Balau Wooden Deck, Kloof Durban

 

Here’s a straight forward wooden balau deck we built in Kloof, Durban in October 2018. There were a few angles that had to be cut precisely to finish it neatly but other than that the deck was straight forward to build.

We used an H3 and H4 CCA Treated pine substructure. Because the pine is S5 (Industrial SABS approved grade) it is strong enough to be used as a structure for various building purposes. It is also relatively inexpensive in comparison to other hardwoods that could be used as decking structure. Being S5 it contains a certain amount of knots per square metre and is therefore SABS approved as structural timber. Timber with more knots per square metre is normally used as knotty pine ceiling boards where there is very little structural pressures on the timber. Timber with less knots per square metre is referred to as semi clears or S7 grade. S7 becomes quite expensive and is used as deck boards at times to eliminate knots failing on the deck surface. However because one would need to use twice as much wood (38mm thick) when using pine deck boards, the cost is the same as using a 19mm x 68mm balau deck board at half the quantity of wood. As such we use 19 x 68mm yellow balau deck boards as the surface for most of our wooden decks in Durban. The balau is far more stable being twice as dense and hard with a regular straight grain and as such these balau deck boards don’t twist, cup or bow as easily as pine. With the pine being H3 CCA treated it has a life span of at least 50 years outdoors in the rain and weather.

We added a small flight of open riser steps to this deck to gain access to the garden. These are done in full solid balau using 30mm stock. Normally the stringers are 30 x 215 and the treads are made of multiple pieces of 30 x 102 with cleats fixed to the stringers and the treads are fixed to the cleats. They don’t work that well in pine as the pine becomes very visible throughout and one ends up cladding it anyway which brings the cost back to the same as solid balau. The alternative to open risers steps is to do closed risers where box type steps are made of pine structure and then clad resulting in the riser being closed.

The screw holes of all our decks are counter sunk with a Kalgard decking screw and filled with a clear epoxy and saw dust mixture to match the colour of the wood and then ground flat and sanded smooth prior to oiling the deck. You’ll find other articles on this site where we discuss the pros and cons of using oil vs other finishes available on the market and leaving the deck to naturally grey and weather. If you use the search bar at the bottom right and search for maintenance you’ll find a complete article on deck maintenance.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck in Durban and surrounding areas, please use the contact us form below or you can call us on 082 496 5444.

Wooden Balau Deck Built Waterfall, Durban July 2018

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This wooden deck we built in Waterfall, Durban was part of a new build at Focus on Ithemba along Blessing Ninela Road, Waterfall. They were building a new boardroom and office complex and part of the design was a wooden exterior deck.

The job was referred to us by Mass Landscapes, Miles Steenhuysen, who was contracted to do the landscaping. His details can be found here.

In consultation with Miles and the project manager we designed the deck so as to flow around this office complex comfortably and aesthetically and within budget.

The structure of the deck was the standard H3 and H4 CCA treated pine. H3 and H4 CCA treated pine is suitable for outdoors decks. H3 has a life span of a minimum of 50 years and correctly treated H4 pine can live in the ground in constant contact with wet soil for a minimum of 20 years. These are guidelines provided by www.sawpa.co.za. The full document can be found here.

We used 19 x 68mm yellow balau deck boards as the surface. There is a difference between red and yellow balau. The red balau, which is a bit cheaper in South Africa, is a lot more porous and less dense than the yellow balau and as a result will absorb and retain water more easily than yellow balau and will therefore probably rot more quickly. We use only yellow balau which is the most cost-effective hardwood for decking in South Africa. It is not correct to assume that treated pine is cheaper than balau deck boards. Please see here for an article on the difference between balau and pine in decking.

The building we were attaching this deck to was not completely square with itself as it was an old building that had been extended. As such one needs to be very careful when building wooden decks against walls that aren’t square or straight. At some point there will need to be a correction to eliminate the problem and it needs to occur where it is less visible. Either the deck can be built square to itself but it will highlight the errors on the building or the deck needs to be built off square to take up any difference between the building and the deck in a place where it is less visible and can be concealed.

Screw holes we filled with epoxy and sanded flat. The epoxy used was a clear epoxy which was mixed with saw dust to match the colour. The epoxy in the screw holes prevents water sitting in the counter sunk screw hole and being absorbed up the end grain which would cause rot to set in more quickly. The deck can be oiled after sanding or left to grey naturally.

For a free no obligation quote on timber decking and related construction, we can be contacted on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Used Balau Balustrade Material – Durban

Second hand or Used Balau Balustrade Material available for re-sale in Durban.

This balau balustrade has been removed from a site and replaced with another balustrade.  The balau wood is still very good as can be seen from the piece that has been machined.  It is still in the panels you see in the pics below but can be dismantled by you for use in another project.  Below is a link to a pdf file of a list of the pieces that make up the balustrade with sizes and quantities.  It is available to view on request.

Used Balau Wood Balustrade Durban

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You can use the contact us form below to make contact with me or call me, Garrick, on 082 496 5444.

Wooden Balau Decking Companies in Durban

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Here’s a wooden deck we at The Wood Joint built in Durban recently. The Wood Joint is a wooden decking company situated in Durban and servicing most of KZN. It was a low-level wooden deck basically at ground level joining the pool to the patio and semi surrounds. The site was situated in la Lucia Durban.

When building a wooden deck that will join a verandah to a pool, one needs to be careful to set the height of the pool correctly. The height to the verandah is of course pretty much set based on what the threshold of the sliding doors are. So working from a datum line of the top of the tiles of the verandah one would set the top of the concrete ring beam of the pool down 70mm from the required height of the deck. This will allow for a substructure of 50mm and a deck board thickness of 20mm (19mm in fact but to keep things simple rounded to 20mm). A 50mm batten fixed to the top of the concrete ring beam of the pool will give sufficient space to allow water to evaporate properly, keeping below the deck as dry as possible, and enough structure to create a positive fixing of deck board to bearer. The distance created between top of deck and pool should be minimal. It is not advisable to go much higher than 70mm because it creates a very big “climb” out the pool (from water level to top of deck).

In this deck pictured you will see we ran the deck boards perpendicular to the verandah and pool side. Using this method it is not that important if the side of the pool is parallel to the verandah as the length of the deck boards can be varied quite easily without noticing any difference in length. On the other hand when the deck boards are run parallel to the pool side and verandah one needs to be careful to get the two as perfectly parallel as possible. Any difference will be visible because a deck board will need to be cut in a wedge shape to complete the space. If the difference is not that great then one can “fan” the deck boards to take up the difference in space by making one end’s gaps slightly bigger than the other end. So on one end a 6mm gap can be left and on the other a 4mm gap (normally 5mm throughout). This gains 1mm per deck board run. After 20 deck boards one can adjust for a 20mm difference in spacing. Another “trick” when running boards parallel to the pool side and verandah is to try to end on a full board rather than a half board. Again space between boards can be adjusted either up or down to try to end on a full board. It is much neater and won’t cause as many problems going forward. From the pics you’ll see we ended the deck on a half board which in this case was unavoidable because of the configuration of paving and deck.

You’ll see from the pics that the garden is mostly left for landscaping until after the deck has been built. Trying to build a deck with newly laid grass and not damaging it is near impossible. Always get you building work done before landscaping.

For a free no obligation quote on your decking requirements in Durban please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Composite Deck Boards vs Hardwood Balau Decking

I’ve often been asked to quote, on or at least comment on, composite decking. Firstly we need to have a look at what composite deck boards are.

Composite deck boards are generally made from plastic and saw dust which can be anything from saw dust, wood chips to wood fibre pieces or bamboo. They can be either be new or recycled materials. One method of manufacturing composite deck boards is by extrusion. That is the materials are mixed together and forced through an opening to create a relatively consistent size and shape. Compression moulding is the other method used and consists of taking the combined liquid materials and compressing them under high pressure and heat into a mould to create the deck board.

Composite boards cannot be used as structural material as they do not have the required structural properties of, for instance, S5 SABS approved structural or industrial grade treated pine, or balau for that matter. As such the substructure of a deck still needs to be built using H3 CCA Treated pine. If the argument is that composite decks will last longer than solid timber, then half that argument is invalid because the structure is not made from composite materials. It is only the deck boards that are from composite materials and cannot “rot” in the traditional sense. However composites can fail if the process they underwent was not sound. There are various failures that can occur. A search on Google for “composite fails” will return many ways these boards can fail from a sub standard manufacturing process to fading in extreme direct sunlight, to warping, cupping or twisting due to heat from the harsh African sun.

Sustainability and “eco friendly” is often used as an argument in favour of composites. The balau and pine we use in decks is from sustainable forestry and is certified as such when imported or harvested locally. Producing composites also requires a lot of heat which is obtained from which source? So although composites can be made from recycled materials, one also needs to factor in the carbon foot print of making them, even though it is probably less than the carbon foot print of harvesting solid timber. Composites therefore do not carry a zero carbon foot print.

From a cost point of view composites are generally more expensive than balau. As with anything, you can get cheap or expensive and the risks of buying cheap composites speaks for itself. Some composites can be up to 4 times the price per square metre of balau. A cheap composite will tend to fail quicker as opposed to a more expensive one. If the cost of these boards is up to 4 times the price of balau then it stands to reason that  ALL the balau can be replaced up to 4 times before the cost becomes the same. It is highly unlikely that you will need to replace your deck surface four times in the life of the deck. What will commonly occur in a balau deck surface is that some boards will fail before others. Any failure of balau deck boards is normally long-term in any event. Deck boards are relatively easy to replace and relatively inexpensive. It is the structure that is expensive to replace and normally results in the whole deck having to be replaced. If our structures are both CCA treated pine in both types of deck, then the greater risk lies in the structure, not the boards.

The fixing system generally used to fix these boards to the pine substructure is a hidden screw of sorts and again there are various products available each one with it’s own advantages and disadvantages. A plastic clip is often used which is slotted into a groove routed along the edge of the board and then fixed to the bearer. Two boards often share a single clip which is then concealed below the deck board. So no screw holes through the face of the board. With the screw head being so small they can fail in that the screw can be screwed too far through the plastic clip. The clip itself is plastic and at certain temperatures will fail. The clip can only be guaranteed against failure below certain temperatures. In my opinion nothing replaces a Kalgard coated decking screw counter sunk through the face of a solid timber board to limit failure. In a balau deck, screw holes are filled with a clear epoxy and saw dust mixture so are not as visible as one would think once filled and sanded flat.

Scratches and fading in composites should be taken into account. A lot of manufacturers of composites guarantee a maximum percentage fade rate. How does one measure 10% fade? If a composite deck fades or gets scratched it can’t be sanded to remove these.

Maintenance of the deck is often used as an argument for using composites over balau. Water is largely drawn into wood through the end grain and not the face or side grain. Being balau it is naturally resistant to water ingression. If you take a 20 year old piece of good quality yellow balau and cross-cut it, you will most often find that no water has been absorbed through the board. Balau deck boards can be left un-oiled which will result in a grey appearance. Oiling or not oiling a deck won’t increase or decrease the life span of the deck by any material length of time. If oiled, maintenance is simple. Oil can be sprayed, brushed, wiped, sponged or even dipped. And oil won’t peel and flake. Coatings will. So it is quick and easy to maintain. If left un-oiled a pressure clean every 6 to 12 months is sufficient to keep your deck looking good.

Based on the above I am more concerned about the structure of a deck than the surface one uses. Structures are costly to replace. Deck boards are not. The above arguments for composites do not, in my opinion, warrant using them as opposed to balau.

We will however install a composite deck for you if you so wish, but I am not convinced that you will achieve the desired result by switching from solid timber to composites.

For a quote on your deck and other timber related structure please contact us using the contact us form below or call us on 082 496 5444.

Wooden Decks and Balau Deck Boards for Sale Durban

Besides offering a full wooden deck building service in Durban of supply and install, we also sell balau deck boards to end users for use in wooden decks in Durban and KZN.  Please use the contact us form below to enquire about deck building services or read on for more info on sale of deck boards and decking materials.

Because we secure our balau deck boards in bulk we are able to offer these deck boards to the wooden deck builder or end-user at a highly competitive price and more competitively than your popular outlets in Durban.

We stock largely 19mm x 68mm and 19mm x 90mm wooden balau deck boards but other sizes and species are also available, on request. We stock a range of lengths from 2.4m to 4.8m. Please check with us what we have in stock before ordering and provide us with the rough dimensions of your wooden deck so we can select the correct lengths for you to minimize waste. If for instance you are building a wooden deck measuring 4.8m then you would opt for 2.4m deck boards and space your joists with centres of 400mm or 480mm (but not 450mm or 500mm) as these are all factors of 2.4m. On the other hand if your wooden deck measured 5.4m long then you would opt for 2.7m deck boards and space your joists with centres of 450mm or 540mm being a factor of 2.7m. This way the off cut at the end of each deck board is minimized and a saving can be obtained. I will gladly help you plan your substructure and deck boards so as to build a structurally sound deck and minimize waste. Contact me below with the size of your deck and the height above ground.

There are mainly two different types of balau that can be purchased, red and yellow balau. In my experience the yellow balau is harder and therefore more durable. The red balau I have bought in the past seems to be more porous and will therefore absorb more water and rot more quickly. Although balau is very hard, contains natural oils and resins and repels water naturally all wood will eventually rot. The aim is to choose a decking timber that will outlast other timbers but is still affordable and easy on your pocket. We stock only yellow balau.

We sell mainly reeded deck boards. These are the deck boards with grooves on one side. The grooves are not there for anti-slip as is commonly thought. They are in fact there to be placed down against the joist. The reason is to allow any trapped water to dissipate quickly. By keeping the water away from the gap between the deck board and the joist will reduce rot to a degree and result in your wooden deck lasting longer.  It is not absolutely essential but does help to some degree.  Also by having the grooves up you cannot epoxy the screw holes closed, because you can’t sand it off due to the grooves, thus allowing more water to pool in the counter sunk screw hole causing accelerated rot. Grooves up also traps dirt and grime which actually causes the deck surface to become more slippery than a smooth surface. So always grooves down.

We are able to deliver in the greater Durban area. Please enquire about delivery charge.

To contact us for a full wooden deck building service in Durban, or to order deck boards and other timber decking materials, you can call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden balau Deck Built in Umkomaas – KZN South Coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wooden Yellow Balau Deck – Kloof, Durban KZN

Here’s another wooden deck we built in Kloof, Durban which is similar to one we built in Hawaan Forest estate a few years ago. It has a fire pit with a U Shaped bench which double up as steps around it. These steps were designed so that they were wide enough to sit around the fire and with a riser that is not too steep to climb.

The substructure or frame was the normal H3 and H4 CCA Treated S5 pine we use. All our decks are built with an S5, H3 and H4 treated pine substructure. S5 refers to the grade of pine which is commonly called industrial grade. It is graded as such based on the number of knots per square metre. S5 is SABS industrial grade and has been passed by SABS to be used in construction. It doesn’t however make a very good deck board as there are too many knots which are not only unsightly but also they can become dislodged leaving a hole in the deck board. H3 and H4 CCA Treated refers to the hazard classification of the treatment as set out by The Wood Preservers Association of South Africa. Each H classification has a specific application and provided the correct H classified timber is used, the life span of the timber can be many more than 50 years.

The deck boards that went on top of the substructure were 19 x 68mm yellow balau deck boards. The other option for deck boards is 19 x 90mm yellow balau deck boards but they do carry a surcharge as they cost more per square metre than the 68mm wide boards.

There are two types of balau readily available in South Africa. Yellow balau and red balau. Yellow balau is more common and is superior to red balau. What we are seeing in South Africa nowadays which is called red balau is a lot more porous and softer and as such will absorb more water and rot more quickly. We only stock and use yellow balau.

This project in Kloof also included a pergola. What we have found to be most cost effective in pergolas is to use a 90 x 90 square balau post, 30 x 215 balau beam and 30 x 102 balau purlins or trusses at about 600 centres. This spec gives the pergola enough timber to be attractive and serve its purpose whilst still keeping costs down. With this particular job we also installed extra battens on top of the purlins. We used 30 x 40 balau for this purpose which again keeps costs down whilst still providing enough timber to keep it looking good and to do it’s job. Other options for battens on pergolas are to use a 30mm wide strip of balau with a 30mm or 60mm gap between. This provides more shade but of course comes with a higher price tag because more timber is being used.

The timber was sanded and sealed with an oil based sealer we use which doesn’t dry on the surface of the wood so it cannot peel and flake. Unlike other coatings which dry on the surface. These tend to peel and flake.

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

Wooden Pool Deck Built in Kloof, Durban

This wooden deck was a simple pool deck that we built in Kloof, Durban. The pool had originally been built at an angle to the house which limited the available space between the house and pool. The client wanted to create a wooden deck that was parallel to the house so that he could maximise the space between the edge of the pool and the house.

As result we needed to build part of the wooden deck over the pool and the trick was to support it sufficiently over about a 3.5m span so that it didn’t bounce or sag. We couldn’t of course put supports or posts into the pool so we increased the size of the beam running over the pool to a 50 x 152. We still had to trim the 152 down to about 140 as we needed to install this beam on top of the existing pool coping, on both sides, and we were limited by how high we could come up from that surface. In these instances one starts “stealing space”. A term we use at The Wood Joint for gaining every available millimetre possible in order to maximise structural strength.

We then clad the downpipes and support posts of the existing awning with deck boards to create two fairly large wooden posts and hide the PVC downpipes. This gave the effect of large wooden posts holding up the awning. The flower boxes were also clad to match the theme.

A small ledge of about 200mm wide was added along the wall running up to the pizza oven at bar height of about 1.2m from ground. A small cupboard was built in the recess that the builder had left on the right hand side of the braai in which glasses and other braai, or bar, utensils can be stored.

Stainless steel hinges were used aluminium knobs were fitted. We used a normal latch system on the inside so that when you close it, it locates behind, and out of sight. We included a single shelf for glasses. We tucked the deck underneath the braai area so that wood and charcoal can be stored there.

This deck was sanded and sealed with an oil based sealer. An oil based sealer is far superior to a water based sealer or mineral based sealer that dries on the surface. Oil cannot peel and flake. It simply disappears with exposure to UV so there is no need to sand the deck in the future.

We are available to quote on your decking needs. Please call us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact 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 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.