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How to lay decking

What better way to enjoy your back garden that with a cool drink in hand, relaxing on your beautiful new decking. A perfect excuse for socialising and a stunning feature for any home, decking is incredibly multi-functional.

Thinking about investing in a hot tub? Decking will give you an even, stable base. Considering taking up yoga? Decking offers a flat, smooth surface. No matter the scenario, decking can transform a boring, monotonous garden into a stylish and functional space.

Unfortunately, paying for decking installation can be expensive. So, if you have some spare time and want to learn how to lay decking boards, read on.

We will also be looking further into how to lay decking on grass and uneven ground, plus, how to lay decking tiles. Consider this a fantastic opportunity to learn a new skill and achieve the decking of your dreams.

To help budget for this job, or to find a specialist who can help, view our garden decking cost guide.

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How to lay deckinghow to lay decking on a patio

The most common type of decking is constructed using boards. This is a fantastic choice not only aesthetically but also to create an even, comfortable surface for sunbathing, barbeques and for children to play. The following step-by-step guide is designed to teach you how to put decking down yourself, no matter your skill level.

Tools and materials needed

Before you begin make sure you have all of the following tools and materials ready:

  • Decking boards
  • Screws
  • Joists
  • Carpenters square
  • Nail gun
  • Saws (hand and circular)
  • Framing hammer
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Weed membrane
  • Power drill
  • Chalk or builder’s line
  • Concrete blocks
  • Pencil
  • Sleepers, spacers and shims if laying over a concrete patio

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Step 1: Preparation

The most essential stage of building a deck is the preparation stage. This will ensure your finished decking is stable, even and secure. Follow the below steps to properly prepare you to lay decking boards:

  • Clear the space by removing plants, weeds and large stones.
  • Using the tape measure and carpenters square measure the location where your decking will sit.
  • With your chalk or builders’ line, mark the outline of your deck.
  • Now is a good time to use the weed membrane to prevent weeds from ruining your deck.
  • Use a treatment to protect your deck boards before installing, unless they are composite, in which case skip this step.
  • Measure the joists and decking boards and measure again to eliminate human error.
  • Using a saw, cut your boards to the required length.

Step 2: Constructing the sub-frameHot tub decking ideas

Once the area is properly prepared it’s time to begin building the sub-frame, as follows:

  • If using concrete blocks begin by spreading these over your decking build site. Ensure each corner of the deck is supported by a block.
  • Attach the joists to each other forming the shape your new decking will take.
  • Place the frame over the prepared decking area and ensure it is level.

Step 3: Laying the decking

Now you are ready to begin laying your decking. Although this is exciting, be careful not to rush ahead. In this stage it’s worth taking your time to properly learn how to put decking down to ensure it will be level and structurally sound, so it lasts for years to come. If you find your skills aren’t quite up to it, then contact a professional tradesperson to lay the decking for you.

  • Begin in any corner of your lower frame and start laying your decking boards one at a time.
  • Make sure each decking plank is positioned in the opposite direction of your sub-frame joists.
  • Drill holes of roughly 7cm and attach the decking boards with screws to the joists.
  • Always ensure you leave a gap of approximately 3mm for any expansion of the boards.
  • Lay and attach one row at a time.
  • You can also use sandpaper at this point to keep the ends of your boards smooth.
  • Finish laying the rest of your decking and ensure every plank and joist is properly and securely attached.

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How to lay decking on uneven ground

Surprisingly, it is possible to install decking over uneven ground. For instance, if your garden is sloped, you can use support posts to raise the lower end of the decking.

Alternatively, if the ground is rough and uneven you may need to level the space before beginning. Still wondering how to lay decking on uneven ground? Follow the below steps:

Option 1: Using support posts

  • Use a strong digging implement to remove weeds, plants and rocks from the area.
  • Dig holes for your posts. Going down one foot will ensure your posts remain stable and secure.
  • Ensure you trim your posts to the correct height and set them in place using a concrete mix.
  • Attach joists to the posts forming the outer sides of your decking area.
  • Continue installing your decking as described in our previous how to lay decking section.

Method 2: Building a level base

  • Using a tape measure and chalk line, measure your decking area.
  • Dig down to roughly 20cm lower than you want your new decking to be positioned.
  • Construct your decking sub-frame.
  • Use slabs of stone spread along the edges and middle of your frame.
  • Lay the decking as described in our ‘how to lay decking’ section.

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How to lay decking on grass

The problem with laying decking on grass is the instability of the soft ground. In this case, it is wise to properly prepare the space to ensure your decking is level and secure. Read on to learn how to lay decking on grass:

  • Remove any plants and rocks so you are left with only soil.
  • Excavate the ground to roughly 5cm.
  • Using a spirit level, ensure the ground is level.
  • Lay a weed proof membrane to keep weeds at bay and ensure your decking is long-lasting.
  • Spread gravel over the membrane to a depth of roughly 4 – 5 cm.
  • Please note, it is also possible to used risers to create a floating deck.
  • You can now begin constructing your decking directly onto the ground.

How to lay decking on soil

Preparation is paramount to create a high quality, stable deck. Wondering how to lay decking on soil? Follow the below tips:

  • Completely clear all debris, turf and plants from the area. It is also a good idea to excavate turf down to roughly 5cm.
  • Check the ground is flat and level.
  • Consider using hardcore if your soil is not compact. This will keep your decking properly supported.
  • You can also use a weed proof membrane here to protect your decking.
  • For extra stability lay concrete slabs as a level foundation. These evenly distribute the weight of your decking to prevent sinking.
  • Construct your decking frame and lay your decking as described in our previous ‘how to lay decking’ section.

How to lay composite decking

how to lay composite decking

Using composite decking as an alternative to wood will save you time and energy when it comes to maintenance. Composite decking is durable and sustainable, plus, doesn’t need to be stained, painted or sanded. One excellent type of composite decking is Trex decking, for more information including prices and tips please see our helpful Trex deck cost guide.

Learning how to lay composite decking can eliminate labour costs. To do so, follow the below steps:

  • Begin by preparing the ground and laying your sub-base as well as any supporting posts or membranes.
  • Unlike wood planks, always leave an expansion gap of 6mm between composite boards with a 3mm gap at the ends.
  • Using the usual timber decking tools, fit the composite boards using the clever fastening system and secure in place.
  • Please note, any composite boards fitted adjacent to a wall require at least a 10mm gap.

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How to lay decking tiles

Boards are not the only style of decking available. By choosing to use tiles instead of planks you can look forward to a quick and simple installation. Most decking tiles will clip together, creating a strong, stable surface for your deck.

Follow the below steps to learn how to lay decking tiles:

  • First things first, prepare the ground by removing debris and laying any protective membranes.
  • Ensure you measure the space carefully to ensure your base is the correct size for your decking tiles.
  • Create a base for your decking using whatever method best fits your circumstances. For example, using a sub-base, concrete slabs or support posts.
  • Please note, if you are wondering how to lay decking tiles on uneven ground, see our earlier section to create a strong, level base.
  • Now comes the fun part. Begin laying your decking tiles in one corner. Each tile should clip into the next, creating one smooth, flat surface.

How to lay decking on concrete

Even cracked, uneven concrete flooring can be revitalised with the addition of decking. The below steps further explain how to lay decking on concrete, with fantastic, quick results:

  • For any big dips or cracks, consider using a self-levelling compound to give a smooth, even base for your decking.
  • Cut sleepers to size and lay out over your patio. Use spacers to create a level support for your decking.
  • Once you are happy with the results, screw them into place using a drill.

    how to fit decking handrail

  • You can also use shims to tweak the heights of the sleepers.
  • Now you can lay out your decking and secure into place by screwing into the below sleepers.

How to fit decking handrail

The simplest way to install a decking handrail is by using support posts as described in our ‘how to lay decking on uneven ground’ section.

Using taller posts in the corners of your decking will give you the perfect opportunity to install a handrail between them. Simply cut the handrail to the correct length, sand and stain then screw into place.


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