There's a new garden trend when it comes to decking, and it's focussed on sustainablity, aesthetics, and creating a space for you to relax in all summer long.
It's for wood decking. Real wood decking that is, not composite, or veneered, but beams of real wood. It is ideal for transforming a small space, particularly roof terraces, balconies and courtyard gardens. It adds a design-led touch and is the aesthetically pleasing option, a classic choice for a beautiful finish.
“When it comes to gardens I always feel that natural materials work best, both visually and for their tactile properties” says landscape designer Rae Wilkinson. Real wood works for both curvilinear and geometric designs, creating an upscale area for entertaining or to add interest to a multi-level layout. Offering a sleek link between your interior and exterior, real wood can create the sense of an extended living area, especially if the flooring materials are complementary and you have sliding or folding doors to connect them.
How to choose wood for decking
What’s more, in the quest towards sustainable living, with the backlash against throwaway culture and short term garden fixes, long lasting real wood is very much in vogue. “I see real wood as a big trend in decking,” says garden designer Catherine Clancy, who likes using natural materials wherever possible and is a firm believer that garden construction should be sustainable.
Always choose timber certified as coming from renewable plantations with a transparent trail from source to end product, including a Forest Certification Scheme (FSC). “There are so many natural wood products out there at the moment like Thermowood, a heat treated softwood with a colour that fades to a wonderful soft grey over time,” Catherine says. Starting life as pine, Thermowood undergoes treatment to bolster durability and strength, creating an attractive, high-performance choice for decking.
Real wood is a sustainable choice too. If high-quality timber is used and maintained, a deck can last up to 30 years. “For decking I generally use untreated FSC-certified balau or ipê, which is sustainably produced using a careful planting and harvesting cycle,” says Rae Wilkinson. “A deck is only going to last as long as its sub-frame so this is the key element and should be built to last.”
If the sub-frame is well-built a hardwood deck can last for 25 years or more with no treatment other than a yearly jet-wash if needed. “There are some settings where a sustainably produced composite decking board would work well, such as around a pool or in deep shade,” adds Rae, “but it’s worth bearing in mind that they all contain plastic which poses a longer term environmental problem in terms of disposal.” Real wood is durable, and resistant to splitting, rotting and warping. It’s a more expensive option but you get what you pay for.
Which wood to choose for decking
There are many beautiful and durable choices when it comes to wood decking. “Hardwoods, such as ipê, balau and iroko, as well as oak, are popular for decks,” says garden designer Kate Gould. “They are warp- and weather-resistant and more durable than softwoods.”
Nicknamed ‘African teak’, the alluring, warm golden browns of iroko have a luxe appeal. Balau is another tropical wood that’s beautiful, strong, stable, durable, water resistant and has a consistent reddish-brown colour. Ipê stands out for its strength, durability and density. “Most decks, however, are made from pressure-treated softwoods,” adds Kate, “which are less costly and also available as kits. If well maintained, they should last 20 years.”
There’s also a push for staying local and using recycled materials. Reclaimed wood gives you something original that’s also environmentally responsible. Unique and interesting decks can be designed if you look for solid wood materials. Whatever you end up choosing, you can’t go wrong with real wood for a timeless, beautiful and long lasting result.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own garden where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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