Decking Design & layout – how to make it work for you

Undertaking a decking project isn’t a small task, and building a composite deck requires a slightly different approach to a traditional timber deck – the design and layout of your deck can have a huge influence on not only how it looks, but how much it will cost you to complete as well as the overall finish. Taking the time to put some good thought into the size, layout and design of your deck will ensure you are utilising the board’s full potential, minimising wastage, and therefore reducing costs. Preparation is one of the most important stages which is often over-looked – by taking the time to figure out the details before you begin you will set yourself up for a smooth installation without any surprises along the way.

One of the great benefits is the long, consistent lengths it comes in. Utilising the set 5.4m lengths to your advantage is easier than you might think, and in many circumstances can be worked in a way to reduce wastage whilst maintaining a complimentary design. The layout of the boards is also very important to ensure the natural expansion and contraction is managed in the best possible way, giving a successful installation each and every time.

What to Do if You’re Building a Deck from Scratch

If building a deck from scratch, it is highly recommended to design the deck around the set 5.4m lengths (or multiples of) that comes in. The width of the board can also be used by means of picture framing, breaker boards or borders to pad-out and add that little bit of extra length or width to your deck as needed.

As seen on the deck above, triple end boards and a double breaker in the centre make up a total of over 1120mm!

Running 2 x 2700mm lengths between pushes this deck out to 6500mm+ without any butt joints.

What to do if You’re Replacing an Existing Deck

If you are replacing an existing deck, it may be a little trickier to ensure you aren’t left with large amounts of wastage. A handy tip is understanding what other lengths you can get out of a 5.4m board to ensure you’re using the most amount of the board you can. The most common lengths are 1.8m and 2.7m. These lengths allow for no wastage yet make it easier to achieve the length you’re after, as you can get 3 x 1.8m lengths or 2 x 2.7m lengths out of your 5.4m board.

This ensures the best management of expansion and contraction whilst adding a point of difference to the deck.

Including the picture frame border, this deck totals over 11m in width.

Why we Recommend Breaker Boards

Due to the natural expansion and contraction we highly recommend the use of breaker boards. Here’s why:

– It results in sections of boards with a single length which ensures the best possible management of expansion and contraction.

– They avoid larger than necessary expansion gaps.

– They allow you to have sections of boards at the same lengh.

– They ensure all the boards will expand and contract the same amount.

– You are only ever dealing with the expansion and contraction of one board, effectively making the necessary expansion gap at the end of the boards significantly reduced (halved) compared to when using butt joints.

The deck above is a typical 6m x 4m size.

The utilisation of a central breaker board, double borders and 2700mm infills results in no wastage for maximum use of the board, optimum management of expansion and contraction and ultimately a successful installation.

Note all locking clips are placed in the centre of the boards, allowing the natural expansion and contraction to happen either side of the locking clips.

If installing using a random stagger butt joint method utilising boards of various lengths, it is impossible to ensure consistent gaps across the deck. For example, 5.4m board will expand and contract twice the amount a 2.7m board will. Furthermore, as the boards will expand-into, and contract-away-from each other, this results in large expansion gaps especially when butting end-to-end 5.4m boards. For these reasons, we strongly recommend against the use of butt joints. For best results, breaker boards are recommended.