2020 was perhaps not the ideal year to build a big deck for all the friends and family to enjoy… This project took me a lot longer than expected but was really enjoyable and we’re chuffed with the (almost) finished result. It’s a great space to have a BBQ or toast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and the integrated storage seats come in handy.
If people are interested in making their own I’ll do a few posts with step-by-step instructions but here’s a (relatively) snappy summary of how I built it. I’ve added materials and equipment to the bottom of the post, as well as how much it cost.
After spending a looong time planning out the whole thing, I grabbed a mattock and shovel and dug out the area to a fairly shallow depth.
There are a few ways to approach the foundations for decking and I went for the cheapest & easiest. The decking frame sits on some big paving stones & breeze blocks that I nabbed from my Dad. The only prep was to dig out slightly deeper in the locations of the pavers, then fill with hardcore and compact before plopping the pavers/breeze blocks on top and covering the area with weed membrane.
To help water run off the decking, I built in a fall of 1 in 60. A handy tip for getting this right is to use a 600mm spirit level with a 10mm spacer sat under the end that you want to be lower – when the joists are showing as level, you’ve got your 1 in 60 fall.
With the foundations set, I started work on the decking frame. I used standard timber dimensions of 3.8 x 2.4 metres so there was zero cutting required. After fixing the outer frame together using 100mm screws, I begun positioning the 150x50mm joists 400mm apart. A couple of screws through either end and joist hangers held the frame securely together.
I slapped some end grain preserver onto the exposed ends of the joists to give them an extra layer of protection.
Noggins across the middle of the frame added rigidity.
Keeping everything REALLY square here was key as otherwise there would be untold consequences later on so a decent sized speed square/combination square is key. The old trick of making sure diagonal measurements are exactly the same is a good final check.
The gaps between joists provided a great opportunity to get rid of some of the 67 tonnes of rubble that I dug up in preparation for moving the garage.
I then cracked on with screwing the decking boards in place. Using screws for the spacing helped make this a really quick job.
I chose to use the decking with the flat side facing up as I much prefer the look and it actually makes them easier to clean. Apparently, this side is no less grippy and I’m yet to slip on my arse.
You may think from the above photo that I missed a spot… That’s because there are seats on 3 sides and so I figured there’s no need to spend money on decking when it’ll have seats over the top. In hindsight, I’d have decked the whole thing as the seats would have been easier to build.
The basic structure is two rectangles sat on top of 2×2 (47 x 47mm) pressure treated timber that’s screwed into the joists. I must have used a couple of thousand screws on this project and was too tight to buy super long decking screws to fix the frame together. Instead, I countersunk 60mm decking screws which worked well.
Once established a bit of a system, it was a case of making repeated cuts and working my way around all 3 sides.
I angled the back of the seats at 10 degrees to make them more comfortable.
There were some tricky angles in the corners but after a bit of trial and error I got there. I wouldn’t bother attempting this project without a mitre saw as getting the angles spot on is crucial.
Taking the time to get everything level, square and aligned was worth spending the time on.
Eventually, all 3 sides were finished so I turned my attention to the seats.
To free up some garage space, I figured it’d be worth adding some hinges to the seats so that stuff can be stored in them. It was a bit of a faff but well worth it as we’ve now got loads of extra storage, albeit only for stuff that can get wet.
The seats are made out of 100 x 22mm rough sawn treated timber. I gave each board a quick sand at 80 grit before cutting them to length. I used my circular saw and a guide to rip cut some of the lengths of wood down to stagger the widths and make things a bit prettier. A table saw would have made this process a hell of a lot quicker but I didn’t have one at the time.
I then clamped up the boards and screwed supports (made from off cuts of the seat wood) from the bottom, being careful to make sure they wouldn’t clash with the seat frame when opening/closing. Again, screws worked as great spacers.
The back of the hinges are screwed into a thin section of wood that’s fixed to the seat frame, while the front parts are screwed directly into the seat section. The hinges are on show and it may look like this means you could sit on them, but unless you have a particularly triangular-shaped arse there’s no risk of this.
I wasn’t certain that the hinges would be able to take the weight of opening the seats but they worked a dream. The first opening was an emotional moment. I repeated the same process for all 3 sides.
Finishing off other panels
In between making the hinged seats, I fixed all the other sections in place. This was a lot quicker than making the hinged seats as it was just a case of cutting and then screwing in place. Having said that, there were some tricky compound angles to work out where the angled seat backs met at 90 degrees.
One thing I definitely hadn’t anticipated was just how much wood this project would need. I had to re-order, twice!
I was careful to make sure that the boards that met horizontally were exactly the same width and met at the same height.
I used some scrap wood for the bottom sections of the storage areas to keep costs down.
Before cutting and fixing the top and front sections in place, I fixed some 75 x 75mm treated posts against the frame to support some festoon lights and a sail shade. I used my jigsaw and router to neatly cut out around the posts.
I left the back of one of the sides open for wood storage. It’s really handy for the fire pit, looks pretty cool and prevented me from having to re-order wood for a 3rd time…
Haz reckons there’s a bit of a Love Island vibe going on what with the sail shade and festoon lights – this was absolutely not my intention.
I sneakily led the guttering from the shed behind the seating and into a water butt that’s hidden behind the seats. I didn’t want a big ugly butt sat in front of the decking.
I added a wee slate channel around the perimeter to finish things off and that was pretty much it.
Fingers crossed we’ll get a shed load of use out of our decking seats in summer 2021. We did have a few evenings on it in 2020 but socially distanced nights by the firepit aren’t quite the same.
I’ve still got to oil it all so that it lasts as long as poss, but as I keep saying about all the things on my to-do list, that’s a spring job.
In terms of cost, the whole thing came to around £900 of materials. This was a fair chunk more than I was expecting, mainly because I underestimated how much wood this baby would get through. It would seat 10 people fairly comfortably so making a smaller version could easily save a couple of hundred quid. I guess it’s also worth taking into account that paying someone to make something like this would probably cost a fair few grand as there’s a lot of labour.
- Patio slabs
- Weed membrane
- End grain preserver
- Joist hangers
- 40mm galvanised sheradised square twist nails (for joist hangers)
- 150 x 50mm pressure treated decking joists
- 100mm joist screws
- 120mm x 28mm pressure treated decking
- 60mm decking screws
- 47 x 47mm rough sawn pressure treated timber (for seat frames)
- 100 x 22mm rough sawn pressure treated timber (for seats and panelling)
- 40mm decking screws
- Stainless steel twin ball bearing hinges (for seat storage)
- Corrosion-resistant 25mm screws
- 75 x 75mm pressure treated posts (for festoon lights/shade sail)
- Decking oil
- Speed square/combination square
- Measuring tape
- Mitre saw
- 600mm spirit level
- Plastic shims/spacers
- Table saw (can use circular saw with guide)
- Combi drill
- Impact driver
- Orbital sander
- 1/4 inch router
- Jigsaw (if need to cut around anything)