If you’re thinking about adding a new seating area or pathway to your garden but want something a little different to paving slabs then decking is most likely the solution that you’re looking for! Long lasting, cost effective and easy to build by most experienced DIY people, it’s no wonder decking is a popular choice for many gardens!
In this article I’ll be giving a step by step guide on how to lay decking yourself, more specifically for lower decking areas where the frame will be built at ground level, saving you money from paying the professionals to build a new garden deck for you. From the tools needed to the nailing of the final decking board, you’ll find everything you need right here.
Which tools will I need to lay new decking in my garden?
Before we start, let’s look at the list of tools needed for preparing and laying your new decking area in your garden. If you are a handy person regularly taking on DIY jobs then there’s a good chance that you will already have the majority of the tools below.
- Tape measure
- Spirit level
- Handsaw or circular saw
- Hammer (or nail gun)
- Safety glasses/goggles
How to prepare the ground for your new garden decking
If you are planning on laying your new decked area directly on the ground then the first thing you are going to want to do is make sure the ground is level. If you have a level patio or concrete base that you want to replace with decking then my advice would be to leave it where it is. A paved area would make a great base for garden decking. If you plan to build your new decked area against your home then just make sure that you are a good 150mm below the damp course to avoid problems in the future.
If you plan on building your new garden decking on an area of lawn then the best thing to do is mark the area using pegs and string, before digging the area to a depth of 50mm. Once dug, lay some weed prevention fabric and top up with some gravel to help weigh the fabric down and further prevent future weeds from growing up and through your decking. In most cases, it’s OK to start building your new decked area directly on the gravel but if the area is particularly soft or prone to being waterlogged then it’s best to lay some paving slabs, making sure that they are all level to one another.
For raised decked areas, the level of the ground below isn’t too important since the decking boards will be elevated from the ground anyway, although you will still need to dig a level trench around the perimiter of your marked area for your facing decking boards to sit flush to the ground. It is still important however to lay the weed prevention fabric and gravel as I’ve seen weeds grow up and through decking boards despite them being raised.
Step by step guide on how to lay decking in your garden
Now you’ve got your tools and materials ready and have prepared the ground for your new decking project, it’s time to start building your new decked area! Below is my full step by step guide on how to lay decking in your garden yourself.
1. Start by building the frame around the perimeter of your decked area
Start by building the outer box frame around the perimeter of the decked area, remembering to allow for an overhang equal to the depth of your decking boards. This overhang will allow you to add facing decking boards later.
I typically cut the timber to size by simply using a handsaw, although a circular saw or metre saw would make life much easier. Instead of simply nailing the timber at the corners, I’d recommend using heavy duty angle brackets for added strength and durability
2. Install the joists inside your box frame
Now it’s time to turn your outer box frame into a solid foundation for your decking boards by installing the inner joists. These should be screwed into place with a gap of 400mm between each one. As there is more cutting involved now, I typically use my DeWalt circular saw but any saw will suffice. Just don’t forget to use some heavy duty joist hangers as these will make for a much longer lasting frame compared to just using nails.
3. Install timber between the joists
Also known as noggings, it’s now time to cut 400mm length pieces of timber (providing you have left a 400mm gap between each joist) and wedge them between each joist (staggered) before nailing them into place. These noggings will provide extra strength to your decked frame and stop it from twisting or moving.
It’s also a good time to check that the frame to your new garden decking is level. If not, then you can use paving slabs to adjust the height if needed. If it’s a small decking area then I would recommend making some stakes to hammer into the ground before screwing to the inside of your frame to avoid movement too. This will also help prevent your decking from sinking over time if bring built on a particularly damp area.
4. Screw your decking boards into place
Now it’s time for the fun part. Screwing your decking boards into place! Decking screws and other organic coated timber screws are best as they will out-last standard timber screws.
When screwing your decking boards into place, use decking spacers to allow for an even finish between boards. It’s common practice to use 5 or 6mm spacers to allow for expansion but other sizes are also available on the market.
It’s also best practice to start from the outer edge so that you have a full width decking board on full display. Leave your cut board for the edge against a wall or edge furthest away from display. If the length of your frame is longer than the length of your decking boards then ensure that the decking board is cut to a length that allows it to sit half way across a joist so that each end can be screwed into place. It’s also worth mentioning that all cuts should be staggered.
The overhang should be the width of a decking board. Don’t worry too much on areas that this can’t be achieved, aslong as the overhang is greater than the width of the board (usually 32mm) then you can cut it to size once screwed into place.
Finally it’s time to screw your facing decking boards into place to hide the frame beneath. Providing that you’ve left an overhang to the same width as your decking boards then these should sit perfectly for a nice flush finish.
My thoughts on laying decking yourself
If your already a hands on person that regularly takes on DIY jobs and is experienced when it comes to using power tools then I see no reason why you couldn’t build a decked area in your garden yourself, although it’s always good to have an extra pair of hands to help where needed.
Decking is fairly inexpensive when comparing it to other possible garden projects and unlike paving, if you do get bored of your colour scheme then you can always paint it!
I have some other articles coming up which include ‘how to build a raised decking area’ and ‘how to maintain and repair decking’ so once completed I’ll make sure to leave a link here!
If you’re planning on laying your very own decking and need some help or advice then why not comment below? Alternatively you can always head over to our forum where you’ll meet like minded people with the answers to your questions!