Revamping your garden? Try these tips

Installing decking or patio in your garden can be as rejuvenating to your house as building a new room. Similarly making improvements to your garden by laying new turf or revamping an existing patio can open up your home, making it feel substantially larger, more social and more accommodating, particularly during the warmer months.

There are many different ways to go about installing decking, laying new turf or revamping a patio. It’s quite possible to do it yourself, but it can be quite a job, so before you begin make sure you have some DIY experience, a few spare weekends, a friend or two who won’t mind pitching in when the going gets tough, and a fair degree of patience!

Such is the popularity of decking and garden revamps in general that there are no shortage of companies in your area willing to do the work should you decide to go with a professional.

However, if you choose to get a garden professional to do the job, it’s always best to get a recommendation from someone you know and trust who has had similar work done before going ahead with a company. Also, try and shop around in order to get the best price.

Installing Decking

The DIY Option

Nearly all good hardware stores such as B&Q or Homebase will sell self-assembly garden decking. In terms of price these generally start at about £300 for a home assembly kit. However, they can vary greatly in price depending on the size of the kit you want, what type of wood you are using etc.

The kit can end up costing £2000 or more if you want a very large deck. The quality of the wood is usually good and, most importantly, will usually come out of the box pre-treated so you won’t need to put a protective varnish on it as soon as you have it in place.

The first step for DIY assembly is to decide in which area of your garden is the decking going to sit. Is it going to be an extension leading from a conservatory or other room at the back of the house, or is it going to be a free standing construction in another part of the garden?

When making this decision, bear in mind things like privacy from your neighbours garden or windows, and where and when your chosen area gets the sun. Also, do you envisage your deck being used for social evening dinners and barbecues, or family Sunday breakfasts and lunches? These are all very important factors to consider when choosing your location.

Furthermore, consider what furniture you’ll want on it once it’s assembled. Will you have a dining table and chairs? If so, how many? Would you like room for sun loungers and flower pots and plants or any other accessories such as free standing heaters? You may even want a jacuzzi or hot tub on your deck. An important tip is to look at your garden in the morning and evening and identify where the sun is shining most. Sunny areas in your garden make ideal locations for your deck.

The next step is to make sure the area you’ve chosen to lay the decking on is free from obstacles like trees, plants or large rocks. This is important so that you can begin laying the joists neatly that will make the solid foundation of the decking package you’ve chosen. If your deck is to sit directly on top of the existing grass in your garden then, with a basic grasp of DIY and some hard work, you should have no problems assembling a pre-packaged decking kit.

Something to consider, however, is removing the grass underneath or covering it with a weed barrier to prevent unsightly grass and weeds growing up between the planks of the decking. You will also need to create a draining system so the area under the deck does not get flooded. There are websites listed below that can help you with this process.

Most DIY decking packages will contain step by step assembly specific to the brand and size of the package you’ve bought so it’s best to follow those instructions as closely as possible, but try and have a general idea in your head of how the finished article should look. Also, as some of the pieces of wood will be large and heavy, it’s advisable not to attempt the assembly on your own.

For those with a downward sloping garden, it is important to take note whether the deck will be located several feet below the room you wish to enter it from. If this is the case then you may need professional help laying the foundations and support for your deck, or with building the appropriate staircase to enter the deck.

Websites such as Garden Advice BBC Gardening and Quality Decking will provide you with step-by-step guidelines on installing your own decking, including preparing the area, drainage, construction and maintenance.

The Professional Route

If you don’t wish to purchase your self-assembly decking from one of the major chains of hardware stores then simply check your local garden centre or consult the yellow pages for companies in your area who will supply decking, and they may have a selection of hard and soft woods which are slightly different to those available in the major chains.

Some of these companies may simply supply DIY decking or some may include the assembly in the cost or as an additional extra.

Whether or not you want to have your decking installed professionally depends very much on your personal circumstances and budget. If you are comfortable with major DIY projects then the challenge of installing the decking yourself could right up your street. If, however, you just want your decking installed as quickly and professionally as possible and don’t mind paying extra for it then it is probably worthwhile hiring a gardening company to do it for you.

Patios, driveways and maintenance

Installing A Patio

The process of installing a patio in your garden is not unlike the process of creating decking. Do-It-Yourself patio sets will be available from the major hardware stores as well as your local garden centers and, as with the decking, it can be done yourself provided you have some DIY experience and some time to invest in it.

Websites such as Anglian Gardener, BBC Gardening and Paving Expert will provide step by step guidelines on how to install your patio including preparing the foundation, grouting and creating stoned areas within the patio for pots and plants.

Patios, Driveways And Deck Maintenance

Many homes already have a patio area in their garden, most of which have seen better days. Often the inclination is to remove this patio and replace with decking as a worn and overgrown patio can look like an eyesore and can seem beyond the point of repair. But this is not always the best option, as it can prove costly and time consuming. Another option is to pressure wash your patio to give it a facelift.

Pressure Washers

A good pressure washer can save you a lot of money, preventing the need to install a deck or new patio. Pressure washers can be up to fifty times more powerful than a garden hose, while at the same time using up to 80% less water.

There are various patio cleaners and pressure washers on the market such as the Karcher T-Racer series which start at about £100. Patio cleaners and pressure washers come in a wide array of different sizes and strengths so exactly which one you want will depend on dirty your patio is!

Patio cleaners will also work on driveways but will you need to make sure that the area is well swept before you begin as stone or bits of gravel will damage the cleaner.

If you have a deck and a patio it’s handy to remember that most patio cleaners or pressure washers will also work on a dirty deck, but it is best to check that the model you are buying fulfills this need before purchase.

Decking generally requires more care than a patio and you should be looking to clean your deck twice a year, once after the summer when it has been used a lot, and again after the winter when it has been exposed to lots of bad weather. The simplest process is to clean with a pressure washer, allowing the deck to dry thoroughly afterwards. Then you can begin to coat the entire deck in a wood protecting wax, oil or clear varnish, as the biggest threat to the longevity of the wood is direct exposure to the elements.

A patio needs to be cleaned less often, provided it is maintained throughout the year with weeds and unwanted greenery being removed regularly. Usually a sweep and a wash with a garden hose or patio detergent should be enough to spruce the area up.

If you would rather not undertake the maintenance procedure yourself, your local garden centre or yellow pages can put you in touch with gardening professionals in your area who will do the cleaning and, if necessary, the deck protection.

The cost involved in getting it done professionally depends greatly on the scale of the job that needs to be done. If you are getting the company to conduct your annual or bi-annual cleaning of a well maintained patio or deck then the costs should not be high.

If, however, you are hiring someone to do a complete overhaul of a long neglected patio or deck then the cost will be more expensive, as the company may need to use stronger pressure washers and may need to re-grout the patio. Remember to always agree a price with the company beforehand and shop around as much as possible.

Laying Turf

With the rest of your garden gleaming and new, the last thing you want is to be let down by having to traipse across a muddy lawn to get to your new patio or deck. A better option is laying new turf, which essentially means giving your garden a new lawn. You will be able to find a quality turf provider by asking in your local garden centre or via a quick Google search.

If you would rather entrust the whole operation to a professional, most turf suppliers will also lay the turf at an extra cost.

If you choose to go down the DIY route the main work is in preparing the area before you lay the turf. You will need to make sure the area is free from stones, weeds and debris. You’ll also need to make sure that the surface is completely even before you can lay the turf. This job can be done by normal garden tools but it can take time to ensure the soil underneath is completely flat.

You will then need to lay a base fertiliser on the soil and water it evenly. This will help the new turf put down roots when it arrives. You can then lay your rolls of turf on top of the fertilized soil. For the best results, arrange for your turf to be delivered no sooner than 24 hours before you are ready to begin laying it.

Once the turf is laid, be careful not to walk on it until it has bedded properly into the soil, which can sometimes take several weeks. If you must walk across use planks of wood or boards on top of the grass. For more information, visit BBC Gardening for a comprehensive step-by-step guide to laying new turf in your garden.

With your garden makeover complete you have created a whole new area for your family and friends to enjoy in the summer months, not to mention adding thousands to the value of your house. Now all you need is for the sun to shine!

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