General Landscaping Project – Fulham, London SW6
Designer: Julian Sandell
Fulham, London, SW6
“I have worked with Julian and his team on two occasions. They are prompt, courteous, scrupulously tidy and start and finish on time. Julian is knowledgeable about both his products and service delivery, and is creative in how he approaches any task. I would, without reservation, recommend them to friends and colleagues, and personally use them again should the need arise.”
- Roof Terrace – Hardwood Decking
- 12m2 Of Smooth Profile Cumaru – 145mm x 21mm
The General Landscaping Project
This was our second project for this client, after installing a bespoke steel awning and made to measure softwood trellis panels in the back garden some 18 months ago. This time, we were called back to construct a wooden deck on the second floor roof terrace.
On our site visit, we took along a sample pack of standard softwoods and more exotic hardwoods, so that the client could see the full range available and we could discuss all the options. Once we were up on the roof surveying the space, we asked what type of decking the client was considering and he pointed to the neighbouring terrace, which had a grooved softwood decking. We explained that whilst it was the most inexpensive kind of decking available, cost aside, it had many disadvantages in terms of both practicality and aesthetics, and consequently, it was a material that we would not generally recommend or use for our decking installations.
At a glance, grooved decking appears to possess good anti-slip capability, with the grooves providing a contoured edge for your shoes to grip in the wet and, at the same time, channelling rainwater away. In fact, the opposite is true.
Compared to a smooth board, where the decking is in contact with 100% of the sole of your shoe giving maximum traction, typically only around 50% of your sole will be touching the surface of a grooved board, with the other 50% sitting on the water retained by the grooves. A smooth board will drain very quickly in comparison, as the water will just spread and fall off the edge, leaving a dry surface.
Secondly, when dirt falls into the grooves they can quickly become dammed, resulting in trapped water causing the rapid growth of algae or fine moss (particularly on a north facing garden), which is incredibly slippery and can also stain the wood.
A smooth decking board eradicates both of these problems, with the added benefit of being far more comfortable and tactile under bare foot whilst having the more sophisticated look of an interior finish.
Softwood decking is basically a redwood pine, so if a dark finish is desired it has to be stained and unfortunately it always looks like it. With wear and tear, the stain will scuff off and reveal the pale wood underneath, which looks tatty and on top of yearly oiling, just adds to the maintenance requirements. Whilst hardwood decking is almost twice as expensive as softwood or more, depending on the variety, it is the only really satisfactory way to attain a dark deck.
Although more expensive, it does last much longer and if oiled correctly every year, will look as good in 20 years time, as it did on the day it was installed.
Having looked at and discussed all of the options, our client chose the Cumaru, an ethically sourced South American hardwood, which is in plentiful supply and a good, slightly cheaper alternative to Ipe, the standard high-end hardwood of choice. It doesn’t have the uniform colour of Ipe, but this is its beauty in our opinion, with varying shades and patterns in the different boards.
We arranged to have the boards machined with a groove on both edges, which allowed us to fix the boards to the framework using a hidden clip system. This method is only suitable for the most stable of hardwoods (those least subject to movement / warping), but it looks amazing as the boards are completely clear of fixings or wooden plugs hiding them, giving the most luxurious finish possible. Even with hardwood, when fixed through the surface, dirt and moisture is attracted to the screw heads, which will in time cause degradation to the timber and provide anchor points for algae and moss.
On completion, the decking was given two good coats of Liberon clear decking oil, which both protects and shows off the natural colour and grain of the wood at its best. As previously mentioned, this process needs to be done annually, or even every six months, and it will easily last 20-30 years, looking as good as it did on the day it was put down.