Wooden Balustrades

Wooden Balustrades Durban and Cape Town

Balau Horizontal Balustrade

Wooden balustrades are necessary on all decks that are above 1m off the ground for safety reasons. Some people opt for them even if the deck is lower than 1m. They normally sit 1m above the deck surface but on decks which are higher than about 4m off the ground, it is recommended that one install a 1.2m high balustrade for safety reasons.

There are various designs from a standard vertical picket style balustrade to a criss cross pattern to diagonal slats and even deck boards installed horizontally. One should consider the reason for installing a wooden balustrade and then decide which one to opt for. For instance a vertical picket style is safe for high decks as they can’t be easily climbed and all gaps between pickets are less than 100mm so small children can’t fall through.

A criss cross balustrade has large openings and is not as safe.

Most balustrades have a capping on top of about 30mm x 100m allowing for a comfortable arm rest and a spot to place a drink.

Wooden Decks Durban and Cape Town

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Contact us if you’re planning on doing any wooden balustrade work on 082 496 5444 or use the form provided 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 Pool Deck Building in Summerveld, Durban

We built this wooden pool deck in Summerveld, Durban in July 2015. There were various challenges in this wooden pool deck build which tested our skills somewhat.

Firstly the ground in Summerveld is very rocky, in fact in some areas it is just one large rock, and when digging you are actually making a small hole in a large piece of rock. There were 21 holes in total on this wooden pool deck so digging was slow and costly.

From the pics you can also see that the edge rim of the pool is a rock feature so it is not level or flat and we had to try to get our deck height to a comfortable level for access from the rock rim of the pool on to the wooden pool deck. We also had to then try to conceal the gap between rock and deck as far as possible and as neatly as possible. In some areas it took a full deck board as a fascia and in other areas it was tapered down to a half width deck board.

We ran deck boards perpendicular to the pool to avoid having long thin slivers of deck board on the pool side. When we started out the deck was planned to be half the finished size. As it took shape it was decided to extend it to its final measurements which was a double-edged sword for us as we had to dig even more holes through the rock but it increased our surface area and therefore our earnings. So we put on our big boy pants and carried on. The ends result was that the deck now extends past the front of the house so that when you are standing on the front you can see all the way along the front of the house.

A pool pump cover was added, a full balustrade around the whole deck and we clad the open vertical gaps so that one cannot see below the deck.

In one of the pics above you can see how we have returned the balustrade at 90 degrees on the first corner. This is to give the long run of balustrade perpendicular to it more strength. Long straight runs of balustrade can often become quite “wobbly” and this corner gives it good strength.

We opened a gap in the existing post and rail fence and built stairs from the garden at house level to the pool with a hinged gate and latch. Because of the angle of the stairs, and to prevent digging too deep into the ground at the top of the stairs, we built a small landing.

A short free-standing balustrade was added along the electric fence to provide some protection from the electric fence when accessing the lower garden on the right hand side of the deck.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden pool deck or other outdoor timber structures please call us on 082 496 5444 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 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

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.


Timber Stairs Built in Hillcrest – February 2013

Timber stairs Durban

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As a deck builder and timber stair builder in Durban I have had to learn how to build timber stairs the hard way, through trial and error (and a bit of Googling).  Timber stairs have always been a tricky one for me and I have battled to build them in the past. At first I Google’d ‘building timber’ stairs and found a few videos on the topic which explained it quite nicely. Most of the videos online though are American and they therefore explain it in inches. But after converting it the technique and calculation used to work out your runs and risers becomes quite clear.

The riser is the vertical piece of the step and the run (or tread) is the horizontal piece. Building regulations in South Africa state that the riser can be no more than 200mm high and the tread or run can be no shorter than 250mm. Timber, either in pine or balau, will come standard at either 140mm wide or 220 wide. One should therefore use two pieces of 140 wide stock in order to get a tread of 280mm wide. I have seen stairs built using 220 wide stock which although is not completely according to building regulations can work if a gap is left between the front of the top tread and the back of the tread below that. The gap should be at least 30mm to get back to your minimum of a 250mm wide tread, although building regulations state that this gap should be no bigger than 20mm. Because the stairs are open, one can normally get away with this as your foot will be able to move past the back-end of the tread as you climb the stairs. Be sure to check with building regulations before designing your stairs to ensure you are compliant or that your contractor is adhering to these regulations.

Timber stair builder

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First you need to calculate the exact height of your riser and the exact width of your tread. I will use 1,1m as the height of the stairs for the example below.

Assuming a riser of about 200mm or less divide 1, 100mm by 200mm. You get 5.5 risers. Increase this to 6 risers because if you take it back to 5 risers you riser will be more than 200mm.

So 6 risers and therefore 5 treads. The top tread of course being the deck itself.

1, 100mm divided by 6 risers give you an exact riser height of 183.3mm. 5 treads of 280mm each will result in a total floor length of 1, 4m. From this you can work out the length of the stringer. a²+ b² = c². Remember him? Yeah!!! The stringer by the way is the piece that runs down diagonally from the deck to the floor and to which the treads are attached.

Now lay the stringer flat on the ground, starting your markings a comfortable distance from the end to allow for cutting to the correct angle and possibly notching the end to accommodate any lip that may exist on the deck. Deckboards can either be set flush with the joist or they can hang slightly over which will dictate whether or not the stringer needs to be notched so that it can be fastened to the joist or beam.

Timber stairs Durban

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With the stringer flat on the ground, take a large square with markings on both sides (the big black square) and slide it along the one side of the stringer so that you reach the 183.3mm mark on one side and the 280mm mark on the other side. Of course you would round this to the nearest millimetre. One can buy little clamps that clamp to the sides of the square to make this job easier. In fact sophisticated stair stringer squares can be bought but the big black square works just as well. With your riser height and tread width marked on the stringer you can now draw a line around the square at the corner. This is where your riser and tread will be. Move the square down to the end of the marks and repeat to mark the next one. Continue until the end of the stringer. Cut the top end of your stringer off parallel to the riser at the correct distance to attach to the joist. The bottom of the stringer will be cut, either parallel to the riser or tread depending on whether you want a vertical or horizontal end which will either attach to the concrete ground (horizontal) or be set into the soil using a post and concrete (horizontal or vertical).

If you have as much difficulty understanding this as I did, then you are not alone. Try it and you will find it becomes second nature.
Now it’s just a matter of attaching your treads and job done. If you have a balustrade running down the sides of your stairs this can be attached now. Care should always be taken where the balustrade capping and cross supports, on the stairs, meet the same on the deck as they are running at different heights. It is better to take the balustrade up, level out whilst still on the stairs and then meet the horizontal.

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 (www.thewoodjoint.co.za) 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.