Balau Ceiling Cladding at Hillcrest Corner, Durban

The Owen Kemp Building at Hillcrest Corner, is being refurbished and there are two restaurants coming in to the space which was Mr Price. The entire shop is being revamped and changed to accommodate these two restaurants and we have been appointed to attend to the balau ceiling work, decking and cladding of various entrance ways and some screens. This article will deal with the ceiling work.

A steel fabrication company has installed a steel structure on top of which they have installed roofing material. Our job is to now to clad the underside of the steel purlins and battens using 19 x 68mm balau deck boards with a 90mm gap which will accomodate flush mount LED lights. One can’t attach the balau deck boards directly to the steel structure so we’ve built a mini timber structure on to which we will attach the balau planks. We needed to build it so that the bottom of these boards were flush to the bottom of each I beam as the I beam itself will remain exposed and visible. Cleats and battens were attached to the steel and then painted to match the colour of the steel itself. Deck boards were then fixed to these battens with a 90mm gap. The gaps of 90mm are to accommodate a bracket which will be used to fix LED lights which will be flush with the bottom of our boards. We installed the brackets once we had already installed the boards to make it easier to get the alignment right. We drilled through the board and counter sunk a nut and bolt which will be filled with epoxy to cover the bolt head. The lighting company then installed their lights into those purpose made brackets.

On the long straight section the boards were relatively easy to install as they followed the profile of the roof sheeting which was parallel to the I beams supporting them. At the corner the I beams no longer run parallel to the profile of the roof sheeting so we installed our boards still parallel to the profile of the roof sheeting but mitred at an angle to the I beam resulting in a very neat finish. The difficulty in this type of job is drilling through the 12mm I beams to fix the cleats securely. Also the height slows the job down as one is working above one’s head on scaffolding.

On the screens we need to fix a cleat on the outside of the building between screen steel frame and balustrade. We drilled form the inside using a magnetic drill as the wall of the steel was about 8mm and it was virtually impossible to drill from the outside through 8mm of steel. Still there were at least 300 holes to drill in this manner. It is much easier to install wood on to steel if the steel has been pre drilled before fabrication.

There is still a deck to come below this ceiling and screens at various points. I will follow up with a separate article on these other items.

For a quote on your sun deck or other balau timber cladding or screening please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Balau vs CCA Treated Wooden Deck Durban

I often get asked about using balau as a substructure in a wooden deck. There are various pros and cons of using balau as a substructure in your wooden deck so I thought I would jot it down and in future I can direct clients here who want the ins and outs of using balau as a structure for your wooden deck.

Balau is a very good, hardy and durable wood to use in outdoor wooden decks and other outdoor projects. It contains toxins that limit insects eating it and it is high in resins and oils which naturally repels water and limits rot. All wood will eventually rot. It is just that some will rot quicker as they are less dense and less oily which means they will absorb water more easily, which remains in the wood, causing fungus to grow which breaks down the fibres in the wood and is commonly called rot. This is a simplified explanation but I think it delivers the message accurately. Water doesn’t cause rot. Fungus, as a result of water and sunlight, causes rot.

Balau therefore will rot and I have started documenting some pics of rotten joists that I have come across in my repair work of wooden decks. It may take 15 years for this rot to start but it will happen and when it does repair work can run into thousands if not a complete deck rebuild. Joists are often difficult to access whereas deck boards are not.

On the other hand a piece of wood that has been chemically treated to prevent, or limit rot, will last a lot longer and a pre determined life span can be calculated.

CCA Treatment is a process of pressure treating SA pine. A vacuum is created in a chamber that contains the pine and a solution of copper, chrome and arsenate is introduced which then takes up the void created by the vacuum sucking the solution into the cells. The copper prevents fungus growing which in turn prevents rot, the arsenate keeps the insects away and the chrome binds the two to the wood so that I doesn’t leach out.

Balau is too hard and dense to treat. Pine is a commercially grown timber in South Africa which is inexpensive and very suitable for treatment as it is soft and takes up the solution of CCA successfully. There are various different Hazard Classification or H classifications. Basically H2 is good for indoors (roof trusses etc.) H3 for outdoors exposed to the elements, H4 for in constant contact with wet soil. H5 for submersion in fresh water and H6 for submersion in salt water. A correctly treated piece of pine to H3 will, as per SAWPA guidelines, last in excess of 50 years which is pretty impressive in comparison to a piece of balau that comes with no fixed life expectancy. A poor quality piece of balau may start to fail within 5 years whereas a good quality piece may only start in 15 years. Most of the pics I have documented here are of decks that range in age from 8 years to 15 years. But generally speaking I have found some rot setting in all the decks of 15 years or older.

S5 (SABS Structural grade) Pine is considerably cheaper than balau structural timber. So from an economic point of view it makes sense to use pine in place of other woods wherever possible.

One might now ask why is pine not used on the surface of a deck? Why is balau preferred?

Balau is a very stable wood and therefore expands and contracts less than pine. It is about twice as dense, knot free and doesn’t twist and warp as easily. Pine is soft and with the sun beating on the deck it will tend to crack, twist and warp more easily. To use pine as a deck board one needs to use a 38mm board as opposed to a 19mm board in balau (twice as much wood). Also pine deck boards are normally manufactured from S7 as opposed to S5. S7 refers to the number of knots per square inch (or centimetre) and is therefore a lot more expensive than S5. The cost of pine deck boards is in fact a few rand more per square metre than balau. Hence the reason to use correctly treated CCA pine as a substructure and balau as deck boards. Again pine doesn’t work well in balustrades because twice as much wood needs to be used at S7 grade.

For a free no obligation quote on your sun deck, pool deck, balustrades, pergolas etc., please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

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 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden deck in Massaranduba, Hillcrest, Durban

This deck was built with Massaranduba. Although Massaranduba is about 30% more per square metre than balau the client insisted on it as it is a much harder and denser wood than balau. As such it will last longer. It has a slight reddish tinge to it. This deck is to be left unsealed so will eventually turn grey / sliver. Therefore one will not notice that is massaranduba, but it will last longer. When choosing between balau or massaranduba one needs to weigh up the difference in cost vs. the longevity of both timbers. There is nothing wrong with balau, it will also give you a long life span. Massa is of a better quality and will therefore outlast balau.

We decked around the pool flush with the tiling on the patio which resulted in a single 90mm deck board being used as a fascia on the inside of the pool. Hence the difference in height between the water level and the deck is not that great. Often the deck can come up too high resulting in a big step up to the deck from water level. The pool therefore needs to be set at the correct height, in relation to the patio, to accommodate the deck at the correct height.

A quick note on new pool decks. The hardwood typically used in decking contains tannins which leach out when it rains. Storing them on a tiled surface almost always results in stains being left on the tiles after a downpour. Likewise one needs to be careful of installing the fascia on the inside of the pool, or deck boards that are installed on the pool’s edge, prior to filling the pool with water. If there is no water in the pool and it rains, these tannins will leach out and run down the new marbelite pool surface, staining it. The only way to get rid of the stains successfully is to sand it off. It is advisable therefore to get the pool done and filled before decking up to the sides of the pool and installing the fascia board. Alternatively, don’t marbelite until these tannins have completely leached out. It’s a tricky one because the pool contractor doesn’t want to marbelite until the lawn is done because of dust. The landscaper normally comes last, so it’s a bit of juggling that is required.

We decked around a circular concrete slab which is to be a fire pit and up to the edge of the brick and plaster bench around the fire pit.

We also installed a small pergola above the sliding door and included a small bar counter that can be accessed from both sides of the patio and deck. There was also a small decked area at the back of the house next to the fish pond and a screen on the front of the house.

For the screen we used a 20 x 30 slat instead of a normal 19 x 68 deck board. Although a 19 x 68 deck board works well as a screen, a narrower piece (30mm) with a smaller gap is a bit different and not the run of the mill timber screening. Although it is slightly more expensive than a normal 68mm wide deck board screen, it is very effective.

All in all a very nice job to work on and a pleasure to work with Massaranduba. It is lovely stuff. Hard as nails and long-lasting.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden decking, pergola or screening needs in Durban or Cape Town, please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.