While not hitting the stratospheric heights of the sales achieved in the noughties, the decking sector has continued to enjoy steady markets into 2020.

However, while on the face of it the government ban on the use of combustible materials above certain heights might not seem to have much relevance to the decking sector, it has, in fact caused a furrowing of brows in some quarters.

“The amendment to Building Regulations following the Hackitt Review has had significant impact on the timber decking market,” said Laura Qualters, national technical manager at Marley.

And, said Janet Sycamore, director of the Timber Decking & Cladding Association, “the consultation to lower the height for non-combustible cladding still further to 11m would affect the use of deck boards in balconies – balconies are specified attachments to an external wall”.

“It’s very risk averse out there and a lot of jobs are moving to aluminium, with building control driving the decisions,” she continued.

“We’re working hard to re-build the confidence in wood, especially given its environmental credentials and ability to help contribute to our net carbon zero goals and tackle the climate change emergency.”

Timber’s environmental credentials continue to be a big selling point, agreed Ms Qualters.

“The increasing concern about the environmental impact of building materials and the movement towards using less plastic means we are likely to see a shift back towards the use of timber as a decking material,” she said.

“All the timber we supply is FSC or PEFC certified and the production of timber decking uses far lower energy inputs than other alternatives, such as plastic.

“Another great feature of our manufacturing process is that we don’t waste any of the timber. Any timber left over from manufacture is used in biomass heating, while chips and sawdust can be repurposed and used for animal bedding.”

She added that the strong sustainability credentials of timber, coupled with the benefit of anti-slip products meant there had been growth opportunities for timber decking in other commercial sectors, particularly the leisure sector.

“From holiday parks to outdoor eating venues, marina developments, parks and sports complexes, timber decking is being used to create walkways and external areas that bring people closer to nature.”

Marley has seen a significant rise in demand for its CitiDeck anti-slip timber decking, with sales more than doubling last year and it’s a trend the company expects to continue in 2020 as developers and specifiers look to create safe, sustainable and inclusive – ie wheelchair and pushchair friendly – outdoor spaces.

Elevated Boardwalk

Gripsure has also seen demand from the leisure sector increase and flags up the use of its decking for the 700m-long Bear Wood boardwalk at the Bristol Zoological Society’s Wild Place Project.

Bear Wood tells the story of British ancient woodland. Taking visitors back in time to 10,000 years ago, European brown bears, Eurasian lynxes, wolves and wolverines have been reintroduced to where they once roamed. The exhibition also discusses how we can look after our ancient forests and how we can help it grow again.

The large immersive boardwalk winds through the forest, giving panoramic views of the forest and the animals’ habitat and elevating as much as 4m in places. “After taking a brief from the zoo, we developed a specification to meet their requirements, supplying our Gripsure Pro Contemporary boards with three non-slip inserts,” said Tom Anderson, Gripsure head of sales UK and Ireland.

“This provided a robust non-slip surface for visitors of all ages, as well as providing a smooth surface, which is easy to maintain and would provide a more pleasurable journey for parents with pushchairs and avoid the rattle that would have occurred with a grooved profile.”

European redwood boards were supplied pre-cut to the width of the boardwalk, treated with Lonza Tanalith E to Use Class 4 treatment classification to ensure longevity in the wet woodland environment.

“Utilising our non-slip aggregate in a unique way, we supplied our custom infographic panels to create time hop sections on the boardwalk to help tell the story of the exhibition to visitors as well as the root section around ‘Steve the tree’ in the centre of the walkway,” said Mr Anderson. “It has had incredible feedback.”

“There is a misconception that timber decking isn’t durable,” said Ms Qualters. “However, this comes down to choosing the right product with the right use class treatment. The TDCA recommends only using decking boards that offer a minimum service life of 15 years. However, there are now products on the market, such as our CitiDeck and AntiSlip Plus boards that have been preservative treated to achieve a 30-year desired service life.”

The TDCA continues its efforts to raise standards in the decking sector and reports two new recipients of its DeckMark accreditation.

“The latest member recruit is Severn Valley Woodworks, which produces lovely quality pressure-treated Scandinavian redwood decking and cladding products,” said Ms Sycamore. “It is a perfect fit for our organisation, which represents the quality end of the market, and they promptly achieved DeckMark and CladMark accreditation.”

BSW’s IRO Timber decking is also now DeckMark accredited. The decking goes through a seven-step process, which involves two stages of kiln drying in addition to “heat enhancement”, brushing, high pressure treatment and coating with a wood cream. This adds more protection to the overall product and helps to prevent fungal and insect attack. The product is available in 15 different colours.

“Colour and durability are key requirements for deck boards and this product addresses both,” said Ms Sycamore. One recent convert to IRO decking is the owner of County Landscapes NW Ltd in Wrexham, who wanted to create an exciting new look for his own garden.

“I’d never come across coloured decking boards before and instantly liked them,” said Steve McNabb, County Landscapes NW director. “Dave Chapman, the sales director at IRO Timber showed me a few samples and we went with ‘dolphin’.

He added that it was the texture of the deck boards that really caught his attention. “Everyone who has seen the decking has been blown away by how nice it looks and how different it is from standard decking timber. Dolphin has a shimmer to it that I’ve never seen before.”