Decking designer interview in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
Decking designer interview in Welwyn Garden City with “Paul Newman”.
The Decking Network interviews companies that know what decking is all about… Paul Newman created Paul Newman Landscapes and has since been designing and building gardens for 30 years. An absolute professional in our landscaping industry with decking as a definite YES and not as a has been.
Paul Newman designs decking projects as part of many Landscaping schemes. As a senior member of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) he conforms with the APL Decking guide for decking.
Why did you start landscaping?
As a child, I was always interested in the nature, anything to do with nature, animals, plants and different habitats. I enjoyed growing houseplants and in my late teenage years had a pretty good cacti collection. My father was a great believer in doing your own jobs and a talented DIY enthusiast. I remember helping him out on every occasion I could. I remember demolishing internal walls and home re-modelling, tiling, fitting carpets, plumbing and laying new paving in our garden. In the late 1980’s a friend started a garden maintenance round and asked if I would like to help out. At the time, I was still unsure of my career path as I had been unhappy with numerous jobs beforehand.
I ended up working regular maintenance rounds with him – the usual grass cutting, weeding and general maintenance of private domestic gardens and speedily increasing my knowledge of trees, plant, pruning and general wellbeing of the living landscape. He would often get asked by clients ‘can you build me a patio’ and my reply to him would be – yes of course we can let’s do it! Having always been a hands on guy and previously learning skills from my dad I was very keen to explore things further. My colleague however, was not so keen and preferred to just cut grass all weed all summer!
I thought long and hard about this – he now had a good number of clients with regular work coming in which in turn gave me work. Should I continue to take that work and enjoy the easy life or should I take a gamble and explore proper landscaping……….. you guessed it. I am the Decking designer in Welwyn Garden City
What is your story? You are a landscaper and now focusing on design … why?
I have worked within the landscaping industry for 30 years, designing and building gardens for many different clients in all kinds of locations including city gardens, large family gardens, country gardens, roof terraces, and courtyards all with their own particular challenges. Moving forward I now want to concentrate on design and consulting work offering advice for homeowners who are planning a garden build but not sure where to start, for garden designers I am able to offer advice on specifying materials for a project with technical back up and also landscape contractors who may be in need of advice for a particular project. With decades of onsite experience, I know exactly how a garden should be built using the right materials for the job so can offer product and material advice with independent landscaping assessment and best practice advice.
I am a member of the APL (Association of Professional Landscapers) and also PGCA (Professional Garden Consultants Association) both of which are highly recognised professional bodies in the industry. I design for Landscape companies and also Architects and Interior Designers.
You create a lot of timber structures in your designs, can you tell me what is your preferred timber and why?
We have always designed and built a lot of deck structures so timber pergolas, screen panels and trellis became a natural progression of this. Timber is a great medium to work with, is readily available and offers very pleasing results.
Over the years, we have used many timber species for this and our preferred size for pergolas is 150x150mm which gives a substantial look and feel, offers maximum strength and great looks. The drawback of course is the weight of these beams!! Some products come planed others are rough sawn. In general, we will slightly over order on length which allows us to detail angles and lap joints for the perfect fit. We process the timbers on site and use a belt sander with varying grades of sandpaper then ease the edges with a router to give a small pencil round detail – this makes them less prone to damage and much more user friendly for the clients. These beams are big, they are tactile and you want to touch them and appreciate the grain.
Paul certainly loves Cedar (Editors note), although Southgate timber supplies seem to like Paul’s work…
Cedar is lightweight, very easy to work with and smells amazing when fresh from the sawmill but can mark easily so great care is needed when using these for posts and benches. In the early days Balau (Shorea spp) was readily available for posts. Although not the greatest of strength hardwoods we used it successfully many times for upright supports for deck balustrade posts and handrail capping along with pergolas. More recent installations have seen the use to Opepe, a West African hardwood. With its rich golden yellow colour and interlocking grain it has superb durability and its uses include decks, bridge building, lock gates and marine jetties making it an ideal candidate for long lasting landscape use. It’s colouring lends itself to blend in well with other hardwoods making for a very pleasing scheme.
We have also used Green Oak which works well for more traditional gardens. This is usually full of knots and will undoubtedly split as it dries out and seasons but adds great character to a traditional design.
Are there any regulation codes that you follow for timber decking construction?
Each design is different and tailored to suit the clients brief and budget. When constructing decks the number one key consideration is the sub-frame. This carries the deck surface and the live load of its end users plus any furniture, planters, bbq etc. Understanding how a sub-frame is designed and constructed is crucial.
“An important key factor that many people overlook is the space beneath the joists. There should be plenty of room beneath the sub-frame to allow for maximum air flow. This is crucial to avoid moisture transfer and build up and eventual rotting of the frame.”
Best practice advice and policy when considering any decking project and the APL do just that. Their code of practice is essential to a well-designed decking platform
Are there any specialist methods in your constructions, could you tell us a tip or secret?
As discussed above each project is different so designs can vary but construction methods for framework remain pretty much the same for domestic situations. One very important yet simple piece of equipment is a string line, the landscapers favourite item and indispensable when setting out areas. A tight string line never lies and will always give you a guide to work to. Use it to take measurements from, to check your work is parallel to any walls or buildings and as a guide when setting out deck post supports. Also keep tools sharp, especially when working with hardwood as this will quickly dull saw blades and drill bits. An earth auger will greatly speed up installation of post holes for your deck support and we find a 200mm diameter is best which suits post holes best.
Do you use composite, plastic or metal decking as well as timber ?
As much as we love building decks with hardwood they do have their issues. Wood is a natural product and will move with the seasons, it will split, crack and fade, That beautiful Ipe deck we first installed for you will unfortunately not stay like that. UV is it’s enemy and will break down the surface of the wood structure causing it to turn silver and splits may occur. Some clients like this look which gives a gentle mellow appearance blending the deck into garden surroundings more naturally but other people want that dark, rich, lustrous deck they had when first installed. it is possible to reclaim this look with the correct preparation and treatments and Owatrol make a range of professional products for this but it is a labour of love to keep on top of it. We design Gardens and Decking based in Welwyn Garden City
What are todays trends?
Today’s trends are for a clean look, easy maintenance, more enjoyment. There are many composite decking products available – some great, some not so. One such great product is Millboard, made in Britain and 100%wood free. Millboard planks are moulded on original oak board with unique grain patterns and a collection of colours to suit any scheme. Although this product is face fixed the neat stainless steel screw heads disappear beneath the Lastane surface coating to give a virtually invisible fixing. As well as deck planks Millboard produce a range of compatible components such as fascia boards, edge trims and bullnose planks to complete your deck. Unlike wood it will not split, rot, warp or crack and according to Millboard only has a 2% fade over 10 years.
We are accredited professional installers for Millboard and we stay up to date with the latest product releases.
I see that you apply complex planting schemes in your work. Do you design planting plans as part of your service?
Gardens would be soul less without an injection of planting. Trees, shrubs and plants greatly enhance decked areas, patios and gardens are essential. We always include planting within a design, it adds another element of colour and texture. Without height and foliage layers it would be a very sterile environment without them. A professionally designed garden should be tactile, biophilic, create excitement and develop throughout the seasons. We tend to use a lot of evergreen plants in our designs as this create the backbone of the garden with many having architectural leaf shapes. Layered effects can be created with trees providing canopy coverage then under planted with shrubs and then layering down to ground cover. This look is amazing when properly lit with a modern lighting scheme which we also design into our schemes.
Do you have any favourite material combinations?
We are very lucky in the landscape industry, we have access to amazing material palettes. Materials were very limited 30 years ago – it was generally cast concrete paving or ‘crazy’ paving and decking in this country was unheard of! Having a huge array of paving, man-made or natural, grass, artificial or natural, outdoor kitchens, garden audio, hot tubs, garden bars, the list goes on…….. We live our perfect lives in our perfect homes and also want our perfect gardens. We’d love our gardens to emulate our homes, an extension of the home when the doors are open. Kitchen flooring matches garden flooring, painted internal walls are matched with raised garden planters. Consider soft lighting schemes that are echoed in an intimate lounge area set of with amazing trees and shrubs.
I particularly like combination extremes – dark charred decking with rusty Corten steel. Smooth porcelain sheet set off against rugged natural slate cladding, combinations of light and dark. I love textures and tactile elements you can touch. Rough sawn timber shuttering will create cool timber imprints on concrete benches or planters. Natural coloured concrete also looks great against hardwood decking. I like the rich grain of the timber offset with the pain smoothness of this ancient material.
What is your favourite construction tool for working with timber?
Tools…. it has to be a good old fashioned hammer!
I would say it has to be our mitre saw. I have a Bosch GCM12 GDL – superb bit of kit enabling us to tackle any cutting job on site. The 12” blade cuts effortlessly through all of our timbers with minimum effort and maximum accuracy. Bosch are renowned for their innovations and no nonsense user friendliness and this tool has plenty. It has a fantastic trench cutting facility allowing for easy set up of lap joints for pergolas. We purchased ours with a stand which extends to allow lengths of timber to be supported by rollers. The whole thing is easily collapsed and can be wheeled off site with the saw attached to the stand.
How are you coping with Covid-19? Can you still operate or have you suspended business?
Before the pandemic, we had two sites running. Following government guidelines we are staying safe, keep our clients safe and suspend further work until advised. We are following progress constantly and taking advice as it emerges. Many of our suppliers have also closed making it hard to progress with site work.
I am developing my business by creating another website for design and consultancy work. My Son will soon be joining the family business, he is rather talented. I have also devised a set of templates to enable remote consultations and home design surveying. Firstly, I explain the situation and send my templates detailing how the process works. This is with guidance and a design questionnaire for them to fill out. This is backed up with photos and a detailed zoom meeting. In these unprecedented times, we don’t know the outcome and how businesses will fair? We need to stay focused and forward thinking so we are ready to emerge from this fighting fit.
What innovations do you see in landscaping, any new tools, materials or methods?
I see a trend for more natural spaces and up cycling of products with more industrial styling for designs. A trip around your local salvage yard can find some unusual and beautiful products. I have designed a Parisian style courtyard, I found some amazing products at my local yard. A beautiful metal art nouveau bench and a pair of classical stone urns perfect for neatly clipped topiary.
New materials are constantly entering the market and one such material is MTX or Medite Tricoya Extreme. This is basically an extreme form of MDF for exterior use. Available in sheet form in various thicknesses just like MDF but with service life of 50 years. It can be sawn, sanded, routed and used for many applications within garden design and construction. We have used it to make outdoor kitchen units, raised planters, seating and decorative panels.
That’s a wrap Paul, a thorough insight into a Landscaping company that does much more than professionally builds decking structures… what’s not to like
Do contact Paul directly, do this via his website http://www.paulnewmanlandscapes.co.uk/Paul-Newman-Landscapes-Contact.html