking has these properties without the need for treatment.
The higher price tag of hardwood is explained by its growing and manufacture. Hardwood trees are slow growing and harder to process when grown. The higher costs of land and equipment make this wood more expensive to us, the customers. It is also harder to install properly and may need some carpentry expertise to get a correct finish.
However don’t let the price put you off getting hard wood. It generally has a more classy look, required less cleaning and will last much longer. If you want your decking for the long run, hardwood could be an investment.
Popular Types of Hardwood Decking
These are the most common types of hardwood used for decking. There are many other types but they are less well known due to rarity and problems with their characteristics.
Ipe hardwood has a rich dark olive colour with lighter and darker streaks. It is fire and algae resistant. Originating in south africa, this is a popular wood to use around swimming pools or on garden decking. Because of its strength it is also the wood of choice on many naval and construction projects.
Teak comes from Indonesia, Burma and India. It and has high weather resistance, making it a very popular choice ship building, garden furniture and decking. Teak contains natural oils which act to protect and preserve the wood without the need for treatment.
Sometimes called African Teak. Iroko is used for all types of things from musical instruments to boat decking. It has a natural resistance to fungus, acids and alkali and insects. These properties along with its deep brown colour make it a popular and distinct choice.
Its rich amber hue makes Brazilian cherry a luxurious choice. It has a uniform grain and a smooth texture. It is easy to work with however it can stain easily. It has a moderate resistance to splitting and a high resistance to mould and fungi.
Originating in South America, this wood is sometimes called Brazilian teak. Cumaru is extremely strong and fire resistant. With natural anti decay properties, cumaru hardwood is potentially the toughest commonly available hardwood. It has an almost waxy feel to it which gives it a nice texture. Being such a hard and oily wood, it is also extremely heavy.
Primarily used for internal flooring, Oak is becoming more popular outside. Its warm, textured appearance and toughness make it a good choice for fine decking. Oak in not as hard or resistant as some of the other hardwoods mentioned here. It should be elevated off the ground to prevent excessive contact with moisture and dirt.
Ash is a dark brown hardwood, grown closer to home that many other hardwoods. Although natural Ash would not last long as decking, a special treatment has made it highly durable. Ash is one of the woods which benefits from being thermally treated. Thermal treatment changes the internal properties of the wood. Treated ash is strong and durable enough to use outdoors and brings an elegant look to whatever it touches.
To find out more about the thermal treatment process click here
The reddish brown of beech makes it stand out amongst the hardwoods. Grown in Romania, Denmark, Britain and Northern Europe, beech can be seen as a more ethical choice than the tropical hardwoods. After drying, beech is roughly 20% stronger than oak (timber source).
Although it is a hard and can sometimes be brittle, it can be given a very smooth surface. Overall, beech is a good choice for both appearance and durability in decking.
The faster growing softwood are the cheapest types of decking. If it is a quickly constructed, cheaper decking you are after, this could be your choice.
Softwood is less durable and weather resistant than most other types of decking. However, it can be stained and painted to improve its weather resistance.
Pine rates fairly highly in strength and is a medium weight soft wood. It is prone to staining from fungi however this will not damage the integrity of the wood. Pine is best kept elevated from the ground if used for decking.
Spruce comes in a range of colours including cream, red/brown and yellow. It is a lightweight wood which is easy to work with and readily available. It is one of the most commonly used construction materials in Europe. Spruce decking will need to be treated as it is not very resistant to fungi. The big downside to spruce is that it is not easily treatable due to its lack or permeability. This means that treatment will not last as long as it does on other softwoods.
Cedar is probably the most popular soft wood for decking. it has a unique graded, golden look and can last a long time compared to the other softwoods. Its smooth aroma is also a selling point for some, although this can disappear after treating. It has a natural resistance to decay, is lightweight and easy to work with.
When considering choosing Cedar it is useful to remember that it is quite soft. It can be damaged and splintered by heavy use.
Not a common choice for decking but nevertheless its can work. It has a creamy brown colour and likes to keep its grainy texture. It is both resistant to splitting and to water however it may need treating to resist mould and fungi.
Other Types of Decking
These are the less common types of decking, generally designed for use in more specific circumstances like pay areas, terraces and walkways. They can be combined with the common decking types to add areas for different kinds of use.
Wooden decking with thick pile artificial grass on top. This creates a great space of kids to play and adds a soft feel when walking on it. Consider a section of grass decking with the more conventional wood decking area.
Of Course, grass decking is still laid on wood or composite material so make sure you know the properties of the boards. This will be what decides the lifespan of the decking.
Rather hard to find for sale, rubber decking offers a padded surface which has anti slip properties. This could be ideal for any area that children play on.
The downside is that it will not look anywhere near as good as a nice wood effect.
Check out this video for examples of how to use it.
There are some people which try to pass off plastic as composite decking and vice versa. They are not the same. Plastic decking or PVC decking is entirely made from plastic. Composite decking as a mixture of both plastic and wood.
Like composite decking, plastic decking is easy to clean, comes in many colours and is durable. Where does plastic decking differ from composite?
- Fitting – PVC decking is harder to fit than composite which can be cut and shaped easily. Plastic on the other hand is much harder to cut and to shape. You will not get a clean finish with a normal saw and it may be resistant to nails.
- Wood effect – Composite decking manufacturers have done a very good job of using the naturally grainy substance to create realistic wood effects. PVC decking has not made the same leaps and bounds. PVC generally doesn’t feel as real or have the same natural colours.
- Fade resistance – Plastic decking is believed to have better fade resistance than composite. However this may not count against composite as it is generally designed to fade over 6 months to its natural colour.
- Slip resistance – Composite takes the ace here. Its make up creates a naturally rough texture which helps to add grip. Plastic decking is more slippery as you would expect, even with anti slip surface print.
Square shaped, pre constructed decking tiles. These can be layed extremely fast as long as the surface is flat, level and compacted. For some types there are no tools required so these can be installed by any one.
Typically used on roof terraces and in concrete yards, we recommend that you do screw them together to avoid slipping.
As well as being easy to install decking tiles can also create a unique pattern by alternating the stripes. This creates a nice chequered effect which can add a quaint look to your yard or terrace.
Decking tiles can be found in wood and composite materials. The composite versions are more expensive however they will be UV resistant and need very little maintenance.
Tiled decking comes in square and rectangular shapes, allowing you to create your own style.
You have pretty much decided you want some decking. You now need to decide how to build it. There are three options. Doing it on the cheap and get your hands dirty with some DIY. Take the middle road and get a pre-designed decking kit. Or make sure it’s done right by hiring a professional.
f you want to save yourself some money you could opt to build your own decking. To do this well you will probably need a little experience in basic household joiner and an good head for numbers. Oh and you will need some basic tools.
For a fantastic guide on building your own decking follow this link
2. Use a Decking Kit
Decking kits are the safer middle ground. The real selling point for decking kits is that they will come complete with everything you need to build a lovely decking area. If you are a little inexperienced but don’t want to spend the money on labour then a decking kit could be the answer.
Decking kits come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are available in hardwood, softwood and composite materials. Available with handrails and periolas, they are an excellent option to add something beautiful to your garden without the high price tag.
Due to the premade nature of decking kits, you will usually be limited to set shapes and sizes. This may not suit people who want something different or have an odd sized space they need to fill. For any designs or features such as lights or flower beds you will struggle to find kits that you can install. For anything that requires more intricate work we would recommend hiring a professional
3. Hire a Professional
Hiring a professional is a great option if you want custom design or you just want it installing properly. Professionals will know the pitfalls of certain materials and designs. They will be able to give advice on what to use and how to build it. Some will have design training which could help you to add some unique features you had not thought of.
Hiring professionals is going to cost more that DIY or decking kits. But if you want something which will look good, remain stable and last it may be a wise choice. The old saying definitely holds true with decking “buy cheap, buy twice”.
10 Garden decking ideas
When installing decking it’s a good idea to consider the look and feel it will add to the garden. This section covers some of the best ideas we have seen to add an extra flavour to your new decking.
1. Different Decking Materials
Garden decking can look lovely but, as with anything, it can be too much. To break up the single colour and line pattern of decking, stone strips can be used. These can be purchased in almost any colour you would like.
2. Creating Patterns
Changing the direction of some sections of decking can work to break up the pattern. Combining small sections of varied direction decking with plants can create a refreshing, modern effect.
Using decking tiles is another great way of creating an exciting pattern that give a different feel to your living space. If you want to get more out there we have seen zig zags and chevrons which look great as small sections of decking.
3. Break it up with Different types of Decking Boards
Decking boards come in various types. Smooth and grooved decking. Mix it up with some sections using different textures. This can be combined with features such as plants to create an impressive display.
4. Use Custom Shapes
Classic rectangular decking areas look good and with most garden spaces they are the most economical. However, don’t get too hooked up on what is cheap and practical. You want to enjoy and appreciate your garden. Experiment with a few different shapes and designs on paper to see if you like anything more exciting before choosing.
Good decking installers will be able to create almost any shape you want. So if you want something rounded to give your decking a softer feel, it should be no problem.
5. Embedded Lights
Decking lights can add ambiance to your garden and extend the usage hours past sundown. Decking lights come in various shapes, strengths and colours and use LEDs which rarely need replacing.
Another benefit of decking lights is safety. If you have steps or raised decking they can act as guides in low light or at night.
A draw back with these lights can be the cost. The lights themselves are not expensive and fitting them into the wood isn’t difficult. Where the cost may come in is getting them passed off by a certified electrician. This is a necessary precaution as they will be connected to the mains and exposed to the elements.
6. Paint your Decking
Painting your decking can have dual benefits. It can look fantastic in varied colours. And the wood will be preserved and protected. Get adventurous with your colours but make sure to take the necessary precautions to avoid a mess.
A point to note with painting decking. Don’t partially paint the wood. If you only paint the top side it means that moisture will get in but may not be able to get out. This can degrade the wood. Make sure you can cover the whole surface to extend its life.
Make sure when you paint your decking it is dry and not too cold. Remove all dirt, algae, stickers and anything else that may obstruct the absorption of the paint. If you are using chemicals to clean the wood, make sure they are completely washed away before painting.
Fill all holes with good outdoor putty to get a nice finish. Prime the wood with an oil based primer and used a good oil based paint to finish off.
7. Build Raised Decking
Raised decking can be a fantastic way to make use of areas that are otherwise unused. Uneven or sloped areas can be turned into areas for social events, BBQ’s, relaxing and more. Whatever your reason for wanting one, something we can all agree on is that raised decking looks great.
8. Built in Decking Benches
Built in benches can be a way of maximising your decking area. They can be constructed from the same material you used for the decking, giving you all weather furniture.
Create extra storage inside the benches by making them in a chest design. Make sure to waterproof it using plastic sheeting which blends in.
One thing to watch for when making built in furniture is building regulations. Some built in features must adhere to certain standards….even in your garden.
9. Build in Flower Beds
An idea with growing popularity is built in flower beds. Creating custom designed flower beds can add some zest to your decking. They can be built from leftover decking or as part of the original design.
The building material will be heavily exposed to water and to soil. If using wood, make sure it is treated properly with something oil based. This will help prevent fungus and other things deteriorating the wood.
10. Decking in a Small Garden
If you are dealing with a small back garden, it is still possible to enhance the space with decking. It may just take some careful planning to pull it off properly. It’s likely that a simple design will work best. Square and rectangular areas give the most usable space and usually fit with British garden dimensions.
Make sure to get the proportions right so that it doesn’t dominate your garden or look strangely small. Use scaled drawings to get a better picture if you are having trouble imagining it.
Like all garden decking, it should fit in with your property and the rest of the garden. Don’t go clashing differently colours of wood with each other. Have a look at pintrest and shop around to see what will work with your unique garden.
Heat and Moisture Effects on Decking
Dark colours heat up in the sun. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, if you have decking at your house it can become extremely hot to walk on. This could be bad for your but particularly bad for pets and children.
Secondly, decking will expand and contract with changes in moisture and heat levels. When buying new wooden decking it will be slightly “green”. This means that it will contain an amount of water which will evaporate over time and slightly shrink the gap. With composite board they will both expand and contract. The amount of change is small whoever the longer the board the greater the change.
This article has covered the basics of choosing decking. There are so many variations to choose from and we want you to make the best choice. Decking can be a real blessing in the summer months and is a long term investment. We would always recommend that you send a little more money to get it right. This way you will be happy with it for years to come.
If you have any suggestions, questions or comments then please send us a message via the contact form
The staff at Acorn Gardening hop you have found this article useful.
Decking service areas
Acorn Gardening offers decking services in Ashton, Bamber Bridge, Buckshaw Village, Chorley, Euxton, Fulwood, Grimsargh, Higher Walton, Hoghton, Howick Cross, Hutton, Lea, Leyland, Lostock Hall, Much Hoole, New Longton, Penwortham, Ribbleton, Riley Green, Samlesbury and Walton-le-Dale.