« Back

The Best Way To Build A Deck

22/03/2022 - Featured Products

UK Standards For Decking And How To Meet Them

Everybody working in the landscape industry has a wide skills set and each of us has our ‘specialist subjects’.  For Karl Harrison, it’s decking and the team at Arbour Landscape Solutions are incredibly grateful to Karl for creating the APL Installation Guide for 15-Year Timber Decking and Composite.

Who Is Karl Harrison?

You may well have seen Karl’s work in landscaping publications, on YouTube or on social media applications.  He’s widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading experts on decking installation and is, in fact, a qualified engineer.  Karl also works as an expert witness and is a professional landscaping consultant who has been a leading voice in raising the standards of timber structures for a good two decades.

In 2012, Karl created the Decking Network as an online knowledge hub for landscapers and garden designers who are specifying and installing decking.  Again - I’ll post a link at the end of the article, I strongly suggest that you take a look at the website and also join the decking network - it’s completely free and a really useful resource.

What Is A Deck?

landscaper in high vis waistcoat screwing fixings into solid composite decking board

Bath Solid Composite Decking being installed onto the John Lewis Roof Garden in Southampton.  
photo courtesy of Unique Projects Devon

I don’t plan on teaching you how to do your job, but as with anything in landscaping, it’s best to start by making sure that we have the same understanding of decking.  

In architecture, a deck is described as a "flat surface capable of supporting weight. Similar to flooring but typically constructed out of doors, often elevated from the ground and usually connected to a building.”  

As a landscaper I’d agree with most of this definition but dispute the part about a deck being connected to a building.  Certainly many of the decking projects that Arbour Landscape Solutions have supplied components for have been completely separate from any buildings.  I would add to this definition that decking is normally built from timber or specialised composite materials.  And also point out that decking can be used in almost any outdoor spaces - including roof gardens.

Decking originates from the USA and Canada where it was first used to create safe platforms over uneven surfaces.  Timber was of course the logical material to use since there was a plentiful supply.  If you’ve ever watched any old Westerns, you probably would have spotted verandah’s and walkways made with decking.

The decks that Karl refers to in the APL Installation Guide are engineered constructions made with  good quality products and built to last for a minimum of 15 years. I think it’s fair to say that all good landscapers want to build a reputation for building problem-free gardens with a long lifespan. 

beautiful natural timber deck with steps and changes of level skillfully executed

Beautifully built deck by GSG Landscapes

large decking project under construction using grey composite decking boards

Composite Decking used for a large project in Mill Hill

The Best Way To Build A Deck

Building a robust deck begins from the ground up and that’s explained beautifully in the APL Installation Guide written by Karl Harrison.

Every single project is going to be different, but there are some engineering principals that need to be adhered to at every stage of the build.  Protecting the materials against rot, choosing the correct beams for the expected loading, using the correct fixings.  All of these elements are detailed in the guide, as is best practice for working with a range of materials - from different types of timber to composite decking.

If you are not sure how to go about designing a deck for a specific project, the team at Arbour Landscape Solutions will be happy to advise. Alternatively, you could speak with Karl, or, to a structural engineer.  

How NOT To Build A Deck

Here’s a video of Karl examining a relatively new deck that has failed.  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.


Useful Links

Meet Karl Harrison. 

Join the Decking Network. 

Shop For Decking Supplies Online.