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 082 496 5444, or use the contact form below and one of our representatives will get in touch with you.

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.

Substructure on Low Level Wooden Pool Deck


We are busy with a new wooden pool deck build in Hillcrest, Durban and I have taken a video to show how the substructure is built before the deck boards go down.
This is a low-level wooden pool deck that we are building which is only about 200mm off the ground. Because it is 200mm off the ground we can’t simply use 38 x 38 cleats as we have done in the past which are secured to the ground. We still need to use a joist of at least 114mm wide which is supported every 1.6m with a foot or post as there will be a void beneath the joist and the paved substrate. We have aimed to get our deck flush with the floor inside the house which is about 200mm above the paved area around the pool.

We built our substructure in a number of separate frames which are then lifted up into place on the wall side and secured using sleeve anchors. The opposite ends of each frame are then also lifted up to get the top of the joists level and flat and supported using a 76 x 76mm square post which rests on top of the paving. We will also remove some paving on every other post and sink that into the ground to ensure that the deck doesn’t sink over time if the paving sinks. The separate frames are then all attached to each other.

We have left our joists long to extend over the pool and now that the side of the frame is attached to the house we can work out exactly where we want our joists to end so as to get our fascia board on the inside of the pool completely flush with the vertical of the coping of the pool. This way we can slide our fascia down to cover the coping neatly. We can now trim our joists to the correct length and install another 38 x 114 joist running at right angles to the main joists. We could not make use of a beam and joist system here because we don’t have space beneath our joists to install a beam. We would need an extra 228mm to do this. So our frame is assembled in one single plane rather than having joists sitting on top of beams.

We’ll install some truss hangers where the joists meet the side beam which is attached to the wall. All that is holding those joists to this side frame now are two 60mm screws from behind so they need to be supported with a truss hanger to stop them ever dropping if the screws fail. Those screws are screwed into ends grain which is never that strong in terms of fixing.

The trick to this type of deck is to get the fascia frame around the pool to sit completely flush with the coping of the pool so that a fascia board (two deck boards) can be installed in the vertical plane to cover the fascia. Once that is all fixed in place and can’t move then we can deck.

Balau deck boards will be secured on top of our joists and we will start our deck boards on each side of the pool and deck towards the house and towards the grassed area. When decking towards the house we need to hope that the pool is parallel to the house and if not then we need to adjust our spaces between boards to accommodate any difference. So for instance if one side, between pool and house is 20mm shorter than the other, then we will need to increase the gaps between deck boards by 1mm for 20 boards to get the deck parallel to the house. If not we will end up with a wedged shape board as the last board which will be unsightly and will fail more easily. Also we need to try to end on a full board rather than a ripped half board as that too will be unsightly and may fail prematurely. Again we will adjust the gaps as we go to ensure we end on a full board. The gaps are normally 5mm, but we can adjust them to 4mm or 6mm without being noticed. Then we will “fill” the section between each long side of the pool and again we need to ensure that we don’t end on a half board, by adjusting our gap to 4mm or 6mm. The final result will be a deck with full deck boards and no wedges.
The grassed side is easy enough in that we can protrude over the end of the paving to end on a full board and terminate our deck there. On this end we will install a screen of 1.8m high the length of the deck. So we will tie our upright posts for the screen into the posts for our deck to secure the deck into the ground with concrete to prevent any slippage, and at the same time providing an upright of 1.8m for our screen.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden sundeck, pool deck, balustrades, screens, cladding, walkways etc. please contact us on 082 496 5444 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Balau Pool Pump Covers

Wooden balau pool pump lids

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

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

Wooden balau pool pump lids

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

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

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

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

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

Wooden Pool Deck Built in Westville, Durban

Pool deck built Westville Durban

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Balau Deck board

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50 degrees

Here was a nice size wooden sun deck, or pool deck, we built of approximately 60m². I say a nice size because at that size one can reduce the costs slightly, pass a saving on to the client, and make a little bit more money on the job.

Wooden deck with jacuzzi cladding Durban

Click to enlarge

This wooden sun deck was built around the pool as you can see from the pics alongside. It also extended to the far end of the house and was enclosed by a balustrade on two sides with two gates leading to the garden. Access to the deck was from two bedrooms on one end in front of the pool and from the lounge on the other end. The level of the floors, in the rooms, near the pool, were not the same level as the level of the lounge floor so we were left with a choice to either step the deck or have a small step up to the lounge. We chose to create a small step up to the lounge because having a step in the middle of your wooden pool deck is only going to lead to someone tripping and hurting themselves.

In this article I want to write about the different ways of laying the boards when it comes to pool decks or any other deck where the boards can possibly run in both directions. If a deck needs to be built with deck boards all running the same way it is relatively easy to install them in that the ends do not need to match up. The problem one can have in trying to match up ends of deck boards is that if they are not cut at precisely 45° then the length of the cut ends will differ. I’ve drawn a sketch alongside to illustrate this.

It is highly unlikely that any pool will be perfectly square. When installing the wooden pool deck it may be necessary to cut one end at say 44° and the matching board that runs at right angles to it, at 46°. The two ends will not be of equal length and will therefore not match up flush with each other. The problem is compounded with each deck board that is added. Let’s assume that the one cut end is 2mm longer than the other. After installing 15 deck boards (or one metre) the boards will have shifted by 30mm (15 x 2mm). This will be unsightly. The problem is also compounded by the variance from 45° which results in the difference in lengths of cut ends being greater.
There is a way to overcome this problem and that is to install a joiner between the cut ends as the sketch alongside illustrates. The other way is to run the deck boards all in the same direction (i.e. not all parallel to the edge of all sides of the pool, but rather all parallel to each other).

Pool deck built Westville Durban

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Another advantage though of running the deck board’s parallel to all edges of the pool, with corner joins, is that you will have face grain facing the pool and not end grain. Water is absorbed largely through the end grain of wood and if this end grain is facing the pool, then it stands to reason that the deck boards on this side of the pool will be exposed to more water and will tend to rot more quickly than those with face grain facing the water. Even though we use balau for our deck boards, which is rot resistant, all wood will rot and by employing methods that will inhibit rot, makes good sense. Having said all that, it is easy and cheap to replace deck boards and if a deck board with end grain facing the pool gives you 15 years life, the cost vs. preference is not that great.

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