If you’re considering creating a wooden walkway on the ground for your garden, take a look at my DIY project using reclaimed wood scaffold boards. This eco-friendly endeavor was finished in just three days and amounted to around £200 in costs. Discover how I turned this area into an attractive and practical path.
Recently, I undertook the task of linking our patio area to the back of the garden, where my shed and workshops are located. It took me a couple of days to finish, resulting in a significant enhancement of both the appearance and usability of our garden. By utilizing partially reclaimed wood and coordinating colors, this addition seamlessly connects the key zones within our outdoor space.
After purchasing our house in 2014, we embarked on a series of garden renovations to enhance both the appearance and functionality of our 28m x 8m garden. Initially, I relied on stepping stones to traverse the garden’s expanse, grappling with muddy areas that progressively worsened and became more cumbersome. The situation prompted us to embark on a garden upgrade during the spring 2020 lockdown, and one crucial aspect was the establishment of a much-needed pathway.
We explored various path ideas, including porcelain tile, stepping stones, and gravel. Eventually, we opted for a boardwalk due to a couple of key factors. Given that this was a DIY garden project, our primary concern was the time and effort required for completion. This aspect was closely related to the level of difficulty. I sought a path that could be constructed more swiftly and easily, and the boardwalk emerged as the more feasible choice. Although it entailed uprooting the existing turf, it still appeared to be a less arduous task compared to installing a paved or gravel pathway. The second factor was cost-effectiveness. Thanks to my involvement in a furniture business and shop, I had a substantial supply of used scaffold boards on hand. Leveraging this economical and easily accessible material seemed like a logical decision.
Lastly we decided with the boardwalk because we agreed it would look great around the pond and we could paint it to match the two decking areas I had also recently completed.
Table of Contents
- How to build a boardwalk path – Step by step guide
- What tools did I use?
- What materials where required?
- Build your own decking area with scaffold boards
How to build a boardwalk path – Step by step guide
Step 1. Plan your route
You’ll want to start off with a plan. Maybe try producing a scale drawing of your garden and plan the layout of you path. We wanted a somewhat organic feel to our path, something that meandered around the features in the garden. So whilst we had a rough drawing of the path, the build process itself was going to dictate the finer detail.
You’ll also want to think about waste at this point. We ordered a small/medium size skip to put all the turf and soil and stones in.
Step 2. Mark out the area
Using a piece of string I marked out the rough shape we had planned on our rough drawings. As above, this didn’t need to be precise as the build itself was going to be organic. You could also use a spray paint marker like this one.
Step 3. Remove the turf
I dug down to a depth of roughly 75mm for the length of the path. At this point I only really needed to dig a channel for the boardwalk support frame. The depth had to be enough for the carcassing timber frame to sit level with the top of the lawn. Additional digging will be required when we add the support slabs.
I wanted the boardwalk to sit above the level of the lawn but it’s up to you if you want it higher or lower. Just remember it’s a good idea to keep the boards from touching the lawn as over time they will rot with any stagnant water sat on them.
Step 4. Preparing and levelling the slabs
The slabs are used to raise the timber frame off the ground. This is to prevent the frame from rotting away. If the frame touches the ground, stagnant water will quickly rot the wood. So to prevent this I laid the frame on raised plinths. The slabs are old stepping stones, some of which I smashed into 4 pieces. For each 2.4m length of frame timber I used 3 points of support, one at each end and one in the middle. If you are cutting different lengths just aim for a support plinth every 1m or so.
It’s a good idea to slightly lower one side of the boardwalk to allow for water run off. So using a spirit level try and ensure one side is about 10mm lower. (depending on the width of your path.)
To ensure a secure level slab I dug a 30mm hole the size of the slab and filled it with sharp sand. The sharp sand provides a more solid base for the slab to sit on and will prevent the slab from moving as the boardwalk is used regularly. You also have the option of using cement at this point for an even more secure plinth. So far however I have found the sand to be sufficient.
During the dig I came across tree roots and other objects which made the levelling process difficult in places. For some roots I simply cut them out altogether and others I just managed to avoid. If you come across a similar issue you just need to be aware that the roots will grow over time and could make your boardwalk uneven.
Step 5. Building the frame
I didn’t fix the frame to any of the plinths. I’ve allowed for the weight of the boardwalk to secure it in place. I did however screw the frame into a small concrete section near the patio. This was to prevent any movement as the boards butted up against the patio.
I simply laid each 2.4m length of timber and screwed in a cross support piece and followed this process down the length of the path.
Before you lay down the support frame you should add the weed control fabric. This will sit between the support plinth and frame and cover the whole underside of the boardwalk. This is going to prevent anything growing up through the boards.
Step 6. Cutting and securing the boards
Using a circular saw I cut the boards to the correct length and simply screwed them into the frame. Scaffold boards have a tendency to bow and cup so it was important to add a screw into each side of the board. Try using an impact driver here to speed up the process. I didn’t bother with pilot holes when adding the screws as it wasn’t really required. The softwood generally takes the screws quite well. Each piece was carefully measured and cut to the desired size before securing down. I ended up with quite a few off cuts which will end up in the log burner during winter.
All the boards were laid with a 4mm gap between each one. This will allow for a little expansion on the boards as the weather changes. You can use tile spacers or a custom made spacer for this.
I generally used straight cuts on all the pieces, even when navigating around objects like the pond. So although the boardwalk looks curved all boards have straight edges, just at different angles.
Step 7. Treating the boards
I strongly recommend using a dedicated decking paint on the boards. This paint is specially designed to protect the boards in all weathers. Make sure you buy enough and ensure you have some spare to top up areas that might have closer contact to moisture, like the pond for example.
It’s probably worth painting the boards before you put them down. I found that it was difficult to paint the sides of the boards once they had been secured in place.
What tools did I use?
You wont need a long list of specialist tools to complete this job but these are a good starting point to get the job done quickly. I’ve included some links to some of my preferred brands.
- Circular saw
- Sliding mitre saw
- Drill driver
- Impact driver
- Set square
- Orbital sander
What materials where required?
I used a number of reclaimed scaffold boards, old patio slabs and stepping stones. The rest of the materials were purchased from local hardware stores like B&Q or Wickes.
- Used scaffold boards – Find on eBay or search Facebook market place.
- Used patio slabs – Find on FB Market place.
- Sharp sand (x 2)
- 47mm x 75mm treated carcassing timber 2400mm (3” x 2”) (x 12)
- Screws (x 400)
- Weed control
- Decking paint (x 2)
In summary, that’s the essence of it. If you’re considering creating a decking area using reclaimed scaffold boards, the process is quite similar. Just make sure you have an adequate supply of screws to firmly secure the boards in position. It’s important to note that scaffold boards tend to undergo twisting and cupping due to seasonal changes, so ensuring a secure attachment is crucial. For more comprehensive instructions, you can refer to my other post on building your own decking area.
Build your own decking area with scaffold boards
Why not take the very same approach and harness your DIY prowess to fashion a splendid decking area using reclaimed scaffold boards? It’s a concept that aligns seamlessly with your existing skills. Here’s a straightforward plan:
- Foundation Framing: Begin by creating a sturdy foundation using a timber frame. Careful construction here is crucial, as it provides the base on which your entire decking will rest. Ensure the frame is level and well-supported.
- Scaffold Board Placement: With your solid frame in place, it’s time to introduce the reclaimed scaffold boards. Lay them horizontally across the frame, leaving a small space between each board to facilitate drainage and accommodate any expansion that might occur due to weather changes.
- Secure the Boards: Use appropriate screws to secure the scaffold boards to the frame. Ensuring a robust attachment prevents any shifting or movement, ensuring the long-term stability of your deck.
- Stability and Leveling: Double-check the levelness of your scaffold boards, making any necessary adjustments. This meticulous step guarantees a flat and even surface for your decking, enhancing both its aesthetics and utility.
- Preservation and Enhancement: Extend the lifespan of your scaffold board decking by applying a suitable wood preservative or stain. This protective layer shields the wood from the elements and preserves its natural charm, making your deck an enduring focal point of your outdoor space.
- Routine Maintenance: Keep an eye on your scaffold board decking as time goes by. Tighten screws if needed and periodically reapply the wood preservative or stain to fortify its resilience against wear and tear.
- Personal Flourish: Transform your scaffold board deck into an inviting haven by accessorizing with outdoor furnishings, decorative elements, and perhaps even some strategically placed potted plants. This personalized touch will infuse your deck with character and reflect your unique style.
By translating your existing proficiency into this scaffold board decking project, you not only expand your DIY repertoire but also craft a functional and aesthetically pleasing extension of your living space. The satisfaction of designing, constructing, and enjoying your own scaffold board deck is an accomplishment that seamlessly marries craftsmanship and creativity.
Before and after
You may have seen the in-ground trampoline in some of the pictures. See how we installed this here:
You might also be interested in some of the other DIY garden projects we’ve taken on: