The popularity of deck boards for use in outside spaces is growing, and traditional grooved decking is still the most commonly used type. Contrary to popular belief, grooved board can be more hazardous than smooth when wet, especially when walking parallel to the grooves. Grooves (or castellations) are not always effective for water drainage – instead water can sit in the grooves and become trapped. With a smooth board, water runs off.
More specifiers are now looking for alternative decking to meet health and safety requirements, or simply to achieve a deck that is easier to maintain.
Choosing non-slip decking may seem obvious - deck boards can be slippery. Decking is not an ideal surfacing material in all situations, but can be especially unsuitable for areas that have public access and where the surface may become wet.
With public liability claims increasing, slip prevention is important and anti-slip deck boards can be used to minimise the risk of slips and falls. Boards can be tailored to suit requirements by selecting a suitable profile, using two or three inserts, with either a natural white flint or grey bauxite insert.
The appeal of smooth boards over grooved is growing, because smooth boards have no grooves in which food, dirt or litter becomes trapped, making cleaning easier. Leaf debris can also become trapped in grooved boards and is difficult to sweep out – smooth boards are easier to maintain and look after.
Smooth timber decks are a low-maintenance solution. Aside from a regular clean with a stiff broom, they can be left to weather naturally.
Deck boards can be treated to meet a variety of requirements. The main reason is a preservative treatment to meet ‘Use Class’ to give the surface an enhanced service life. Timber in ground contact needs to be treated to ‘Use Class 4’, otherwise ‘Use Class 3’ is sufficient. When installing items like hot tubs, the greater protection of Use Class 4 is recommended.
Other treatments include fire retardants, when required to conform to Building Regulations.
Deck boards are a key structural part of the deck and they should always be graded. The most common timber grades for softwood deck boards are C16 and C24.
C16-graded boards are generally recommended for most applications, and if the correct spans are used, this is usually the most cost-effective option that will still meet performance requirements.
C24 is a grade for more demanding applications. These boards will have fewer knots, and any knots will be smaller in C16-graded boards. C24-graded boards are typically used where higher loads are required or wider spans are required.
This is important so that the deck doesn’t feel ‘bouncy’ and any deflection doesn’t cause a trip hazard.
For larger projects it is possible to order anti-slip decking pre-cut ready for collection from the merchant. This saves time on site, reducing the need for cutting and finishing.