A beginners guide to DIY decking

With summer just around the corner, what better way to breathe life into your old, tired garden than with a marvellous new timber deck?

Building your own deck can seem like a daunting task, that’s why here at Bradfords we’ve created this handy and straightforward guide. 

We must  advise, however, that if you’re building a raised deck over 600mm above ground level then a qualified builder or professional should be consulted. 

Tools you'll need for the job

Choosing the right timber

Decking detailing

Not sure which timber to use for your new deck? If you’re looking for expert advice, look no further, we’ve enlisted the help of timber expert Andy Jones of Snows Timber to help answer your questions. 

Andy’s been in the timber industry for over 30 years with a wealth of knowledge and experience, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about timber!  

Arguably the most important step in building your deck is picking the right timber for your project. There’s a multitude of choices out there so understandably it can be a bit overwhelming if it’s your first time. There is a simple answer. 

The perfect piece of timber is all down to personal preference. Making sure you choose a sturdy softwood that properly compliments your garden or space is paramount according to Andy. Colour, look, feel and finish are all down to you.

Hardwood Decking

If you want a recommendation, for timber with an impressive finish that’s also great value for money you should take a look at our Yellow Balau decking. Sustainably and responsibly sourced, this Indonesian hardwood is as beautiful as it is environmentally friendly.

If it’s no fuss, reliable and hassle free decking you’re after, then composite or maintenance free decking should be your first choice.

Given Britain’s temperate and often rainy climate, anti-slip deck boards are also a good pick. 

Tanalised Timber

Tanalised timber is pre-treated, meaning no maintenance or staining is needed whatsoever, it even comes with a 15 year performance warranty. 

If you’re buying Tanalised timber and you do happen to do any cross cutting or notching, just make sure you swab any exposed ends with some ENSELE preservative, this will help preserve the integrity of the original Tanalised treatment. 

Safety first

Safety gloves are essential for any deck installation

Consider these safety tips before you start:
  • Wear work gloves to avoid splinters.
  • Avoid prolonged inhalation of sawdust from wood.
  • When using power tools, always wear safety goggles to protect eyes from the possibility of flying particles.
  • Dispose of treated wood off-cuts as ordinary household waste.
  • Wash hands after working with any construction material or treatments and especially before eating.
  • Treated wood should not be burned in open fires, barbecues, stoves or fireplaces.
Although our treated timber is perfectly safe and poses no risk to people, animals or plants, extra care must be taken when using treated timber in or close to fresh water fish ponds. 

You should also clean and wash your deck at least once a year to prevent algae, dirt or moss build-up. 

Deck anatomy for a complete installation

1. Plan

When planning your deck, allow a little time to work out the best location. Once you’ve finished considering your spacing and placement factors you can then start to design your dream deck.

2. Level the site

Mark out the area for your new deck with wooden pegs and string. This will help you visualise the size of the finished deck and serve as a guide to help you prep the site. 

If the site you’ve chosen is lawned, we recommended that the turf is removed first. And most importantly, make sure that your site is level.

TIP - If your site is on bare earth you can prevent the growth of unwanted vegetation under your deck by covering any bare ground with plastic sheeting or weed membrane, followed by a decent layer of gravel.

3. Create the frame

The framework should be made up from 47 x 150 joists. 

Fix your joists 400mm apart. Noggins (sections of joist material) can also be fixed to add extra support to your deck. Your added noggins should help keep the framework rigid and provide extra fixing points for your deck boards. 

If you want to lay the frame directly on the ground, we suggest using concrete pads at each corner and at regular intervals to create a firm base.

Decking Noggins keep your deck framework rigid and provide extra fixing points

4. Fixing the frame and newel posts

If the deck is to be raised off the ground in any way,, i.e. to cope with uneven or sloping ground or for a split level deck, support legs first need to be concreted into the ground. 

At least 600mm of the support legs will need to be set into the concrete and then the concrete allowed to harden. We suggest that the legs are positioned no more than 1800mm apart to maintain strength. 
To create the frame, joists should be fixed with galvanised bolts to the support legs, taking time to ensure they are all level. 

Although as suggested the support legs are no more than 1800mm apart, plan where you intend positioning your newels BEFORE fixing the support legs. 

Do not forget that the support legs don’t necessarily need to be in the corners of the frame, especially if you intend fixing newel posts in the corners. 

It is important to plan your deck layout first. Once the framework is in place, it is time to fix the newel posts by bolting them to the inner side of the joists.

TIP - All cut/exposed surfaces and drilled holes should be brushed with ENSELE end grain preservative to avoid negating the warranty.

5. Fixing the deck boards

Treated deck boards are available in a wide variety of sizes, often with reversible faces. You can use either the smooth or the grooved side, or even a combination of the two. 

Cut your deck boards to length if necessary, treating all the cut ends with ENSELE. Place the first board flush with the face of the joist at the front of the deck. 

Pre-drill three holes to the face of the board and fix the board with galvanised screws. It is recommended that 3 screws on each joist support be fixed along the length of the board. Depending on the location of your newel posts, the deck boards may need to be cut to fit around the posts. 

Install the remaining boards in the same way, leaving a small expansion gap of approximately 6mm between the boards. If a deck clip system is being used, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

A variety of styles can be achieved, so plan ahead when designing the frame. If newel posts are being used, these will be needed at each corner and at a maximum of 1200mm intervals on straight sections.

6. Fitting rails to your deck 

Our decking enables you to make the most of any garden landscape no matter the contours

To further improve your deck, why not add some rails and spindles?

Ideally your newel posts will have been positioned and fixed prior to the deck boards being fitted. The handrails and base rails should be cut to length to fit between the posts. 

Fix the spindles, with a maximum gap of 100mm between each one, into the hand and base rail. Add some spacers into the grooves between the spindles. 

We suggest for ease (unless you you’ve done this a few times before) that you fix the spindles into the hand and base rail as a ‘panel’ to be slotted between the posts once your spindles are secure. Screw or nail your spindles into place and make sure your packing spacers are pinned into position. 

Repeat for other sections as required. 

So if you’ve been inspired to add a decking area to your garden this weekend, you can find everything you need for a fantastic job in the decking section of our website. You can review our handy tips and tricks for building a deck at-a-glance with this excellent downloadable guide. Got any questions? Pop in to see us at one of our many branches across the South West, or alternatively call us on 0344 846 1133.