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

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 031 – 762 1795 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 031 – 762 1795.

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

Wooden Bridges and Walkways

Wooden Decks Durban and Cape Town

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Wooden bridges and walkways are popular in gardens that have small streams or where the garden necessitates a walkway in order to get from one place to another.

Instead of allowing a path to form from wear on the grass you can install a 1m or so wide walkway which is level and flat allowing you to move from one side to the other in comfort. They are often complimented by stairs or the occasional step up or down where the ground falls. They are often used to join one deck to another or a doorway to a deck.

Bridges can be spanned quite far without using supporting posts if balau is used. If posts are needed to support the bridge midway then H5 CCA treated posts can be used which can live in water for up to 30 years.

Please complete the form below if you require a quote and I will contact you or you can call on 031 – 762 1795.

Balau Timber Pool Deck, La Lucia, Durban

Here’s a wooden pool deck we built in La Lucia, Durban recently. In the gallery above you can see pics of the old deck and then pics of the new deck. The old wooden pool deck had started to rot at critical points. The reason for rot in many wooden decks is that the screw holes are not plugged, water gets in and travels up the end grain of the wood resulting in rot at the screw holes. Water travels more easily along the end grain of wood than the side or face grain. So it is important to seal the end grain as far as possible to prevent this. In the case of the end of deck boards the water never really gets trapped so it can drain away quickly enough to prevent rot. However in the case of a screw holes water collects in the screw hole and then has enough time to be absorbed by the end grain before it evaporates. As a standard procedure we fill counter sunk screw holes with epoxy to prevent this from happening.

The epoxy we use is clear so that saw dust can be mixed with it to match the colour as closely as possible. It is also slightly pliable. In hot and cold weather, wood expands and contracts, as does most materials. If you consider a screw hole. The sides of the screw hole will expand thereby closing the screw hole or making it smaller. Whatever is in the screw hole, as a plug, will also expand. So if the screw hole is getting smaller and the plug is getting bigger it makes sense that whatever is in there will likely try to “pop” out. Using a slightly pliable epoxy can reduce the chance of this plug popping out. Hence the reason for not using solid wood plugs cut with a plug cutter. The epoxy should be pliable enough to take up the expansion of the screw hole but hard enough not to degrade due to weather conditions.

We used 90mm balau deck boards on this deck. They are slightly more expensive but some clients prefer them to the standard 68mm boards. Being a wider board one needs to secure them on both shoulders on each joist rather than just a single screw in the middle of the boards, as is the case with a 68mm board.

The job took a bit longer than I would have liked because the substrate that we were building on top of, paving and concrete in this case, were quite uneven so we had to shim and trim joists to get the top of our joists level, flat and at the desired height to be flush with the inside of the house. The jacuzzi cladding was also quite tricky because we had to build a removable structure so that one can access the front of and below the jacuzzi. One side of the jacuzzi step is also wider than the other one so the corner required some fancy carpentry work in order to get the boards to line up and match. I’m glad I took so many pics of the deck before we removed it so that we could copy it exactly.

There were also some wedges that we had to cut along the front edge as the tiles and existing patio were not square to the wall we were building our wooden deck up against. Whenever the existing buildings are not square there is always some sacrifice one needs to make and the trick is to get it least visible to the eye. In this case the client wanted the wedges rather than cutting the tiles or bringing the front of the deck past the line of existing buildings.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden pool deck, or other balau timber construction, please call us on 031 – 762 1795, or use the contact form below and one of our representatives will get in touch with you.

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

Wooden Decking Companies in Durban

wooden decking companies durban

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There are many wooden decking companies in Durban that one can choose from when planning to install a wooden deck. Some are reputable companies and some are not, as in any industry.

Besides comparing price one should always compare services to make sure you are comparing like quotes. Some wooden decking companies in Durban for instance will offer to build you wooden deck as well as seal it and other will only quote to build it. Some will offer to fill the screw holes with epoxy to stop water getting in them which will cause rot and others won’t. It is these small things that one needs to ask about and make sure that the service being received from one wooden decking company in Durban is the same as the other that you are comparing to.

Our service at The Wood Joint, includes the following: –

Building the deck with quality yellow balau. We generally build our substructure out of H3 and H4 CCA Treated pine. This is not only due to a cost factor but also because the pine is correctly treated to H3 CCA level which has a life span of at least 50 years exposed to the elements. You can expect to pay about 40% more if you chose a balau substructure. H3 CCA Treated pine is guaranteed for 50 years if used in the correct application and installed correctly.  It will therefore outlast balau as a substructure because the balau is not, and cannot be, pressure treated. I have often seen balau joists rotting from the top where the water gets trapped between the joist and the deck board. We always use balau deck boards as balau behaves better than pine on horizontal surfaces. Balau is a lot more stable and the pine tends to cup and warp over time with the constant hot and cold, expansion and contraction and occasional wetting.

wooden decking companies durban

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Our balustrades and stairs are all made from balau, unless otherwise specified, because if one uses pine as a balustrade, the pickets and cross supports need to be almost twice as thick as balau so they tend to look a bit too chunky. Balustrades do not work well in pine because of the knots found in pine which weaken the timber.

We use a kalgard decking screw which is guaranteed for 25 years by the manufacturer against rust. The screws are counter sunk and the counter sunk hole is filled with epoxy and saw dust so as to match the colour as closely as possible. Filling the screw hole stops water sitting in that hole and travelling up the deck board along the grain. Exposure to water for too long will speed up the rot process. So we fill it, sand it flat, and seal the deck using an oil based sealer which contains no wax. This makes it easy and therefore inexpensive to maintain your deck going forward. I have done a few refurbishment jobs where the decking company has not filled these holes and on the older decks, the deck boards have started to rot there. These are all standard services we offer which are normally included in the price we quote. So when comparing our quotes to others, please check what value added services they are offering you.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck, pergolas, screens, walkways, etc. please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Deck Built in Hillcrest, Durban

Here’s video of a wooden deck we built recently in Hillcrest, Durban showing the different stages of the build.

Give us a call for a quote on your wooden sun deck, wooden pergolas, walkways, bridges, floors or fences on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.