Do you, for example, want your outdoor space in full sun, in partial sun, or in the shade? Because where your garden gets the sun at different times of the day could make a big difference to how much you’ll use your new area. The usual place to put it is near the house for the most convenient alfresco dining, but there might be a better spot elsewhere. You might also want to pave or deck the entire garden, especially if it’s a courtyard.
Decking is a good way to make sloping gardens more usable, as an alternative to creating the more difficult tiers. By extending the deck out from the house to cover the whole garden, you’ve solved the problem of an awkward, hard-to-use and even potentially dangerous (if you have small children) outside space.
When deciding on the location of your patio or deck, you also need to think about things like drainage (manhole covers will still need to be accessible), where the doors to the garden are, where the bedrooms are (especially with a bungalow or flat) and if the patio or deck will be overlooked. 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 patio or deck that’s in proportion to the size of the house too, and to use colours and materials that work well with the building (unless you want a deliberate contrast).
While it should be in keeping though, your design can still be creative. Decking can be formed on different levels, with, among other things, built-in benches, planters, steps and cutouts - ideal 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 an idea of what you want, draw the garden on graph paper, or use an online garden planner, 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 string and pegs, or spray paint, marking out what will go where, and considering if it really will work.
Before you start building your patio or deck, check if any permissions are required, including from the freeholder if your home’s leasehold, or from the local council. Click on the decking or patio on the interactive house at www.planningportal.gov.uk for general advice, but, if in doubt, ask the local council for specific advice about your home, as planning permission and/or listed building consent is sometimes required.