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Lawsons are the largest independent timber, building & fencing merchants in London and the South East of England. Established in 1921 Lawsons now have a number of branches offering the complete range of building materials.

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Decking Buying Guide

Decking Buying Guide

A quality deck will last 10-30 years, so it’s worthwhile doing research before you buy to make sure that your deck suits your family’s needs and your maintenance preferences. That’s why we’ve put together this simple buying guide to help you choose the right decking materials and type for you.

In this guide we’ll look at:

  • Decking materials
  • Whether to repair or replace
  • Making the most of your deck
  • Keeping your deck looking its best

Decking Materials

The majority of people choose timber for their decking – it’s easy to install, fairly simple to maintain, and you can repair parts of it rather than replacing if you experience any issues, breaks, or even rot. However, composite decking is gaining popularity thanks to the reduced maintenance requirements.

Wood Decking

Pros Cons

Can be repaired rather than replaced
Suitable for any budget – softwood is cheaper, hardwood is more expensive
Environmentally friendly
Comes in a variety of colours (and can be painted/stained)
Easy to install

Tends to fade
Can crack or splinter or warp
Requires re-staining/oiling and annual maintenance


Is it for you? If you’d like a natural, tactile deck that blends well with the natural environment and you’re happy to give it some TLC, timber decking is an excellent choice.

Composite Decking

Pros Cons

Minimal maintenance required
Slip resistant
Does not splinter
Comes in a variety of colours and finishes
Looks the same year after year

Requires more support (weaker than wood)
Cannot be repaired – requires replacement once damaged
Less environmentally friendly
More expensive than wood

Is it for you? If you’d like a safe, non-slip deck that will look the same for years without the need for annual maintenance, composite decking is an excellent solution for you.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Decking?

If you’re decking has seen better days, it can be difficult to decide whether to repair or replace it. A lot of wooden decks can look as good as new with a simple sand and stain, which is one of the major benefits of timber over composite decking. If you’re experiencing rot, you can even replace those specific boards rather than the entire deck. However, it’s important to ensure that your deck is safe.

Safety checks:

  • Make sure that your deck does not flex more than it should – if a particular area is bouncing or bending more than others, it will need reinforcement or replacing
  • Check for rot to ensure that areas aren’t weakening under your feet – you can do this by pressing a metal tool such as screwdriver into the wood to see whether it gives way
  • Consider whether your deck was built before 2004 – if it was, you may want to replace it since the timber may have been treated with chromated copper arsenate (which is toxic)
  • Check for splinters or rusted nails
  • Make sure railings and banisters are all secure
  • Check steps and stairs to ensure that they are not creaking or moving when you step on them

If your decking fails some of these safety checks, such as the splinter check, it is still possible to sand down and repair your deck. However, more serious problems such as excessive movement when you walk on it need to be dealt with by replacing both the decking and the joists underneath.

If your deck has passed all of the safety checks, it’s worth considering the cost of simply updating it vs. replacing it. In some instances, sanding down the entire deck and re-staining or oiling it may take more time and effort than simply replacing it.

Making the Most of Your Deck

The best-looking decks complement the style of the house and the rest of the garden. You can add a number of design elements to your decking, including railings, benches, planters, and even sunken seating (if it is a raised deck) and pergolas to make your decking area more attractive to look at and spend time in.

It’s worth asking yourself these questions before buying so that you can design the right deck for your home:

  • Will you have BBQs on your deck? If so, you need a large enough decking area to keep the BBQ a safe distance from trees and the house.
  • Do you have children in the house or visiting regularly? Railings are a good idea in households with children to avoid them falling off raised decks or going into other areas of the garden unsupervised.
  • Will you buy garden furniture or do you want to install seating?
  • Do you want a shaded area on the deck?
  • Have you decided on a decking pattern? If not, take a look at our simple guide.
  • Can neighbours easily overlook your deck? If so, you may want to build a pergola or just add some trellis to the top of your fencing to increase privacy.

If you want more than just a deck in your garden, you can add beautiful features like an outdoor fireplace, firepit, or even a pergola with a hot tub. It all depends on your style, budget, and imagination.

Keep Your Deck Looking Its Best

When you invest in home improvements, you want to make sure that they look their best for as long as possible. Timber and composite decking have different maintenance requirements, so this guide should help you decide what you are willing to do on a regular basis as well as helping you maintain a good looking deck.

Regardless of your decking material, you should always:

  • Ensure a minimum of 6” ventilation under your deck and between the joists
  • Ensure that the area under your deck drains well
  • Clean your deck at least twice per year
  • Sweep dry debris (such as leaves and branches) off the surface of your deck – rain can wet this debris and cause it to rot or mulch on the surface of your deck, which can cause staining or damage
  • Keep debris out of the gaps of your decking so that water can run off easily
  • Move items that are on the decking (such as plant pots and benches) to prevent staining
  • Avoid place wrought iron furniture directly onto the deck as it can stain

Composite Decking Maintenance

Composite decking needs very little maintenance – most of the regular maintenance just involves keeping the deck clean. It’s best to remove dirt or marks as soon as possible (especially if you have a tree that drops sap or berries, or somebody has spilled a drink or dropped food on the deck). This can be done using a mild cleaner and water – stickier marks or messes need to be scrubbed well and rinsed with water.

Although composite decking is very resilient, pressure washers are not always the best way to keep your deck clean. Avoid using pressure washers at over 1,300 psi or bringing the nozzle closer than 12” to the surface of your deck.

Timber Decking Maintenance

In addition to the items above, timber decking requires oiling or staining to prevent water damage. Every few years it is also a good idea to strip and re-finish your deck, which involves using a deck finish stripper or sander to take off the surface of your deck and then apply a stain, preservative, or oil to ensure that the wood does not absorb excessive moisture when it rains.

You can test whether your deck needs to be re-sealed by sprinkling a few drops of water onto the surface. If it soaks into the wood, it needs to be re-sealed. Your sealant should ideally have a UV blocker or pigment to prevent discolouration of the wood.