Balau wooden screens installed in Umhlanga Durban

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We installed these balau wooden screens in Umhlanga in Durban in early 2018. The brief was to provide some privacy to the upstairs verandah. There was originally a glass balustrade on this verandah and being at the end of a cul-de-sac this property’s verandah was very visible to vehicles and people driving or walking to the end of this cul-de-sac.

We removed the glass balustrade to make way for the wooden balau privacy screens. A balau structure was first installed fixing 40 x 60 vertical posts to the top side of the lower slab and the underside of the top slab to provide a frame on to which we screwed our horizontal balau slats.

When installing screens it is quite common to use different sized slats as we did here. Balau deck boards normally come in two different sizes being 19 x 68mm and 19 x 90mm. 19mm is sufficient thickness for screens and then one can mix the width by using a 68mm board and then a 90mm board. One can also rip a 68mm in half leaving 30mm and use that as well to create a visually appealing screen with differing widths of boards.

Gaps between these boards should ideally be 19mm to allow for wind loading. Obviously the closer the boards the less wind can penetrate the screen thereby increasing the wind loading on the screen. A gap bigger than 19mm results in too large a gap and privacy is sacrificed.

Sufficient vertical supports should be provided for stability and integrity and they should be close enough together so that the boards don’t bow between supports. Balau can normally be spanned about 600mm to 1m between supports to sufficiently pull each board straight to reduce bowing. At times a “strap” can be installed behind the boards to pull them all straight.

It is often a lot cheaper, and just as effective, to use a correctly treated pine structure to fix these boards to. However with a 19mm gap and visibility of the structure as well as visibility from behind, we prefer to use a balau structure. In this instance we used a 40 x 60 balau solid piece from top to bottom which worked well.

These screens can be oiled or left to grey naturally. Either way the life span of the wood is not increased that much be oiling them as balau contains natural toxins which limit insect infestation and oils and resins which repel water and limit rot. If they are to be sealed then an oil is the right way to go. Any other coating that dries on the surface of the wood will eventually peel and flake which will be costly to remove and re-coat.

For a no obligation quote on your timber decking, screens, pergolas etc. please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact 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 accomodate flush mount LED lights. One can’t attach the balau deck boards directly to the steel structure so we’ve built a mini timber structure on to which we will attach the balau planks. We needed to build it so that the bottom of these boards were flush to the bottom of each I beam as the I beam itself will remain exposed and visible. Cleats and battens were attached to the steel and then painted to match the colour of the steel itself. Deck boards were then fixed to these battens with a 90mm gap. The gaps of 90mm are to accommodate a bracket which will be used to fix LED lights which will be flush with the bottom of our boards. We installed the brackets once we had already installed the boards to make it easier to get the alignment right. We drilled through the board and counter sunk a nut and bolt which will be filled with epoxy to cover the bolt head. The lighting company then installed their lights into those purpose made brackets.

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

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

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

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

Wooden Balau Pergola Built in Plantations – Durban

This wooden balau pergola was built at Plantations in August 2016. We had custom-made galvanised steel base plates made up in order to secure the uprights to the existing paving. Because the uprights had to be installed on the edge of the paving we couldn’t dig and bury the post so we installed them into these base plates which were then fixed to the paving using sleeve anchors.

When designing a base plate for this application it is important to make the tube that will carry the upright post long enough in order to give it lateral support to stop the structure “racking”. Also the actual base must be big enough to be sturdy, but small enough so as to still be neat and not get in the way. We used a 90 x 90mm balau upright. The back row of uprights were fixed to the outside of the wall surrounding the entertainment area.

On the top we installed 30 x 102 as purlins which were spaced at 600 centres. I’ve found that spacing a 30 x 102 at 600mm centres works best from a structural point of view and a cost point of view. Obviously the closer the purlins are spaced the more expensive the pergola will be and one must be careful not to space them too far apart as it affects the stability of the structure and the visual appearance.

On top of that we installed 30 x 40 balau battens running perpendicular to the purlins at 120mm centres resulting in a gap between battens of 90mm being 3 times that of the batten itself. This works well in order to give enough broken shade without creating a completely closed effect on top. It also helps on the pocket by using 30 x 40 as opposed to 30 x 60mm.

Because of the existing chimney on one side of the area we had to cut purlins beams and battens in order to finish it neatly around this chimney whilst still making sure that all ends were fixed. If the ends are left unsecured they tend to twist over time.

These balau pergolas can be left un-oiled or oiled. If left un-oiled then they will eventually turn a silvery grey colour. If oiled they will remain slightly darker. It is not advisable to coat them with any other product other than an oil as it will eventually peel and flake and maintenance then becomes difficult and expensive. They can be pressure washed to remove dirt and grime that settles over time.

For a quote on your wooden balau pergolas, deck, walkways, balustrades, stairs and other timber works, please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 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 031 – 762 1795. If you prefer to build your own we supply the timber and other materials required through our sister company Ocean Timber Products (www.oceantimber.co.za). You can leave an enquiry there or on this page.

Wooden Deck and Stairs Built in Umhlanga, Durban

This wooden deck we built for a client in Umhlanga, Durban was a suspended wooden deck about 2.8m off the ground. The idea was to make use of the flat concrete roof as a deck because the views from up there are of Durban Anchorage where ships anchor before proceeding to Durban port.  The views also extend all the way down the Golden Mile of Durban.

We didn’t want too many posts going to ground as the area beneath the wooden deck is still used as an outside patio. So we built our substructure using H4 CCA Treated pine in a 50 x 228 size rather than the normal 38 x 114. This way we could span our wooden joists of the deck across a longer distance without the need to support them below with another beam, and therefore posts. We attached the one end of the row of joists with a T joint to another 50 x 228 beams which carried the one side. The other side of each joist was hung in a custom-made galvanised steel joist hanger. The result was that our entire substructure was in one plane rather than having the joists sitting on top of a beam. It allowed us to keep the ceiling height of the deck higher, without having to increase the height of the top of the deck surface. These pine wooden joists were later sanded and sealed to make them look closer to the balau we installed on top of the pine.

The wire rope balustrade was fairly straight forward and we extended it past the deck on to the concrete slab flat roof.

The challenges in this wooden deck came in building the stairs. We had a fixed height to work with and a limited lateral distance in which we had fit all of our treads and risers whilst still keeping our risers and treads compliant. To add to this we had a window we had to pass to get down quick enough in our stair case in order to miss the window, plaster band and plumbing on the side of the house. The only way possible was to split the staircase into three flights with two landings where the flights turned at 90 degrees. We also had to split each landing into three windings in order to gain an extra two risers per landing in order to finish the stairs where they needed to finish. We adjusted the tread depth to shorten our treads and therefore total lateral distance to basically “sqwish” then all in. Normally we use 3 pieces of 30 x 102 balau for treads with two 5mm gaps between boards resulting a tread width of 316mm. We ripped the middle 30 x 102 to 50mm to reduce this lateral distance whilst still remaining compliant at 264mm but gaining some lateral distance in order to squeeze them all in. We finished it off with balau deck board cladding in order to cover all the pine structure. The job took time but it was well worth the wait. Stairs that look nice, work nicely and remain compliant.

It was all finished with an oil based sealer which penetrates the wood rather than drying on the surface.

Contact us for quotes on your wooden decking, stairs, balustrade and other outdoor timber construction. You can call us on 031 – 762 1795 or you can use the contact us form below.

Balau Timber Stairs Built in Umhlanga Rocks, Durban

These balau timber stairs that we built in Umhlanga are actually temporary stairs which will be removed at some point. They were built in order to gain access up the bank to a converted container that has been placed at the top. It is for a new development at Umhlanga Ridge and the converted container will be used as a sales office to sell the units. Their life span will depend on how long it takes to sell all the units after which the container and stairs will be removed.

We nevertheless used balau as we needed to create a very upmarket feel as this development is targeted at the high-end market.

Initially we were going to build a platform or landing at the bottom, one at the top and one mid way to break the stairs into two flights. However the total distance did not require that and we settled for a landing at the top and one at the bottom. Normally if the flight of stairs is quite long one needs to split them into two flights with a landing mid way. This is to be compliant with National Building Regulations. It is stipulated for safety reasons because a very long flight of stairs becomes dangerous if not split into two flights.

It is a bit more difficult to build two flights with a landing mid way because one needs to first build your top and bottom landings and then work out exactly at what height the middle landing needs to be. This is so that the two flights can be of equal distance and the risers of the first flight can be equal to the risers of the second flight. If the middle landing is not placed exactly in the middle of the total height, the risers of one flight will need to be different to that of the other flight in order to close the gap between landings. It can also result in a different number of risers.

We used balau stingers, cleats and treads. We left the risers open and installed a balustrade down both sides of the stairs for obvious reasons. The balustrade was also full balau and installed in a vertical picket style with a 102mm capping on top.

The stairs were 1m wide which allows for two people to occasionally walk up and down at the same time. I say occasionally because if it was a busy stair case and people were walking both up and down at the same time regularly then one would need to make the stairs 1.5m wide with a balustrade down both sides. There are other building regulations that stipulate when a hand rail is needed in the middle of the stairs case once it reaches a certain width.

For a free no obligation quote on wooden stairs, decks, balustrades and other outdoor timber construction please call us on 031 – 762 1795 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 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact form below.

Wooden deck in Massaranduba, Hillcrest, Durban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wooden Flooring Durban

Wooden Floors Durban

Early plank style flooring

Many years ago, as late as 1625, most European houses did not have a wooden floor. Instead they had a beaten earth floor which of course created problems with water and dust, as you can imagine. Wooden floors were reserved for wealthier people and in those days consisted of joists with planks of elm or oak up to 600mm wide.

During the baroque era of 1625 – 1714, wooden floors became more elegant and included French parquetry and marquetry patterns which were made from hand cut pieces of hardwood laid in patterns of differing colours. They were then hand scraped, scrubbed with sand and polished. These of course were also reserved for the elite in society.

During 1607 – 1780 the North Americans started installing wooden floors due to an abundance of wood. These floors were generally not polished.

Wooden Floors Durban

French parquet style flooring

By the early 19th century, tongue and groove methods started to be applied by the wealthier clients but the random width plank system, face nailed to the joists, remained more common in modest homes. It was also during these times, due to the advent of tongue and groove, that floors could be sanded and levelled and sealed using shellac. Shellac was all that was really available to carpenters to seal wood in those days. It is derived from insect secretions and after being scraped from the bark of trees and processed, exists in solid form. When mixed with alcohol, it becomes liquid and can be applied. It dries very quickly. As there were no modern tools to perform these tasks it was very labour intensive and only the elite could afford this new technology.

The American Victorian Era of 1840 – 1910 saw mass production of wooden floors and consisted largely of “wood carpeting” which were roughly 35mm x 7mm strips glued to a heavy cotton backing made of canvas. They came in rolls of about 1m wide and were installed by tacking down each board every 300mm or so. Nails were set below the surface and filled, sanded by hand and varnished largely with slow curing tung oils from China. This was not that durable in itself so floors were hot waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush. All by hand. I know what a job it can be to level a floor using tongue a groove boards with a large grinder or floor sander. I can only imagine the sweat and tears that went into producing a top quality floor in those days.

Wooden Floors Durban

Modern day tongue and groove flooring

By the Edwardian era (1901 – 1914) tongue and groove flooring was the popular choice for domestic flooring. By the 1920’s and 1930’s wooden flooring was in competition with linoleum and cork floors which offered less maintenance. With the addition of alkyd resin, curing time and durability of finishes improved and emphasis was placed on hard solid durable floors. In the 30’s polyurethane was the choice for a no wax finish for floors which allowed wood to play a prominent role through the modern era of the 20’s to the 50’s. Wall to wall carpeting was still terribly expensive and a lot more expensive than wood.

With the housing boom at the end of World War II, came doom for the wooden flooring industry. Because the broadloom (wide and long carpets) cost could be included in the loan for veterans, solid wood floors were very quickly covered up with more expensive, and therefore more sought after, wall to wall carpets. So from the 50’s to about the 80’s hardwood flooring companies struggled to survive and had to adapt my installing carpets. Also ply wood was commonly used then below the carpets. As a result of this the labour paid to install floors decreased and of course the quality dropped as labour struggled to lay more flooring in a day just to survive. This resulted in poor quality floors being laid which made them unpopular. Parquet was then branded as cheap and common.

As we move along in time, and wooden flooring becomes more expensive than other types of flooring, because wood itself is becoming scarce, solid hardwood flooring starts, to my joy, becoming more popular and associated with the more elite end of society. Carpets are being ripped up to find Swiss parquet and parquet blocks, largely of teak which are being restored to their former beauty. A lot of new floors are being laid in solid hardwood too and are preferred over carpets or tiles. Tiles and carpets have had their day. Solid hardwood reigns, for now, but watch this space because the wheel turns and in a few decades I suppose wooden floors will lose their popularity as do all things with time.

For a quote on your solid hardwood flooring needs please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form on this page.

Solid Wood Floors – All Brown Teak End Matched

Solid hardwood floors

Click to enlarge

These solid wood floors were installed in Hluhluwe in a house that was being renovated by the new owner on a farm. We used all brown teak, end matched. Most of our teak in South Africa comes from Zimbabwe and they are not allowing teak to leave the country without being machined there. So they were machined in Zim, exported to Gauteng and then shipped to Durban and then up to Hluhluwe. We always allow our timber to stand on site for at least two weeks to acclimatise to the humidity and conditions in their final resting place. This eliminates problems further down the line of boards swelling after installation which cause popping of boards.

Because it is quite difficult to get long lengths of teak, these boards were end matched. They varied in length from 450mm to 1m. To avoid waste in installation the manufacturer will machine them with tongue and groove joints on all four sides so that instead of cutting the ends off to line them up with a bearer, you can simply install them end to end between two bearers because they are tongue and grooved on all four sides. The amount of waste that would be created if they were to be cut would amount to almost half of the total floor area. With lengths of 3m plus, this is not necessary as the waste is far less as a percentage of the total wood being used.

Solid hardwood floors

Click to enlarge

We had two areas to floor, upstairs and downstairs. Upstairs there was a mezzanine type floor that had been installed already with wood joists and shutter ply. We installed bearers on top of this and then nailed our floor boards on to them. Downstairs was a concrete substrate which we fixed bearers to using hiltis. It is vitally important to get this substructure of bearers completely flat and level. So spend a bit of time on getting this right as the rest of the job will run smoothly if this is done correctly. The easiest way is to install one bearer on one end of the room and another on the other end of the room with both being level in both directions and to each other. Then run fish line between the two in intervals of about 500mm. Now you can set all your other bearers flat and level to these two, the result being a completely flat and level substructure.

Once the bearers are down you can start installing the boards from one end of the room. We used a specialised hardwood floor nailer, which I have written about here. Because this machine, or tool, is designed at a 45° angle, it cannot be used for the first or last floor boards. On the first one you must use a 40mm oval nail through the tongue (pre drill the pilot hole in hardwoods such as teak) and counter sink it is so it is invisible. From here you can use the hardwood floor nailer. The last board, or last few boards, will also not be able to be installed using this tool as the wall will get in the way. You also can’t successfully nail by hand as you did on the first board, so you will need to face nail the board. That is to drive a nail through the face of the board into the bearer and then neatly close the hole with a suitable filler to match you wood colour.

The next step is to sand the floor flat. Even though these hardwood floor boards are machined precisely to fit snugly into each other through the tongue and groove joint, they do sometimes vary in thickness by a quarter mm and this needs to be sanded flat using a floor sander and 40 grit paper. Teak is extremely hard so this part was slow going. Once it is flat you can then use a 100 grit paper to get rid of scratch marks left by the 40 grit and get the wood to a smooth finish ready for sealing.

Solid hardwood floors

Click to enlarge

Vacuum ALL the dust up and vacuum again to make sure that ALL dust is off the floor prior to sealing. We also use a flat broom. The same broom you see them using in shopping centres. This broom moves dust around in one steady motion rather than the normal sweep motion that causes the dust to become airborne and settle again where you have just swept. From time to time you need to vacuum the broom to get rid of the dust and continue sweeping.

3 Coats of a good quality polyurethane sealer is required. Sand lightly with a 200 grit paper to remove any hairs or fibres that would have been raised after the first coat. If using a water based sealer you can dilute the first coat with water so that it penetrates the timber. There are many sealers that can be used. We prefer the water based ones as they dry quicker than the others and are friendlier in their behaviour.

For a free no obligation quote on installing or just sanding and sealing your solid wood floors, please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or you can use the contact us form below.

Solid hardwood floors

Click to enlarge

Solid hardwood floors

Click to enlarge