Balau is a hardwood originating from Malaysia and is now commonly used all over the world.
The timber is naturally very durable and does not accept treatment well. Balau decking boasts a fire rating of Class A – the same as concrete or steel.
Acidic reactions occur when the timber is in contact with ferrous metals, which cause black ink-like markings, which fade over time. The tree is commonly attacked by the Pinhole Borer beetle, which leaves the timber with a scattered pattern of small holes referred to as “pin hole”. This attack occurs only in tree form or when the logs are freshly felled. This is a unique characteristic of Balau and it doesn’t affect the strength of the timber in any way. Knots can be present, but they are usually sound.
The wood is light brown to yellowish light brown in colour, which gradually turns dark brown over time. Resin pockets do occur. It’s rarely necessary to stain the wood – it can be polished satisfactorily.
Nailing is difficult to impossible and pre-drilling is essential when using screws. (The use of stainless steel screws is advised.) Workability with hand tools is difficult, but it machines quite well. Natural shrinkage occurs, so tolerance must be allowed for.
Over the last 20 years Balau has become synonymous with hardwood construction in South Africa.