The best garden decking ideas are those that really help you make the most of your outdoor area. Decking is a great choice for a garden design, as it’s easy to install and look after, while also giving you plenty of options of styles, colours and more.
Whether you go for a traditional timber decking or a modern composite version, there are so many clever garden decking ideas around to inspire your space.
Take a look below at all of the material options available, and some great design ideas to make the most of your space.
Where to start with garden decking ideas
“Outdoor decking provides a stylish element to your outdoor space. Building a decking works well for any garden, regardless of the size and provides an attraction and practical aspect to your garden" says Christopher Ray, outdoor category manager at B&Q.
"When choosing your decking there are a number of factors to consider, perhaps try using deck tiles for smaller areas, such as balconies and paths as they are easy to fit and give your garden a quick and simple makeover without complications."
"When choosing your decking, you will need to consider how it will aesthetically match with your existing exterior," adds Nick Whiley, project director at Trekker Global. "You will also need to consider how much time you think you can allocate in looking after and maintaining your decking."
"If your aim is to create a more spacious outdoor area, try opting for traditional timber decking as they suit all types of projects and are great for raised or large decks," concludes Christopher Ray. "However, if you’re looking for easy, long- lasting and stress-free decking, composite deck boards would be your best bet.”
1. Update existing decking for an inexpensive refresh
Although your existing decking might look tired – think sun-bleached boards, flaky paint or moss growth – that's not to mean that's the end of its lifespan.
Painting decking to give a new lease of life is a cost-effective and simple job to undertake.
"The decking colour is key to the overall look of your outdoor space," says Trex's Karl Harrison. "The right decking colour can enhance your scenery, complement your home or make your deck stand out. However, it’s best to leave the colour alone on a composite, it may invalidate the warranty if you apply any chemicals to the surface."
By using the best decking paints to add some colour or protect the wood from further damage, you will be creating a modern, welcoming outdoor space to use for years to come.
2. Choose a long-lasting composite decking
“One major trend we have noticed is that homeowners are thinking hard about sustainability and building things to last," says Caroline Birdstall, director of marketing at Millboard.
"Buyers are being more discerning when they choose materials — they want to know what they will look like 10 years down the line. Will they enhance their outdoor space long-term? Will it be difficult to maintain?
This is where composite decking ideas can come into play.
"Composite decking – especially solid composite decking, which is generally a higher quality than their hollow counterparts – have a significantly longer lifespan than timber or pure plastic decking," adds Jessica Brown, digital marketing manager at Ecodek.
"The combination of quality, solidity and durability means solid composite decking boards do not need to be replaced as often, and usually carry longer warranties, providing you with peace of mind that you’ve purchased a superior product."
3. Build a wrap-around corner deck
Use decking to create a split between the house and a lawned area by wrapping it all the way around the exterior walls.
For a truly seamless look, find out how to lay decking at the same level as the lawn or door thresholds so there are no awkward steps or transitions between the spaces.
The size of the area will naturally increase decking costs, but the result will provide a usable and fuss-free garden.
4. Clean up old decking for a new look
If you're unsatisfied with a currently decked area, but don't want to spend on an entirely new structure there are some essential steps to take to refresh the garden space, staring with finding out how to clean decking properly.
This involves using the best pressure washer you can afford to spray away any moss, algae and flaking paint.
5. Create a unique space in a small garden with decking
Attention to detail will keep small decking ideas looking modern and fresh. From lighting and seating to creating a small firepit for that extra special feeling — compact spaces respond well to unique ideas.
"It is often the finishing touches that take a deck to the next level in the eyes of homeowners," says Caroline Birdstall of Millboard. "For instance, adding edging to decking allows you to easily incorporate under-lip lighting for a really professional finish to entertaining spaces.
"Also, built-in seating using the same material can create a pared-back aesthetic with the illusion of space — very useful for smaller urban gardens."
What's more, the raised beds of this garden space don't just provide an interesting colour, the tall plants also create a room-like feeling and the beds provide a backrest for guests.
6. Build a decked terrace area in sloping gardens
Decking can be used to great effect when creating a terraced area in gardens with a slope.
With a steep sloping garden down from this house, the only option for useable outdoor space directly to the rear of this property was to create a raised platform with decking balustrade ideas to keep the space safe.
At such a height, creating a retaining wall terrace would have been impossible, so decking provided a simple option, with the owner and his son building the platform and using Hyperion decking from Envirobuild with a safety rail to create a large area of patio for the family to use.
Bear in mind that you may need planning permission if your decking exceeds 30m above the ground.
7. Get the colour right for a modern decked area
"If you want something classic and traditional, I’d recommend hard-wearing but warm wood tones," says Jimmy Englezos, Ronseal’s senior product manager, "but if you’re looking to treat your decking, fence or shed for a more contemporary feel, greys, greens blues and even purples are all great for making an impact or adding a pop of colour."
While light decking colour ideas, like this from Ronseal, are perfect for bouncing light around a small garden, remember that it will show dirt and grime far more than when using a dark colour for decking.
8. Buy decking with a view towards durability
Wood decking vs composite is a new, but important debate to be had when it comes to new designs for an outdoor space.
Timber has always been used traditionally. Species such as oak and teak can provide a delicate yet contemporary finish and birch, elm, maple and cherry are firm favourites are good reason — although often come with the price to match.
"When choosing your decking material, do bear in mind that even the best wood decking does require regular cleaning and oiling/staining to protect it and keep it looking good and that can be quite time-consuming," says Millboard's Caroline Birdstall.
"Composite decking is a highly durable and eco-friendly alternative to wood that is made from recycled materials, including industrial sawdust and reclaimed plastics. Unlike wood, composite decking resists fading, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter, regardless of harsh weather conditions or daily wear and tear," agrees Karl Harrison.
9. Introduce planting to soften your decking design
"Colour and scent is important when it comes to patio or decking planting," explains Chris Bonnet from Gardening Express. "Also think about what types of plants you want to grow. Are you looking for flowers? Foliage? Do you want edibles or are you looking for something really low maintenance?
"If you’re after colour, try Hibiscus trees with their beautiful candyfloss blooms, or the eye-catching Canna Cannova Yellow. Other options include the maroon / crimson Cosmo astrosanguineos Chocamocha which have a chocolate aroma and colourful geraniums which will flower through the summer to late autumn.
"For edibles, salad vegetables are all great to grow, especially if your patio or deck gets lots of sun, and can be grown in containers."
This decking scheme, created with Sadolin's Decking Stain & Protector in Golden Brown, has a lot of points of interest; however, it's the patio edging ideas and integrated planting that's the most eye-catching in this design. By sinking planters into the decking, this garden breaks up the expanses of timber used for a more varied and interesting look.
10. Add character with pre-weathered garden decking
While the classic timber style might be the first to come to mind when thinking of garden decking and patio ideas, there's plenty of different types and styles for any kind of outdoor space. So, if you want to bring a little more character to your garden scheme, why not consider a more interesting decking design?
"We have seen a huge increase in homeowners wanting high end,' show-stopping' areas for dining and entertaining outside," details Caroline Birdstall, director of marketing at Millboard.
This Weathered Vintage decking from Millboard delivers all the charm of reclaimed wood with the simplicity of installation and easy maintenance of a modern composite decking.
11. Use deck tiles for a DIY solution
Save costs on a full deck structure by using deck tiles. They can be installed on a click-fit DIY basis and can update existing decks if the surface is looking tired or dated, but is still stable.
These products can also be used on balconies or even over unappealing concrete slabs.
12. Install decking lighting to create an outdoor entertaining space
Incorporating garden lighting ideas into your decking is both practical and helps your garden come to life at night time. By integrating spotlights into the decking, you'll not only highlight the path through your garden, but also draw attention to any changes in level that could prove potential trip hazards when out in the garden after dark.
"By adding lighting to your new decking terrace, you naturally soften the space, make it more inviting and look super stylish," says Karl Harrison of Trex. "There are many types of lights you can use but I prefer to use simple post cap lights, recessed lights, and stair riser lights.
While it's a great idea to plan in decking lighting from the outset so that you can connect it to the mains electricity and add in a switch to control them from the house, if you're desperate to retrofit spotlights in your decking, it's possible to buy the best garden solar lights which you simply cut a hole for in your decking and pop in.
"The best way to illuminate a decked garden is to add lighting into the planting areas. Uplighters can be used," continues Karl Harrison. "They cast shadows and add the most to the space. A garden with lighting will feel cosier during the evenings… When someone asks for that romantic touch in a garden, I always add lighting."
13. Vary levels in your Garden with decking
Building up levels in your garden can help to add interest, zone and avoid the whole scheme looking too flat. Decking offers an easy and efficient way of building up these layers, especially when compared to the alternative of tackling the job with a shovel or building retaining walls.
However, just remember that you can only build a decking platform up to 30cm above the ground, or else you'll need decking planning permission.
14. Use decking to zone areas in your garden
If you're unsure of how much decking to use, look to the layout in your garden design for inspiration. Decking is a great way to zone a particular area such as a seating or dining space, helping it to feel contained and cosy, even in a large garden.
In this tricky triangular shaped plot, Instagram user @Rugrats.and.innovation used Composite Prime decking to create zones to demarcate different spaces within this compact plot.
15. Play with layout ideas for your garden decking
Which way should you orient your decking boards in your scheme? In general, think of them like floorboards, and choose the direction that best flatters the proportions of your garden. Decking boards tend to be run horizontally, mirroring the lines of the house and patio doors, but vertical lines will help draw the eye out into the garden.
In this scheme using NeoTimber decking, a mix of vertical, horizontal and diagonal orientations have been used in the different sections of the patio, adding some variety to the look that stops the decking area looking too monotonous.
16. Create curves for a modern decking aesthetic
Decking boards aren't limited to straight lines. If you're looking at a professional installation over DIYing, creating cool curves in your garden scheme should be simple enough, especially with modern fixings provided by composite decking manufacturers.
"There is a trend to have your decking curved," says Karl Harrison. "This style of decking looks more organic than a straight line and feels like it should be in a garden. The edge of the decking should overhang the edge in such a way it creates a lip as it hides the join of the fascia board and looks tidy."
This is a great way to add a softer touch to your landscaping when creating a deck, and could be a great way to add in a water feature such as a pond into your scheme.
17. Get creative with small decking ideas
When faced with a limited garden area, installing a large decked area is usually discouraged, as it can split the lawn and make two dysfunctional spaces.
At times like this, it pays to get creative in the way in which we think of gardens — perhaps an entirely decked outdoor spaces is actually more practical than a small turfed spot. The maintenance is now only lower, but also a completely contemporary scheme can be produced.
In this London home, Elizabeth Sharp wanted a small swimming pool, but with a compact garden, she had to be smart to make the idea work. She maximised space available with her pool, by fitting it with a retractable cover that can also be used as decking. Clever stuff!
What is the cheapest way to do decking?
"The cheapest and certainly not the best solution in many cases is to use softwood," explains Trex's Karl Harrison, "but the cost of all these materials varies tremendously."
"Based on each garden situation alone will dictate the amount of work required to create each project. I assume a registered professional landscaper is providing the works and warranties for a minimum period of 10 years.
"Composite decking is fitted to a structure that has many regulations to follow carefully if you want your investment to last. Beams and joists must be constructed with the right grade of timber and fixings. Post holes need to be dug for the support posts and concrete, this all before you fit the decking. A sensible budget for a Trex® deck is from £250 to £320 plus VAT."
"For softwood, the frame should be the same as described above. It doesn’t last as long as quality composites and needs regular treatment. A sensible cost would be from £160 to £220 plus VAT/m2."
Is it cheaper to have decking or paving?
Generally, softwood decking is cheaper than traditional patio pavers but this can change depending on materials. For example, composite decking might cost more than porcelain tiles from different suppliers so when working out your costs, first research the different materials in your budget price bracket.
Remember, cheaper is not always the best option if it won't last a long or if the maintenance is much more demanding.
What can I put on my decking to make it look nice?
Before going out and buying expensive furniture or firepits to make old decking look better, clear away the space and give the surface a thorough clean.
It's surprising what improvements can be made to decking by giving it some much-needed TLC. Consider painting or staining discoloured wood and then consider what to put on it from there.
Modern garden sofas are great choices for an outdoor entertaining area, while potted plants can be swapped out in winter and summer to create a welcoming spot to watch the world go by.
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Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.