Wooden Deck in Scottburgh, South Coast KZN

This was a wooden deck built in balau for a client who had opened a Bed and Breakfast on the coast. As you can see form the pics the wooden deck was built in the front of the property overlooking the sea. There were of course strict time lines in which we had to complete this wooden deck as they had already made confirmed bookings. With these job which are a fair distance from home we normally rent accommodation and pay the builders a live out allowance for food etc. It inevitably pushes the cost of the build up slightly which is unavoidable.

There are some before and after pics in this article. We had to excavate the soil below. It is always best to leave a fair amount of space below the bottom of the structure and the bottom of the deck boards to allow sufficient airflow for water evaporation. If the deck structure is touching the ground then one would need to use H4 CCA Treated timber which has a minimum life span of 20 years in constant contact with wet soil as per SAWPA (South African Wood Preservers Association). H3 CCA Treated pine as a structure which is NOT in constant contact with wet soil has a minimum life span of 50 years if correctly installed. So it makes sense to keep the structure to H3 for cost purposes, and expected minimum life span, but keep it well clear of any soil. By allowing air to flow freely between the structure and the ground keeps everything relatively dry below and the deck structure will last a lot longer. Continual dampness below speeds up rot and premature failure. In this instance we excavated to at least 300mm below the structure.

There was a pool that had been installed prior to our build by Clear Blue Pools – Gary Botha (071 679 1013) and we worked closely with the pool builder so that the concrete ring beam of the pool was set down 60mm from the desired deck height (top of deck). This allows us a 40mm batten on top of the concrete ring beam and a 19mm deck board. 40mm is the minimum we like to allow for this purpose, again to allow for sufficient air flow to keep things dry between the deck surface and the ring beam. These cleats or battens are fixed directly to the concrete ring beam and the rest of the joists which are suspended above soil become a 38 x 114 to give it lateral strength.

The rest of the deck was pretty much the same then as the other decks we’ve built using 19 x 68mm yellow balau deck boards, counter sunk screw holes filled with clear epoxy and saw dust mixture, sanded flat and oiled using a decking oil.

For a free no obligation quote on your deck please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Balau Wooden Deck, Kloof Durban

 

Here’s a straight forward wooden balau deck we built in Kloof, Durban in October 2018. There were a few angles that had to be cut precisely to finish it neatly but other than that the deck was straight forward to build.

We used an H3 and H4 CCA Treated pine substructure. Because the pine is S5 (Industrial SABS approved grade) it is strong enough to be used as a structure for various building purposes. It is also relatively inexpensive in comparison to other hardwoods that could be used as decking structure. Being S5 it contains a certain amount of knots per square metre and is therefore SABS approved as structural timber. Timber with more knots per square metre is normally used as knotty pine ceiling boards where there is very little structural pressures on the timber. Timber with less knots per square metre is referred to as semi clears or S7 grade. S7 becomes quite expensive and is used as deck boards at times to eliminate knots failing on the deck surface. However because one would need to use twice as much wood (38mm thick) when using pine deck boards, the cost is the same as using a 19mm x 68mm balau deck board at half the quantity of wood. As such we use 19 x 68mm yellow balau deck boards as the surface for most of our wooden decks in Durban. The balau is far more stable being twice as dense and hard with a regular straight grain and as such these balau deck boards don’t twist, cup or bow as easily as pine. With the pine being H3 CCA treated it has a life span of at least 50 years outdoors in the rain and weather.

We added a small flight of open riser steps to this deck to gain access to the garden. These are done in full solid balau using 30mm stock. Normally the stringers are 30 x 215 and the treads are made of multiple pieces of 30 x 102 with cleats fixed to the stringers and the treads are fixed to the cleats. They don’t work that well in pine as the pine becomes very visible throughout and one ends up cladding it anyway which brings the cost back to the same as solid balau. The alternative to open risers steps is to do closed risers where box type steps are made of pine structure and then clad resulting in the riser being closed.

The screw holes of all our decks are counter sunk with a Kalgard decking screw and filled with a clear epoxy and saw dust mixture to match the colour of the wood and then ground flat and sanded smooth prior to oiling the deck. You’ll find other articles on this site where we discuss the pros and cons of using oil vs other finishes available on the market and leaving the deck to naturally grey and weather. If you use the search bar at the bottom right and search for maintenance you’ll find a complete article on deck maintenance.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden deck in Durban and surrounding areas, please use the contact us form below or you can call us on 031 – 762 1795.

Balau wooden screens installed in Umhlanga Durban

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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.

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.

Wooden Balau Decking Companies in Durban

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Here’s a wooden deck we at The Wood Joint built in Durban recently. The Wood Joint is a wooden decking company situated in Durban and servicing most of KZN. It was a low-level wooden deck basically at ground level joining the pool to the patio and semi surrounds. The site was situated in la Lucia Durban.

When building a wooden deck that will join a verandah to a pool, one needs to be careful to set the height of the pool correctly. The height to the verandah is of course pretty much set based on what the threshold of the sliding doors are. So working from a datum line of the top of the tiles of the verandah one would set the top of the concrete ring beam of the pool down 70mm from the required height of the deck. This will allow for a substructure of 50mm and a deck board thickness of 20mm (19mm in fact but to keep things simple rounded to 20mm). A 50mm batten fixed to the top of the concrete ring beam of the pool will give sufficient space to allow water to evaporate properly, keeping below the deck as dry as possible, and enough structure to create a positive fixing of deck board to bearer. The distance created between top of deck and pool should be minimal. It is not advisable to go much higher than 70mm because it creates a very big “climb” out the pool (from water level to top of deck).

In this deck pictured you will see we ran the deck boards perpendicular to the verandah and pool side. Using this method it is not that important if the side of the pool is parallel to the verandah as the length of the deck boards can be varied quite easily without noticing any difference in length. On the other hand when the deck boards are run parallel to the pool side and verandah one needs to be careful to get the two as perfectly parallel as possible. Any difference will be visible because a deck board will need to be cut in a wedge shape to complete the space. If the difference is not that great then one can “fan” the deck boards to take up the difference in space by making one end’s gaps slightly bigger than the other end. So on one end a 6mm gap can be left and on the other a 4mm gap (normally 5mm throughout). This gains 1mm per deck board run. After 20 deck boards one can adjust for a 20mm difference in spacing. Another “trick” when running boards parallel to the pool side and verandah is to try to end on a full board rather than a half board. Again space between boards can be adjusted either up or down to try to end on a full board. It is much neater and won’t cause as many problems going forward. From the pics you’ll see we ended the deck on a half board which in this case was unavoidable because of the configuration of paving and deck.

You’ll see from the pics that the garden is mostly left for landscaping until after the deck has been built. Trying to build a deck with newly laid grass and not damaging it is near impossible. Always get you building work done before landscaping.

For a free no obligation quote on your decking requirements in Durban please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring

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Hardwood flooring has become ever popular in many countries. In South Africa, home owners are opting for these in preference to the old style parquet and the laminated style of flooring. Hardwood floors go hand-in-hand with luxury, and offer timeless beauty and are low on maintenance. Home owners looking for a classic look might like to consider engineered hardwood flooring. These points should be taken into account, or kept in mind when weighing up the pros and cons of hardwood flooring.

Unlike conventional hardwood, which comes from its raw state and into your home, engineered hardwood is a more complex product which consists of layers. The outermost appearance layer is a hardwood veneer, a thin slice of wood of whatever wood type you prefer. The inner layers are made of plywood, high density fiberboard, or hardwood. These core layers give the product more stability than regular hardwood, while the outer veneer surface gives the floor its aesthetics, its beauty, and, of course, its authenticity.

Engineered hardwood is different to a hardwood laminated ‘wood’ because the surface is made of real wood. While laminated flooring has a core of high density fiberboard, its surface is basically a picture of wood. Laminate is less expensive than engineered and solid hardwood, but has a different look, feel and even sound when walking on it, due to its make up.

Pros:

  • Engineered hardwood flooring is designed to reduce moisture associated with conventional hardwood.
  • The layers block moisture and provide added stability to your floor.
  • This is a low maintenance option because of the fact that Engineered Flooring will not swell or warp.
  • Choosing engineered flooring is considered more environmentally-friendly than traditional hardwood for various reasons.
  • Veneer is sliced very carefully and precisely – it is not cut with a saw. This process produces no sawdust, which means that the entire tree can be used. The sawdust which we know amounts to a significant pile when making hardwood boards is wasted wood.
  • Hardwood trees grow a lot more slowly than the trees used to construct engineered flooring cores. More surface area is produced making veneer, therefore installing traditional hardwood uses many times the amount of slow-growing tree. This makes the replenishing time much longer.

Engineered Hardwood Flooring Cons

  • There are very few disadvantages to this type of hardwood flooring but it is neither a foolproof project and not necessarily the right floor for every application.

Comparable to solid hardwood in terms of cost: –

Engineered floors are still considerably more expensive than laminated floors, tile or carpet. They are, however much more hardy, are low maintenance and will wear a lot better.

That said, one should also take into account the biggest concern as a homeowner … that being avoiding shoddy or inferior engineered work and products, merely because of cost.

Veneers that are too thin will prevent sanding and refinishing opportunities that may double the lifetime of the floor.

Some veneers are so thin and poorly made that they can prematurely warp or fade.

Core layers should still be made from high-quality wood. Some manufacturers try to cut corners by using fiberboard or oriented strand board which might well compromise the stability of your floor and could result in an inferior flooring product.

Your Home is your Castle … quality surpasses cutting corners

It is, without exception, easier to install engineered flooring and the handy man homeowner is often encouraged to install his or her own engineered floors. It is never-the-less, a major project with big financial implications, therefore, I suggest you weigh up carefully, the virtue of employing an experienced craftsman to do the job (who will also guarantee his finished product, surely?) and doing the work yourself …and without wanting to reduce your skill-ability, don’t be too over zealous about your own home improvement skills just to get the job done cheaper! Even for the majority of homeowners who hire a flooring contractor for the job, you’ll save a hefty sum on installation, which is important given that most engineered flooring is more expensive than solid wood.

The cost of high-quality engineered floors (thick veneers) will depend on various issues, the obvious one being the type of wood you choose. In South Africa, imported Indonesian Balau is readily available, is solid, a hard wood and also hard-wearing, able to withstand much more than a softer local wood might be. It lands at quite a reasonable price and is of a superior quality. It is, for example largely used for outdoor decking. Solid wood flooring may be cheaper overall, however it will still take longer to install.

For a free no obligation quote on your solid hardwood engineered flooring 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.

Galvanised Steel and Balau Pergola, Durban

Here’s a steel and timber pergola we installed shortly before shut down in 2015 in Gateway Umhlanga Rocks Durban. It was for a new building called 1 on Lunar neat Gateway Hospital.

Due to the size of the pergola and the distance the beams needed to span between supports, we needed to include steel as the largest solid timber piece one can purchase is a 50 x 228 which needs to be supported every 3m odd to stop it sagging in the middle. Thicker wider pieces are available in laminated pine or saligna. To span over 6m one would need to laminate to 114 x 400 at a cost of more than a steel I Beam.

The steel was fabricated as per a drawing supplied by the client. Because we were directly on the coast, we hot dip galvanised the steel and then installed it. It isn’t sufficient to electroplate and powder coat when one is this close to the coast. Once installed it was painted to match the charcoal grey colour of the rest of the steel on the building. Galvanised steel needs to be acid washed in order to remove the residue left after the galvanising process, dried thoroughly, then primed with a galvanising primer and then two coats of Velvaglo enamel. It will require periodic maintenance by re-coating it.

The timber was cut to size and slotted in and attached to pre drilled and pre fixed tags on the main I beams. By pre drilling the holes for fixing eliminates drilling once galvanising has been done and thereby breaking the galvanising.

The timber was left to grey naturally rather than sealing it with an oil. This won’t shorten the life span of the balau as balau contains natural resins and oils which protect it from both rot and insect infestation. Oiling it merely makes it look different. Some people prefer the oiled looked some prefer the natural grey / silver look. Leaving it to grey naturally also eliminates any maintenance issues going forward. If anything one would just pressure wash it from time to time.

For a free no obligation quote contact us on 031 – 762 1795, or you can use the contact us form below. We can assist with all your outdoor wooden requirements as well as solid wooden floors.