Cheap Wooden Deck Builders in Durban

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I was prompted to write this article on cheap wooden deck builders in Durban for various reasons and to highlight some of the dangers of using the cheapest wooden deck builder that you can find. Being South African we all should know the Afrikaans saying “goedkoop is deurkoop”. Or loosely translated to English “you get what you pay for”. There is no exception in the wooden deck building industry.

One should consider that in order to offer a certain level of service a wooden deck builder needs to charge a certain rate. If that rate is relatively low, in comparison to other quotes, then certain sacrifices need to be made either in terms of the quality of materials that are used, the time it takes to do the job to save on labour costs, the quality of labour used to perform the task or the end profit to the contractor. Or a combination of the above. It also makes sense that it will never ONLY be the profit that is sacrificed when rates are lowered. It will be a combination of all of the components, probably skewed away from profit. On the other hand if rates are extremely high the quality of materials and labour can only reach a maximum level (i.e. the best) and any extra money becomes mere profit to the company.

Reliability of contractors using vehicles that may break down should also be taken into account. If margins are small there is often not enough profit to do the maintenance on vehicles, plant or tools that is required and down time can occur that delays the job being completed on time, or at all. Small labour forces may also be used that are often shared amongst several jobs, again resulting in down time and delays in project deadlines. Furthermore unskilled labour forces may be used directly affecting the quality of workmanship and the life span of the end product.

Of equal concern is the tendency of a contractor to use sub standard materials to save on cost wherever possible. In the wooden deck building industry there are various standards of materials. For instance you get red and yellow balau. Red is cheaper but is inferior and will not last as long. Screws can either be Kalgard decking screws with a life span of 25 years or the normal screws one can buy from the hardware with a life span outdoors of approximately 5 years. It is only in 5 years time that you may realise you have made a costly mistake by choosing the cheapest contractor. Or by pushing prices down to a point where a contractor who normally performs a quality job is forced to cut costs and use sub standard materials.

I am often asked to provide a discounted rate. I have no problem offering better rates based on volume as volume enables me to do the job more efficiently. I have done my costings properly and through a combination of accurate calculations and experience have found a point at which I need to set my rates in order to be able to afford quality materials, skilled reliable labour and maintenance of vehicles, plant and tools in order to build a wooden deck the best way it can be built.

We don’t drive the latest Ford Rangers at The Wood Joint. We run a fleet of 4 vehicles ranging from 10-year-old Isuzus with over 400, 000kms on the clock, serviced and maintained regularly so that they are reliable to newer similar vehicles. As such our rates have been set in order to provide the correct materials, skilled reliable labour and reliable vehicles.

I have a list of sub contractors that I can provide you with who will do the job cheaper than me. I can provide a list of suppliers who will supply cheaper materials. I can also show you a list of jobs where third-party sub contractors have taken short cuts in their pursuit of money due to low rates and jobs that have had the wrong materials used and are now prematurely failing.

At The Wood Joint we use only the correct materials, our own permanently employed crews of skilled deck builders each with his own set of tools and reliable vehicles to get them to work on time. We do not, any longer, use third-party subcontractors. We’ve learnt the hard way. Hopefully we can save you the expensive learning process too through this article. We are not the cheapest, we are not the most expensive either, we are correctly priced to offer the standards of quality and service that you expect.

To read more on balau and it’s characteristics please Balau Sundecks

For a free no obligation quote on wooden decking, pergolas, screens, cladding, pergolas and balustrades please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

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 accommodate 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 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Balau Cladding on Ceiling – Umhlanga, Durban

Here’s some balau cladding work we did on the ceiling in the reception of a new office building in Umhlanga Rocks.

We used 19 x 30mm strips of balau which we ripped from a standard 19 x 68mm balau deck board. We started off with a treated pine frame or structure on to which we attached these balau strips. Being a ceiling it was important to ensure that our structure didn’t fail under the weight of the balau. Balau, being a very heavy and dense wood, can get quite heavy when suspended from a ceiling. Secure fixing points, and enough of them, are necessary to ensure it doesn’t fail.

It was very important to do this as neatly as possible as it is the reception area and as such is visible to all visitors as they enter the door. Care needs to be taken to ensure that gaps between boards are uniform and that the boards are parallel to each other. Also it is important to get the total structure to line up parallel with walls and corner of walls and slab above. It becomes unsightly when these don’t. At times the corners of walls may not be perfectly square and adjustments then need to be made so that the ends of the timber structure are at least parallel to the adjacent wall even if it means the structure itself isn’t square. Small adjustment can be made to the gaps between boards to compensate for this. 1mm on each end of a gap won’t be visible to the naked eye but will result in a 20mm “gain”, after 20 boards, on one side.

The ends of this suspended balau ceiling or bulk head needed to tie up with the boards to give it an appearance of being one solid, much wider piece of timber. It is often not possible to use a full-sized timber as it becomes too heavy on the structure, and the pocket. In these instances “build ups” are used to make it look like one solid wider piece of timber. The same principle is common in table tops where the top is only 22mm thick but is built up on the edges to give it the appearance of being 40mm thick. Care must be taken to do it neatly and it must be planned properly so that each piece fits into each other. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting to the end only to find you are 20mm out and should have set your first piece 20mm closer in.

Screw holes were filled with a clear epoxy mixed with saw dust and sanded flat.

This balau ceiling was left un-oiled to give it as much of a natural appearance as possible. It can be finished with an oil and the only product to use here is either Timberlife Satin Wood 28 Base or Woodoc Deck Dressing. This oil soaks into the timber. Most other products will dry on the surface and will eventually peel and flake.

For a quote on all of your balau timber works, decks, balustrades, walkways and stairs please use the contact form us below or contact us on 082 496 5444.

Jacuzzi Cladding

Jacuzzi cladding that comes standard with most Jacuzzi is often made from meranti which is not that suitable for constant weathering and wet conditions.

Balau or Massaranduba cladding is a better alternative and will last many years in constant contact with water.

Cladding can take many forms from vertical cladding to cover pumps and filters to a small seating area around the Jacuzzi. They often contain hinged doors for access to pumps and filters.

Please contact us for a quote for your cladding requirements on 082 496 5444 or use the form below.

Wooden Deck, Umhlanga, Durban

Here’s a wooden decking project we completed in Hawaan Forest Estate, Umhlanga, Durban. There were two houses right next door to each other so it was a bit easier on the pocket when it came to travel to site. The whole job was quite big too, in excess of 200 square metres of coverage, so it was worth the travel from Home Base in Waterfall, Hillcrest.

House 1 consisted of a fairly large deck of about 80 square metres. It was an interesting deck to build in that it was built flush with the tiled covered patio, extending to the pool, with steps as wide as the deck leading into the garden. It incorporated a fire pit with step benches on three sides set slightly away from the pool. The front of the steps were clad so that beneath the deck was not visible. We met our deck boards at a 45 degree angle on the vertical cladding.

There were various smaller decks around the front of the house and the courtyard consisted of a steel frame and steel gate clad in balau deck boards. There was an interesting deck on the first floor of about 7 square metres that is accessed through a door on to the roof top. It is bordered by three sides of planter boxes surrounded by balau.

The garage doors were 6m wide and 2.7m high. The frame was made of steel and deck boards were used to clad it. It resulted in it being quite heavy but complimented the front of the house by following through with the wood cladding design so typical of Hawaan Forest Estate homes.

Along the front of the first floor are steel sliding screens of 14m x 3.1m high. The decks and courtyard screens were all done in 19 x 68mm balau reeded deck boards whilst the sliding screens on the first floor were done in 19 x 30 balau slat. In order to get a 19 x 30 slat we ripped a normal 19 x 68 deck board in half to 30mm wide. These were then attached to the steel with a 20mm screw from behind so that no screw holes are visible from the front.

Most deck boards are reeded on one side which allows water to dissipate more easily between the deck board and joist, so we had to source non reeded deck boards for this application. If it had been reeded the grooved side would have been visible from either the inside or the outside. Non reeded deck boards are not that common, but they are available, and it is cheaper to rip deck boards to 19 x 30 than to buy 20 x 30mm slats.

House 2 had a much smaller pool deck of about 25 square metres. It was fairly intricate though in that the deck had to be tucked underneath the wall on one side and beneath the tiles of the pool fascia. The patio above the pool had a fall to it to allow water to run off, so the edge of the deck could not be level, otherwise it would have resulted in a stepped join between the wooden deck and the patio. There are also a few smaller decks surrounding this house and it too has a 13m long by 3.1m high sliding screen system in steel with balau 19 x 30 slats.

I will update these pics above once other contractors have completed their areas of work to give you a good idea of what is possible in timber decking and screening.

For a quote, and design, of your wooden decking and screening requirements, please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Balau Deck Built in Malvern, Durban

Wooden balau deck built in Malvern, DurbanWe incorporated a pergola style roof covering into this wooden balau deck we built in Malvern, Durban.

We started with our deck in a normal joist and beam system, but installed our main beam of 50 x 228 on the front in line with the joists rather than slotting it in underneath. This was simply because we didn’t have much space below the deck to slot it in. On the front edge it was fine to use a 50 x 228 beam, but midway across the deck we couldn’t use a 50 x 228 and had to secure each joist to the ground with a small post. It wasn’t a problem though because we were placing it directly on top of the slasto substrate. So there were no holes to be dug and filled with concrete.

We then attached two 76 x 76 pine posts, which can also be replaced with balau 90 x 90, to give us some posts to work from for our pergola. Our pergola was built using a 50 x 228 beam on the front, but this could have also have been replaced with a 38 x 152 as there is no real weight on top of the pergola. You do get some wind loading from beneath in pergolas with fixed roof sheeting, but not much weight from the top. We only used two posts as our main beam on the front was long enough to span across the 5.2m of the front of the deck. Adding extra posts in between clutters up the front of the deck.

Wooden balau deck built in Malvern, DurbanWe added 50 x 76 purlins and covered that with clear polycarbonate roof sheeting. This allowed the light to still get in but it will be protected from rain. This roof sheeting is however not that attractive from beneath so we clad the underside with thatching laths with no gap between them. I’ve tried building one of these before with a laths gap between laths, but it doesn’t work as you can then see the roof sheeting clearly. Because the laths are not a regular uniform thickness all the way along, you still do get some gaps, even if placing them side by side, which allows light through but takes away the view from beneath of the roof sheeting.

We added a step on the front, as the top of the deck was more than 200mm off the ground on the front so this made for easy access to the garden from the deck.

In the pics alongside you can see the roof sheeting on before we placed our thatching laths on. We’ve also previously used a translucent bronze roof sheeting which works very well to cut the glare from the sun. The polycarbonate roof sheeting is far better than fibre glass roof sheeting, albeit more expensive, as it doesn’t contain strands as the fibre glass sheeting does.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck, pergola or any other outdoor wooden construction, please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden balau deck built in Malvern, Durban

Wooden Balau Pool Pump Covers

Wooden balau pool pump lids

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Here’s some pool pump covers we built for a client using balau wood. He had just refurbished his house completely and had added a koi pond and therefore a pump and filter system too. He had built a solid brick wall around the system and wanted to cover it with wooden balau lids that he could open to clean filters and operate the pump.
The width of these lids was 1.5m and the total length to cover was 4.1m. Because we were using balau which weighs in at about 850kg to 1, 000kg per cubic metre, they were very heavy and we had to split the 4.1m length into 4 sections to reduce the weight. Even at 1.5m² each, they were quite heavy to lift and latch on the wall behind.

They were hinged on to a wooden cleat we installed on the back wall and rested on the brick wall on the front and side edges. We built the frame using an H3 CCA Treated pine structure and then clad the top and sides with balau. In their open position, you can see the pine which we stained darker to match the balau in colour. Each lid can now be opened individually to access that section of the pump or filter and we installed cabin hooks on the wall so that in their open position they can be hooked up on the wall.

Wooden balau pool pump lids

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Balau is a very heavy, hard, dense wood. I have had some pieces of balau which have sunk in the pool. One would normally expect wood to float, but if its density is more than that of water, then it will sink. This would mean that those pieces that sink are weighing more than 1, 000kg per cubic metre. Because of its hardness, density and other factors such as oils and resins and toxins that repel insects, it makes a very good decking material. It is however expensive so we try to use a properly treated (CCA Treatment) piece of pine wherever we can to reduce cost. If the CCA Treated pine is treated to the correct Hazard level, then it can be guaranteed for up to 50 years against rot or insect infestation. Wherever we can use it we do and then we cover it up with balau as it is not as visually appealing as balau.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough space to allow the lid to fall backwards slightly to avoid having to latch it to the wall. The latches of course are visible when the lids are in their closed position. It would have been better to try to avoid using cabin hooks, but it would have meant building a wider cleat at the back wall to allow the lids to fall backwards slightly in their open position. This would have interfered with the accessibility to the pump and filter.

We used 100mm stainless steel hinges with bearings in the spine as these are extremely strong and a lot more cost affordable than brass.

In their closed position, the lids act as a bench that can be used to sit on or a low-level table.

For a free no obligation quote on your outdoor timber construction, please contact us on 082 496 5444, or use the form below to send me an e-mail.

Balau Wooden Sundeck Built in Kloof, Durban

Wooden Sun decks Durban

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Here’s a balau wooden sundeck we’ve just built on Kloof, just inland of Durban.

We used a 19 x 90 balau deck board on this wooden sun deck at the client’s request. We normally use a 19 x 68 balau deck board as they are considerably less expensive per square metre than the 19 x 90 balau deck boards and we can pass that saving on to our clients. Granted it is quicker to install a deck board that is wider as you need less boards per square meter (in this instance 15 boards per square metre using a 68mm wide board and 11 using a 90mm board), but not by that much that it warrants paying 35% more for it. 90mm boards are about 35% more expensive per square metre than 68 mm boards.

Wooden Sun decks Durban

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When screwing down a 19 x 90 deck board I put two screws, per board, in each joist line, one in each shoulder. I have seen other deck builders putting one in

Wooden Sun decks Durban

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every alternate shoulder. It does work, but if you do get a board that is particularly prone to warping it will warp where the one screw has been left out. It is not a huge cost or effort to put a second screw on the opposite shoulder of each board at each joist line. Obviously the wider the board the more prone it will be to warping. Why they are more expensive I haven’t yet worked out because good balau is good balau is good balau. If the wider boards we taken from a different part of the tree, the heartwood vs. the sapwood, then I would understand the price difference, but they aren’t. It is a preference, at a price, that’s all.

Wooden Sun decks Durban

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We ran the deck boards all in the same direction on this wooden deck. With this deck we ran the deck boards parallel to the edge of the pool meeting each other at a 45° angle on the corners. It is far easier to run them all in the same direction as you will never get a problem of matching the cut ends. If one board is cut at 46° and one therefore at 44°, they will be of different lengths and will not match up. In this instance you need to install a barrier between then (one deck board’s width) to hide any difference in length between cut ends. But I’ll write another article about that later. Running them all the same way on both sides of the deck eliminates this problem.

You need to be careful though to start installing your deck boards in the middle of the deck and not on one end. If you start on one end, you may very well reach the 90° corner and find that you have to rip a deck board in half to cover your space. This is unsightly and will result in that deck board failing more quickly than the rest. So start in the middle and move outwards to both ends and end with a full deck board.

There was also some other work on this wooden deck build in that the client wanted a planter stand built so he could place potted plants in it and he wanted his Jacuzzi walls clad. We battled a bit with the Jacuzzi cladding as the original brick structure that was there was skew and we had to try to mitigate this by building up

Wooden Sun decks Durban

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our substructure to bring it back to square.

The cladded vertical posts you see in the pics alongside are 19 x 90 boards (x 3 of) around a 76mm steel awning post. We needed to build the steel awning post up to get to our 290mm and then attach it to the post. Although it looks very nice to have such bulky wooden posts, it does block the view slightly when sitting at the pool. Why 290mm when each board is 90mm (90mm x 3 = 270mm)? Because we set each corner chasing the other surface. And let’s just forget about the 5mm gap we had in between each board.

For a free no obligation quote for your wooden sundeck, pergola, walkway, screens or other timber construction please use the contact us form below or call us on 082 496 5444.

Balau Cladding or Screening

Balau cladding or screening

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Balau cladding or screeningZ

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Balau cladding or screening of brick walls is quite popular and attractive. It takes an otherwise boring brick, plaster or concrete look and transforms it into a beautiful wooden clad structure. It can of course be clad balau or any other timber, but balau being the most popular outdoor timber for cladding of brick walls. Pine is a lot cheaper buy nowhere near as durable and will warp, cup, twist and bow a lot quicker than balau. Balau is very stable and the deck boards will remain flat for a lot longer.
We use either the standard deck boards of 19 x 68mm or we can use a 19 x 90mm board. The 19 x 90mm board is however more expensive per square metre than the narrower boards.

What works quite well too when cladding brick walls with timber is to have differing widths of boards. So one might start with a 19 x 68 board, and then install a 19 x 90mm board and then a 19 x 30mm board.

When cladding brick walls with timber it is best to keep the gaps to about 5mm. Normally with screens we leave a 20mm gap, so that you can still see through the screen if you walk right up to it, but with cladding there is nothing really to see on the other side. So keep the gaps to 5mm to have a nice tight compact finish.

This was a job we did in Westville for a corporate client who was renovating their reception area. It was initially a brick portico sort of structure that had small blue mosaic tiles stuck to it. The blue mosaic tiles were painted black prior to us cladding so that they would not be visible between the gaps. We simply installed cleats of 19 x 68 deck boards in balau on to the tiles which had been painted black and then on top of that we installed the cladding. We had to be careful not to protrude the cladding more than about 45mm from the wall as it would have caused the main door to snag on the cladding.  On the corners we mitred the edges at 45° to give it a nice neat finish.

There was an access control system that we needed to work around. The company installing it came to site on the same day that we clad that area and we worked with them to cut out the necessary areas so that the various control panels could be installed neatly on our timber cladding.

The job was finished with closing the screw holes with epoxy, sanding smooth and sealing using Timberlife Satin Wood 28 Base, an oil based deep penetrating timber preservative that repels water. Because it is oil it can never peel or flake making future maintenance easy and inexpensive. You simply clean the timber and apply more oil.

For a free no obligation quote on your timber cladding requirements, wooden sun decks, pergolas and other outdoor wooden construction, please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Balau Screening in Cotswold Downs – June 2013

Balau or timber screening

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We were called upon to quote on some balau screening in the Hillcrest, Durban area at a new development called Cotswold Downs.

There were various aircons, heat pumps and gas bottles that needed to be clad or screened so as to conceal them.

We used balau 30 x 40 struts or cleats attached to the walls. In some instances we used hiltis as there was not much load on the cleat.   In other instances we used 10mm x 100mm sleeve anchors.  We built a frame using the 30 x 40 balau and then clad it using a standard deck board of 19 x 68 with a 19mm space between. The 19mm space is standard in screening or cladding as it provides enough coverage without being too tight in its appearance. A gap of 5mm, which is standard in building a deck, would be far too close and would give it an odd appearance.

Most of the structures we built here were simple enough with either two or three sides and a removable lid so that access could be gained to change gas bottles or service aircons. Some of them had to have fronts

Balau or timber screening

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that were removable as well as tops so that access could be gained from above or from the front. Some were removable lids and fronts and some were hinged. One needs to be careful which hinges you chose as they need to be strong enough and weather resistant. Solid brass hinges are expensive and with the weight of the balau can be problematic. Solid stainless hinges with bearings are best if the weight of the door is quite large. On the smaller door we used aluminium hinges as the door wasn’t too heavy and the aluminium will stand up the weather.

There were two doors we made which measured 2.5m high and 750mm wide each. That size door in balau is quite heavy and we used three galvanised strap hinges on either side. The only problem with strap hinges is that they need to be placed on the side of the door that opens, so they were visible on the outside. Some may say it adds character to the door, but sometimes you don’t want to see them. Being galvanised steel they are difficult to paint but can be painted with a Hammerite product specially designed for galvanised steel.  The only other alternative to these were to use the galvanised strap hinges that have a bent arm and slot into another piece attached to the frame. However these would have resulted in a large gap between the frame and the door or gate. Normal butt hinges wouldn’t have been strong enough to hold the door due to the sheer weight of them in balau.

Balau or timber screening

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When building this type of structure it is often easier to try to build the whole thing in situ. So a frame goes up first, then you set the braces at the back to the correct length and then start adding deckboards, leaving one side long which can be cut afterwards.  If it is quite large then the door needs to be built on the ground, leaving the ends long and hung, then cut in situ.

They are unlike a normal door in that they can’t be successfully planned to fit the frame because the end grain is on the side.

We finished them off by filling holes with epoxy, sanding flat and sealing with Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 in a mahogany tint.

For a free no obligation quote or advice on your decking or screening requirements please complete the form below and I will contact you, or you can call us on 082 496 5444.