Wooden balau balustrades can be designed and built in many different ways. One gets traditional picket style wooden balustrades, which seem to be the most popular with nice clean straight vertical lines. There are the criss cross designs and criss cross with a box in the middle. These are all very basic descriptions for these designs. They are also known by other names such as Zimbali, Colonial etc. They all carry with them their own individual cost due to the different size timbers used in their construction.
The cost of standard deck boards are a lot less expensive, in terms of per cubic metre rate, than the structural pieces of balau. Structural pieces refer to sizes such as 60mm x 60mm which is used for the vertical posts, 30 x 40 which is used for rails etc. So it stands to reason that a balustrade that is made from deck boards of 19 x 68 will cost less in timber.
The pics alongside show a balustrade that we built using deck boards. The gaps were 20mm wide and the deck boards were attached to a cleat which was fixed to the vertical brick columns. Obviously the smaller the gaps between the boards, the more expensive it will be because more deck boards will be used. I wouldn’t increase the gap to more than 68mm, being one deck board’s width. For the cleats we used a 30mm x 40mm which is our standard rail in the picket style balustrade. The cleat only needs to be about 850mm or so, so these pieces can be taken from off cuts of previously built picket style balustrades resulting in a further cost saving that can be passed on the client. For the capping we used a standard capping of 30 x 102, but this can be changed too to a narrower one. I wouldn’t go narrower than 30 x 60. This is then bull nosed on the corners using a round over bit in the router.
This job was built in between brick columns, so these can actually be referred to as in-fills rather than a balustrade. This can also be built using 60mm x 60mm posts in place of the brick columns and these should be spaced about 1.5m apart to give the structure rigidity. The 60 x 60 posts can also be substituted for 30 x 60 posts, for intermediate posts, if budget is a concern. I prefer to use 60 x 60 posts on corners and ends though.
What to watch out for in building one of these is that the tops are all level and at the same height. Sometimes you will find that the distance between the top and bottom of the brick column varies. In this instance you will keep the tops level and it will result in a varying gap at the bottom. When looking at a balustrade or in-fill one looks at the top so it is better to have your variation in gaps at the bottom.
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