Planning Garden Decking and Safety Tips
Planning Your Garden
The process of designing your garden deck, selecting an appropriate site for it and deciding on its final use should take full advantage of what the garden has to offer. The deck should blend in with the home and garden, as well as be able to cater for the family’s needs. A well thought-out garden deck will fit into the site and not look like a bolted-on extra.
The most daunting task for the amateur garden deck builder is the design process. This can be broken down into a number of categories and surveying the site to find the ideal location for the deck is the first and most important. One way to find the right place is to walk around the garden, pick two or three places to sit in and look at what your view would be if you built the deck in this position.
Remember to walk away and look at the from the rest of the garden to see how it will fit in with the garden’s overall design. As you walk over your decking area think about where people are going to walk and how doors are going to open onto it — there is no point having the table in the way of the door or having to climb over it to get to the garden. These small details will make the deck perfect for your needs.
The garden decking needs to be appropriate for its intended use and the shape in which it is to fit. As a guide, the deck should be the same size or slightly larger than an equivalent room indoors to allow for garden furniture which is normally larger than the indoor version. Decking areas can be separated by introducing alternative patterns or changes in height or direction; by creating an L or T-shaped deck. Most important of all is that the deck should be in proportion to the house and surroundings.
A garden deck can be placed in a shaded spot if it is to be used mainly in the evenings when sun is not a priority, but a daytime deck would be better placed in a sunny or partially shaded position. In areas where the prevailing wind may cause a problem, a fence or hedge will be needed to act as a wind break, but this can be added after the deck has been built.
If you have neighbours close to the decks, it is preferable to construct it in a low position as you would not want to be perched high on a deck above your fence for all to see, and the neighbours probably do not want to see you! If you are planning to build your deck over 60cm from ground level it is recommended that you seek professional help in the design and building of it, as important factors such as safety must be considered. You will still have a say in how it will look and what features you require.
A garden deck should look inviting and a large doorway will encourage people to go onto the deck. A small step may be needed to help the transition to the deck if it is much lower than the floor of the house.
As with any DIY project, concentrate on constructing a quality deck rather than an over-ambitious one that may lead to disaster. There will always be the opportunity to add to the project at a later stage.
Rearrange the furniture – Start by trying your furniture in different parts of the, area in which you plan to construct your deck. As you are rearranging, ask yourself a number of questions. Can you get out of the door? Is the table big enough?
Estimate size – Once you have chosen your location it is worth using something to outline the size of the deck to get an idea of size and proportion — it is very easy to make the deck too small! Use planks of timber, hosepipes or string.
Difficult terrain – The sloping ground makes it difficult to see how high the deck will be when it is raised up to the bottom of the windows. Nonetheless, this is still the best place for the deck. The Eucalyptus tree offers some protection from the neighbours.
- Take care with naked flames such as candles on the deck and don’t use charcoal barbeques on or near the deck.
- Don’t skimp on proper support for wooden boarding — warping or collapse of the timbers could be extremely dangerous. Ensure that all the timbers are properly nailed/screwed down.
- Provide safety rails for sections of the deck where there is a marked drop to the ground and install hand rails for the safe use of steps. A visibly raised edging board will help to prevent chair legs accidentally slipping off the edge.
- Block off the underneath of the deck — rodents damage and burrowing animals undermine foundations.
- Clearly define steps and changes in level, especially when shallow.
- Ensure that planks are laid perfectly level with no protrusions or wide gaps.
- Check timber for rough patches and sand away splintered sections, especially where children will be using the deck.
- Use grooved planking for extra grip, especially on steps and in a wet climate or on a shady deck prone to algal growth.
- Use rot-resistant timber. It will prevent sudden collapse in years to come! Wood must either have been pressure treated with chemicals (tanalized) or be naturally durable. Regularly apply preservative and check for degradation.
- Periodically use a high-pressure water jet to remove algal build-up.
- Employ the services of a qualified electrician if you are in any doubt about fitting external electrics.