Wooden Sun Deck Repairs – Durban

Wooden sun deck repairs Durban

Besides our main activity of sundeck building in Durban, we also maintain and repair sundecks.

Wooden sun deck repairs need to be performed from time to time and the sooner they are attended to the better. If a wooden deck is constructed correctly these repairs can be kept to a minimum, but from time to, factors beyond anyone’s control can result in repairs having to be made to your wooden sun deck.

The pics alongside show how we repaired this wooden sun deck in The Bluff Durban. It had been built on two posts of balau that were about 2.6m high. One of the posts had, for some reason, sunk slightly, soon after building the deck, but had since stopped sinking. The deck was about 7 years old and the subsiding had apparently occurred in the first year after building it. We were happy that it had stopped subsiding so we were able to use the existing posts to correct it. The client didn’t want us to install a new post because there was a lot of concrete and paving around the base which would have resulted in digging that up in order to set a new post and remove the sinking one.

Wooden sun deck repairs Durban

Wooden sun deck repairs Durban

Wooden sun deck repairs Durban

Wooden sun deck repairs Durban

The reason for it subsiding could have been that there were no horizontal nails inserted into the bottom of the post before it was concreted in. Nailing 6” nails into the wood at the bottom of the post and then setting concrete around the post will stop this sinking as the nails will act as anchors in the concrete. Without them the post can very easily move through the concrete and sink. Another reason could have been that the ground was not completely compacted and the whole level of the ground at that point sunk. Being The Bluff, the latter is quite probable as The Bluff is essentially one large sand dune and is continually moving.

Because the post had sunk about 50mm the top of the deck was no longer level. We jacked the deck up using two scaffolding jacks, one on top and one below, and a 50mm pipe cut to size. We placed a nice flat piece of 50 x 228 timber below to give us a level base and a larger foot print that the scaffolding jack provided.

We took the pressure off the post by jacking it up until both scaffolding jacks became tight up against the ground and the beam respectively. We secured the scaffolding jacks to the beam and the base plate using screws so that it could not slip off once we started lifting the deck. Once the pressure was off the post we cut the post in half and then continued to jack the deck up to our required height checking periodically until the top of the deck surface was again level. Once it was level we installed two pieces of galvanised angle iron on opposite corners of the post using coach screws.

We then filled the cavity we had created in the post, of about 50mm, with a block off wood as a fail-safe in case the angle iron or coach screws ever failed. This way the post could not drop down, in the event of the angle iron failing, as the block would prevent that.

Although it doesn’t look as nice as it would have had we replaced the entire post, it was much easier to do, less expensive and eliminated the problem of digging up the concrete and paving.

For a free no obligation quote on your deck repairs, deck building or maintenance in KZN please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

 

Wooden Parquet Floor Sanding and Sealing

We were called to quote on sanding and sealing the wooden Swiss parquet floors in an old house in Hillcrest. From the pics alongside you can see that these rooms are the typical large ones found in older houses.

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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The Swiss parquet floors have probably been there well on 40 years or probably even since the house was built. Since then carpets have been put down on top of them, probably in the seventies when those big thick pile carpets where the fashion. The carpets had been lifted some time ago but the sealer on the wooden floor was scuffed in many areas and although it was not peeling off or flaking, it had worn back to wood in high traffic areas and there were various marks on them from pot plants and other items that had been placed on them and left for long periods of time.

The total area we had to sand was 170m², so quite a nice sized area. It consisted of 3 bedrooms, passage, lounge, dining room and study. We were relatively lucky in that the existing coating had deteriorated to a point where it came off quite easily. One always needs to be careful of floors that have been coated fairly recently and still hold a lot of coating or sealer because it tends to clog the sand paper. In these cases one needs to use a very coarse grit paper of about 30 grit and at times you need to sand at 45 degrees to the grain to remove it and then sand again with the grain with a less coarse paper. Also, although the floor is flat, it is never perfectly flat and the large floor sander sometimes

Swiss parquet floor sanding Durban

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leaves patches. So just turn the machine at a slight angle to get it to flatten the floor in that area and then go back with the grain to get your scratch marks all running in the same direction.

Once the bulk of the sealer or coating is off, one needs to come back with a smaller hand-held sander to remove those stubborn areas. Once it’s all off you need to remove the scratch marks with a finer sand paper. If you’ve started with a 30 grit paper, you may need to then go to a 60 and then to a 100 grit. But always finish on a 100 grit paper.

We used a polyurethane epoxy floor sealer with hardener or accelerator (mineral based) on these floors in order to speed up the drying time. The client was living in the house so we had to limit dust and had to paint rooms in a special order so that they could still live there while we sealed the floors.

I’m still not completely sold on water based products. The water based floor sealers I have used require many more coats to get the same thickness of coating. Although they dry a lot quicker and many more coats can be applied in the same day, they tend to use a lot more and, in my opinion, don’t provide as hard a finish as mineral based

Swiss parquet floor sealing Durban

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products, especially those with catalysts for hardening.

In between coats we rubbed the floors with steel wool to remove the fibres in the wood that stand up when first coated. A thorough vacuum after that and a second coat was applied.

A quick tip on using the epoxy / polyurethane floor sealer.  Because this product has an accelerator, or hardener associated with it, it goes off, or dries, a lot quicker than a single pack polyurethane.  When you mix your sealer with the accelerator, you should use a flat-bottomed tin such as a coffee tin or jam tin and a flat paddle to mix.  The flat-bottomed tin allows one to mix it thoroughly because there are no ridges for the flat paddle to get stuck on (as opposed to a coke bottle).  A good choice for a flat paddle is a steel ruler.  If you were to pour it directly into your paint tray you will be need to clean that paint tray with every new mix otherwise the sealer will be getting hard already and will interfere with the smooth rolling on the floor.  So place a black dustbin bag (well it can be any colour really) over the paint tray and simply through the black bag away after each mix.  Don’t mix too much as the product has a pot life, (the time it can remain liquid enough to use in the pot).  A hot day will result it in going off quicker than a cold day, or a humid day, and using more accelerator will also result in a quicker drying time.  So be careful with your quantities, you don’t want to waste sealer.

Swiss parquet floor sealing DurbanZ

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This product should be applied very thinly in order for it to dry quickly.  If it is applied too thickly the top will dry but the middle will still be tacky and it will take much longer to be able to walk on it to flat it and apply subsequent coats.  So mix just enough each time.  If it starts going off in the tray, rather through it away than try to apply it while it is already getting hard.  What happens then is that the front edge of the roller spreads it on the floor and the back-end of the roller starts to pull it off the floor because it is already tacky.  This results in a streaky floor which will mean getting the sander out again.  So rather waste a little sealer and star with fresh sealer than waste time by re-sanding it.  And then of course mix a little less so it doesn’t go off in the pot or tin.

For a free no obligation quote on installing wooden floors or floor sanding and sealing please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Sealing a Wooden Sundeck by The Wood Joint – Durban

Sealing a wooden sundeck can be a time-consuming task. One needs to ensure that the sealer gets in between the gap on the deckboards so as to seal both edges of each deckboard. Balustrades can also be very time-consuming as there are many corners and tight gaps to get in to.

We use Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 which is oil based and very viscous. It has zero wax content so that nothing dries on the surface of the timber making future maintenance easy and very cost-effective. You simply clean and re-apply. No more sanding.

One way is to paint it on using a brush. Another is to use a sponge to rub it on. And yet another is to spray it on. Each method of application has its pros and cons. I’ll list each one here: –

Brushing it on

  • Very time-consuming
  • The brush tends to flick the sealer because it so viscous so when brushing up towards the wall one needs to ensure it doesn’t flick on the wall
  • Fairly accurate as you can get the sealer where you want it

Sponging it on

  • Quite messy so wear gloves
  • No flicking but lots of dripping as the sponge gets squeezed. Use plastic beneath if you don’t want it to spoil the paving, but it is ok if it lands on the deck as you will sponge that too pretty soon
  • Fairly accurate and much quicker than brushing
  • You may need to touch up with a brush in the corners
  • Can’t get successfully into the gaps between deckboards
  • You can use a sponge roller for the surface

Spraying

  • Very messy so mask the walls or use a piece of cardboard to protect the wall. Have thinners or turps on hand to clean it off the wall quickly if it gets on the wall. If the wall is PVA, be very careful, but it cleans off quite easily from acrylic paints and windows
  • Watch the wind, it can cause havoc
  • Penetrates everywhere
  • Use a garden sprayer on the finest setting it has

So there are many ways to seal your wooden deck if using a viscous sealer such as Timber Life Satin Wood Base 28 or Woodoc Deck Dressing. Use a combination of them and you will have your deck sealed in no time. Be careful of spraying though. Use lots of plastic, watch the pool, watch the wind. But even with these few pitfalls, it is much, much faster than brushing. Watch the video above of us spraying a deck. For a free no obligation quote, call us on 082 496 5444 or use the form below.

Deck Refurbishments

Deck refurbishment

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I have done quite a few deck refurbishment jobs and as mentioned in a previous article it is work I would rather stay away from. However, especially in the early days, it was necessary to do these jobs to keep paying the bills. Also it has provided me with a solid understanding of what not to do when finishing or sealing a deck. Also it has allowed me to see other construction methods of other deck builders first hand. Because these decks are relatively old one can see how a certain technique has behaved over time. But sometimes it is better to leave them alone, as I have done recently, because it can be like opening a can of worms.

The first thing to consider when sealing a new deck is to assume that you will be the one who has to refurbish it when it comes to refurbishing. This way you will probably apply the best finish to it so that future maintenance jobs are easy. The article on deck finishes covers in more detail what types of finishes are available and their pros and cons. When refurbishing one needs to first establish if there is structural timber that needs to be replaced. Sometimes it can be difficult to see if this is needed until deckboards are lifted. We did a job in La Lucia where we simply replaced deckboards and once we took the deckboards off we noticed that some of the joists had been eaten by insects and rotted. Although it is unusual for balau to be attacked by insects it can happen in the sap wood or if the tree was felled while it was still young. As a client and a contractor it is best to know exactly what state all the timber is in before the quote is accepted because no-one wants to find that once they lift the first deckboard the joists are so bad that new deckboards cannot be re-attached to them. So get underneath the deck, take a screw driver and poke around and see is there is rot or degradation.

Deck refurbishment

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Rotten deckboards themselves are quite easy to pick up as they will normally be visible from the top and they will normally start on one end where the water has been absorbed by the end grain. As mentioned in other articles, water is absorbed by wood through the end grain largely and very little is absorbed through face or side grain. As such the wood will rot from the ends first. If a rotten deckboard is found rather replace the entire length of that deckboard as chances are it will have started rotting all the way along. Be careful to know what deckboards have been used. A 19 x 68 deckboards is so close to a 21 x 72 that with the naked eye one might miss it. But looking at it carefully you will see it is both thicker and wider (and more expensive). Measure it to make sure.

Balustrades can sometimes rot too but normally only where water tends to collect. Screw holes left open and not filled with epoxy are also areas where the boards can rot more quickly. Some decks are not worth trying to repair. I’ve seen decks with posts that have rotted off and beams and joists that have rotted. It is not worth trying to patch that as eventually the whole deck will need to be replaced. The cost of this will exceed building a new deck. Pine decks tend to rot more easily especially if they have been built using H2 CCA Treated pine. A separate article will run through the different type of CCA pine and which ones are suitable for which application.

Use the search bar on the top right to search for other related articles or see below.  For a free no obligation quote on refurbishing your deck please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the form below.

Reducing rot in wooden sun decks

preventing rot in wooden decks

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This article will focus solely on reducing rot in wooden sun decks rather than a specific article on a job we have completed.
One of the first questions that are asked when planning to build a wooden deck is that of maintenance. Being wood, the deck will always be susceptible to rot and insect infestation, but with the proper care this can be reduced to the absolute minimum and can compare favourably, if not better, to using other materials such as composites, concrete and tiles. Let’s face it when it comes to aesthetics and warmth wood is best, but often people opt for other materials simply because there is a belief that they are easier to maintain and will cost less in the long run.

Rot is caused by a break down in the fibres of the wood. A breakdown in the fibres of the wood is caused by algae being allowed to grow on the timber which in turn is caused by water. Water therefore does not directly cause rot. A piece of wood can live in water all its life and not rot, but if it is not cared for properly then it will cause algae to grow and ultimately rot. CCA Treated timber of course eliminates this because it contains copper which prevents algae from growing. However it is only possible to CCA treat certain timbers such as pine and to a degree Saligna because of the differing densities of the woods. Pine is soft and balau is hard. CCA treatment is done through pressure treating (vacuum) and it is therefore impossible to CCA treat balau as it is too hard for the solution to penetrate the timber.

preventing rot in wooden decks

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So how does one reduce the chances of balau rotting? Well first of all balau is naturally resistant to rot because it is twice as dense and twice as hard as pine for instance so the water doesn’t penetrate it as easily. Also it contains natural oils and resins which repel water. So it will rot, but it will take longer than other timbers.

A piece of wood, any wood, takes in water largely through the end grain. Very little water is absorbed through the face or side grain. Think of it as a bunch of straws. When the straws get wet on the ends they can take up water, but they can’t take up water through the sides.

So the important areas of your deckboard is of course the ends, or end grain. Where a deck board is cut, there is not much that can be done to stop water ingression except to seal it with a suitable water-repellent sealer after or during installation. When a deckboard comes from the timber yard it is often closed off on the ends with wax. However that board needs to be cut in order to fit into the deck so one end will always be wax free. Also it is not advisable to leave that wax on. In the hot sun the wax starts to melt and leaves unsightly marks on the joins. So it is best to cut the wax off before installation. That leaves two ends exposed which now need to be sealed off as best as possible using sealer. Apply it liberally to the ends and make sure they are re-sealed during maintenance intervals.

The other area that is vulnerable is where the screw hole is drilled through the deckboard to attach to the joist. This leaves a hole where water can penetrate the end grain on two sides. What compounds this problem is that the screw is normally counter sunk which allows water to collect in the hole and be absorbed up and down the end grain. Some deck builders use a stop bit to insert the screw whereby the screw head stops at the surface of the deck. I don’t however use this method for two reasons. Firstly the screw is now not tight up against the bottom of the counter sunk hole so the board may work itself loose over the years. Secondly, there is still a small gap around the screw head for water to get into and move along the end grain. And trust me water will find that hole. You will often see deckboards that have started rotting at the screw holes. Now you know why.

Instead I counter sink the screw hole about 5mm, insert the screw and tighten it until it is tight right up against the bottom of the hole leaving the screw head counter sunk a few millimetres. I then take a clear epoxy, mixed with the sawdust of the same timber to match the colour, and force it into the hole leaving it slightly proud. Try and use a very fine saw dust. It makes mixing the epoxy much easier and it goes in the hole better. Once it is dry, I use a grinder with sanding pad to flat it and then I use a rotex sander to remove the scratch marks left by the grinder. Now it is ready to be sealed and good luck to any water that thinks it can get in there. The epoxy is the only filler that will last. Wood filler will pop out in a few months’ time. Use a clear epoxy as the saw dust will match the colour of the deck. White or grey epoxy will leave a white or grey mark on the surface.

It takes more effort and takes longer to do it this way, but my crew has it done to a T now. And the net effect is a better built deck that will last longer and will cost less to maintain. So there you have it, the warmth of wood without the hassle and without having to settle for alternative materials.

For a free, no obligation quote or for some advice please feel free to contact us on 082 496 5444 or complete the form below and I will contact you. Please also feel free to leave comments below.

Deck Maintenance and Deck Sealing

deck maintenance

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I was prompted to write an article on deck maintenance and deck sealing this week as we had a small quiet patch and as a “filler in” we sanded and sealed a picnic table, repaired a broken ball and claw foot and a leather couch and this reminded me to write this article.

Deck maintenance and deck sealing is always a question asked when quoting on new decks. Clients want to know that if they invest this kind of money in their property, will it be expensive to maintain in subsequent years. The simple answer is no, but if not correctly sealed in the beginning, then it can become an expensive and time-consuming task each time it needs to be maintained. The question is also sometimes asked when choosing between timber or composites.

There are many ways to seal a deck. “Finishing” is the correct term for it and this term also applies to all other timber products. Varnish, polyurethane, oil, sealer, paint etc. are all products used to “finish” a project. When it comes to decks there are certain products to stay well clear of. Because a deck lives outside in the hot African sun, any finish that dries on the surface of the timber will result in problems once it starts to degrade. All finishes will degrade and it is therefore very important to stay away from those that dry on the surface. It is common sense that anything that has dried on the surface will have the tendency to lift, either by cracking, flaking or peeling. When it comes time to maintain the deck, one will either have to sand it all off, or lightly sand it and re coat it with the same or similar product that was used in the beginning and live with a patchy finish. Therefore varnish is a big no-no. Polyurethane, although very durable and hard will also crack and flake and is better left for the purpose it was intended, indoor finishing on cupboard tops etc.

So that leaves us with those finishes that soak into the wood, nourishing them and when they degrade will not peel or flake because they have not dried on the surface. Simple hey? Not so. There are products which contain higher wax contents than others and although still classed a timber sealer, tend to soak in and leave a waxy film on the surface. This waxy film (or coating for want of a better word) will also tend to go blotchy once the sun does it work on it and will therefore also require some degree of sanding. Before we carry on, it is virtually impossible to sand the entire coating off. The electric sanders do not reach all corners, especially on a balustrade. The belt sander, rotex sander and any other sander will be too wide for the deckboard. Because there is a gap between boards, to allow water to drain away from the deck, the surface of the deck is not perfectly flat. So one will need to tilt the sander left and right as they sand down the length of the deckboard in order to remove the whole coating. Try it, it will cure you of varnish for outdoor products. The corners where the machines cannot reach will need to be sanded by hand and your labour bill will be more than erecting a new deck. I tried in my early days and learnt the hard way.

Oils can be used with some success. Raw linseed oil will take weeks to dry as it is raw and completely natural and therefore needs to soak in completely before you can walk on it. Also when the sun bakes down on the deck it will start to get soft and can become very hot to walk on. Boiled Linseed Oil will dry quicker as it contains additives that help the drying process but will still take a few days to dry. In the meantime the dog will run on the deck and leave muddy footprints that will dry into the surface. Again a lesson I learnt when experimenting with my own deck. Boiled Linseed Oil is not really boiled, it just means it has additives to help it dry faster than raw Linseed Oil. So for all intents and purposes it is a sealer. Danish oil will work well. I have not finished a deck in Danish Oil, but have used it quite successfully on outdoor furniture.

So now that we’ve eliminated the definite no no’s, we are left with timber preservatives or penetrating finishes. These are very viscous, almost as viscous as water. They are easy and quick to apply, no runs, no streaks and they go on quickly as they soak right into the wood. Seeing as they soak right in, they cannot flake or peel as there is no coating that has dried on the surface. We use a product manufactured by Timberlife called Satinwood 28 Base. This is a product designed for woods of low porosity. They also manufacture one for woods of high porosity. Don’t get them mixed up or the sealer will disappear right through your pine deck in a day or two or sit like a coating on your balau deck.

At least 2 coats are necessary on the first application and because the deck is new, one will need to reseal it about 3 to 4 months later. After the first year this maintenance interval will increase to every 6 months and the older the deck gets the longer the maintenance interval will become. The deck will slowly become saturated (well almost) with the sealer and it will last longer. It comes in clear and one can add a tint of your choice. They recommend that you use at least the lightest tint as the tint contains stabilisers which slow down the degradation process due to UV in the sun’s rays.

Even though it will need to be done every 3 to 4 months in the first year, the process is simple. Wash the deck and reseal. No need to call in the professionals and pay their rates. No need to sand and no paint stripper required. DIY it on a Saturday or Sunday or get your domestic helper to do it.

Timberlife also supply a product called Ultra Care Gold. This has a higher wax content as mentioned above and is not suitable for horizontal deck surfaces but works very well on the vertical posts of balustrades. They also sell Deckwash which is used to wash the deck on a monthly basis and again nourishes it and leaves it looking new for longer. It is inexpensive and well worth using. Simply mop it on and mop it off.

So in short stay away from finishes that dry on the surface. Stick with those that penetrate the timber and nourish it.  In the case of a deck that has been coated with a coating that has dried on the surface one can either lightly sand and re-seal with the same coating or if budget allows one can remove the coating, by using paint stripper and a high pressure cleaner. Stick to a maximum of 150 bar pressure otherwise the timber can be damaged. I’ve successfully removed coatings on decks with this technique. It is messy, uses a fair amount of water and a considerable amount of paint stripper. Depending on the thickness of the coating, one might need to apply the paint stripper more than once and blast it off with the high pressure cleaner.

High pressure cleaning can also be used to clean the deck before resealing it with Satin Wood 28 Base, but is often not necessary. I say not often necessary if you catch it before the balau starts to “grey”. Balau will tend to turn a grey colour if left unsealed or if the sealer that is there reaches a point where it is almost completely degraded due to the sun’s UV. If this occurs and the deck is then resealed, it will go very dark, regardless of what tint you use. The grey colour is in fact a thin layer of black algae. You will find that it is quite slippery when wet. This black algae needs to be removed first before resealing. Again Timberlife, and Woodoc, and some other manufacturers supply a product that will remove a lot of this by bleaching it. Timbrite is the one I use and it can be scrubbed on with a brush and then hosed off. It won’t take all of it away, so high pressure cleaning is a quicker way of getting rid of it. I would suggest scrubbing Timbrite on with a brush, then high pressure cleaning it off with 150 bars of pressure. This will renew the wood back to almost its original colour.

Leaving a balau deck unsealed will not necessarily speed up the rotting process. Balau is extremely durable as it contains natural resins and oils which repel water and the toxins in it discourage insects. So sealed or unsealed it will still last for years. Some prefer it unsealed to give it the natural grey look, but take note that if you then decide to seal it, clean it first as described above.

All the above also applies to outdoor furniture or any other timber that is in direct contact with the sun’s rays, especially those that are in the horizontal plane as they are getting more direct sunlight than the vertical pieces.

Timberlife are of course not the only ones who sell these products. They can be commonly found in hardware stores (Dulux, Woodoc and Plascon), but buying from the manufacturer is of course cheaper, but a bit more effort is required than popping in to your local hardware store.  All of them do pretty much the same job.

Good luck and remember that a deck is a living thing, nourish it, feed it and it will reward you.  If you’re feeling lazy, not interested in DIY or simply don’t have the time complete this form and I will submit a quote to maintain your timber deck.  Or you can reach us 082 496 5444.