Tips & tricks to laying decking material

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Whether you're in the middle of a deck project or just beginning to plan one, the way you lay your decking material can affect both the look and durability of your deck, no matter the material. A variety of decking materials are available on the market, including wood and wood composite decking.

Design it first

Before you begin building your deck or laying your deck boards, sketch out a design. Include both the shape of your deck and the way you want your boards to lay. The way the boards are laid on the deck can affect the amount of decking material you need to buy. For instance, it usually takes more decking material to lay a deck on the diagonal than straight across.

Drill the screw holes

To keep your deck building and board laying going smoothly, drill the screw holes before you begin laying boards to save yourself time later. Wait to begin drilling the holes until after your main deck frame is built, so you can line up the holes you're drilling with your deck's spacing. If your deck is an unusual shape, such as a circle, skip this tip and drill the holes in your decking material as you lay the boards. The unusual shape makes it difficult to predrill screw holes accurately.

Keep it separated

Most decking material experiences some swelling after it is installed, so it's necessary to keep the boards separated. You can pick up decking spacers, or wood shims, to place between each board as you lay it, or before you screw them down, from your local home improvement store. Spacers or wood shims also maintain uniform spacing between your boards to give your deck a professional look. Composite decking has little to no swelling, depending on the manufacturer.

Cut the ends

To make end cutting a quick process, cut the ends when you're finished. If you're using a composite decking or other type of decking that doesn't require sealing, wait until you've laid all your boards and screwed them down. Take a saw and cut off all the board ends sticking out from your deck at once. If you're constructing your deck from real wood, cut your boards ahead of time. You'll need to seal the ends of the boards before you install them to keep the wood from rotting.

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