Decking installer interview in Colchester, Essex “Paul Baker”
Decking designer interview in Colchester, Essex, “Paul Baker”
The Decking Network interviews companies that have a strong affiliation with decking. Paul Baker has been part of Holland Landscapes since joining his father in the family business in 1999. Steeped in professional landscaping history, the company began in 1988, which as just after Alan Titchmarsh told everyone, that watched the TV, grooved pine decking was the way forward.
Paul Baker designs decking projects as part of his wider Landscaping schemes. As a senior member of the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) he conforms with the APL Decking guide for decking structures.
Why did you start landscaping?
Landscaping has always been in my life. Before my dad started Holland Landscapes he was a keen gardener. I used to help him in his garden and then when I was 12 I would help him in a garden he maintained, my job was to cut the grass. I helped dad in my school holidays and I joined him full time when I left school.
What is your story, you are a landscaper and now run design company too… why?
We work with some amazing local designers but we wanted to increase the flow of designed gardens to build and our current designers were really busy. Having decided to employ our own designer and our new company Tapestry Design Studios has gone from strength to strength. By providing plenty of work for Holland Landscapes, design for other landscapers and offer landscapers an ‘in-house’ design service. Proud is an understatement to have won an Association of Professional Landscapers design awards.
You create timber structures in your designs, can you tell me what is your preferred timber and why?
Easy one, Ipe. We built a beautiful Ipe deck a few years ago. It was a joy to work with and we know that with the correct maintenance it will last our client years. I visited 5 years after we built it and was impress with how good it looked and with minimum maintenance.
Are there any regulations or code that you follow for timber decking construction?
We have to be careful, even in domestic gardens. We ensure that any deck over 300mm high has the correct permissions and our railings are to current regulation as well. The sub-frame is probably the most important part of a deck, you can’t see it but you expect it to support your deck for years so we ensure it’s to the correct standard. We do use the APL Decking guide which is to EC5 regulations and of course, built to last. Most of our decks are used for light family use but we build our sub-frames using 150x47mm treated timber and never more than 400mm centers for the joists.
Are there any specialist methods in your constructions, could you tell us a tip or a secret?
Instead of using posts to fix our decking, we lay concrete blocks on their side, bedded and haunched with concrete. We then build the frame in situ and pack the frame up on plastic spacers to level and allow airflow. We find this method works very well for ground level decks.
Editor has to mention this “Brilliant method here folks, this will allow years to any substructure, if the timber doesn’t touch the ground it should last over 25 years”
Do you use composite, plastic or metal decking as well as timber?
Amongst Ipe and the occasional treated pine we do very much like Millboard composite decking. It is a fantastic product and a joy to work with. The technical support has been very good and we are looking to join their installer scheme. We get our Millboard locally from Collier and Catchpole (Colchester), Cadel there is a Millboard guru!
I see that you apply complex planting schemes in your work, do you design planting plans as part of your service?
Yes we do. As well as a full design service, we also carry out planting design. Planting is so underrated by many landscapers but planting is half of what makes a garden good. An amazing hard landscaped garden can easily be ruined by a poor planting scheme. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a good planting plan drawn up and implemented.
Do you have any favourite material combinations or planting combinations?
This is a tough one! I would have to say the best combination is Ipe with black basalt and lush green foliage. As for planting, it really depends on the garden. I am a huge fan of Piet Oudolf and love his prairie schemes with big drifts of the same plants. But I also love the intricacies of a cottage planting scheme.
What is your favourite construction tool for working with timber?
You can’t beat a good sharp wood chisel. I like a Stanley chisel with a wooden handle. I ensure they are sharpened regularly to keep them working as they should.
How are you coping with Covid-19, can you still operate or have you suspended your business?
Holland Landscapes had furloughed its staff for 3 weeks, but the business is still open and I am very busy in the (home) office. Tapestry Design Studios is still very much open and running. Katie is working from home producing some amazing plans and we are still receiving enquiries. We can work remotely with the client and the surveyor can work to the current Government guidelines.
What innovations do you see in Landscaping, any new tools, materials or methods?
Sustainability is going to be getting bigger and bigger. I think, eventually, artificial grass will be recyclable, I can’t see the trend for it diminishing in the short, but to remain at the forefront of a Landscapers Material its environmental impact needs to be vastly improved. I also see a continuation of people using their gardens more and treating them as another room of the house. This will mean more vegetable gardens, outdoor kitchens, plants planted and a nice deck to relax on.
Nice one Paul, an insight into a Landscaping company that does much more than professionally builds decking structures… Decking and planting… I like that.
If you want to contact Paul directly, do this via his website https://www.hollandscapes.co.uk