Wooden Balau Stairs built in Blythdale Beach

Wooden Balau Stairs Durban


Towards the close of 2017 we built these wooden balau stairs in Blythdale Beach, KZN. The original treads had been made of 19 x 68mm balau deck boards. Because the spacing between the stringers was 1m the stairs were very springy and were bouncing. The general rule is that a 19mm thick piece of balau can be spanned a maximum of 500mm before it needs to be supported by a bearer of sorts. In the case of open riser stairs this is often not possible because one would need a third stringer that would need to be notched to accommodate the tread. As such when we build stairs using balau that are normally 1m wide we increase the thickness of the balau to 30mm which stops any bounce. 40mm can also be used but is really just a waste of wood and therefore money.

The original balau stair treads were installed in 1997. The way the treads had been made up was to attach a cleat to the underside of each tread at the ends. The cleat was screwed from below to the treads (deck boards) and then the whole tread in its complete form was fixed to the steel cleats which were welded to the steel stringers. A bolt had been used to secure them from the top through all the timber and steel with a nut below. Water had therefore been able to penetrate the balau from the top where the bolt hole had been drilled and this, over a 20 year period of time had caused the balau to rot at the bolt hole. Then rest of the treads were in perfect condition with no rot whatsoever, 20 years down the line. Not all balau behaves that way. The balau that was used was obviously of very good quality. Nowadays the quality varies a bit more but balau still remains the most cost-effective hardwood for outdoor applications, be it decking, pergolas or screens.

To avoid the same fate of rotting at the bolt hole we fixed the entire tread in its made up form from below with a stainless steel coach screw instead of a nut and bolt all the way through the timber. As such the only way water can penetrate the timber now is from below which is highly unlikely. Water can still get trapped between the timber cleat and the timber treads but with no end grain to penetrate it should give us more than 20 years of life. 99% of water ingress is absorbed through the end grain of wood and not the face grain. By drilling holes, especially from the top, one exposes a section of end grain and water sits in the hole and gets absorbed. As a precautionary measure when we build sun decks and have to drill from the top to fix our board to the bearer we fill the screw hole with epoxy to keep the water out. There are other hidden fixing methods but I am yet to find one that works the way it was intended to. Deck boards screwed from the top through the face and filled with epoxy remains the strongest and long lasting method. But it is vital to check the epoxy plugs at maintenance intervals and replace if necessary. In the case of these stairs drilling from below into a 30mm piece of balau was ample fixing strength and reduces water ingress.

These balau stair treads we pre -oiled before installation which made it quicker and easier to get them installed.

For a free no obligation quote on timber decking, stairs, pergolas, balustrade and any other outdoor timber project, please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden balau Deck Built in Umkomaas – KZN South Coast

This wooden deck built in Umkomaas on the South Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal turned into a very nice job with many extras and a happy client who paid timeously. What a pleasure.

We removed and dumped an existing pine deck that had started to show signs of failure in the deck boards themselves. The structure was still ok as it had been built using H3 CCA Treated pine which is suitable for outdoors for a minimum of 50 years as per www.sawpa.co.za. It was the deck boards that had started to rot at the screw hole due to water sitting in the screw hole for long periods of time. It is very important to firstly close that screw hole at the time of building the deck and then to maintain them going forward to stop any water getting into the screw hole. Water will travel very quickly along the end grain of wood and this screw hole provides an ideal point of entry for water. They are simply filled with a clear epoxy mixed with saw dust to match the colour and then sanded flat before sealing or oiling the deck.

Once we had a clear slate we built a new deck using balau deck boards. We changed the design a few times as we built to accommodate the clients requirements. We tried to create a deck that would flow nicely from one level to the other. The top deck was built flush with the house and then we built steps at a 45 degree angle to gain access to the lower deck around the pool which extended along the front of the lower level sliding doors.

We included a curved front on the upper deck to break the straight lines and then clad that fascia as it was very visible when driving up the driveway. We normally include two deck boards as a fascia to the front edge of a deck to hide the structure below and finish it off neatly. In this instance we added four deck boards on the curve because the driveway is a lot lower then the deck and when driving up the driveway the underside of the deck was the first thing you see when entering the property. The client may still need to add planters with some plants in to completely cover that structure but the 4 deck boards give it a nice broad fascia which hides a lot of the structure.

The stairs were challenging. Originally they were to be curved risers and treads which would have meant either cutting deck boards at an angle and laying them straight or trying to bend the deck boards. The risers would have been easy enough by bending a deck board around the arc, but the treads would have been a bit more difficult because it would have meant bending the board through its width (not thickness). The centre of the circle, was off set to the corner of the deck or the top of the stairs and the centre of the circle occurred in the pool. So all in all not an easy task. Because the arc itself was quite gentle you would not have really noticed that it was curved so we opted for a straight edge to our risers and treads. Much easier and less problems going forward with deck boards trying to return to their original straight position. Often less is more.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck, pergola, stairs and other timber works please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Stairs and Steps

Wooden stairs are often built in conjunction with sun decks for access to the garden or another area of the house. We build our stairs primarily from balau but pine is a less expensive option.

There are two different types of stairs you can build. The standard stairway is about 900mm to 1m wide and has open risers (the vertical part) with treads of about 280mm wide. The open riser allows one’s foot to move slightly past the end of the riser. Closed risers are more common on wide steps which are normally built off the front of a deck. So for instance the full length of a 5m deck can have a closed riser step off of it using a substructure and deck boards. It then doubles up as a step and a seating area. They are quite common around pools or entertainment areas where a step is necessary but where the front of the deck needs to be kept open and a balustrade is not required or wanted.

For a free quote please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the form to contact us below.

Wooden Deck and Stairs Built in Umhlanga, Durban

This wooden deck we built for a client in Umhlanga, Durban was a suspended wooden deck about 2.8m off the ground. The idea was to make use of the flat concrete roof as a deck because the views from up there are of Durban Anchorage where ships anchor before proceeding to Durban port.  The views also extend all the way down the Golden Mile of Durban.

We didn’t want too many posts going to ground as the area beneath the wooden deck is still used as an outside patio. So we built our substructure using H4 CCA Treated pine in a 50 x 228 size rather than the normal 38 x 114. This way we could span our wooden joists of the deck across a longer distance without the need to support them below with another beam, and therefore posts. We attached the one end of the row of joists with a T joint to another 50 x 228 beams which carried the one side. The other side of each joist was hung in a custom-made galvanised steel joist hanger. The result was that our entire substructure was in one plane rather than having the joists sitting on top of a beam. It allowed us to keep the ceiling height of the deck higher, without having to increase the height of the top of the deck surface. These pine wooden joists were later sanded and sealed to make them look closer to the balau we installed on top of the pine.

The wire rope balustrade was fairly straight forward and we extended it past the deck on to the concrete slab flat roof.

The challenges in this wooden deck came in building the stairs. We had a fixed height to work with and a limited lateral distance in which we had fit all of our treads and risers whilst still keeping our risers and treads compliant. To add to this we had a window we had to pass to get down quick enough in our stair case in order to miss the window, plaster band and plumbing on the side of the house. The only way possible was to split the staircase into three flights with two landings where the flights turned at 90 degrees. We also had to split each landing into three windings in order to gain an extra two risers per landing in order to finish the stairs where they needed to finish. We adjusted the tread depth to shorten our treads and therefore total lateral distance to basically “sqwish” then all in. Normally we use 3 pieces of 30 x 102 balau for treads with two 5mm gaps between boards resulting a tread width of 316mm. We ripped the middle 30 x 102 to 50mm to reduce this lateral distance whilst still remaining compliant at 264mm but gaining some lateral distance in order to squeeze them all in. We finished it off with balau deck board cladding in order to cover all the pine structure. The job took time but it was well worth the wait. Stairs that look nice, work nicely and remain compliant.

It was all finished with an oil based sealer which penetrates the wood rather than drying on the surface.

Contact us for quotes on your wooden decking, stairs, balustrade and other outdoor timber construction. You can call us on 082 496 5444 or you can use the contact us form below.

Balau Timber Stairs Built in Umhlanga Rocks, Durban

These balau timber stairs that we built in Umhlanga are actually temporary stairs which will be removed at some point. They were built in order to gain access up the bank to a converted container that has been placed at the top. It is for a new development at Umhlanga Ridge and the converted container will be used as a sales office to sell the units. Their life span will depend on how long it takes to sell all the units after which the container and stairs will be removed.

We nevertheless used balau as we needed to create a very upmarket feel as this development is targeted at the high-end market.

Initially we were going to build a platform or landing at the bottom, one at the top and one mid way to break the stairs into two flights. However the total distance did not require that and we settled for a landing at the top and one at the bottom. Normally if the flight of stairs is quite long one needs to split them into two flights with a landing mid way. This is to be compliant with National Building Regulations. It is stipulated for safety reasons because a very long flight of stairs becomes dangerous if not split into two flights.

It is a bit more difficult to build two flights with a landing mid way because one needs to first build your top and bottom landings and then work out exactly at what height the middle landing needs to be. This is so that the two flights can be of equal distance and the risers of the first flight can be equal to the risers of the second flight. If the middle landing is not placed exactly in the middle of the total height, the risers of one flight will need to be different to that of the other flight in order to close the gap between landings. It can also result in a different number of risers.

We used balau stingers, cleats and treads. We left the risers open and installed a balustrade down both sides of the stairs for obvious reasons. The balustrade was also full balau and installed in a vertical picket style with a 102mm capping on top.

The stairs were 1m wide which allows for two people to occasionally walk up and down at the same time. I say occasionally because if it was a busy stair case and people were walking both up and down at the same time regularly then one would need to make the stairs 1.5m wide with a balustrade down both sides. There are other building regulations that stipulate when a hand rail is needed in the middle of the stairs case once it reaches a certain width.

For a free no obligation quote on wooden stairs, decks, balustrades and other outdoor timber construction please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Decking Companies in Durban

wooden decking companies durban

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There are many wooden decking companies in Durban that one can choose from when planning to install a wooden deck. Some are reputable companies and some are not, as in any industry.

Besides comparing price one should always compare services to make sure you are comparing like quotes. Some wooden decking companies in Durban for instance will offer to build you wooden deck as well as seal it and other will only quote to build it. Some will offer to fill the screw holes with epoxy to stop water getting in them which will cause rot and others won’t. It is these small things that one needs to ask about and make sure that the service being received from one wooden decking company in Durban is the same as the other that you are comparing to.

Our service at The Wood Joint, includes the following: –

Building the deck with quality yellow balau. We generally build our substructure out of H3 and H4 CCA Treated pine. This is not only due to a cost factor but also because the pine is correctly treated to H3 CCA level which has a life span of at least 50 years exposed to the elements. You can expect to pay about 40% more if you chose a balau substructure. H3 CCA Treated pine is guaranteed for 50 years if used in the correct application and installed correctly.  It will therefore outlast balau as a substructure because the balau is not, and cannot be, pressure treated. I have often seen balau joists rotting from the top where the water gets trapped between the joist and the deck board. We always use balau deck boards as balau behaves better than pine on horizontal surfaces. Balau is a lot more stable and the pine tends to cup and warp over time with the constant hot and cold, expansion and contraction and occasional wetting.

wooden decking companies durban

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Our balustrades and stairs are all made from balau, unless otherwise specified, because if one uses pine as a balustrade, the pickets and cross supports need to be almost twice as thick as balau so they tend to look a bit too chunky. Balustrades do not work well in pine because of the knots found in pine which weaken the timber.

We use a kalgard decking screw which is guaranteed for 25 years by the manufacturer against rust. The screws are counter sunk and the counter sunk hole is filled with epoxy and saw dust so as to match the colour as closely as possible. Filling the screw hole stops water sitting in that hole and travelling up the deck board along the grain. Exposure to water for too long will speed up the rot process. So we fill it, sand it flat, and seal the deck using an oil based sealer which contains no wax. This makes it easy and therefore inexpensive to maintain your deck going forward. I have done a few refurbishment jobs where the decking company has not filled these holes and on the older decks, the deck boards have started to rot there. These are all standard services we offer which are normally included in the price we quote. So when comparing our quotes to others, please check what value added services they are offering you.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck, pergolas, screens, walkways, etc. please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Stairs and Balustrade – Durban North – July 2011

Wooden stairs

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This wooden stair job started off as just a few stairs to gain access to the granny flat from the other side of the garden and then progressed into a small balustrade on either side too. The client originally had a fence there of CCA pine slats which we had to remove and then build our stairs. She wanted to then put some sort of fence on either side to keep dogs out and originally we were going to re-use some of the CCA pine slats. After speaking to her we agreed that a balau balustrade at the same height as the stairs would finish it off more neatly and add more value to her property.

The stairs were fairly simple and we used two stringers on each side of 30 x 228 balau. We then attached cleats at the required height for each tread. For the cleats we used 30 x 40 balau and for the treads we used 30 x 140 and doubled them up to get a tread of 285 wide with a 5mm gap in between each board. This type of stairs can only really be about 1m wide before you need to increase the thickness of your timber to 40mm. If the timber is too thin and the steps are too wide then the tread will bend each time someone walks on it. If you want to make your stairs wider than 1m then you must use a 40mm thick piece of balau. If you are using pine then this thickness needs to be increased even more because pine is so much softer than balau.

I prefer to use a different system when building wide stairs. One can add an extra stringer in the middle to give it support. However the stringers on the end have the cleats attached to the inside of them. The stringer in the middle cannot have the cleat attached to the inside as the stringer itself will protrude above the level of the tread. So you will need to cut recesses out of the middle stringer so that the tread can sit on a flat surface.

Wooden stairs

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The other alternative to this is to build a structure underneath each tread on which deck boards are attached. This method is common in building stairs with closed risers. The above method and the one we used on this build is common for stairs with open risers.

We had a challenge on this job in that the wall that we were going to attach to wasn’t straight and looked as if it had been moving over the years. So instead of attaching to the wall we sunk some posts in the ground and concreted them in. This way the wall can continue to move without pushing or pulling our stairs over.

We filled our holes with epoxy and saw dust mixture to get a colour match and sealed it this time using Timberlife Ultra Care Gold. The Ultra Care Gold has a higher wax content and is suitable for vertical pieces of timber where the sun’s rays are not as direct as the horizontal pieces.

I went back to this client’s house to repair a broken fence and our stairs and balustrade are still as good as they were when we built them. They need to be re-sealed again but otherwise the balau has held up well.

For a free no obligation quote on your outdoor timber construction please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the form below to submit your enquiry.  If it’s just advice you are after, leave a comment in the comments section and I will try to assist you.


Wooden Deck Built in Toti at a Guest House

Wooden deck builder Durban

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This was one of my first wooden decks in Durban that I undertook. The Guest House we built it for had just opened up the side of the dining room on the first floor with sliding doors and now wanted to extend the area by adding a deck of about 14m². It is always important to first break through the wall and install the sliding doors and then build the wooden deck. This way the deck builder can get the surface of the deck flush with the entrance to the room. I have built one deck before where the client insisted that I build the deck first and then they were going to break through. Although we did our best to measure where the inside floor was, there may still have been a small step up or down once they had broken through. On this build though it was done the right way around and the deck was flush with the floor inside the dining room.

The deck was a normal cleat, beam and joist system where we secured a cleat to the wall with sleeve anchors, installed vertical posts and attached a beam to that and then ran joists between the cleat and beam with a small canter lever. We had to try to set our posts as far out as possible so as to create enough space under the deck that could be used.

Wooden deck builder Durban

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The balustrade was a normal picket style one. These are the safest and really the only one that is completely compliant with building regulations. Building regulations state that there should be no opening that is larger than 100mm. With all other balustrades there are some spaces that become greater than 100mm. Besides being non-compliant they are not that safe especially for small children. With the pickets running in a vertical direction it is more difficult for children, or adults, to climb up on the balustrade and fall over. The other designs offer more horizontal pieces that people can use to climb up on.

The stairs we built here joined the deck to the pool area which was about half a floor up from ground level. There were separate concrete stairs running from ground level to the pool area but the new wooden stairs we built could now be used to access the pool area, and the rest of the outside area, from the dining room. Because there was no way of supporting the stringer mid-way we had to ensure that we had the correct width of stringer so that it would not break over time. Most of the strength in a piece of wood is in the width and not the thickness as the downward force is exerted on the width.

Wooden deck builder Durban

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We finished up by filling our holes with epoxy and sawdust and sealing with a Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 Mahogany tint. In our decks we counter sink the screws which leave a small screw hole that water can get into. It is important to fill these so that no water can get in. If water does get in it can travel down the end grain and will cause the wood to rot much quicker at the point of the screw hole. Water travels through wood along the end grain rather than being absorbed from the face or side grain. Wood filler is also not suitable as it will pop over time due to the weather. Clear epoxy works well mixed with a little saw dust to match the colour. Once it’s dry, use a grinder with a sanding pad to flat it and then sand the grind marks off before finishing.

For a free no obligation quote on your deck or for some advice, please contact us on 082 496 5444 or complete the form below.

Wooden Stairs Built in Cowies Hill, Durban

Wooden stairs Durban

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These wooden stairs we built in were quite interesting because the client had a dining room which was raised about 600 from the patio outside. He wanted to be able to access the dining room through the new sliding doors. So we designed a small landing and some stairs to fit snugly in on one side so as to not take up too much space on the patio yet still allow a safe passage down the stairs. There were only a total of two treads plus the landing. It not only added value by creating an access point but also added charm with wood.

We built the entire landing on the ground from balau, screwed it all together and then lifted it into place and attached it to two walls of the house using sleeve anchors. This method also kept the whole landing in the same plane i.e. no cleat and joist system but rather a joist and fascia beam system. Each method has their own applications. If it is a fairly large deck where it would be impossible to attach each joist to the beam and then lift it into place, then one would need to use a cleat, beam and joist system. However where it is possible to attach each joist to the beam or fascia beam then it can be semi pre assembled and lifted into place. This can also successfully be done with a deck that is quite close to ground as the ends of the joists can be supported quite easily while the other ends are attached to the fascia beam which is then attached to the wall. However a deck that is raised off the ground would pose problems in trying to support each joist individually while attaching them and then lifting the entire structure up. The fascia beam system also allows one to keep the structure in the same plane and if space beneath the deck is limited then this is a better option.

Wooden stairs Durban

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We clad or screened the underside of this landing to create a storage area with a hinged door on one side so that it could be closed and locked.

This one we finished with Timberlife Ultra Care Gold as it was not exposed to direct sunlight. The Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28/28 has a much lower wax content so tends not to blemish that easily in direct sunlight. The Ultra Care Gold however has a much higher wax content and the UV in the sunlight tends to make it go a bit blotchy which can result in you having to sand it all off when it comes to maintenance. The key to low maintenance in wooden decks is to apply the correct finish correctly. To sand an entire deck back to wood and remove all traces of finish is almost impossible and at times I have thought it would be cheaper to simply replace the entire deck.

This was a small day which took us a day to complete. We also added a small gate for him on the existing deck, so in total it was a two-day job with sanding and sealing.

For a free no obligation quote on stairs or other wooden structure please complete the form below and we will contact you or you can call us on 082 496 5444.

Wooden Stair Case Build Durban

Wooden stair builder

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This wooden stair case build by The Wood Joint in Durban was a tricky one. The client was a committee member on the body corporate for a small block of flats in Durban. There were about 4 units in the block and the existing steel fire escape had rusted to a point where it was unsafe. So first we had to remove the steel structure. With a little help from my friends, we came in and chemical anchored stainless eyes into the wall on both sides above the steel platform you see in the pics. From there we rigged up some climbing equipment to be safe and started cutting sections out of the steel structure and lowering them slowly to the ground. We had to cut small sections as the steel was 10mm thick and we didn’t want to damage the walls, windows or doors on the way down. We managed to get most of it down in one day with a small piece remaining for day two. We battled slightly in getting the main support off as the sewage pipes had been installed after the steel so we had to cut the steel out around the pipes so as not to damage the pipes. In removing it we inadvertently damaged a corner of the wall as the rawl bolts there were quite large, rusted and pretty much part of the building by now. We patched that using structural grout which was hard and strong enough to support our main beam to.

Wooden stair builder

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With the steel gone, we set out to build a wooden stair case and landing that could act as a fire escape. The small landing part was easier enough and we canter levered it so as to keep our posts out of the way below for parking. In these smaller blocks of flats in Durban space is very limited so posts need to be kept well out the way of parking space. Because we were canter levering it we needed to use 30 x 140 joists of balau rather than our normal 30 x 102 joists.

The stringers for the stairs were also tricky as we had to follow the original line of the stringers because there was a window beneath that we couldn’t cover and we could only protrude to the end of the wall without obstructing the driveway. This resulted in our stringers being placed at 45 degrees which resulted in our risers being of equal length to our runs or treads. It is not ideal as it makes the stairs very steep but we had no option due to space and height. We were a total of about 4m in the air to the landing.

The treads went on alright, the balustrade too and we had to join the stringer on the outside with two independent posts to ground to support it as the timber we could get wasn’t long enough to run the full length of the stringer.

Wooden stair builder

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We went back there a year or two later as one of the treads had popped a screw. Sometimes the timber moves more than one wants it to and breaks the screw off. We do however put additional back up screws in each piece we secure so they are safe in the event that one screw does break.

For a free no obligations quote on wooden stairs or any other outdoor timber construction please complete the form below or you can call us on 082 496 5444.

Wooden stair builder

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Wooden stair builder

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