If having a perfectly turfed garden has never been your dream, but you still like the idea of having a social space to relax in with friends and family, your solution may lie with timber decking.
Done right, decking can become a fantastic feature and a place to enjoy good weather, host barbecues and parties – or just become somewhere to sit and have a quiet morning coffee.
One of the best advantages of decking is that it covers a multitude of sins; instead of perfectly levelling an area, you can simply pin down some weed-suppressant membrane and build over the top creating one large space, or several terraces if your garden’s particularly steep.
With some basic carpentry skills and the right tools, this is a great project to take on. But don’t worry if you don’t think you’re quite up to the task – getting professionals in to do the job can be affordable, too.
In this article, we’ll be covering all there is to know about timber decking, from the different styles available, the time it’ll take you or a professional to complete, and importantly the price you can expect.
We’ll explore how much timber decking costs, what affects the price of timber decking, how you can save money on timber decking, what kind of timber decking is right for you, what’s involved in building a timber deck and how to find a professional to carry out the work for you.
If you’ve dreamt of a multi-purpose garden space that’s suitable for both young and old, keep reading to find out how to get everything you want in the most cost-effective way.
How Much Does Timber Decking Cost?
There are two types of timber you can choose from when thinking about constructing an area of decking: softwood and hardwood.
Softwood options like pine, spruce and cedar are popular amongst those wanting timber decking in the most cost-effective way. They’ll need a little more care than hardwood variants, and need to be treated with a wood preservative before use to help prevent warping and damage to the boards over time.
These are the prices you can typically expect to pay for softwood decking:
|SIZE||MATERIAL COST PER SQUARE METRE||LABOUR COSTS PER DAY||TIME REQUIRED||ESTIMATED COST|
|Small deck (15 square metres)||£36 to £106||£150||2 days||£850 to £1,900|
|Medium deck (30 square metres)||£40 to £106||£150||3 days||£1,650 to £3,650|
|Large deck (45 square metres)||£37 to £102||£150||4 days||£2,300 to £5,200|
Typically, softwoods are more eco-friendly as the tree types are faster growing than hardwood species, and are easy to install.
The disadvantages are in the name – the wood is softer than hardwood alternatives, meaning it’ll wear down faster and is not necessarily suitable for high-traffic areas as colours may fade over time and require replacing.
But, they are a great budget-friendly alternative, and you can expect to have a medium deck of around 30 square metres to cost you between £1,650 to £3,650, which is around £700 cheaper than the hardwood variant.
Oak, teak, maple and cherry – there are lots of brilliant hardwoods to choose from if you’re considering this material for your decking. In a range of colours and finishes, hardwood is both durable and dependable as a decking option but is the more expensive option of the two.
These are the prices you can typically expect to pay for hardwood decking:
|SIZE||MATERIAL COST PER SQUARE METRE||LABOUR COSTS PER DAY||TIME REQUIRED||ESTIMATED COST|
|Small deck (15 square metres)||£60 to £100||£150||2 days||£1,200 to £1,800|
|Medium deck (30 square metres)||£63 to £100||£150||3 days||£2,350 to £3,350|
|Large deck (45 square metres)||£66 to £100||£150||4 days||£3,600 to £5,100|
As you can see, the prices are a little steeper than that of softwood. But, with that price tag comes more accolades.
It’s more durable, and is resistant to warping, rotting or splitting, making it a great investment as boards are unlikely to need replacing over time.
Hardwood will require maintenance like any other wooden flooring to keep it in top condition, and it’s harder to instal, but once down it’ll give a wonderfully hard-wearing finish for years to come.
What Affects the Cost of Timber Decks?
As we’ve briefly covered, the simple choice between soft or hardwood can impact the price of your renovation. But, there are a few more options to consider which can either hike up your overall cost or bring it down, depending on your budget.
The cost of your deck depends in large part on its size.
Bigger decks require not only more decking boards, but also more installation accessories.
If you want to build a terraced deck, you’ll need to factor in the costs of steps and stringers as well as railings or balustrades. These extras can quickly add up—especially if your garden is quite steep or you want to build an elevated deck.
Type of Timber
Softwood is cheaper than hardwood, but within their categories lie even more room for choice. Depending on the desired use of your decking, you might want an ultra-hard wearing hardwood timber for high traffic areas; whereas, for something at the back of your garden which will only be used sporadically, a softwood variant may be a better, more cost-effective option.
These are the prices you can typically expect to pay for different types of timber decking:
|WOOD||SMALL DECK (15SQM)||MEDIUM DECK (30SQM)||LARGE DECK (45SQM)|
|Larch (softwood)||£550 to £700||£1,200 to £1,500||£1,700 to £2,200|
|Redwood (softwood)||£650 to £900||£1,300 to £1,800||£1,900 to £2,600|
|Yellow Pine (softwood)||£800 to £1,100||£1,600 to £2,100||£2,300 to £3,200|
|Douglas Fir (softwood)||£800 to £1,100||£1,600 to £2,200||£2,500 to £3,200|
|Cedar (softwood)||£1,400 to £1,600||£3,000 to £3,200||£4,300 to £4,600|
|Oak (hardwood)||£900 to £1,200||£1,900 to £2,500||£3,000 to £3,700|
|Balau (hardwood)||£1,200 to £1,500||£2,300 to £3,000||£3,200 to £4,500|
Note: these estimates include VAT and refer to smooth profile decking boards up to 26 millimetres thick, 150 millimetres wide, and 3.6 metres long. Prices may have changed since publication.
It’s also important to remember that cutting, shaping and dealing with hardwood is far more difficult than softwood. Combined with the higher price for the raw material, it means mistakes are much more costly.
If you’re attempting DIY, and particularly if it’s your first decking project, starting with a softwood material will be much easier and more forgiving – both to you and your wallet.
Your chosen design will dictate an increase or decrease in your overall project price – but that doesn’t need to put you off choosing a more complex design instead of a simple, flat deck.
Incorporating different levels and heights into your decking can not only transform the look of a garden but add in an essential walkway from steep to low areas of your garden which might have been hard to climb previously.
Mixing patterns and different timber materials from soft or hardwood families is a great way of making a uniform space look interesting, with hardwood ageing beautifully over the years.
The fun doesn’t stop at choosing the type of decking you want – there is a multitude of installation accessories to choose from to spruce up the area even more, from decorative trellis to LED lights to illuminate walkways or to give ambient lighting to dimly-lit areas.
These are the prices you can typically expect to pay for different types of installation accessories:
|Supporting joists||£2.50 to £25 depending on size|
|Postcrete cement||£5 per 20-kilogram bag|
|Timber railing or balustrade kits||£50 to £150 depending on design|
|Individual handrails||£5 to £25 each depending on size and design|
|Individual timber newel posts||£8 to £20 each|
|Newel post caps||£2 to £10 each|
|Individual timber spindles||£1.50 to £3 each|
|Decorative trellis panels||£2 to £35 each depending on design|
|Step and stringer kits||£50 to £400 depending on size|
|Individual step risers or stringers||£15 to £45 each|
|Timber fascias||£5 to £40 depending on size and timber|
|Fixing screws for deck boards, handrails, and stringers||£10 to £35 per pack|
|Decking risers for levelling||£5 to £40|
|LED lights||£15 to £50 per pack|
|Anti-weed membrane||£10 to £30|
|Gravel||£40 to £60 per bulk bag|
|Sealants and oils||£20 to £70 per 5 litres|
A good amount of time – and sometimes money – can be spent on the preparation before getting your new timber decking in place. Especially true if you’re adding in decking where there hasn’t been any before, this can be a costly endeavour.
You will lower your costs if you place the decking on a pre-existing patio area. We would recommend spending a few days levelling the area yourself, even if you don’t plan on doing the entire project DIY.
If you need to dig out areas or level the land before laying, this is something to factor into your budget as the time and cost of this labour can hike the overall cost of your project up considerably. If you are removing an old deck, considering the cost for skip hire and removal may be a good option to save countless trips to recycling centres.
Preserving and Maintenance
Finally, ensuring good after-care is an essential component of your timber decking installation – no one wants to go to the expense of getting something fitted for it to rot away within a few years.
A sealant or oil must be applied after the initial build, and then re-applied annually to keep both soft and hardwood in good condition, able to withstand the elements.
How Can I Save Money on a Deck?
Alongside choosing cost-effective timber materials, there are a few other ways to save money on your new deck.
The first is simply replacing worn parts if you have an otherwise good existing deck, instead of scrapping it entirely. Labourers will generally charge around £300 for deck repairs (not including the cost of materials), which can make it a much more cost-effective way of injecting life back into a tired deck.
Keeping the deck design simple is a good way to shave costs off your renovation. If completing this project on a budget, getting the bare minimum done initially is a good way to get the bulk of a job done without too much other expense – but, this means add-ons like LED lights, trellis and other accessories will have to wait a little longer.
Similarly, if you have flat ground to work on that doesn’t need stairs or different levels, this will keep costs much lower. But, for some with steep gardens, this is non-negotiable, which is where savvy material choices come in.
Although hardwoods are more expensive up-front, they have longer lifespans than softwood which will require more repairs and entire re-fits further down the line. If you have the capital to do so, choosing quality materials that will stand the test of time is a way to garner better value overall.
Proper care and attention will help to maximise the lifespan of your deck, so ensure to clean, re-seal or oil it every year to ward off any rot or potential for warping, while keeping your decking looking fresh and new.
What Kind of Timber Decking Should I Choose?
Ultimately, your choice of timber decking will depend on your personal taste and budget. But, there are some key differences between soft and hardwood to consider:
Advantages of Softwood
- Cost-effective and suitable for a budget decking project
- Easy to instal, making it a great option for those with some DIY abilities to install themselves to keep labour costs at a minimum
- Eco-friendly, as softwood trees grow at a much faster rate than hardwood variants
Disadvantages of Softwood
- Commonly seen as a short-term solution as it’s not as durable as hardwood
- Colour can fade over time with repeated use
- Yearly maintenance is required to keep the deck clean and in good condition
- Susceptible to rotting, warping and splitting
Advantages of Hardwood
- Extremely high quality. Hardwood decking can be seen as a lifetime investment
- Unlike softwood, hardwood deckings are resistant to rotting, warping and splitting
Disadvantages of Hardwood
- With durability comes a price; the expense of the decking itself, but also in the time it’ll take to install as it’s a much harder material to work with, especially for amateurs
- Yearly maintenance is required to keep the deck clean and in good condition
- Not as environmentally friendly as hardwood grows more slowly.
If you want to maximise the lifespan of your deck, it’s best to purchase the highest quality timber you can afford as this will pay you dividends in the long run by lasting for longer, being more durable, and requiring fewer repairs than the cheaper alternatives.
All timber is graded according to its strength, either based on a visual inspection or from the use of machines. Grading depends on the species of the tree, and the quality of the actual cut timber.
Generally, lower grades are given to timber from faster-growing trees that produce comparatively less dense wood, such as most softwoods, as well as timber that has more knots and other characteristics.
Higher grades are reserved for timber that comes from slower-growing trees that deliver denser timber, such as hardwood options, and has fewer knots.
For softwoods such as larch, yellow pine, redwood, Douglas Fir, and cedar, grades range from C14 to C24. For hardwoods such as balau and oak, grades range from D30 to D70.
However, not all timber is available in all grades. For example, yellow pine is normally available in C18 (general building) or C24 (structural) grades. Oak is usually available in D30 or D40 grades.
To make things easier in scenarios like these, Wickes recommends the use of structural-grade timber for your deck.
What’s Involved in Building a Timber Deck?
Whether you’re choosing to take on the deck building yourself, or hiring in a professional to complete the work for you, the following steps will be involved:
- Measure and mark out your chosen decking area using wooden pegs and string
- Dig out your lawn if necessary, level the area, and cover it with anti-weed fabric and gravel
- Lay paving slabs if the ground is quite soft
- Add timber wall plates if the deck is going to be attached to an external wall
- Build the outside frame, and attach it to the wall plates if necessary
- Lay the joists to support the decking boards above
- Screw in the decking boards to each joist using rust-resistant screws
- Fit the remaining decking boards whilst allowing for a 5 to 8-millimetre expansion gap between each board
- Attach fascia boards for a more polished look
- Sand down any cut ends or rough edges
- Once complete, if your timber isn’t pre-treated, apply a sealant or oil to guard against rot.
These are the steps for a basic, flat deck, but more elaborate designs may require stairs, newel posts, handrails, spindles or trellis, and much more.
How Do I Find and Hire Someone to Build My Deck?
Finding a professional to complete your decking job can seem overwhelming with so many choices of tradesmen.
As the first port of call, get in touch with any friends, family or neighbours who have had similar work done recently to seek out recommendations for their workers. This is a great way of finding trusted tradesmen, and also to see their work in reality instead of in a printed portfolio.
Alternatively, checking trade associations like the Timber Decking and Cladding Association for supplier and installer recommendations is an efficient and effective way of finding trusted, reputable traders to complete the job for you.
Or, to take the hassle out of compiling multiple quotes yourself, using HouseholdQuotes can typically save you up to 40% by comparing like-for-like offerings from multiple sources in one easy search.
Ensuring the Professional Is the Right Fit
Firstly, getting a written quote is a right of passage with any job. This way, the terms of your deal and what’s included are written down, with timeframes for completion and any additional services like waste removal are accounted for.
Finding out a tradesman’s experience is another essential part of the quoting process, as you want to find someone with the right skill set to give you the best outcome possible. If you’ve got a tricky multi-levelled garden that requires some landscaping to level out, you want to find someone with complementary skills to give you the peace of mind that it’ll be a job well done.
Asking for references and photos or videos of past work should be close to the top of your list – it’s all well and good reading about how good someone is, but the proof lies in the work they produce.
Check multiple sources and make sure you’re happy with the finish of their work – it can also be a good time to discuss potential designs and styles if you’ve not yet settled on what you want just yet.
Tradesmen should be insured before they start working on your timber decking installation to cover both themselves and you from any damages and accidents. Similarly, it’s good to find out if they have a guarantee that goes along with their service so that if any issues arise within the first few years of installation, they can come back to fix it without a charge.
Timber decking can transform the look of a tired garden, and make it a usable space for entertaining and relaxing in warmer seasons. Here’s our final checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered when taking on this project:
- Measure the area so you can collect accurate quotes for your material and labour time
- Select your timber based on your desired use for your decking space (hardwood is best for high-traffic areas, whereas softwood is a good, cheap alternative for less trodden spaces)
- Pick a design that both suits your space and ground conditions, taking into consideration your budget and if you can afford to stretch to multi-level or stair options
- Find a reputable tradesman if you’re not wanting to take on the project yourself
- Add any additional features if wanted, such as LED strip lighting or decorative trellis
- Make sure you apply the correct protective after-care to your decking to preserve its lifespan.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need Planning Permission to Build a Deck?
While decking isn’t considered a permanent structure, many councils have limits on how much of a garden can be covered, so it’s good to check in with local planning laws before beginning any project.
In addition to this, because decking is elevated and might impinge on a neighbour’s privacy, building permission may be required.
Can I Build a Deck Myself?
If you have experience in drilling, measuring and cutting timber, it’s something you can approach yourself. But it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of a friend or family member, too.
There are many online guides to building both simple and raised decks depending on your chosen design – but remember that hardwood is considerably tougher to work with and less forgiving than softwood.
In Which Direction Should I Lay the Decking Boards?
This is entirely up to you! Boards can be laid horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
If the deck is attached to the wall, it’s a good idea to lay the boards perpendicularly, so that water doesn’t run into your wall when it rains. Laying the boards straight across offers a minimalistic look, but offsetting the boards can add strength.
How Long Should My Deck Last?
Depending on the type of timber you choose, you can expect softwood decks to last between 10 to 15 years, whereas hardwood variants have a lifespan of up to 40 years, if well maintained.
Are Timber Decks Slippery?
When wet, timber decks can get slippery. If this is something of concern, there are ways around it, which lie in the types of timber you choose.
Grooved anti-slip timber is a great option for high-traffic areas to help to minimise the slippiness when wet, as well as the use of anti-slip coatings or strips to add friction to your decking and give your feet something to grip onto when wet.
What Are the Alternatives to Timber Decking?
If timber decking isn’t for you, some alternatives don’t involve simply turfing your entire garden.
Composite materials are available, which can look like timber without the necessary upkeep, but if you want something more natural, paving is a great option to add some fun designs to your outdoor space.
Is Timber Decking Environmentally Sustainable?
Generally speaking, softwoods are more environmentally friendly than hardwoods simply because they grow at a faster rate. If this is something you want to consider, you can also choose timber from FSC-certified sources to guarantee this claim.
Pressure-treating your timber typically uses chemicals to protect the wood against rot and infestations, so a more environmentally-friendly option can be heat-treating the wood instead to save the use of harsh chemicals.