Best decking 2023: Smarten up your garden and make the most of the alfresco life


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Sep 29, 2023

Best decking 2023: Smarten up your garden and make the most of the alfresco life

No matter how big or small your garden space is, a bit of decking always adds class. It also gives you a solid base for garden furniture that’s free from mud, easy to sweep or mop clean and, as long

No matter how big or small your garden space is, a bit of decking always adds class. It also gives you a solid base for garden furniture that’s free from mud, easy to sweep or mop clean and, as long as you’ve picked the right material, non-slippery even when wet.

The first thing you need to consider is the decking material. There are more options than just “wood”. For a start, there’s softwood and hardwood, then there’s composite, thermowood, PVC and even aluminium options, each individually suited to varying pockets, tastes and requirements.

There are other factors to consider when choosing which decking is right for you and your garden, such as cost, durability, environmental impact of the timber used and, in these uncertain times of HGV driver shortages and new import taxes brought about by Brexit, availability of materials. You’ll also want to factor in the maintenance your decking choice will require and how often that will need seeing to. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; let’s look more closely at your choices…

That all depends on a combination of your budget and your taste. Let’s have a quick look at different varieties and see if anything jumps out at you.

Natural softwood decking: The cheapest of the decking materials, and the most demanding in terms of maintenance. At risk of constant attack from the elements, insects and fungus, there are many different types of preservative treatments you can paint your timbers with to protect them, but this will be something that – depending on the quality of the treatment you use – will need to be refreshed quite regularly.

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Hardwood decking The fancier and more expensive choice, hardwood timber tends to look better and, thanks to natural tannins and oils, is resistant to insects and fungus, though you’ll still want to treat it for added protection, for a more striking finish and to stop it from turning grey over time.

Composite decking The choice of decking for the natural-look enthusiast who has no intention of getting involved in tedious maintenance, composite decking, or wood plastic composite (WPC), is made from blending materials such as wood dust and plastic and shaping it into decking. As such, it’s utterly resistant to the weather, insects and fungus, and requires no maintenance at all, ever. For more information, you can check out our full round-up of the best composite decking.

Thermowood decking Also resistant to insects and rot, thermowood is redwood (Scandinavian pine) that’s thermally modified by being heat-treated to temperatures in excess of 200°C to remove the bulk of its moisture and leave it chemically inactive and therefore environmentally stable. This makes it incredibly durable and helps thermowood decking enjoy increased longevity.

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PVC decking Obviously, not being made of wood, PVC decking is impervious to the effects of insects or rot and, as such, lasts a very long time. Maintenance will also be less of an issue as it doesn’t splinter or crack. However, the problem with PVC is that its high chlorine content makes it very difficult to recycle, so it’s not a good option for those keen to be green.

Aluminium decking Combining high-quality, long-lasting, low-maintenance decking with a very long life and absolute sustainability, aluminium decking may sound like an expensive option but it’s actually surprisingly cost-effective, costing roughly £13 per square metre, compared to some wood options that can cost £100 per square metre. Also, taking into account the maintenance costs of wood decking over time, aluminium actually cuts costs.

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Price: £36 per 0.9m² | Buy now from Amazon

There’s an air of “win-win” around these stunning hardwood tiles from Interbuild Realwood. First, they’re stunning to look at and will provide a striking aesthetic improvement to any garden area. They also come pre-oiled from the factory in an eye-pleasing and eco-friendly golden teak colour. They also feature a click interlocking system, which means you simply clip them to one another to build your floor, without the need for screws, glue, drills or swearing.

Each tile sits on a raised plastic base featuring 50 “feet” that grip the surface beneath to hold it in place, while the 1cm rise allows rainwater to run off underneath and air to circulate.

Very hard-wearing, you can get away with not oiling your tiles for some time, but to keep them at their best you should clean and oil afresh at the start of spring and before winter strikes. And remember, as they’re interlocking, should you decide to reposition your decking or, come to that, move house, you can simply unlock and move them!

Key specs – Material: Acacia hardwood; Pack contents: 10x tiles; Pack coverage: 0.9m²; Dimensions: 29.97 x 29.97 x 1.52cm; Warranty: 5 years

Price: £11 per 2.4m board | Buy now from B&Q

Back to basics now with B&Q. What we have here is the purest form of decking: grooved softwood boards, ready to be measured, sawn and screwed into position on pre-built and treated deck joists, just like back in the old days.

Made from spruce, Madeira green in colour and with fixing and fittings sold separately, this is very much either a hands-on project for yourself or the time to call in a professional to get the job done for you.

Made from slow-grown softwood to breed in stability and precision-finished, the boards are reversible to let you or your appointed tradesperson play around with the design, all the while retaining that essential grooving to give your feet grip.

Giving 0.29m² coverage per board, the GoodHome softwood timber has been autoclave-treated with preservative, so it can be laid and left to weather naturally for six months, but if you want to be fully confident of its weather-, insect- and rot-fighting ways, treat it using a paint, stain or oil.

Key specs – Material: Spruce softwood; Pack contents: 1x board; Pack coverage: 0.29m²; Dimensions: 2.4m x 120mm x 24mm Warranty: 5 years

Buy now from B&Q

Price: £128 per 1m² | Buy now from Millboard

While composite decking is undeniably hardwearing, long-lived and the clear choice of the more lethargic garden loafer due to its low-maintenance qualities, some of the low-priced composite options can look somewhat unrealistic in their attempts to emulate the visual characteristics of real wood. So, if you want all the benefits of composite but also a real-wood finish, you need Weathered Oak Vintage from Millboard.

The realistic weathered oak finish is achieved using 100-year-old real reclaimed oak, resulting in a tough-as-old-boots decking material with a wonderfully deep grain and weather-beaten aesthetic that would fool anyone into thinking it was, indeed, real wood.

Naturally, being a composite, it’s weather-, insect- and fungus-proof, saving you the bother of having to maintain its good looks much beyond simply keeping it clean. And, although somewhat pricey, when you weigh up the myriad benefits, it’s worth every penny.

Key specs – Material: Composite; Pack contents: 1x board; Pack coverage: 1.36 boards per m²; Dimensions: 3.6m x 200mm x 32mm; Warranty: 5 or 25 years (install dependent)

Buy now from Millboard

Price: £38 per 4m board | Buy now from Envirobuild

For the ecowarrior with a penchant for enjoying Mother Nature in true style and comfort, there is Envirobuild. Not only are these composite decking boards made from up to 100% recycled wood and plastic, they are also constructed using 100% renewable wind energy, making for quite the lean, green product.

Available in five natural colours – Oak, Granite, Walnut, Stone and Silver Birch (pictured) – reversible boards come in 4m lengths and offer a choice of a textured wood grain or grooved finish, both non-slip, of course.

Highly durable and not prone to splintering or being ravaged by insects or rot, Envirobuild Hyperion Pioneer never needs to be treated and, as such, requires very little maintenance beyond the occasional hose down and scrub with a brush.

With a hidden and secure fastening system allowing for ease of installation and leaving your new floor free from unsightly clips and fastenings, Hyperion Pioneer is the perfect choice for your personal environment and the actual environment itself.

Key specs – Material: Composite; Pack contents: x1 board; Dimensions: 4m x 145mm x 21mm; Warranty: 15 years

Buy now from Envirobuild

Price: £75 | Buy now from B&Q

Heading into the realms of truly 21st-century decking, aluminium is an excellent option for anyone keen on the environment and not so keen on maintenance. Hard-wearing, offering excellent longevity and fully recyclable at the end of its active life as decking, this example from Alupave features a double-peak anti-wear surface that makes it ideal for high usage, alongside an integral gutter system for better water management than most other options.

Installation is made easier through the Alupave’s rapid interlocking system, and these completely hidden fixings also make for sleeker aesthetics.

Fully waterproof and fireproof, aluminium decking is not prone to fading, rotting or attacks from insects, so maintenance is of the absolute minimum, making it ideal for those who just want to sit out and enjoy their garden.

Sold in 3m lengths covering 0.6m², if you want modern-looking, fuss-free decking that will retain its looks and integrity for many years to come, Alupave is your answer.

Key specs – Material: Aluminium; Pack contents: x1 board; Pack coverage: 0.6m²; Dimensions: 3m x 220mm x 25mm; Warranty: 20 years

Buy now from B&Q

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