Decking has taken the country by storm over the last decade or so. It's a low maintenance alternative to lawns and plants and looks good in the right situations. But it can be a tricky surface for those who are not so fleet of foot, so care is needed to make decking as safe as possible.
Slippery decking can be a killer, literally, particularly if there are steps as well. A middle-aged next door neighbour to us is still using a crutch and waiting for the third of four operations after slipping down a decking staircase over two years ago.
Planning for Safe DeckingFluted decking is less slippery than a plain finish on the top of the decking planks as the flutes channel water away, rather than allowing it to sit on top. But for this to work there needs to be a slight fall to the decking, about 1 in 100, and usually away from the house. If the deck is dead level the water will fill up the channels.
Think carefully about where you put your decking or move plants once it's laid. If you have a lot of natural shade over the deck from trees and shrubs this will encourage the growth of algae, mildew and then moss, all of which will make the decking slippery. Keeping the decking clean will also prevent this build-up.
When assembling the deck, keep at least an inch between planks so that water can escape, but don't make the gaps so wide that little feet can disappear down the cracks.
Non-Slip Coating or Stick-on Surface?One approach to the slippery nature of decking is to apply a non-slip material over it. There are two main choices here, a stick-on surface applied to the planks or a paint-like coating, preferably transparent to preserve the looks.
The affect on looks is the downside of stick-on surfaces. There is no way that they can't look like anything other than large bits of sandpaper stuck on top of decking. Even though you can now get profiles with a recess (or rebate) in the top to take the stick-on strips, so that they are at least flush to the surface, they still look industrial.
For this reasons a non-slip coating is a better much better option for a house. You can choose a coloured coating but again this works against the main reason for installing decking – it looks great. So a transparent non-slip coating is better, although sometimes more expensive.
Banisters and RailingsPreventing people from falling off the deck or staircases is of course important so put in proper railings and banisters, not just decorative ropes between posts. If your deck is only just above ground level then this probably isn't necessary but any higher and it's a must.
All-round railings can also keep small children in and make the deck a safe place for them to play. But make sure you can access the underneath of the deck easily for retrieving small toys!
Pay Attention to FixingsFinally, to make sure your decking is as safe as it can be, check the fixings, the bolts and screws that secure it, regularly. Because wood is a natural product it will swell and contract as it alternatively gets wet and then dries out again.
This movement, particularly in the first year or two, can be quite excessive, so it's worth going round and re-tightening all the fixings. Do this once a quarter in the first eighteen months, then annually thereafter, to keep your decking secure and safe.