Added value with decking
If you want to do a big project in your garden this year, you're running out of time, depending, as always, on the weather.
A really good way to add value and make it more useable is to create an eating, relaxing and entertaining area in the form of a patio or deck. Do it now and it'll be ready to use as soon as the weather warms up next spring.
Getting the location right is key. Do you want the patio or deck in full or partial sun, or in the shade? Where the sun falls in the garden at different times of the day could make a big difference to how much you'll use your new area.
The obvious place to put it is near the house, so it's convenient for alfresco dining, but there might be a better spot elsewhere, or you might want to pave or deck all the garden, especially if it's a courtyard.
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Decking is a brilliant way to make sloping gardens usable – simply extend the deck out from the house to cover the whole garden and you've solved the problem of an awkward, hard-to-use and even dangerous (if you have small children) space.
When deciding on the location, you also need to think about things such as drainage (manhole covers will still need to be accessed), where the doors to the garden are (you may want to fit new ones), where the bedrooms are (especially with a bungalow or flat) and if the patio or deck will be overlooked (one spot may be better than another). Also consider the prevailing winds, traffic noise, if any, and what you'll be looking out on when you sit and relax.
It's important to have a deck or patio that's in proportion to the size of the house and to use colours and materials that work well with the building's style, unless you want a deliberate contrast.
While it should be in keeping, your design can also be creative. Decking can be built on different levels, with, among other things, built-in benches, planters, handrails, steps and cutouts – perfect if you have or dream of having a hot tub.
You can do a similar thing with paving – an easy way to add interest is to incorporate a circle or other design into your patio using a paving kit.
Once you've got a clearer idea of what you want, draw the garden on graph paper (or your computer – there's a garden planner at www.housetohome.co.uk), marking on everything relevant. This will enable you to play around with different ideas and layouts, then you can recreate them in the garden using a builder's square, string and pegs or spray paint to mark out.
Before you start, remember that if your home's listed, you may need listed building consent from your council to build a deck or patio, and sometimes planning permission is required for other types of home. For details, visit the interactive house at: