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Choosing Garden Decking & Designing Outside Living Space

Author: Adam Crohill

With Summer well underway I’ve been investigating garden decking with the hope that an investment in an all weather wooden deck will coax me out into the garden on more than just the sunniest of days.

The Cheltenham House is fast becoming one of the slowest home renovations in history, partly because we keep revisiting rooms that we thought were finished and then completely redecorating them. Alongside this I keep finding new projects to distract my attentions from finishing any of the old projects. My latest distraction is decking the outside space…

Bring The Inside Out

Space is at a premium in our two bedroom victorian terrace so we really want to be able to utilise the outside space as much as possible, ideally we want an area that works in (almost) all weather conditions and feels like an extension of the home. Currently our garden is a bit of a building site…

decking project

We’ve decided to replace the existing patio and slate chippings with an L-shaped decked area that leads from the back door of our kitchen and wraps around the back of the house to create a full width seating area with fire pit – perfect for maximising alfresco activities in the more chilly evenings. Our garden is walled on all sides and I like the idea of cladding some of the walls by the seating area with the same material and perhaps even building an L shaped seating area out of the decking with integrated storage. We’ll need some kind of storage as I spent the last bank holiday weekend demolishing the old outside toilet which we’ve been using as a garden shed to make way for the new seating area. In the image you can see the huge scar on the wall from this demolition which is now waiting to be rendered and painted as part of the general garden renovation. You might also spot some red bags leaning against the kitchen wall. These contain the concrete roof tiles from the old outside toilet which turned out to be made out of asbestos. Feel free to ask me about how this was removed and disposed of safely (and cheaply) in the comments section below.

The Inspiration

So far only a few ideas are set in stone, we want a dark finish to the deck. We want a seating area made out of the decking with hidden storage and for the walls around the seating area to be clad in wood or something that compliments the decking. In terms of dressing the space we are looking at some kind of permanent exterior lighting and we will be incorporating our fire pit which was a gift list item from our wedding last year.

With those parameters in place I have turned to pinterest for inspiration.

For all original sources, links and for more inspiration please visit my full outside space moodboard

Which Type of Decking?

There are three tiers of decking, softwood, hardwood and composite decking so you should be able to find a solution to fit your budget. Softwood decking is generally a light honey colour, hardwood is a more reddish colour or a deeper brown. Prices for softwood decking start from as little as £1 per linear metre, for hardwood expect to pay roughly four times as much. If properly maintained both should last for many years so really it boils down to which you prefer the look of.

If you are hiring someone to install your decking the labour and material costs to prepare the area, build the framework and lay the decking will almost certainly exceed the cost of the decking panels themselves and if you are going down this route it might work out more economical to let your installation team also source the decking, just make sure the materials quoted match the product that gets installed.

Composite decking is generally the most premium solution with a price tag to match, your budget for the highest quality composite decking like that from UK manufacturer Millboard will start at around £13 per linear metre and for that you get a wide range of colour and texture options and a non slip surface with an anti-fungal coating which requires no maintenance. If you are buying for your “forever home” you may be able to justify the additional cost, especially as you won’t have to pressure wash the surface at the start of each summer season.

Scaffolding Board Decking

I’ve not included scaffolding boards as one of the three options because, well… It’s not decking at all really. You can pick up used or new scaffolding boards very cheaply so a deck of scaffolding board is a tempting option, the wide boards look great and can be used to create a rustic decking area and they work brilliantly as external wall cladding as I learnt when I was photographing Charlotte’s Relaxed Revamp, for a Rock My Style home tour which we published back in 2016.

Please do consider if you do decide to go for scaffolding board decking that it is not a purpose built solution – scaffolding boards are cheap for a reason, the quality of wood is generally low. You’ll notice the metal braces screwed into the corners of the boards, these are to stop swelling and warping in wet conditions so if you remove them prepare for “characterful” uneven surfaces over time. Of course this might be the exact look you are going for.

The Next Steps

Whilst waiting for installation quotes to come in I’m busying myself as best I can, as I write this I am watching an eBay auction for some carbonised Millboard decking so fingers crossed. I’m also researching all the finishing touches – I’ve already bought some antique zinc numbers from The vintage wall to adorn the wall above our seating, the firepit from Garden Trading is ready and waiting and I’m well along in my research for permanent exterior lighting… You can keep updated with all progress at #thecheltenhamhouse as it happens by following along on Instagram.

I’d love to hear your experiences with decking, whether you went for softwood, hardwood, composite decking or even scaffolding and any hidden-gem exterior decor website recommendations you have would also be gratefully received!

Author: Adam Crohill
Adam likes Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
Follow Adam on instagram @adamcrohill

10 thoughts on “Choosing Garden Decking & Designing Outside Living Space

  1. I’m going to be that person… Adam, can you tell me how you got rid of your asbestos please?

    It seems we have an entire garage made of the lovely stuff.

    Loving the inspiration by the way. xx

    1. Hi Karen – It sounds as if your asbestos problem is a little more extreme than mine, firstly you need to determine what type of asbestos you are dealing with – if its in walls as insulation then I think that is a job for the experts.

      I had three cement sheets of corrugated roofing each approximately 1 metre square. I took advice because, as we all know asbestos can be lethal. The problems arise when the asbestos is snapped, drilled or broken down – its the dust and fibres that do the damage.

      After assessing my roof I determined that with (careful) use a crowbar to remove the metal pins holding the 3 concrete tiles in place they could be removed one by one without drilling or damaging the sheets in any way. I still took the precaution of wearing gloves, a good quality ventilated face mask and enclosed goggles.

      I felt (and looked) like I was removing the nuclear core from some kind of missile as I lifted the sheets away and placed them carefully on the ground… I can’t stress enough how dangerous Asbestos can be – if you don’t have the right gear and you don’t feel 100% confident then I think the best advice is to get a professional in – you can find specialist Asbestos removal companies online.

      In terms of disposing of the Asbestos – I was told that I would have to pay for someone to collect the material, but this turned out to be incorrect. For small amounts of household asbestos that you can contact your local council who will send you a disposal kit. This consists of 8 thick plastic bags. You place each asbestos sheet into a red bag, then place the red bag into a yellow bag and carefully seal. Once all asbestos is double bagged you can arrange a time to visit a specialist asbestos centre where you can dispose of it. This service, certainly in my local area, is completely free.

      When you arrive at the disposal centre be aware that no one will help you place the sheets into the skips so make sure you can lift the bags easily. No one will help because Asbestos can be so dangerous if it has not been removed and packaged for disposal correctly.

      I hope that helps Karen – my main advice I think would be that if it looks like you are going to have to cut or drill your asbestos in anyway at all in order to remove it then I wouldn’t touch it.

      1. That is good to know Adam! Our roofing sounds the same, the corrugated stuff… I’m told the walls are fine, but u have my suspicions and feel like we’ll be opening a can of worms if/when we replace the roof.

        Such nasty stuff!

        1. Hi Karen,

          Right I see… Apparently the asbestos used to make concrete tiles is supposed to be less dangerous than the really bad wall based stuff (but I am no expert… I’ve just googled the knowledge) but accounts for the most asbestos related injuries simply because it is far more common.

          That said – I think If I had been required to cut any of the sheets I wouldn’t have attempted it, its just not worth it.

  2. I now feel I want a deck. You need to get crafty with some palettes! You can make all manner of outdoor furniture for pennies. I’m hoping to attempt to make some outdoor sofa’s this year but haven’t yet got organised so it may never happen at this rate x

    1. Thanks Lottie, I’ve seen that furniture made out of palettes – it looks great.

      The only issue is that I need the box part that you sit on to be hollow so that it can be used for garden storage – i don’t think that’s going to work with a palette construction but i’ll certainly investigate it further!

  3. I’m currently looking at TREX for outside decking, after getting HUGE quotes back for Granite slabs, it looks great though, but the area we need to deck is quite large, I’m hoping the quotes are too spendy!
    great post x

    1. Hi Laura – good luck with your decking endeavours! I mentioned in my post that I was watching some Millboard decking on eBay. Well… I actually won the auction so am now the proud owner of some nearly new charcoal coloured composite decking at a fraction of the cost for new.

      All I’ve got to do now is hire a van and go and collect it… then find someone to install it!

  4. Hi Adam, this looks exciting! What are you planning on doing for the fire pit? One of the main factors in making us think patio over decking is because we don’t want to damage it with the fire pit…I see on one of your images you’ve got a gravel base for the pit – is that what you’re thinking of doing?

    Oh and if you find any good outdoor festoons let us know. I bought solar powered ones last year and they lasted all of 2 weeks!

    1. Great question Becs… This is something I have been considering. I don’t want the fire pit to be permanently in place on the decking so a permanent gravel surround isn’t going to work for us. I’m thinking either a circular metal tray that we fill with gravel that can be removed easily or a fire pit mat – you can get them from Amazon, they don’t look great but could work if I can find one that is a close colour match to the decking.

      I’ve seen great looking permanent festoon lighting at Rocket St.George but they are not cheap

      Lights For Fun seem to have a great range of much more affordable permanent outdoor lighting

      I’ve not tried either so can’t comment on the build quality but I’ll certainly be doing an update once the decking is installed.

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