Guide written by:
Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester
Choosing decking boards couldn't be simpler - just compare the rice husk, exotic wood and composite options and choose your favourite material! Slotted or autoclave wooden boards are quick to install. Teak or pine, screwed or clipped - let us bring you on board...
- Fixing method
Decking and duckboards: why put up wooden decking?
Wooden decking has really become popular in recent years, both for its functionality and its great home makeover potential. Renowned for their low price and ease of installation, wooden decking and duckboards are appearing everywhere as both seasoned do-it-yourselfers and complete novices get stuck in!
Wooden decking and duckboards add aesthetic value to your outside area - and the wide range currently available allows you to create wonderful patterns through the interplay of gridlines.
Moreover, wood offers comfort and warmth since it's such a natural material. Who would rather walk barefoot on slabs or concrete?
For an exotic touch, choose teak decking boards combined with matching garden furniture and a craftily placed outdoor hammock!
Decking and duckboards: what material to choose?
Decking boards (like duckboards) come in a range of materials, including various species of wood, exotic and European.
Consider the properties of each material before you start estimating quantities!
Choose between wood of Europeanor exoticorigin. Both varieties offer impressive durability. They are differetiated mainly in terms of colour, treatment and properties. The best value European wood is pine - get autoclave treated pine for an improved lifespan. Hardwood species such as oak and chestnut are naturally more durable - but substantially more expensive to buy. Exotic wood, due to its natural environment, offers improved moisture resistance. Weight and appearance vary between species - tali wood, teak, eucalyptus, massaranduba, bangkirai, itauba, ipe, almendrillo etc. You're spoiled for choice! Note however that wood does tend to grey with age. The solution ? Maintain it with a degreying agent and the classic teak oil!
The process of heat treatment applied to species such as pine and poplar improves their durability while avoiding chemical treatment. Their properties then rival those of naturally superior woods. Heat treatment is a natural process compatible with all wood species.
High-temperature treated (HTT) wood
This type of wood is heated to very high temperature (around 250 degrees) in order to inject steam. This process decreases water retention by more than half. As with heat-treated wood, no chemical treatment is involved - making your decking more environmentally friendly! The only disadvantage is that there is little colour variation, since the heating process leaves all types of wood a fairly uniform caramel colour.
Composite is by far the simplest material to maintain. Its compositionofrecycledwood and polymers gives you a wider choice of colours and shades. Composite is also rot-proof and has no visible grain or knots. Highly durable, composite decking doesn't produce splinters and provides a great alternative to solid wood.
Rice husk is a variant composite material consisting of oil, salt and (no prizes for guessing) rice husk. In terms of strength and durability, it doesn't get any better! Again, since it's not wood, rice husk doesn't make splinters and warps very little. Its properties are comparable to those of exotic hardwood - impressive resistance, durability etc. In addition, rice husk is naturally non-slip and can be painted whatever colour you choose.
Bear in mind that composite materials warp very little when they get wet; and that sustainably managed wood can be identified by its FSC certification.
Decking: planks or duckboards?
With your choice of material out of the way, you still need to decide between planks or duckboards for your terrace.Don't make your choice solely on aesthetic grounds!
Consider the existing layout and area that needs covering.
Wood / composite planks
Planks are ideal for large areas of decking - a variety of lengths can be obtained between 2 and 2.4m (some even exceeding 3.5m), with an average width of 90mm (again, can be much wider). Your choice should be based on the area you need to cover: the bigger the decking area, the longer and wider you'll want the planks. Why, you ask? To minimizing the sawing and fitting work, of course! On the aesthetic side, these planks have a grooved upward and a flat downward face for easy mounting on the supporting joists.
Wood / composite duckboard-style slabs
Slabs are usually kept for smaller areas and they lend themselves wonderfully to balconies and unprepared, solid, flat ground. They're typically a 50cm standard size, although 1m square slabs also exist for larger areas. Slabs are nested together, ideally on top of a geotextile layer.
Obviously, you'll want to use the same type of plank or slab across the entire decking area. In terms of colour, composite allows for greater variety, while wood must be oiled or treated as required.
How to fit your decking boards?
There are two choices when it comes to fitting your boards. One uses traditional screws: hole - screw - job done; the other uses clips fixed to the supporting joists to hold the planks in place: how discreet!
Duckboards might be particularly easy to install, but even so, care must be taken to ensure a solid grounding: stable and level ground at a minimum. Duckboards can be installed on supporting joists or simple studs. Planks are held on joists - together producing a level structure. Joists are themselves long pieces of wood designed to be mounted straight on the ground. Fitting screws can be left visible if you like that look; the most important thing is to choose screws at least three times the thickness of your boards (yes, three times!) and made of stainless steel! And for power-tool whizzes, it's best to pre-drill the boards if you can.
For aesthetic reasons, most people go for clips over screws; however you need to take care not to lay your boards with any play (especially duckboards and planks of width over 100mm). Different decking components and accessories - angles, profiles, etc. - will finish the job handsomely.
On the structural side, joists are fixed perpendicular tothe boards and about 50cm apart. Too close and they're no use; too far apart and the boards might bend under the strain when you walk over them. Also, try to leave enough space between boards for sufficient water drainage and ventilation. If it rains lots and the water is allowed to collect, you'll get a lovel pool under your decking! A handy tip - you can get PVC studs to compensate for ground irregularities that threaten your decking structure.
Decking and duckboards: any maintenance tips?
Decking boards must be maintained in the same way as any floor covering, respecting the material they are made from.
For solid wood, it's essential to clean with a brush. If you want to prolong the lifespan of your decking, you can obtain treatment and maintenance products to slow the effects of ageing - including oils, saturators and degreying agents.
Regular annual maintenance is the secret to enjoying your decking for years to come.
Composite materials don't require any special treatment other than brushing them clean. Don't waste wood maintenance products on them - they might contain wood derivatives, but it's not the same thing!
You can use a pressure washer on decking, as long as it's set to low pressure. A combination of this and a nylon brush - brushing then rinsing - works a treat!
Treatment and maintenance
Learn more about garden design...
To find out more about garden design, follow our editors' advice and check out their other guides:
How to choose your garden furniture?
How to choose your pressure washer?
How to choose your electric screwdriver?
How to choose your outdoor ironwork?
How to choose your carpentry and cabinetmaking tools?
Guide written by:
Julie, Interior Designer, Manchester, 22 guides
After years of DIY, renovation, designing, I decided to turn my passion into my career. Starting in 2006, in the South-West, I helped people with renovation or contruction projects. My expertise and my curiosity led me to look further into innovative ideas for myself and my clients. Indeed, to live your passion is also to transform the space you live in and the objects you use daily. My family love my creations and ideas that I bring into their lives! My favourite thing to do: use colour to brighten up interior space. But also tips to hide away clutter. Your home is just never big enough, is it? It is thus a great pleasure to share my tips with you, so that you also can take as much pleasure as I do when starting up your next project!