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.

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.

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 Balustrades

Wooden Balustrades Durban and Cape Town

Balau Horizontal Balustrade

Wooden balustrades are necessary on all decks that are above 1m off the ground for safety reasons. Some people opt for them even if the deck is lower than 1m. They normally sit 1m above the deck surface but on decks which are higher than about 4m off the ground, it is recommended that one install a 1.2m high balustrade for safety reasons.

There are various designs from a standard vertical picket style balustrade to a criss cross pattern to diagonal slats and even deck boards installed horizontally. One should consider the reason for installing a wooden balustrade and then decide which one to opt for. For instance a vertical picket style is safe for high decks as they can’t be easily climbed and all gaps between pickets are less than 100mm so small children can’t fall through.

A criss cross balustrade has large openings and is not as safe.

Most balustrades have a capping on top of about 30mm x 100m allowing for a comfortable arm rest and a spot to place a drink.

Wooden Decks Durban and Cape Town

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Contact us if you’re planning on doing any wooden balustrade work on 031 – 762 1795 or use the form provided below.

Wooden Screens and In Fills

Wooden screens Durban and Cape Town

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Screens can be used for a multitude of purposes from screening out the view of the neighbours to enclosing an air conditioner so that it is not visible. They are sometimes concreted into the ground and can vary in height. Sometimes they are attached to boundary walls or the main building and some contain gates and hinged or removable lids for access to air conditioners, pool pumps, koi pond pumps and so on.

In fills are similar to screens but are normally installed between two brick columns on a boundary wall to create the effect of brick work and timber.

Most often the slats are installed horizontally with a 20mm gap between boards. This allows you to still be able to see through but screens out the view of others on the outside. This gap can however be changed for different applications. Double sided screens are also available so that both the inside and outside look the same.

To request a quote or for some advice please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the form below to contact us.

Wooden Deck, Umhlanga, Durban

Here’s a wooden decking project we completed in Hawaan Forest Estate, Umhlanga, Durban. There were two houses right next door to each other so it was a bit easier on the pocket when it came to travel to site. The whole job was quite big too, in excess of 200 square metres of coverage, so it was worth the travel from Home Base in Waterfall, Hillcrest.

House 1 consisted of a fairly large deck of about 80 square metres. It was an interesting deck to build in that it was built flush with the tiled covered patio, extending to the pool, with steps as wide as the deck leading into the garden. It incorporated a fire pit with step benches on three sides set slightly away from the pool. The front of the steps were clad so that beneath the deck was not visible. We met our deck boards at a 45 degree angle on the vertical cladding.

There were various smaller decks around the front of the house and the courtyard consisted of a steel frame and steel gate clad in balau deck boards. There was an interesting deck on the first floor of about 7 square metres that is accessed through a door on to the roof top. It is bordered by three sides of planter boxes surrounded by balau.

The garage doors were 6m wide and 2.7m high. The frame was made of steel and deck boards were used to clad it. It resulted in it being quite heavy but complimented the front of the house by following through with the wood cladding design so typical of Hawaan Forest Estate homes.

Along the front of the first floor are steel sliding screens of 14m x 3.1m high. The decks and courtyard screens were all done in 19 x 68mm balau reeded deck boards whilst the sliding screens on the first floor were done in 19 x 30 balau slat. In order to get a 19 x 30 slat we ripped a normal 19 x 68 deck board in half to 30mm wide. These were then attached to the steel with a 20mm screw from behind so that no screw holes are visible from the front.

Most deck boards are reeded on one side which allows water to dissipate more easily between the deck board and joist, so we had to source non reeded deck boards for this application. If it had been reeded the grooved side would have been visible from either the inside or the outside. Non reeded deck boards are not that common, but they are available, and it is cheaper to rip deck boards to 19 x 30 than to buy 20 x 30mm slats.

House 2 had a much smaller pool deck of about 25 square metres. It was fairly intricate though in that the deck had to be tucked underneath the wall on one side and beneath the tiles of the pool fascia. The patio above the pool had a fall to it to allow water to run off, so the edge of the deck could not be level, otherwise it would have resulted in a stepped join between the wooden deck and the patio. There are also a few smaller decks surrounding this house and it too has a 13m long by 3.1m high sliding screen system in steel with balau 19 x 30 slats.

I will update these pics above once other contractors have completed their areas of work to give you a good idea of what is possible in timber decking and screening.

For a quote, and design, of your wooden decking and screening requirements, 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 Balau Horizontal Balustrade using Deck Boards

Wooden Balau Horizontal Balustrade using deck boards

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Wooden balau balustrades can be designed and built in many different ways. One gets traditional picket style wooden balustrades, which seem to be the most popular with nice clean straight vertical lines. There are the criss cross designs and criss cross with a box in the middle. These are all very basic descriptions for these designs. They are also known by other names such as Zimbali, Colonial etc. They all carry with them their own individual cost due to the different size timbers used in their construction.

The cost of standard deck boards are a lot less expensive, in terms of per cubic metre rate, than the structural pieces of balau. Structural pieces refer to sizes such as 60mm x 60mm which is used for the vertical posts, 30 x 40 which is used for rails etc. So it stands to reason that a balustrade that is made from deck boards of 19 x 68 will cost less in timber.

The pics alongside show a balustrade that we built using deck boards. The gaps were 20mm wide and the deck boards were attached to a cleat which was fixed to the vertical brick columns. Obviously the smaller the gaps between the boards, the more expensive it will be because more deck boards will be used. I wouldn’t increase the gap to more than 68mm, being one deck board’s width. For the cleats we used a 30mm x 40mm which is our standard rail in the picket style balustrade. The cleat only needs to be about 850mm or so, so these pieces can be taken from off cuts of previously built picket style balustrades resulting in a further cost saving that can be passed on the client. For the capping we used a standard capping of 30 x 102, but this can be changed too to a narrower one. I wouldn’t go narrower than 30 x 60. This is then bull nosed on the corners using a round over bit in the router.

This job was built in between brick columns, so these can actually be referred to as in-fills rather than a balustrade. This can also be built using 60mm x 60mm posts in place of the brick columns and these should be spaced about 1.5m apart to give the structure rigidity. The 60 x 60 posts can also be substituted for 30 x 60 posts, for intermediate posts, if budget is a concern. I prefer to use 60 x 60 posts on corners and ends though.

Wooden Balau Horizontal Balustrade using deck boards

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What to watch out for in building one of these is that the tops are all level and at the same height. Sometimes you will find that the distance between the top and bottom of the brick column varies. In this instance you will keep the tops level and it will result in a varying gap at the bottom. When looking at a balustrade or in-fill one looks at the top so it is better to have your variation in gaps at the bottom.

For a free no obligation quote on wooden balustrades, in fills or any other outdoor timber construction please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the handy contact us form below.

Driveway Gate Clad in Balau Wood

Driveway gate clad in balau

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Here’s another driveway gate that we clad in balau in Umdloti, North of Durban. In the pics you can see the old gate which we left in place while we installed the new balau timber clad driveway gate and them removed it afterwards and scrapped it. Because this gate is right on the road facing the beach it had rusted beyond repair.

The steel gate was designed using 38mm x 76mm rectangular tube as a rectangular outer frame which then had a cross flat bar of 5mm x 30mm running horizontally across from one side to the other. At the top and bottom we welded flat bar on to the rectangular tube which had pre drilled holes in it to accept our deck boards. The horizontal cross flat bar was there to stop the deck boards bowing over time. It was all hot dip galvanised. I don’t recommend painting the galvanised steel. It can be done quite successfully but will always be a maintenance issue and will need re-painting every year or 18 months.

We set he track in concrete and attached the brackets which keep the gate plumb and then set the gate on its track. Only once it was on its track did we attach the deck boards to the flat bar on the top and flat bar on the bottom by lining up the board with equal spaces and drilling a hole through the wood. We used a 40mm galvanised hex bolt with a nut on the back-end and then finished it off with a stainless steel dome nut. It would be better to use stainless throughout, that is the bolt, washers nuts and dome nuts as they won’t rust.

Driveway gate clad in balau

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We left the timber unsealed as the client wanted it to turn natural grey. It doesn’t really affect the longevity of the timber. Balau contains natural resins and oils which slow down the process of rot considerably compared to other woods.

The trick in setting these deck boards is to make sure that they are equally spaced. It is fairly simple because the pre drilled holes are calculated to be dead centre so theoretically each hole should be drilled through the centre of the board. Practically though you need to still be careful to get the space between boards equal even at the cost of not drilling dead center of each board. The time-consuming part of this job is pre-cutting the deck boards to exactly the correct length to fit snugly in below the top and bottom tube.

The flat bar on the top and bottom, to which the board is attached, is set off centre so that the steel on the front of the gate is flush with the deck boards once they are installed. i.e. the deck boards are recessed.

When measuring for the steel frame you want to get the whole frame visible when the gate is in a closed position. You always set your boards so that the good side is on the outside.

What goes very nicely with these types of gates is matching timber in fills on a masonry boundary wall.

Driveway gate clad in balau

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For a free no obligation quote for driveway gates clad in balau or other timber, timber in fills on boundary walls and all your outdoor timber construction, please contact us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Balau Screening in Cotswold Downs – June 2013

Balau or timber screening

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We were called upon to quote on some balau screening in the Hillcrest, Durban area at a new development called Cotswold Downs.

There were various aircons, heat pumps and gas bottles that needed to be clad or screened so as to conceal them.

We used balau 30 x 40 struts or cleats attached to the walls. In some instances we used hiltis as there was not much load on the cleat.   In other instances we used 10mm x 100mm sleeve anchors.  We built a frame using the 30 x 40 balau and then clad it using a standard deck board of 19 x 68 with a 19mm space between. The 19mm space is standard in screening or cladding as it provides enough coverage without being too tight in its appearance. A gap of 5mm, which is standard in building a deck, would be far too close and would give it an odd appearance.

Most of the structures we built here were simple enough with either two or three sides and a removable lid so that access could be gained to change gas bottles or service aircons. Some of them had to have fronts

Balau or timber screening

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that were removable as well as tops so that access could be gained from above or from the front. Some were removable lids and fronts and some were hinged. One needs to be careful which hinges you chose as they need to be strong enough and weather resistant. Solid brass hinges are expensive and with the weight of the balau can be problematic. Solid stainless hinges with bearings are best if the weight of the door is quite large. On the smaller door we used aluminium hinges as the door wasn’t too heavy and the aluminium will stand up the weather.

There were two doors we made which measured 2.5m high and 750mm wide each. That size door in balau is quite heavy and we used three galvanised strap hinges on either side. The only problem with strap hinges is that they need to be placed on the side of the door that opens, so they were visible on the outside. Some may say it adds character to the door, but sometimes you don’t want to see them. Being galvanised steel they are difficult to paint but can be painted with a Hammerite product specially designed for galvanised steel.  The only other alternative to these were to use the galvanised strap hinges that have a bent arm and slot into another piece attached to the frame. However these would have resulted in a large gap between the frame and the door or gate. Normal butt hinges wouldn’t have been strong enough to hold the door due to the sheer weight of them in balau.

Balau or timber screening

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When building this type of structure it is often easier to try to build the whole thing in situ. So a frame goes up first, then you set the braces at the back to the correct length and then start adding deckboards, leaving one side long which can be cut afterwards.  If it is quite large then the door needs to be built on the ground, leaving the ends long and hung, then cut in situ.

They are unlike a normal door in that they can’t be successfully planned to fit the frame because the end grain is on the side.

We finished them off by filling holes with epoxy, sanding flat and sealing with Timberlife Satin Wood Base 28 in a mahogany tint.

For a free no obligation quote or advice on your decking or screening requirements please complete the form below and I will contact you, or you can call us on 031 – 762 1795.