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 031 – 762 1795, or use the contact form below and one of our representatives will get in touch with you.

Wooden Pool Deck Building in Summerveld, Durban

We built this wooden pool deck in Summerveld, Durban in July 2015. There were various challenges in this wooden pool deck build which tested our skills somewhat.

Firstly the ground in Summerveld is very rocky, in fact in some areas it is just one large rock, and when digging you are actually making a small hole in a large piece of rock. There were 21 holes in total on this wooden pool deck so digging was slow and costly.

From the pics you can also see that the edge rim of the pool is a rock feature so it is not level or flat and we had to try to get our deck height to a comfortable level for access from the rock rim of the pool on to the wooden pool deck. We also had to then try to conceal the gap between rock and deck as far as possible and as neatly as possible. In some areas it took a full deck board as a fascia and in other areas it was tapered down to a half width deck board.

We ran deck boards perpendicular to the pool to avoid having long thin slivers of deck board on the pool side. When we started out the deck was planned to be half the finished size. As it took shape it was decided to extend it to its final measurements which was a double-edged sword for us as we had to dig even more holes through the rock but it increased our surface area and therefore our earnings. So we put on our big boy pants and carried on. The ends result was that the deck now extends past the front of the house so that when you are standing on the front you can see all the way along the front of the house.

A pool pump cover was added, a full balustrade around the whole deck and we clad the open vertical gaps so that one cannot see below the deck.

In one of the pics above you can see how we have returned the balustrade at 90 degrees on the first corner. This is to give the long run of balustrade perpendicular to it more strength. Long straight runs of balustrade can often become quite “wobbly” and this corner gives it good strength.

We opened a gap in the existing post and rail fence and built stairs from the garden at house level to the pool with a hinged gate and latch. Because of the angle of the stairs, and to prevent digging too deep into the ground at the top of the stairs, we built a small landing.

A short free-standing balustrade was added along the electric fence to provide some protection from the electric fence when accessing the lower garden on the right hand side of the deck.

For a free no obligation quote on your wooden pool deck or other outdoor timber structures please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Pool Deck Built in Kloof, Durban

This wooden deck was a simple pool deck that we built in Kloof, Durban. The pool had originally been built at an angle to the house which limited the available space between the house and pool. The client wanted to create a wooden deck that was parallel to the house so that he could maximise the space between the edge of the pool and the house.

As result we needed to build part of the wooden deck over the pool and the trick was to support it sufficiently over about a 3.5m span so that it didn’t bounce or sag. We couldn’t of course put supports or posts into the pool so we increased the size of the beam running over the pool to a 50 x 152. We still had to trim the 152 down to about 140 as we needed to install this beam on top of the existing pool coping, on both sides, and we were limited by how high we could come up from that surface. In these instances one starts “stealing space”. A term we use at The Wood Joint for gaining every available millimetre possible in order to maximise structural strength.

We then clad the downpipes and support posts of the existing awning with deck boards to create two fairly large wooden posts and hide the PVC downpipes. This gave the effect of large wooden posts holding up the awning. The flower boxes were also clad to match the theme.

A small ledge of about 200mm wide was added along the wall running up to the pizza oven at bar height of about 1.2m from ground. A small cupboard was built in the recess that the builder had left on the right hand side of the braai in which glasses and other braai, or bar, utensils can be stored.

Stainless steel hinges were used aluminium knobs were fitted. We used a normal latch system on the inside so that when you close it, it locates behind, and out of sight. We included a single shelf for glasses. We tucked the deck underneath the braai area so that wood and charcoal can be stored there.

This deck was sanded and sealed with an oil based sealer. An oil based sealer is far superior to a water based sealer or mineral based sealer that dries on the surface. Oil cannot peel and flake. It simply disappears with exposure to UV so there is no need to sand the deck in the future.

We are available to quote on your decking needs. Please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact form below.

Balau vs CCA Treated Wooden Deck Durban

I often get asked about using balau as a substructure in a wooden deck. There are various pros and cons of using balau as a substructure in your wooden deck so I thought I would jot it down and in future I can direct clients here who want the ins and outs of using balau as a structure for your wooden deck.

Balau is a very good, hardy and durable wood to use in outdoor wooden decks and other outdoor projects. It contains toxins that limit insects eating it and it is high in resins and oils which naturally repels water and limits rot. All wood will eventually rot. It is just that some will rot quicker as they are less dense and less oily which means they will absorb water more easily, which remains in the wood, causing fungus to grow which breaks down the fibres in the wood and is commonly called rot. This is a simplified explanation but I think it delivers the message accurately. Water doesn’t cause rot. Fungus, as a result of water and sunlight, causes rot.

Balau therefore will rot and I have started documenting some pics of rotten joists that I have come across in my repair work of wooden decks. It may take 15 years for this rot to start but it will happen and when it does repair work can run into thousands if not a complete deck rebuild. Joists are often difficult to access whereas deck boards are not.

On the other hand a piece of wood that has been chemically treated to prevent, or limit rot, will last a lot longer and a pre determined life span can be calculated.

CCA Treatment is a process of pressure treating SA pine. A vacuum is created in a chamber that contains the pine and a solution of copper, chrome and arsenate is introduced which then takes up the void created by the vacuum sucking the solution into the cells. The copper prevents fungus growing which in turn prevents rot, the arsenate keeps the insects away and the chrome binds the two to the wood so that I doesn’t leach out.

Balau is too hard and dense to treat. Pine is a commercially grown timber in South Africa which is inexpensive and very suitable for treatment as it is soft and takes up the solution of CCA successfully. There are various different Hazard Classification or H classifications. Basically H2 is good for indoors (roof trusses etc.) H3 for outdoors exposed to the elements, H4 for in constant contact with wet soil. H5 for submersion in fresh water and H6 for submersion in salt water. A correctly treated piece of pine to H3 will, as per SAWPA guidelines, last in excess of 50 years which is pretty impressive in comparison to a piece of balau that comes with no fixed life expectancy. A poor quality piece of balau may start to fail within 5 years whereas a good quality piece may only start in 15 years. Most of the pics I have documented here are of decks that range in age from 8 years to 15 years. But generally speaking I have found some rot setting in all the decks of 15 years or older.

S5 (SABS Structural grade) Pine is considerably cheaper than balau structural timber. So from an economic point of view it makes sense to use pine in place of other woods wherever possible.

One might now ask why is pine not used on the surface of a deck? Why is balau preferred?

Balau is a very stable wood and therefore expands and contracts less than pine. It is about twice as dense, knot free and doesn’t twist and warp as easily. Pine is soft and with the sun beating on the deck it will tend to crack, twist and warp more easily. To use pine as a deck board one needs to use a 38mm board as opposed to a 19mm board in balau (twice as much wood). Also pine deck boards are normally manufactured from S7 as opposed to S5. S7 refers to the number of knots per square inch (or centimetre) and is therefore a lot more expensive than S5. The cost of pine deck boards is in fact a few rand more per square metre than balau. Hence the reason to use correctly treated CCA pine as a substructure and balau as deck boards. Again pine doesn’t work well in balustrades because twice as much wood needs to be used at S7 grade.

For a free no obligation quote on your sun deck, pool deck, balustrades, pergolas etc., please call us on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

Wooden Balau Walkway Umhlanga, Durban

Wooden Balau WalkwayThis wooden balau walkway, or bridge, leading to the beach, needed to be replaced as the old one, although it was nearly 20 years old, had started sinking on one side. It had been built on beach sand so the concrete that had been used to set the upright posts had sunk over time into the soft sand. This problem also occurs on decks that are built on the bluff as the Bluff is essentially one big sand dune, so many parts of it are soft enough to allow a post to sink over time.Wooden Balau Walkway

We overcame this problem by making use of a floating foundation. It is often used in building houses where the soil is very soft. Instead of throwing a concrete foundation beneath the walls and bringing the bricks up and then throwing a slab, the entire foundation is a concrete slab on top of which the bricks are laid. The result being that it creates a much larger foot print in the sand and is of course more difficult to sink than if it was a column of concrete.

This method solved the problem of the posts sinking, but created another problem in that there was no lateral support for our posts which would have resulted in them falling over. This was overcome by throwing a “pad” on every second post and every other post was set 600mm in the ground in concrete. So one post stopped it from sinking and the other gave it lateral support and stopped it from falling over.

The floating “pads” were 600mm x 600mm and 150mm thick with mesh in between to stop the concrete from cracking with the weight of the deck.Wooden Balau Walkway

The pics alongside show the “pad” that the upright posts sits on top of and a post that has been buried in the ground 600mm.

Once our structure was up we installed our joists and decked it using balau deck boards. The width was 1.5m so we installed 4 joists to give us joist centres of 500mm. This is about the maximum one can span a 19mm deck board without it bowing from the weight of a person. Anything bigger than 500mm will result in the deck surface being springy. One should aim for between 450mm and 500mm. This of course applies to a 19mm balau deck board. If another timber is being used, or the board is anything but 19mm thick, then this will vary.Wooden Balau Walkway

We used the uprights, which were 100 / 125, H4 CCA treated gum poles, as our uprights for our balustrade too so as to ensure that they were sturdy. Because our gum poles were between 100mm and 125mm in diameter, we had to use a 38 x 152 H3 CCA Treated pine capping; otherwise the capping would have been narrower than the upright which would have looked odd. We then installed droppers as our pickets and secured these through the top of the capping and from underneath the deck boards.

Our stairs leading from the last section of walkway to the beach were made using H3 CCA treated pine stringers and treads and we then clad the treads with balau to match the walkway surface.

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

Wooden Deck Built in Hillcrest, Durban

Here’s video of a wooden deck we built recently in Hillcrest, Durban showing the different stages of the build.

Give us a call for a quote on your wooden sun deck, wooden pergolas, walkways, bridges, floors or fences on 031 – 762 1795 or use the contact us form below.

 

Wooden Sun Decks and Wire Rope Balustrades

Wooden Balau Deck with Wire Rope BalustradeWooden deck with wire rope balustradeWooden deck with wire rope balustradeA wire rope balustrade on a wooden sun deck, as pictured in this article, has a few pros and cons to it which I will discuss below. I will also describe the method used to install wire rope balustrades and what to be careful of to ensure that the job runs smoothly. If you don’t feel like doing it yourself, or don’t have the right tools or time, then scroll to the bottom and complete the contact us form below. I will contact you and we can take the task off your hands. Alternatively call us on 031 – 762 1795. We are Durban based.

Firstly one should choose the correct wire rope to use. We use the 4mm marine grade stainless steel wire rope with button heads. One can also get the 5mm wire rope but I have found that that often contains one rogue strand which will tarnish over time and spoil the look of your balustrade. The 4mm wire rope does not bend as easily as the others so where you get to a 90° bend you will need to terminate your wire rope with a button head and start again on the next run. The 4mm wire rope can bend around gentler curves quite easily. It is just the 90° bends that require a new run.

We start by installing our wooden, normally balau, uprights and these can be anything from a 30 x 60, 40 x 60 or 60 x 60. Obviously the 60 x 60 is better as it is more solid and stable, but it unavoidably carries a higher price tag. A 40 x 60 works very well, but the 30 x 60 can do the job just as well if installed properly. Now install your capping on the top to hold the whole lot together while you install your wire rope.

There are various methods of securing your wire rope. We use the button heads as opposed to turnbuckles. A hole is drilled, to a diameter slightly bigger than the button head, in the wooden upright and the wire rope is threaded through it so that the tag end is protruding to the outside of the balustrade. One side of the button head is then inserted over the wire rope and crimped using a special crimping tool. The crimping tool looks very similar to a large bolt cutter with a head that has been adapted to accept the button head and crimp it to the right size to hold the wire rope without damaging it.

Now cut a length of wire rope to slightly more than is required. Remember think twice, cut once as it is always easier to cut more off then to add more on once it has been cut too short. Now all your holes need to be drilled in all the other upright posts. Measure you spaces out accurately so that your wire rope will run parallel to the capping on the top and the wooden deck on the bottom. When drilling through a piece of wood it is easy to hold the drill slightly skew resulting in the drill bit exiting the wood at an angle which will result in the exit hole not being in the place it should be. So drill half way from one side and then drill from the other side to get your entry and exit holes perfectly lined up. It doesn’t matter if the middle of your hole is slightly skew because you can’t see it and it is not enough to impede the path of the wire rope. Thread the other un crimped end of the wire rope through all your holes in your uprights until you get to the end.

Wooden deck with wire rope balustradeNow take the other button head with the thread on it and measure, very carefully, where you need to cut your wire rope. You will need to cut it with a thin cutting disk on a baby grinder so as to get a nice clean-cut. If you cut it too long you won’t be able to tension it and too short, well start again from the beginning. So cut and check before crimping the other end. The second button head will be inserted through the hole from the back and the wire rope inserted into it from the front and crimped. Make sure you have your thread to its longest position so that you still have thread to use to tension it. Now tension it, but do not over tighten it. It is not a guitar string and only needs to be tight enough to be visibly straight. Over tightening it will result in the end wooden uprights bowing, or even failing.

Pros of Wire Rope Balustrades

• Does not interfere in your vision when seated and looking through the balustrade
• Adds a second material, other than timber, for a clean minimalist look and feel
• Marine grade stainless will last a life time

Cons of Wire Rope Balustrades

• Does not offer as much protection from objects or people falling through the strands as timber does
• If installed incorrectly can look terrible
• Can detract from the timber look and feel

Good luck in installing your wire rope balustrade. I hope this article has helped. If you’re not up to it, please complete the form below, or contact us on 031 – 762 1795 and we will gladly quote you to do the task for you. We are Durban based and work throughout KZN.

Laying Balau Deck Boards Down

This video shows how we have laid these deck boards without ending on a half deck board or a wedge-shaped deck board.

Most often two opposite walls will not be exactly the same length and they certainly won’t be designed to accommodate an exact amount of deck boards with a uniform gap. What can happen is that you start on one end and end up with a half deck board that has to be ripped length ways on the other end. This is both unsightly and can result in premature failure because the deck board may become too narrow to be secured properly.

If the two opposite walls are not the same length then the problem is compounded because not only will you end up with half a deck board, but you will end up with half a wedge-shaped deck board.

So we need to try to mitigate this problem by adjusting our gaps between deck boards either up or down, very slightly so as to be unnoticeable.
Normally the gap between deck boards is 5mm and we commonly use a 6 inch nail as a spacer. By increasing one end of the line of deck boards to 4mm and the other end to 6mm you can effectively gain, or lose 2mm per line of deck boards. In this video these boards were 90mm wide, so if on every line we gain 2mm, we will gain about 20mm for every 1m of deck boards installed. So after 4.5m you can gain a full deck boards width. On most decks this is sufficient to allow you to finish on full deck boards and to avoid having to cut a wedge-shaped deck board.

Watch the video and you will see how I panned around the little alcove that we had to deck into. We employed both methods here to end on a full deck board and to avoid a wedge-shaped deck board.

It is far easier when decking to the end of the deck as here you can continue with full deck boards until you reach the end, and then cut your joists off at the right length.
It makes for a much neater deck and less chance of failure.
Other videos are also available on the Videos Tab on the menu bar on the left. These show other techniques we employ in building wooden decks which can make the job a lot easier.

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

Balau Wooden Sundeck Built in Kloof, Durban

Wooden Sun decks Durban

Click to enlarge

Here’s a balau wooden sundeck we’ve just built on Kloof, just inland of Durban.

We used a 19 x 90 balau deck board on this wooden sun deck at the client’s request. We normally use a 19 x 68 balau deck board as they are considerably less expensive per square metre than the 19 x 90 balau deck boards and we can pass that saving on to our clients. Granted it is quicker to install a deck board that is wider as you need less boards per square meter (in this instance 15 boards per square metre using a 68mm wide board and 11 using a 90mm board), but not by that much that it warrants paying 35% more for it. 90mm boards are about 35% more expensive per square metre than 68 mm boards.

Wooden Sun decks Durban

Click to enlarge

When screwing down a 19 x 90 deck board I put two screws, per board, in each joist line, one in each shoulder. I have seen other deck builders putting one in

Wooden Sun decks Durban

Click to enlarge

every alternate shoulder. It does work, but if you do get a board that is particularly prone to warping it will warp where the one screw has been left out. It is not a huge cost or effort to put a second screw on the opposite shoulder of each board at each joist line. Obviously the wider the board the more prone it will be to warping. Why they are more expensive I haven’t yet worked out because good balau is good balau is good balau. If the wider boards we taken from a different part of the tree, the heartwood vs. the sapwood, then I would understand the price difference, but they aren’t. It is a preference, at a price, that’s all.

Wooden Sun decks Durban

Click to enlarge

We ran the deck boards all in the same direction on this wooden deck. With this deck we ran the deck boards parallel to the edge of the pool meeting each other at a 45° angle on the corners. It is far easier to run them all in the same direction as you will never get a problem of matching the cut ends. If one board is cut at 46° and one therefore at 44°, they will be of different lengths and will not match up. In this instance you need to install a barrier between then (one deck board’s width) to hide any difference in length between cut ends. But I’ll write another article about that later. Running them all the same way on both sides of the deck eliminates this problem.

You need to be careful though to start installing your deck boards in the middle of the deck and not on one end. If you start on one end, you may very well reach the 90° corner and find that you have to rip a deck board in half to cover your space. This is unsightly and will result in that deck board failing more quickly than the rest. So start in the middle and move outwards to both ends and end with a full deck board.

There was also some other work on this wooden deck build in that the client wanted a planter stand built so he could place potted plants in it and he wanted his Jacuzzi walls clad. We battled a bit with the Jacuzzi cladding as the original brick structure that was there was skew and we had to try to mitigate this by building up

Wooden Sun decks Durban

Click to enlarge

our substructure to bring it back to square.

The cladded vertical posts you see in the pics alongside are 19 x 90 boards (x 3 of) around a 76mm steel awning post. We needed to build the steel awning post up to get to our 290mm and then attach it to the post. Although it looks very nice to have such bulky wooden posts, it does block the view slightly when sitting at the pool. Why 290mm when each board is 90mm (90mm x 3 = 270mm)? Because we set each corner chasing the other surface. And let’s just forget about the 5mm gap we had in between each board.

For a free no obligation quote for your wooden sundeck, pergola, walkway, screens or other timber construction please use the contact us form below or call us on 031 – 762 1795.