Balustrades on Wooden Deck, Durban

There are a number of different types of wooden balustrades one can have built for your wooden deck. We offer this product in both Durban and Cape Town. I will run through a few options in this article and will mention the pros and cons of each one.

There is a slide show above which shows the different options. I do not have fancy names for them such as Colonial, or Mediterranean. I call them simply what they are.

The vertical picket wooden balustrades are probably the only ones that are compliant in terms of building regulations as none of the gaps are larger than 100mm. They are generally made from 60 x 60 balau upright posts attached to the fascia beam or first or last joist in a wooden deck. We use the 60 x 60 upright post on the corners and in the middle of a long run. All other intermediary posts are 30 x 60 balau. There is a top rail and a bottom rail onto which the vertical pickets are attached. Rails are generally 30 x 40 and pickets are 20 x 30 balau. The bottom rail is set at 100mm off the deck surface and the top rail can be set either 100mm below the capping, or directly beneath the capping. The capping is generally made from a 30 x 102 balau giving it ample width to place a glass or lean comfortably on it. The capping is then routed to give the corners a rounded edge. The distance between upright posts is determined by the total length of the wooden balustrade resulting in equal spaces between uprights. Pickets too are set at equal spaces between uprights. This is the most affordable design of balustrade as it is fairly simple to construct.

The Criss Cross design can come in two main designs. A simple criss cross between uprights with a capping on top or a criss cross between uprights with a box in the middle of the criss cross. The two pieces of timber that are used for the criss cross are normally notched half way through each piece at an angle so that they fit snugly into each other instead of lapping over each other. The box is also set inside the two criss cross pieces so that the whole balustrade is in line rather than pieces over lapping each other. This design can be expensive as the method to construct is time-consuming and the pieces of timber are generally larger than the vertical picket design. It can also be changed to result in many different patterns.

The wire rope design is particularity useful when you don’t want to obscure the view when seated. A balustrade at 1m high will block the view in a seated position for most average height people. The wire rope is 4mm in diameter so it is less visible than say a 30mm piece of timber. The posts are generally also 60 x 60 and 30 x 60 uprights with a capping of 30 x 102 balau on top. The wire rope is set at 100mm intervals but can be opened wider as they are not tensioned to guitar string tension. As such they are not suitable if you have small kids and anything over 1m from the deck to ground level. The swages, turn buckles and wire rope are all marine grade stainless steel.

For a free no obligation quote on your timber balustrade requirements please call 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 Balustrade Built in Everton – May 2013

Wooden balustrade

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This wooden balustrade we built in Everton Kloof, Durban was for an established client of ours that we have done various amounts of work for in the past. She had had some stairs built in brick and concrete down the bank to access the lower level of her property. We had to wait a few weeks in order for the concrete to cure properly before we drilled into the side of it. It is always a pleasure installing a wooden balustrade onto a concrete substrate as opposed to a brick or block substrate. With concrete your holes can be drilled easily and the sleeve anchors used to secure the posts to the side of the stairs take nicely and bind properly. When drilling into bricks, or even worse blocks, the cavity that exists in the brick or block almost always creates a problem in that the sleeve anchor has nothing to set itself against and ends up turning on itself and not binding properly. It is most frustrating and sometimes results in drilling new holes to find a solid substrate or even going the chemical anchor route. If one is drilling into blocks with large cavities, it is sometimes better to go the chemical anchor route from the beginning.

Wooden balustrade

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Chemical anchors come with sleeves that are inserted into the holes first and then the two-part chemical is squeezed into that and then a thread bar is inserted. The chemicals dry very quickly, in a few minutes or less, and the thread bar is then fixed securely in the wall. A post can now be pre drilled and inserted over the thread bar and washers and nuts fastened onto that. It is a much stronger bond than sleeve anchors, albeit more expensive. Currently chemical anchors can cost about R300-00 per tube, the size of a tube of silicone, and the sleeves are about R15-00 each.

This wooden balustrade needed to have a bend in it that can be seen from the pictures alongside as the top tread was deeper than the rest of the treads. There was a small landing at the top where the balustrade needed to be level with ground. This was the normal vertical picket style balustrade and we sealed it using our favourite Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 in a mahogany tint. Using this product will result in lower maintenance costs going forward as no sanding will be required when re-sealing. You simply clean and re-seal.

Wooden balustrade

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Balustrades are not the easiest thing to install. One needs to be very careful that both rails are parallel to each other and that they are parallel to the tips of the risers. Of course the tips of each riser will not necessarily be in a straight line. What we do is run a straight edge or fish line across all the risers to get an average line that we work from. The lower rail is then set parallel to this line and the top rail and hence the capping is set to this, again parallel. One also needs to be careful when taking corners. Often the distance between the capping and the steps can vary, especially if there is a landing involved. Where a balustrade arrives at a landing one needs to step the balustrade so that the capping will remain at the 1m mark above ground.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden balustrades or other timber construction, please complete the form below and I will contact you or you can contact us on 082 496 5444.


Sundeck Installed in Durban Bluff

Wooden sundecks Durban

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This sundeck I installed in Durban I actually subbed out because I had too many new builds on the go at the same time to be able to do it quickly enough. I use a very good subbie who charges reasonable rates, has his own transport and tools and skilled labour. He has actually been building sundecks in Durban for a lot longer than me and I can therefore leave him to his own devices and let him get on with the job. We follow him to fill sand and seal the deck after he has constructed it.

This deck was built off the bar area and canter levered over the retaining wall above the pool. It went around the corner to a braai area and had a set of stairs for access. An awning was first installed by an awning company and we then decked around the posts of this awning.

It was installed flush with the entrance to the bar which only allowed us about 150mm between the top of the deck and the existing concrete slab on which we were installing it. As a result there was not enough space for any under beams and we employed a slightly different method to a deck on the first floor.

Wooden decks Durban

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The substructure is first built on the ground and is then attached to the wall using sleeve anchors. It results in the entire substructure being flat and in the same plane. This as opposed to a beam that supports a joist sitting on top of it. So to start with a 30 x 102 is cut to length to fit the length of the building to which it will be attached. Joists, at 550 centres, are then T’ed off this and secured from behind using two kalgard screws. A last fascia beam is secured in the same way resulting in a grid type substructure which is then lifted into place, chocked if need be, and secured to the wall using sleeve anchors. The front edge is then supported by short legs which rested directly onto the concrete. There was no need to dig through the concrete as it was solid enough to support the weight of the deck. On the front edge where we have canter levered it we had to drop longer posts down onto the retaining wall and concrete these into the retaining blocks.

The balustrade was an unconventional balustrade as can be seen from the pic. Because the client didn’t want to obstruct his view when in a seated position, we reduced the height of the balustrade to 500mm instead of the normal 1m. We also left the balustrade open and no pickets or cross pieces were installed resulting in a very simple straight lined balustrade. It worked well and looked quite neat afterwards.

Stairs were installed at 1m wide with the same style balustrade or hand rail running up each side.
This deck was intentionally left unsealed so that it would weather. When balau weathers it turns a very attractive grey colour. It’s a personal preference I suppose. Some like it, some don’t. It looks more rustic without looking too tatty. It must be noted though that if one decides to seal it afterwards, then it must be bleached and prepared properly otherwise it will turn very dark, almost black. The greying is actually black algae that grows on the surface of the wood and although it won’t necessarily result in rot, needs to be bleached and removed with a high pressure cleaner before sealing. This is also applicable to decks that have been sealed and are now to be re-sealed and have started greying.

For a free no obligation quote to construct your sundeck please complete the form below and I will get in touch with you.  Or you can call us on 082 496 5444.

Sundeck Built at Pennington on the South Coast

Sundecks South Coast

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This was my first deck I built. I had been toying with the idea of building sundecks for some time, rather than trying to sell furniture which I had been making for some years. There simply isn’t a viable market to make furniture in South Africa unless one has large regular orders and a production line can be set up for a specific product. Saying that I still make the odd Adirondack Chair and picnic table, but my focus changed at that point to decking. Something that could not be imported and sold as flat pack.

I secured this job at a very cheap rate. It was in Pennington which was too far to commute each day so we stayed down there. With a crew that had never built a deck and myself who had studied it in theory only we proceeded to build.

We had to first remove an old deck that had been built using non treated pine which had rotted beyond imagination. It still annoys me to see decks being built out of non-treated pine. Some are often built from H2 treated pine where as they should be at least H3 but preferably H4 treated pine. I will go into more detail on that subject in a later article. Perhaps it is ignorance, and not a specialised deck building company doing the job, but there is a vast difference between the different grades of CCA Treated Pine.

Sundecks South Coast

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Nevertheless, we cut away at our rotten deck which was actually unsafe to walk on so it took some time to carefully remove all pieces and the joists. We left the post in tact as they were teak and were still very good. Once down we placed our cleat on the wall of the house, erected our main beam and set out our joists. There was a canter lever involved which worked well as we had increased the size of our joists to 40 x 140 so we could span them longer and canter lever longer than if we had used 30 x 102 joists.

The deckboards went down without a problem. Our balustrade had to match the neighbour’s balustrades as it was situated in a complex with other decks. It was a simple criss cross style balustrade so went down without much hassle and relatively quickly.
The biggest challenge on this deck was removing the old one which took us just over a full day. Removing a deck can be very dangerous, as you can imagine, and needs to be thought out carefully and taken down with extreme care so as not to damage buildings around it or result in injury to crew.

Sundecks KZN

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We made no money on this job because we had over sized most of our timber, the client had requested 21 x 72 deck boards which were a lot more expensive than the standard 19 x 68 boards and we had to factor in accommodation and food for a week while we built it. Nevertheless it was our first deck and we learnt a lot.

Timber Sundecks in Durban

Wooden decks Durban

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“Summertime ….. And The Livin’ is Easy “… Or it CAN be !! …Yes, with the South African summer right on the doorstep now, what’s the best Christmas present you could give to your family (and yourself)? (This one won’t fit into a Christmas stocking however …)

Ponder and Dream of how ‘lekker’ it would be to have a good quality sundeck in our sunny climate, leading off your lounge, and onto your pool or into your garden… and yes, in South Africa a sundeck is as important as your lounge, or more so because of our outdoor lifestyle.

Who to get to build it?
The benefits of having it professionally installed versus a ‘fly by night builder’, or tackling this mammoth task yourself; the importance of the maintenance of your valued product and the importance of what wood type to use in its construction are all considerations to take into account when planning to invest in this forever “best thing I ever did” choice. Make it your Christmas gift to the whole family, all in one!

Wooden decks Durban

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Materials used in the construction include the following. All are good quality materials, able to weather the weather (pun intended) if properly maintained. An example:

• Balau (an imported hardwood from Indonesia, extremely dense, contains toxins that prevent termite damage and resins which repel water to prevent rot).
• Kalgard screws (similar to epoxy coating where the coating on the screw is baked on
• Stainless Steel Screws
• Epoxy to fill screw holes where the screw has been counter sunk to prevent water getting in the little hole which slows down rot
• Timber preservative rather than varnish (varnish sits on top and cracks and flakes from the UV in the sun’s rays, whereas timber preservative soaks into the wood nourishing it thereby preventing flaking and peeling of varnish.)
The Wood Joint pays special attention to detail in all products and places great importance on durability and longevity in their products by applying sound techniques and slightly over engineering most products.

Wooden decks Durban

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They pride themselves in their quality workmanship and use only top quality timber sourced from reputable suppliers.

A sundeck is a valuable addition to any home and will not only provide many years of enjoyment, but will also enhance the value of your property.

With the correct care, maintenance costs can be kept to a minimum and the life span of your deck increased.

The Wood Joint will assist you in a design that will be cost effective and will best suit your needs taking into account the existing structure that is in place.

With years of experience in the deck building industry, The Wood Joint can advise, design, maintain and erect your deck in the most cost effective and structurally best methods.

Other Products, Other Timbers …
“We have listed the three most commonly used timbers to construct decks which have been selected due to their structural strength, longevity and cost effectiveness. There are however other timbers that can be used and these can be discussed individually.”
The Wood Joint ( from my experience and that of many is dependable, reliable, knowledgeable and professional … View their website to see the quality and standard of their Sundecks and a wider portfolio of other specialities their experience encompasses:

• Sundecks
• Balustrades
• Pergolas
• Walkways
• Garden Bridges
• Pool Decks
• Screens (vertically installed to provide privacy)
• Cladding (on walls mainly for aesthetic purposes)

The most commonly used, and most cost effective timber, is Balau which is sourced from south East Asia. It is a yellow – brown to dark brown timber with a fine texture and interlocked grain and is extremely durable under tropical conditions.

It is a fairly heavy timber weighing between 800 kgs and 1, 000 kgs per cubic metre when dry.

It can be sealed or left unsealed. Unsealed it weathers to a grey colour. It can also be stained easily using a variety of tints to change the colour.


Garapa is also a popular decking material as it is hard, heavy, tough and strong and is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack. Found most commonly in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Eastern Peru.

It normally weighs between 800 kgs and 960 kgs per cubic metre when dry. A fine grained timber varying in colour from yellowish to yellow – brown / yellow – pink.

It is, to a degree, scratch resistant reducing sanding during scheduled maintenance.


Sourced form the West Indies and Central and South America, this timber is suitable for decks due to its hardness.

It is extremely heavy weighing in at about 1, 050 kgs per cubic metre when dry.

The texture is fine and uniform. The grain is usually straight but sometimes interlocked.

The heartwood is light red to rose red.


Keruing is naturally found in South East Asia.

The timbers vary in colour from pinkish-brown to dark brown and look rather characterless. Grain is straight or shallowly interlocked and the texture is moderately coarse and even. All of the species contain oleo-resins and many of them will exude it onto surfaces during drying or when exposed to heat or sunshine when in use.

The weight is variable too but is generally within the range 720 to 800 kg/m3 when dried.

It is moderately durable.

For free quotes and more information on The Wood Joint’s various wooden products contact us on 082 496 5444 or complete the form below.


Wire Rope Balustrades

A turnbuckle

Wire rope balustrades are quite common nowadays especially if a modern and sophisticated look is required.

There are two types of wire rope balustrades available.  The first is a 5mm stainless steel cable or rope attached to the uprights of the balustrade which should be balau of about 60mm x 60mm.  This is attached using a turnbuckle as depicted in the image and can be tightened as time goes by and the wire rope stretches slightly.  The tension of this rope should be taught but not too tight.  This 5mm cable or rope can normally turn corners and hence less turnbuckles are required per length of wire rope.

The second method, and my preferred one, is a 4mm marine grade stainless steel wire rope with button heads on either end.  The 4mm wire rope is normally of a higher grade than the 5mm rope and tends to tarnish less over time.  I have found the 5mm rope to often contain one rogue strand which will tarnish and spoil the look of your balustrade.  This method requires button heads on either end but the 4mm rope normally cannot turn corners and more button heads are therefore required.  Each length of rope should run in one continuous straight run and a new length started once a corner is encountered.  A hole is simply drilled into the balau uprights, the button head inserted and the wire rope threaded through and crimped.  It too can then be tightened and again it should be taught rather than too tight.

Care should be taken to drill level holes that are equidistant as the slightest difference will be noticeable.  Particular care should also be taken when drilling holes on uprights that are on diagonal stairs.  A trick is to snap a chalk line the total length of the required wire rope and then drill the balau upright from both ends with the holes meeting in the middle.  One cannot see any kink in the wire rope inside the timber but it is more noticeable where it enters and exits the balau upright.

It is normally better to install the wire rope balustrade after the balau has been sealed or coated as this will eliminate the chance of accidentally coating or sealing the button heads or turnbuckles.

Both methods require a crimping tool to crimp the button heads or turnbuckles on either end.  This can be purchased often at a considerable price or one can be made using a large bolt cutter and adapting the head.  However, only attempt making one yourself if you have the skills and the correct tools, as the correct crimping is vital to ensure that the wire rope does not pull out of the button head or turnbuckle, resulting in a fresh length of wire rope having to be used.

The capping on top depends on choice but I have mostly used a 30 x 102 balau capping which is fastened using kalgard screws to the top of the uprights.  Again use as long a length as possible in any one straight run and if a join is necessary ensure that a 45° angle is cut to reduce lifting on the join.

Timber or Wooden Balustrades

Wooden Balustrades

A classic criss cross style balustrade

Timber balustrades are built in various designs and various different timbers can be used. The most affordable hardwood of course being balau with more expensive options being Massaranduba, keuring etc. The pieces required for balustrades are most commonly found in balau as they form part of the structural pieces stocked by most timber merchants. Massaranduba, keuring etc. are largely supplied in deckboards only and are used for the actual decking with balau being used as the substructure. All three of them are equally as durable and strong and only really differ in colour and grain.

In this article we will discuss the picket style balustrade.


This type of balustrade is often the only one that completely adheres to standard building regulations as the gap between any two pieces is, or can be made, less than 100mm. It should be designed with a cross horizontal support at the top and bottom to give the pickets a support to be attached to. The bottom horizontal support is normally set about 100mm from the ground and secured to each vertical post in as long a length as possible. The top horizontal support can either be set at the top of the post and directly beneath the capping or set 100mm down from the capping to provide a gap between it and the capping. The former being my personally preferred method as it then gives the capping a more rigid support and will reduce bowing and cupping of the cap.

Each picket is then attached to these horizontal supports so that the gap between vertical pickets is equal. Care should be taken in setting the first and last one as the width of each picket needs to be taken into account when calculating the centre of each picket due to the first and last one being the vertical post itself. Pickets can be pre routed on the corners to give it a profile or left square. They can also be routed in situ resulting in the router not running all the way to the end of the picket.

A capping is then placed and secured on top of the horizontal support and posts, or just to the posts if the latter method was used. This capping can then be routed over the edges to break the sharp corner. This capping should also be secured in as long a length as possible to avoid joins wherever possible. If a join is necessary it should be joined with a 45° join directly above a vertical post. This will reduce lifting on the joint.