Q. We have a back garden that measures 40' deep and 60' wide, which is on a slope that goes from the back of the house upwards in one corner more than the other, by about 5' at it's highest point. We have been considering retailing walls to make a number of flat levels. However, I was wondering whether decking would be a possible option. The reason that I ask is that everywhere I look decking is displayed as an ideal solution to gardens that go downwards rather than upwards.
Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
A. The brief answer to your question is that there is no reason that decking couldn't provide you with a level area with a garden that slopes upwards.
You just need to be a bit more careful about where the deck will be and its position particularly in relation to what surrounds the garden.
Decking is recommended for downwards sloping gardens as the level of the deck is usually the same as the house level with the far end of the deck being elevated relative to the surrounding ground. With an upward sloping garden the whole deck is going to be at a higher level than the house and also possibly than the fence / hedge. Decks are ideal for sloping sites as they can be supported on posts without needing to level the area. You need to think carefully about how an elevated deck will fit into your garden. If the answer is "not so well" and you need to dig in and place a retaining wall, I'd go for a patio as there wouldn't be such problems with drainage and you would lose all of the cost savings in leveling the site anyway.
I visited a similar garden locally recently where the owners were considering an elevated deck until I pointed out that if they had a table on the deck, it would be 6" above the level of their 6ft fence and they'd be sat up there looking down on their neighbours patio! Your situation may not be so extreme, but it requires careful thought and measuring out of sizes and levels.
Q. How do I calculate a template to ensure the corners for my shed base are square? the size of the base is 14ft X 10 ft
A. You could buy a "builders square" or "framing square" a large set square with arms about 18-24" long or alternatively make yourself a triangle with sides in the ratio 3:4:5 and you'll get a perfect right angle. Wood is the best material and can be whatever is to hand, just knock a nail or screw through the joints. The bigger the pieces the more accurate it is i.e. 3,4 and 5ft work better than 30, 40 and 50cm.
You can check if you have it right by measuring the diagonals, if they are identical, then you have four right angles, if not, then start again!
Mark out the base of the shed with pegs and string first before you start to dig it out and prepare the foundations.
Q. I have an existing patio which is made up of light grey slabs. The patio is solid. I would like to have a new patio possibly York stone. Is it alright to lay a new patio on top of the existing one. If so would a dry mix be suitable to bed the new patio.
A. The short answer to your question is yes you could lay the new slabs on top of the old, I'd use a wet mix of 5 large blobs of cement per slab though - more for larger ones. However more to the point, I wouldn't do it at all.
First of all your new patio would be about 4 inches higher than at current which may cause problems, look odd or both. Secondly it's not the best way to go about things and with York stone being about the most expensive material for a patio you can get, you'll want to do it properly. If your current patio is of slabs, then they should come up without too much difficulty. If it appears solid, it's probably because they've been well laid rather than because they're immoveable. You need to get a couple of crowbars or similar and place them against the edge of one slab, sharp end down the crack, then move them alternately back and forwards to lift the edge up. Once one's up the others will come easier.
Q. I need 20 sleepers to make raised beds- can you give me a price- I live in Huddersfield
A. Railway sleepers are big heavy things and so transport is a major cost. Like sand, gravel etc. they are best sourced locally - try the local sand / gravel bulk materials merchant in the yellow pages, if they can't help, they'll probably be able to suggest a local supplier who can. Expect to pay from £20 each.
Q. I have a sloping rectangular garden, I have recently excavated an L shape to form a raised garden in one L and a patio in the other "L". I need to retain the higher level but want to do it as cheaply as possible. can I do this with planks and posts? the retaining partition will be Z shaped (dividing two "L" shapes) how is the best way to do this?
A.It depends on how deep the partition is and how long it is. Railway sleepers are a good way of doing this. They need to be bedded well, on a foundation of compacted hardcore or shingle if possible. I'd ensure that they remained upright with posts hammered into the ground and screwed to the sleepers with long screws. These can be hidden from sight and buried. Make sure you use tannalised timber for the posts you knock in. Sleepers are difficult to cut if you need to trim them, requiring a chain saw - even then it is an effort.
A more convenient alternative is to use 2" thick tannalised timber available in 4" or 6" widths. This is easier to cut than sleepers, but not so substantial. It can be painted or stained afterwards to blend in or provide a contrast.
As another alternative you could use rough fencing posts laid on end with the points cut off, in fact if you have a fencing supplier nearby a wander around the wood yard may give a few ideas of types of timber you could use for the more rustic look.
All of this assumes that there is no more than 12" / 30cm of soil to be retained, if it is greater than this, you really need a good foundation and substantial upright supports.
Q.How do I lay a base for a small garden shed I have just bought?
A.Follow the instructions for laying a patio if you want the best foundation. Just lay slabs on soil if a simple basic base will do for a small storage shed. The main thing is to keep the wood dry and off the soil.
A. Any drive way needs digging out and 4 inches of compacted hardcore laying before being tarmacced. Weedkiller is irrelevant as they couldn't get through that for a very long time. It certainly shouldn't sink either. I'm afraid to say it sounds like a cowboy job.
Q. I have some left over oak flooring & would like to use it on my front porch. It is a covered porch, but the wood will be exposed to the elements including rain & snow. Is there any way to seal the flooring to minimize shrinking, expanding & other unforeseen problems. It there a good time of year to install the flooring. What other unforeseen problems might I be facing?
A. This is not something I would attempt with flooring that is meant for indoors. Much flooring is laminate rather than solid, so the layers will just separate when they get wet. Even if it is solid, it will probably be too thin to stand conditions outdoors as flooring. Sealing and preserving should not pose too much of a problem, warping in constant moisture (like in the winter months where the boards may not dry out properly for weeks) is the greatest problem. If the flooring is laid as in the house in tongue and groove, then moisture will become trapped in between the surfaces where they touch, the wood will dry differentially and the boards will warp over time (probably not much time at that). Of course it is possible to have a solid wooden floor that faces the elements, on boats for instance, but the wood is much more substantial and can resist warping.
These problems could be overcome by laying the boards as decking, over a sub-base and with gaps between the boards so providing ventilation for drying out. You would however have the problem that the boards are not thick enough to be able to support themselves properly needing very short runs between supports and also probably needing the tongue and groove planing off.
For wooden flooring outdoors, you need to use decking boards with a suitable sub-base, that are of a good thickness.
Q. We had a cement slab done 3 years ago it is 10ft x 10ft with footings. The slab has split and dropped at least 1 1/2 inches so far. I have filled the crack for now because of water from the sky but can I pour new cement over the whole area in the spring? and do I really need the space along the side or do I cement up to the block wall that was also built at the same time?
A. Difficult to give a definitive answer without seeing it. I'd guess that if it has dropped so far in just 3 years, that it doesn't have an adequate foundation for where it is. There may be something unusual about the site that caused this, but then it still doesn't have an adequate foundation for where it is.
Just pouring more cement on top will give a quick fix, but is unlikely to solve the problem in the longer term. There's also the fact that cement needs to be pretty thick to be effective and this would raise the level of the slab compared to how it was.
I'd get someone in to have a look at it who knows what they're doing. You need to ask them why they think the slab has fallen so much and what they should do to stop it happening. There's every likelihood that it is still moving slowly and so unless something is done to stop it, then it will continue to do so.
As for a gap at the edge, a small 2-4" gap is normal, it allows for expansion in hot weather and also for rain water to soak into the ground. You don't say what's there at the moment, but the usual is for a 2-3" layer of gravel / aggregate that is flush with the top of the slab.
Q. I am considering laying a fairly patio myself, following the guidance on this website. Regarding the 1" to 6ft slope, what would be the maximum size of patio you could lay before you had to install a "drainage" system? And how do you accurately measure 1" in 6ft on a level?
A. Maximum size before drainage about 20 foot wide, depends on local conditions though and where it drains into.
Accurately measuring 1" in 6 foot - use a suitably sized piece of wood to prop up a spirit level. i.e. for a 3 foot level, a 1/2 inch thick piece of wood at the low end will give the right slope when the bubble shows horizontal - hope that makes sense.
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