Wooden Balustrade Built in Everton – May 2013

Wooden balustrade

Click to enlarge

This wooden balustrade we built in Everton Kloof, Durban was for an established client of ours that we have done various amounts of work for in the past. She had had some stairs built in brick and concrete down the bank to access the lower level of her property. We had to wait a few weeks in order for the concrete to cure properly before we drilled into the side of it. It is always a pleasure installing a wooden balustrade onto a concrete substrate as opposed to a brick or block substrate. With concrete your holes can be drilled easily and the sleeve anchors used to secure the posts to the side of the stairs take nicely and bind properly. When drilling into bricks, or even worse blocks, the cavity that exists in the brick or block almost always creates a problem in that the sleeve anchor has nothing to set itself against and ends up turning on itself and not binding properly. It is most frustrating and sometimes results in drilling new holes to find a solid substrate or even going the chemical anchor route. If one is drilling into blocks with large cavities, it is sometimes better to go the chemical anchor route from the beginning.

Wooden balustrade

Click to enlarge

Chemical anchors come with sleeves that are inserted into the holes first and then the two-part chemical is squeezed into that and then a thread bar is inserted. The chemicals dry very quickly, in a few minutes or less, and the thread bar is then fixed securely in the wall. A post can now be pre drilled and inserted over the thread bar and washers and nuts fastened onto that. It is a much stronger bond than sleeve anchors, albeit more expensive. Currently chemical anchors can cost about R300-00 per tube, the size of a tube of silicone, and the sleeves are about R15-00 each.

This wooden balustrade needed to have a bend in it that can be seen from the pictures alongside as the top tread was deeper than the rest of the treads. There was a small landing at the top where the balustrade needed to be level with ground. This was the normal vertical picket style balustrade and we sealed it using our favourite Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 in a mahogany tint. Using this product will result in lower maintenance costs going forward as no sanding will be required when re-sealing. You simply clean and re-seal.

Wooden balustrade

Click to enlarge

Balustrades are not the easiest thing to install. One needs to be very careful that both rails are parallel to each other and that they are parallel to the tips of the risers. Of course the tips of each riser will not necessarily be in a straight line. What we do is run a straight edge or fish line across all the risers to get an average line that we work from. The lower rail is then set parallel to this line and the top rail and hence the capping is set to this, again parallel. One also needs to be careful when taking corners. Often the distance between the capping and the steps can vary, especially if there is a landing involved. Where a balustrade arrives at a landing one needs to step the balustrade so that the capping will remain at the 1m mark above ground.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden balustrades or other timber construction, please complete the form below and I will contact you or you can contact us on 082 496 5444.


Wooden Sundeck built in The Bluff Durban – Jan 2013

sundecks durban

Click to enlarge

After the last sundeck we built in Durban we were glad to have a small break. Temperatures reached about 38°C and even though we only had to sand and seal it, it was almost impossible to work in those conditions.

This next sundeck in Durban measured about 5.7m wide along the front of the house by 4m deep. It was on the first floor at a height of 3.2m above ground level. Due to the size we had to support it using 4 balau posts each of 90mm x 90mm in size and the other two ends of the beams were set in feet cut and anchored to the wall. Initially we were going to set the posts in concrete the normal 600mm deep. However the location was in the Bluff which is almost completely a sand dune. We dug to 1m deep in sand that had the same consistency as building sand, and could still stick a re-bar another metre into the ground. Instead of the normal 600 deep in concrete method we had to throw feet or pads of 1m x 1m x 200mm with re-bar set in the middle. This created a larger footprint and will prevent the posts from sinking over time. The re-bar ensures that the whole pad has to sink at the same time instead of cracking. The posts were then set on top of those with a re bar hammered into the bottom of the post and drilled into the concrete.  See the two pics alongside.

timber decks durban

Click to enlarge

The posts are set as square to the wall as possible but there is no need to set them exactly square as they will simply support the beams and any difference won’t make a material effect structurally.

This deck needed 4 posts as the length was 5.7m and it is generally quite difficult to find beams in that size that long so they had to be joined in the middle with a post to support them. We were using 30 x 102 joists which can be spanned a maximum of 1.8m between beams so two beams were required thus doubling up the number of posts.

We cut the posts to length on the ground and then connected our beams using a joiner block to create one long beam. They were half checked and the balau beams of 30 x 220 were placed and secured on the half checks. Galvanised hex bolts were used to secure the beams to the posts.

The joists went on next and were left long so that the deckboards could start from the house side and the joists cut off once we reached our desired depth. If the joists are cut to length before the deckboards go on, then it will result in a half deckboards being used to finish it on the house side. What can also happen is that the last deckboard is not only a half deckboard but also a wedged shaped one. So deckboards are always started on the house side and run to the desired depth and the joists are then cut to fit.

Timber deck installers Durban

Click to enlarge

On these types of decks I also like installing a fascia beam of the same size as the joists so as to provide support on the front of the deck as well as providing a beam that the balustrade can be attached to. Without this the balustrade would need to be attached to the main beam beneath which would mean the main beam would need to be set near the end of the deck and perfectly square to the deckboards or the balustrade will run out of parallel to the boards. With this method it is not important if the main beam is not perfectly square as it doesn’t have to line up with anything on the deck itself. It is merely there for support and the tolerance is therefore much greater.
The balustrade uprights of 60 x 60 were installed prior to the deckboards so that we could deck around them by notching the boards. Once the boards were down, the cross supports on the balustrade were installed 100mm off the deck surface for the bottom one and flush with the top of the posts for the top one. This top cross support can sometimes be set 100 down from the top of the uprights, but setting it directly underneath the capping provides greater support to the capping and will prevent it from bowing over time. Pickets of 25 x 30 were then set equidistant apart between balustrade uprights, cut to length and a capping of 30 x 102 placed on top and secured.

Screw holes were epoxied closed with a saw dust mixture to match the colour, sanded and sealed.

Timber Sundecks in Durban

Wooden decks Durban

Click to enlarge

“Summertime ….. And The Livin’ is Easy “… Or it CAN be !! …Yes, with the South African summer right on the doorstep now, what’s the best Christmas present you could give to your family (and yourself)? (This one won’t fit into a Christmas stocking however …)

Ponder and Dream of how ‘lekker’ it would be to have a good quality sundeck in our sunny climate, leading off your lounge, and onto your pool or into your garden… and yes, in South Africa a sundeck is as important as your lounge, or more so because of our outdoor lifestyle.

Who to get to build it?
The benefits of having it professionally installed versus a ‘fly by night builder’, or tackling this mammoth task yourself; the importance of the maintenance of your valued product and the importance of what wood type to use in its construction are all considerations to take into account when planning to invest in this forever “best thing I ever did” choice. Make it your Christmas gift to the whole family, all in one!

Wooden decks Durban

Click to enlarge

Materials used in the construction include the following. All are good quality materials, able to weather the weather (pun intended) if properly maintained. An example:

• Balau (an imported hardwood from Indonesia, extremely dense, contains toxins that prevent termite damage and resins which repel water to prevent rot).
• Kalgard screws (similar to epoxy coating where the coating on the screw is baked on
• Stainless Steel Screws
• Epoxy to fill screw holes where the screw has been counter sunk to prevent water getting in the little hole which slows down rot
• Timber preservative rather than varnish (varnish sits on top and cracks and flakes from the UV in the sun’s rays, whereas timber preservative soaks into the wood nourishing it thereby preventing flaking and peeling of varnish.)
The Wood Joint pays special attention to detail in all products and places great importance on durability and longevity in their products by applying sound techniques and slightly over engineering most products.

Wooden decks Durban

Click to enlarge

They pride themselves in their quality workmanship and use only top quality timber sourced from reputable suppliers.

A sundeck is a valuable addition to any home and will not only provide many years of enjoyment, but will also enhance the value of your property.

With the correct care, maintenance costs can be kept to a minimum and the life span of your deck increased.

The Wood Joint will assist you in a design that will be cost effective and will best suit your needs taking into account the existing structure that is in place.

With years of experience in the deck building industry, The Wood Joint can advise, design, maintain and erect your deck in the most cost effective and structurally best methods.

Other Products, Other Timbers …
“We have listed the three most commonly used timbers to construct decks which have been selected due to their structural strength, longevity and cost effectiveness. There are however other timbers that can be used and these can be discussed individually.”
The Wood Joint (www.thewoodjoint.co.za) from my experience and that of many is dependable, reliable, knowledgeable and professional … View their website to see the quality and standard of their Sundecks and a wider portfolio of other specialities their experience encompasses:

• Sundecks
• Balustrades
• Pergolas
• Walkways
• Garden Bridges
• Pool Decks
• Screens (vertically installed to provide privacy)
• Cladding (on walls mainly for aesthetic purposes)

The most commonly used, and most cost effective timber, is Balau which is sourced from south East Asia. It is a yellow – brown to dark brown timber with a fine texture and interlocked grain and is extremely durable under tropical conditions.

It is a fairly heavy timber weighing between 800 kgs and 1, 000 kgs per cubic metre when dry.

It can be sealed or left unsealed. Unsealed it weathers to a grey colour. It can also be stained easily using a variety of tints to change the colour.


Garapa is also a popular decking material as it is hard, heavy, tough and strong and is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack. Found most commonly in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Eastern Peru.

It normally weighs between 800 kgs and 960 kgs per cubic metre when dry. A fine grained timber varying in colour from yellowish to yellow – brown / yellow – pink.

It is, to a degree, scratch resistant reducing sanding during scheduled maintenance.


Sourced form the West Indies and Central and South America, this timber is suitable for decks due to its hardness.

It is extremely heavy weighing in at about 1, 050 kgs per cubic metre when dry.

The texture is fine and uniform. The grain is usually straight but sometimes interlocked.

The heartwood is light red to rose red.


Keruing is naturally found in South East Asia.

The timbers vary in colour from pinkish-brown to dark brown and look rather characterless. Grain is straight or shallowly interlocked and the texture is moderately coarse and even. All of the species contain oleo-resins and many of them will exude it onto surfaces during drying or when exposed to heat or sunshine when in use.

The weight is variable too but is generally within the range 720 to 800 kg/m3 when dried.

It is moderately durable.

For free quotes and more information on The Wood Joint’s various wooden products contact us on 082 496 5444 or complete the form below.


Timber or Wooden Balustrades

Wooden Balustrades

A classic criss cross style balustrade

Timber balustrades are built in various designs and various different timbers can be used. The most affordable hardwood of course being balau with more expensive options being Massaranduba, keuring etc. The pieces required for balustrades are most commonly found in balau as they form part of the structural pieces stocked by most timber merchants. Massaranduba, keuring etc. are largely supplied in deckboards only and are used for the actual decking with balau being used as the substructure. All three of them are equally as durable and strong and only really differ in colour and grain.

In this article we will discuss the picket style balustrade.


This type of balustrade is often the only one that completely adheres to standard building regulations as the gap between any two pieces is, or can be made, less than 100mm. It should be designed with a cross horizontal support at the top and bottom to give the pickets a support to be attached to. The bottom horizontal support is normally set about 100mm from the ground and secured to each vertical post in as long a length as possible. The top horizontal support can either be set at the top of the post and directly beneath the capping or set 100mm down from the capping to provide a gap between it and the capping. The former being my personally preferred method as it then gives the capping a more rigid support and will reduce bowing and cupping of the cap.

Each picket is then attached to these horizontal supports so that the gap between vertical pickets is equal. Care should be taken in setting the first and last one as the width of each picket needs to be taken into account when calculating the centre of each picket due to the first and last one being the vertical post itself. Pickets can be pre routed on the corners to give it a profile or left square. They can also be routed in situ resulting in the router not running all the way to the end of the picket.

A capping is then placed and secured on top of the horizontal support and posts, or just to the posts if the latter method was used. This capping can then be routed over the edges to break the sharp corner. This capping should also be secured in as long a length as possible to avoid joins wherever possible. If a join is necessary it should be joined with a 45° join directly above a vertical post. This will reduce lifting on the joint.