How to create a great deck in Australia - Building AU
How to create a great deck in Australia

How to create a great deck in Australia

Decking is a great way to extend the functional space in your home. It can be designed with tremendous flexibility to suit just about any purpose. It can act as a bridge between indoor and outdoor living spaces, provide great outdoor dining areas to enjoy food and drinks, be used as an entertaining area for a summer party and more.

Words by Yohei Guy

Sometimes a plain grassy backyard is not enough no matter how meticulous your lawn might be. Outdoor decking systems are a perfect addition to any patio or garden, even more so during the summer months. A high-quality deck really gives off a great feeling of warmth, while adding a touch of class to your outdoor living space.

Decking and decking systems are extremely versatile, easy to customise and can be designed to suit many purposes. They are a very popular choice for Australian homeowners and can be used in gardens of all shapes and sizes. The right choice will be functional throughout the seasons, ensuring you make the most of your outdoor area. That's why a great deck is much more than an exciting colour or attractive finish. Configuration, utilisation and the finer details all have a dramatic effect on the final result.

Last but not least, before building a deck, you should know just how much maintenance will be required in the short and long term. There’s nothing worse than finishing the job and realising the upkeep isn’t worth the effort and cost.

Small garden decking design ideas

For those with a little less space, these small garden decking design ideas will likely be helpful as a way to maximise the usable space of your property. It can be an excellent design solution but you need to set the right layout and choose the best material, colour and finish to make smaller outdoor spaces feel spacious and attractive.

Let's start with the basics, some of which come from the same rule book used in interior design. Using lighter colours will make your deck appear lightweight and broader. Laying the boards widthways will also make the deck seem wider as well as laying them right up to the edge on both sides. Applying the same kind of decking boards up the wall will create a pleasing visual continuity, making the area seem more prominent and cohesive.

Combining decking with a paved area will enhance the dynamics through zoning and serve to visually enlarge your small outdoor space further. You can even use decking boards to create various built-in seating spaces that can also double as storage or be used to place things like potted plants. In general, when it comes to small spaces, you should try to go multifunctional wherever possible.

Choosing composite decking

Composite decking is a convenient and affordable choice that also appeals from a sustainability point of view. Most composite decking boards are made from recycled components, featuring equal parts of wood fibre and plastic, mixed with pigments, preservatives and other materials. Other solutions include wood fibre from mills and furniture factories and shredded polyethylene.

While they don't especially look or feel like real wood, once in place, composite deckings do a great job requiring very little maintenance. They don't decay or attract termites and you’re able to walk barefoot without fear of splinters. Fading from the sun is minimal as it’s designed to develop a slightly lighter shade after three months of sun exposure before settling.

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Choosing timber decking

Timber decking can be manufactured from a wide variety of wood species, both soft and hard. Among the most popular decking timber materials are hardwoods, such as Jarrah, Spotted Gum and Merbau (also known as Kwila). While hardwoods can be somewhat expensive, they tend to last longer, requiring less maintenance compared to more affordable softwoods like oak or pine decking. Hardwoods also tend to feature a naturally rich colour that can eliminate the need for stains or sealants.

In general, timber decking is long-lasting when properly used and appropriately maintained. It does its job well while adding a bit of natural flair and is fantastic for increasing the value of your property. If you’re able to preserve the wood’s original sheen and enhance its natural resistance to elements you’ll be on to an absolute winner.

What’s great about Merbau decking?

Merbau timber, also known as Kwila timber, comes from the Kwila tree and is a species of tropical hardwood from Southeast Asia. It's very popular and extensively used as a decking solution in Australia. Its characterised by a beautiful gold to reddish-brown colour which, if left to weather, will gradually age to a driftwood grey. Merbau decking is durable, sturdy, easy to install and maintain while being exceptionally stable. It is not timber that will shrink or swell and is a great long-term option.

Its maintenance is no different than any other hardwood. Annual hard brushing is advised to remove dirt, grime and any surface mould. Merbau wood can be water blasted, ideally at a low pressure to avoid damaging the wood’s fibres.

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What’s unique about Jarrah decking?

Jarrah timber is a hardwood option that has a colour range of rich red and browns and has a beautiful wavey grain. It’s a local product, grown in southern part of Western Australia and has quickly become one of the most popular Australian hardwoods as far as quality timbers go. As well as looking great, it has a fantastic natural resistance to rot and is used popularly throughout the country.

What is the difference between Merbau and Jarrah timber?

Jarrah timber is heavy and tough wood that isn’t as oily as Merbau making it less likely to bleed in the long term. Jarrah’s natural resistance to rot also makes it a good option for humid and wet environments. Because of this, it is also frequently used as a timber for marine construction, particularly wharfs and bridges. Due to its quality and strength, it is generally more expensive than Merbau. As a timber decking material you can expect Jarrah to last around 25 years.

How do you properly install decking?

In order to minimise warping and cupping it’s important to have free air circulation under the decking surface. Good ventilation balances the difference in moisture levels between the surface and the underside of the boards, extending the life and performance of the deck. The sub-deck should have at least a 0.5m clearing from the ground, along with adequate drainage. Sufficient spacing is also recommended to ensure good airflow to keep the decking healthy.

How do you maintain decking in the long term?

It’s important to take measures to prevent dirt trapping in your deck. If you BBQ on your deck, a grease catcher is recommended to avoid creating stains. Sweep, clean and seal regularly to prevent the accumulation of dirt and leaves that can also stain the deck surface. Washing your deck with warm soapy water and a stiff bristle broom will be enough to clean off surface residues, leaves, dirt, dust, and grime. While pressure-washers and water blasters can be very thorough, it must be done with a bit of delicacy and low power, otherwise, you can deeply etch and splinter the wood.

Sealing is a way to protect your deck against moisture and swelling. Additionally, it provides protection from the sun, which can dry it out resulting in shrinkage. Decking oils protect the wood from within, making it highly resistant to water and dirt, providing a highly durable finish at the same time.

We also recommend trying to avoid painting your deck with a solid stain. This is because it eventually will start to peel, requiring a substantial amount of maintenance. In contrast, oil-based stains will protect your deck and disappear more naturally and gradually over time.

Plan your dream decking project with confidence and ease

As you can there are some great decking design ideas to consider before getting yourself underway. From the choice of wood or material to the spacing and layout, the more informed your decision is the better the results will be.

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