A DIY Beginners Guide: How to Plan Your Own Decking Area

Adding a decking area can completely change the dynamic of your home and garden space. Not only is it an excellent way to extend your living space into the great outdoors, but it can also add a lot of value to your property. It’s also a fantastic way to relax and entertain guests, especially in the spring and summer!

While it might seem like a big task, planning your own DIY decking project can be surprisingly easy - if you know what to look out for. Before you start pulling out the power tools, there are a few key things you need to consider before you embark on your new DIY journey

Planning your Decking Project 

First things first, there are a few things you need to plan out. From figuring why and where you want to have a deck, all the way to understanding the skills needed to accomplish your dream project. Whilst you might want to make it your DIY masterpiece - you may need professional help with more complex features.

1. Why do you want to build a deck? 

This might sound like an obvious question, but starting a project without knowing what you want to achieve can cause problems further down the line. Are you looking to create a relaxing living space? How about a BBQ and dining area? The answers to these kinds of questions will help you determine what kind of space, tools, materials you’ll need, so starting with a clear goal in mind can really pay off in the long term. 

2. Do you need planning permission to build a deck? 

In owned properties, decking does not require planning permission as long as it is no more than 30cm above ground and covers less than 50% of the garden area. However, if you are in rented accommodation it’s always advisable to talk with your landlord about any home improvement projects you are planning to make.  

If you’re ever unsure about your building project, check with your Local Planning Authority before you start, and speak to any neighbours if there’s a chance your project could affect them in any way. It’s unlikely, but it’s always good to be sure you have the right to build before you go ahead - otherwise, you might find yourself pulling down a perfectly finished project. 

3. Where is the best place to build my deck? 

Once you determine why you want to build your deck, the next stage is to look at where you want to place it. The purpose of your deck and the overall size of your garden can determine quite a few things, including the type and total of materials you’ll need.  

It's not just about practicality but aesthetic too. What kind of impact will your deck have on the rest of your outdoor space? What shape or form do you want it to take?  Is there a specific view you want to focus on? These are all excellent questions, so make sure you factor them in at the beginning of your design and planning stage.

4. What kind of design elements do you want? 

Once you know where you want to build your decking, the next step is to consider the kind of design you want. 

Single platform decks are easier to build and are more cost-effective because they require less materials to build. On the other hand, raised decks require more materials to build as well as additional design elements such as railings and steps. And what about the shape of your deck? Will it be square, or will there be trimmed edges? If you're not quite sure what design you want, check the web for inspiration; you’ll find some absolutely stunning DIY decking designs online.

5. What’s the weather like in your garden? 

The weather your garden experiences can have a big impact on your decking project, including its construction and overall maintenance once it’s completed. Take into account where the decking will be hit by direct sunlight or high levels of wind and rain and factor this into your overall planning. 

It can also influence the overall comfort level of your deck once it's built. Do you need to add a pergola or umbrella to offset direct sunlight for a living space or dining area? If so, do you need to factor more room in to accommodate? Make sure you are mindful of the weather elements and adjust where necessary. 

6. Do you need help putting your decking together? 

It’s always good to have friends to help out on DIY projects; they can help cut the project time in half, which can help bring your decking project to life in good time, especially if it’s a weekend project.

More importantly, having an extra hand to help out is good for safety, for you and the project itself. They can double check your measurements, test elements of the build and help manage and move heavy material. While this can be a friend or family, you can also hire a consultant builder who can help oversee and guide your project.

Tools Required for Building a Decking Area 

Now that you know your plans, have an idea of what you want, and whether you need permits or other help to get your deck building started - you can start thinking about tools. It’s best to plan ahead what tools you may need to save time on trying to get the right pieces together to keep your DIY deck building going.

We’ve put together a helpful list of essential tools you might need to build your decking project:

  • Work gloves - to protect your hands while you work 
  • Safety glasses / goggles - to project your eyes while cutting and sawing wood 
  • Spirit level - to make sure your cuts and sanding are level 
  • Screwdriver (manual or powered) - to tighten screws during the build 
  • Nail gun (and compressor) -  to secure nails deep in composite or timber wood  
  • Measure Tape - to check your measurements and make adjustments when needed
  •  Cutting Tools - this can include a circular saw (general cutting) manual / reciprocating saw (general cutting and adjustment) mitre saw (angled cuts) and a jigsaw saw (curved and tight cuts)  depending on your project
  • Workbench - A safe area to work on, plan and also place tools when not in use 
  • Shovel - in case you need to excavate ground to place footing or the decks frame
  • Tarps and coverings - to cover your decking project from the elements during construction

It's also important to consider anything else you’ll need to work safely. Make sure you have a clear work area and place to store and access materials, and take steps to inform everyone in your household about these measures; it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Materials Required for Building a Decking Area 

The kind of materials you’ll need for your decking project can be influenced by a number of factors. Depending on the moisture, rainfall, sun, and even snow - you will need to consider different types of timber or plastic. Not all wood, plastic, or concrete is made equal and for different projects and budgets you will have different options. 

No matter what your budget and idea is - there will be a perfect option, you just need to know what to look out for! Most projects will include some or all of of these materials: 

1. Types of Decking

When it comes to decking, there are typically three kinds of materials you’ll want to consider - timber, composite, and PVC. Each has their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s worth doing a bit of research during the planning stages to determine which kind would work best for your specific project. 

Timber decking - Wood (timber) in the DIY industry is a durable and cost-effective material that is a popular choice for decking projects. While timber can come in many different types and varieties, it’s often divided into softwoods (pine, cedar, fir etc)  or hardwoods (oak, teak and mahogany). Timber decking not only looks good but it’s also highly customisable, making it a very flexible choice.  Although it does need semi-regular maintenance to keep it in good condition. 

Composite decking - Made from both plastic and wood, composite decking allows you the best of both worlds. It’s easier to maintain that timber decking and is more resistant to damage from the elements (weather and bugs) and regular day to day use. However, its use of plastic can make it less sustainable; if you want to use composite decking, check to make sure its plastic content is from recycled materials to make sure it’s environmentally friendly. 

PVC decking - PVC is a great low-maintenance material that as its name suggests is completely made of plastic. It doesn’t require regular seasonal maintenance like its timber and composite counterparts and is also extremely resistant to wear and tear, so it's less likely to give, crack or splinter. However, its all plastic composition means that it’s not a sustainable material and is slightly harder to modify than others.  


2. Decking Foundation

The kind of foundations used for decking can vary from project to project and is heavily influenced by the shape and size of your garden as well as the ground type. However, we’ll look at three potential forms of decking foundation - concrete, fabric, and gravel. 

Concrete - In this context, concrete refers to the use of concrete that’s either poured or slabbed. The most long lived of the choices listed here, concrete is not only durable and low maintenance once laid, but it can help provide stability to the footing of your decking which will help the structure feel more stable and safe for years to come. A potential drawback is the effect it can have on the soil it's laid on top of, so it’s important to factor this in if you have any gardening plans in future.

Fabric - For many homeowners, concrete can seem quite permanent, and while slabbed concrete can be pulled back up, it can cause damage to the top soil it's placed on which can affect future gardening plans. A good alternative is to use weed fabric instead. As its name suggests, it’s designed to prevent weeds from growing which can help protect timber and composite decks. Good quality weed fabric is also breathable, allowing water, air and nutrients to reach the soil beneath.

Gravel - While concrete and fabric both have their own positives, gravel is a good middle ground between the two. Like concrete, it's a study and dependable material which can help provide stability to your deckings footings. And like fabric, it's a great choice to help control weeds and ensure that water can drain away. 

3. Nails and Screws 

When it comes to building a deck, you’ll probably find yourself using a combination of nails and screws to get the job done. Screws, for example, have a better fastener and tensile strength, which keeps boards from popping up over time while nails are a better choice for structural elements like joists.

100mm nails (and nail gun clips) and 50mm screws are usually the go to choice for most deck builds, but ultimately the type, design and material chosen for your deck  will be the deciding factor on how many you’ll  need and what varieties you’ll require. That’s why it pays to take these things into consideration right at the start of your decking project. 


4. Wood Stain and Finish for Decking   

After building your deck, it’s time to add the finishing touches. While some homeowners prefer the rustic look, leaving your decking untreated means it can suffer from the elements.  Fortunately, there are ways to preserve the rustic feel or result in something a bit more polished.

For timber decking, staining and applying a finish protect your deck from fading, natural wear and water damage. We recommend refreshing your deckings appearance every few seasons or so as needed to make sure that your deck lasts longer and stays in good shape. 

While some composite decks might be designed without a need for a finish like their natural wood counterparts, certain types can accept paint under certain circumstances. A stain and finish can help a composite deck last for years, so check with your manufacturer or supplier to see if its possible, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.  

Start Planning Your Own Deck

So there you have it, everything you need to start planning your new deck. Factoring these points into the planning stage of your project will help streamline the building process and give you more time to enjoy your stunning new deck in good company this season.

Know what kind of decking you want, or still in the planning stage? Why not head over to our decking page and browse the full range of options using our easy-to-navigate menu options.

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