The Garden Guide

Timber decking - review

Landscape and Garden Product Directory

'Deck' derives from a word meaning 'covering' and 'pavement' from a word meaning 'beaten' (as in 'beaten earth'). It was the use of decks to cover the hold of a ship that led to its association with timber. At first sight it is odd that timber should be used to cover the earth in gardens. It is inferior to gravel in many respects:

  • timber rots naturally, especially when in contact with soil or water
  • timber decks can be very slippery when wet
  • timber decks are much more expensive than beaten gravel
  • decking requires fixing, and the fixings can corrode
  • some timbers require preservative treatment with dangerous and environmentally-unfriendly chemicals

Each of these considerations must be dealth with if designing a timber deck, but let us first consider the reasons for building a deck:

  • timber is softer than stone
  • timber has an attractive colour and texture
  • timber is a good insulator, and therefore much warmer to touch than stone or concrete

The design measures which can be taken are:

  • for rot resistence: use a naturally resistent timber (eg a tropical hardwood from a sustainable source) or, if using a softwood, soak it in preservative and damn the consequences
  • to prevent corrosion of the fixings use only brass screws
  • to save pedestrians from slipping either (1) restrict the use of decking to surfaces which will not be used in wet weather (2) coat the timber with an anti-slip compound (3) place a layer of wire above the timber

The best uses of timber decking are:

  • to project over water
  • to provide a surface for sitting or sunbathing