01-07-2024

How To Lay Ground-Level Decking

Decking is a great alternative to a patio or concrete if you want some height in your garden and need an area that is functional for the nicer weather. Laying decking at ground level is easy for anyone without carpentry skills, as it just requires a few power tools and pre-treated wood. It’s a great DIY project to transform your outdoor space.

Check out the step-by-step guide below from Speedy Hire, which will take you through all you need to know about building your own timber decking at ground level.

 

Before you begin to lay timber decking

  • Carefully measure the area you will be covering with decking to know how many boards you will need to buy and how long your timber supports need to be. This will reduce wastage and keep your costs as low as possible. You may wish to use string and pegs to mark everything out.
  • Check with your local planning authority to see if your final plans are good to go; while decking doesn’t often require permission, regulations and local bylaws can vary around the UK. It’s always best to contact your Local Planning Authority before carrying out any external work on your property.
  • Always have the correct PPE before beginning any project. To lay decking, you will need eye protection, gloves, knee pads and a dust mask suitable for cutting timber.

 

What tools do I need to lay decking?

The tools below are all you need for your decking project. Some items may need to be used multiple times, so check the instructions if you’re hiring equipment from Speedy Hire, and think your project could take a few days.

You will need a saw to cut your timber boards, but which type depends on the thickness of your timber and boards and how you are cutting the wood, so make a note of what you will need below. For most, hiring a circular saw will be best as it gives the power and rapidness you need to get the job done with all of your wood types, but jigsaws are ideal if you need to cut your boards to fit around tree trunks or flower beds.

  • Circular saw - for cutting thicker timber
  • Jigsaw - for making fiddly cuts in wood (if needed)
  • Cordless reciprocating saw - for smaller jobs, cordless power tools are also a safer option as there is no need for trailing lead or power supply 

 

Materials

  • Decking board
  • Timbers (for the base frame)
  • Weed control membrane
  • Patio slabs (for supporting the base frame)
  • Exterior wood decking screws
  • Decking preservative for wood

 

Tools

 

Preparing your ground

Your ground needs to be level and flat for ease. Don’t lay decking somewhere that is often boggy and muddy underfoot or very uneven. This can be overcome with type one hardcore and a plate compactor (also known as a wacker plate).

If you’re laying your decking on soil, compress with a thumper or roller beforehand. Patio paving at every corner to support the timber frame is always a good idea, especially if you’re building on soft ground. Putting weed control fabric underneath the whole area is recommended.

It is possible to build decking on a slope, but for this, you will need to cement supports into your ground, which further complicates things.

 

How to lay timber decking

The walkthrough below is for timber decking. The rules will generally be similar if you are installing composite decking, but research the method for your product as well.

Step 1: Check the ground is flat first

You should have already prepared the ground, but now is your last chance to double-check it is still flat using your spirit level. This will give you the best base to support the timber joints. You may need to compact the soil again or rake parts over.

 

Step 2: Lay the patio slabs

Put down your weed control membrane. Lay concrete paving slabs at each corner and the centre points of your decking area. This will keep the wooden frame off the wet ground. You can patio the entire area to be safe if your budget allows, too.

  • SPEEDY TOP TIP: Need more of a raised deck? Keep adding patio slabs on top of one another until you get the desired height. You may need to cement them together. Or use large concrete blocks if easier.

 

Step 3: Create a frame

Make a simple wooden frame by measuring and cutting the outer joists to size using your saw. Use the orbital sander to smooth rough edges. To join the pieces of timber together, first mark your holes with a pencil to ensure they will be accurate. Pre-drill the pilot holes, then drill the decking screws through the end timbers into the adjacent piece at each corner to form your square frame.

When done, measure across the timbers to check that all dimensions are even, and use the spirit level to check that everything is straight.

If your decking frame is going to be joined to the house or against a garden wall, you may want to fix one side of your frame to the masonry using coach screws. This will ensure the frame doesn’t move in future and is even and straight.

 

Step 4: Add internal decking timbers

To calculate the number of internal timber joists you will need, find the centre point of one of the external joists. Space your internal joists 400mm apart in intervals. Never exceed this, so it is best to lessen the space if needed.

  • SPEEDY TOP TIP: Your internal timber joists should all feel really supported to prevent bounciness and make the decking safe to walk on. If you're concerned about strength, you may need to add more patio slabs.

 

Step 5: Close off the sides

For a really neat finish, affix timber decking boards around the visible outer edges of your timber frame. When you come to fit the upper decking boards, you will get a clean edge.

 

Step 6: Lay the upper boards

Cut your boards to size using your saw if needed. Use your orbital sander to smooth any cut ends. Lay your first decking board, attaching it to the inner joists first. Try to drive the screw heads well into the grooves so they aren’t visible.

Your boards should be spaced evenly, around 3-4mm apart. This isn’t only for cosmetic reasons; it is an expansion gap to allow for expansion when the boards get wet or are in the sun. If you need to use multiple boards for every row, keep everything in an even, regular pattern so it looks good. Continue until all boards are laid.

 

Step 7: Sand and finish

Once everything is in place, use your orbital sander to soften any rough edges or corners. Pressure wash the finished project on a low setting to ensure all sawdust is removed and your decking is ready to be preserved and used.

Apply a preserver to prevent rot and decay, particularly focusing on any cut ends. Once the preserver is dry, you may want to apply a decking stain, oil, or wood paint to further preserve the wood.

Power washing a deck before applying preserver or wood stain will allow the wood to absorb the product better, as no dirt will act as a barrier. Wait for the decking to dry before applying anything, though.

Wait 24 hours before using your decking or placing any furniture to check everything is safe and steady.

 

Caring for your decking

Congratulations! You have just built your decking, transformed your garden, and got it one step closer to being the perfect outdoor space for your needs. But the work doesn’t stop there.

Every year, inspect your decking to ensure the wood is still in good condition. Replace any wood that is starting to rot or decay. Buying quality timber boards, pressure-treated wood, and hiring the best tools for the job should mean it lasts for years to come, though.

Reapply any staining or preservative annually before the bad weather begins and hire a pressure washer once spring arrives to remove any dirt, leaves, and moss that may have formed. This will not only keep your decking looking brand new but also ensure it is safe for all the family to walk on.

 

Is there power tool hire near me?

Yes. Speedy Hire, the UK's leading tool hire company, offers a range of power tools for hire nationwide. Various delivery and collection options are available at affordable prices. Power tool hire has never been easier.

You’ll find all the tools you need right here. To start planning your next DIY project, open a Speedy account today online or in-store.

Don’t stop now – there are plenty more ways to transform your home and garden with Speedy Hire’s help. Follow our step-by-step guides here.

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