Modern Composite Decking Quality Assurance in South Africa
Modern composite decking built around pools or patios to beautify living spaces are very popular home improvements in South Africa and these are technically regulated by South African National Standards relating to flooring. However, such constructions and the building materials used are seldom checked over by a relevant authority, which is a major cause for concern given the possibly fatal risks associated with non-compliant materials.
SANS10400-J is the set of regulations applying to flooring in South Africa. Although these standards have recently been improved to ensure that flooring must be able to support its own weight as well as any load to which it may be subjected, as well as being either fire-retardant or non-combustible, assessment of installations and materials used by a local authority is often dispensed with.
Modern Composite Decking
Modern decks are seldom pure wood any more – composite materials and modified timber products can outperform wood and the market for these new-age products has expanded rapidly. But the South African building regulations have not kept pace with technological developments and the gap has allowed unscrupulous manufacturers and installers to flourish as most deck structures are being built without building instructor approval.
The result is twofold: manufacturers and installers of inferior products can avoid meeting any safety or durability standards, and when a deck fails it is up to the homeowner to take action against the installer.
This is a complicated and difficult way to remedy the situation, compounded by the fleeting business operations of many of the manufacturers and installers of inferior decking products.
Global Disasters cause Updates and Improvements in Compliance Regulations
In most developed countries it is simply impossible to get away with fitting a non-compliant product. Bushfires in Australia and the Grenfell Tower disaster in the UK in 2017 are examples of ways that catastrophic events can cause updates and improvements in compliance regulations around the world, where other markets take these updates as their own base conditions for acceptability.
The Grenfell Tower fire is a clear case in which the installers of cladding outside the building rejected a more costly fire-retardant product on the basis of cost, and some 72 building residents paid for this with their lives. After the fire, UK cladding material regulations stiffened to prevent future disasters.
Bushfires in Australia: Since 2015, building regulations have stiffened to ensure that any homes close to bush fire hazardous zones are suitably fire-retardant to save property and lives. The Australian government deemed the extra costs of upgrades to more stringent standards to be necessary to save lives. Bush fires in New South Wales and Victoria states in March 2019 have again proved the necessity of such regulations.
Bad Decking Gives The Industry A Bad Name
Nathan Chapman, owner of Eva-Last South Africa, says inferior decking products give the local industry a bad name, even though there are manufacturers that have been producing and fitting internationally compliant products for years.
“Some products are claimed to be the same as the compliant ones, but for a variety of reasons they simply would not meet international safety standards. There are products being sold and installed in South Africa today which we knew were non-compliant years ago. They are being advertised as competitor products but, really, they aren’t,” he says.
"The fly-by-night operators are usually not around by the time warranty periods expire, leaving customers with no proper recourse for product failure” - Chapman, Eva-Last
Chapman says the picture becomes obvious when one takes into account warranty periods. The fly-by-night operators are usually not around by the time warranty periods expire, leaving customers with no proper recourse for product failure.
Eva-Last’s wood-plastic composite materials meet the world’s most stringent regulations for structural performance, durability, surface burning, decay resistance and even termite resistance, outperforming wood-only decking products while remaining truly environmentally friendly. All plastics used in manufacturing are recycled and Eva-Last’s products are even endorsed by Greenpeace.
The depth of auditing of such compliance in markets like the United States, Australia, the UK and Germany, where Eva-Last sells the same products as what is available locally, is meaningful.
“In the US, getting a compliance certificate requires two years of sending samples for testing at enormous cost to the producer, and you can’t fool the certifiers. It proves the worth of the product,” Chapman says.
He urges South African decking product consumers to check for relevant certification. “We’ve been through all of the processes and the learning curves and we have all the certifications in place. That information is available to the public at Intertek’s database of compliant building products. Any defaulting product loses its certification and can then not be used legally in those countries, so this goes beyond just words.”
Buy Decking That Meets Global Safety And Durability Standards
Hollow wood-plastic composite (WPC) decking boards, created to imitate products like Eva-Last’s, at a lower cost, are leading to faults and failures, whether breakage, cracking or warping. “It’s at that point that the more expensive genuine article becomes cheap. And even then, we have used the energy savings at our manufacturing facility achieved by converting to solar power to pass on price cuts to customers, so there’s really no good reason to go with an imitation product,” Chapman says.
Eva-Last’s CCRR-1096 compliance in the US means all products are routinely checked for resistance to heat and cold, freezing and thawing, moisture resistance, wind uplift, fire resistance, UV exposure, weight loading, flexing and returning to shape, weather effects, termites and even fungus.
Crucially, fasteners are tested for uplift and decay, and Eva-Last’s proprietary fasteners – which are not just any screws but are specifically manufactured for use with its durable decking systems – also meet all criteria.
“With decks made of imitation products, quite often the fasteners and screws used could be the first things to succumb to weather conditions and turn into a massive safety risk,” Chapman says.
All deck and stair boards meeting this compliance code will bear the manufacturer’s mark and the compliance research report number for verification, as proof that the real thing has been installed.
“There are simply many decking products that should not be allowed to be marketed or installed in South Africa and the rest of the world. My advice is simple when it comes to buying decking – choose a partner who has been around in the market for years and who can prove the worth of their products and warranty by referring you to compliance certification. There is no easy way to deal with decking product failure, especially if the installer or manufacturer has long since disappeared.” - Chapman, Eva-last.
Eva-Last manufactures the only WPC decking products sold in South Africa which meet all global safety and durability standards. Having been in the industry for 12 years and with installed decks that are now past the original warranty period, Eva-Last is so confident in the integrity of its products and installations that the company will be increasing its Eva-tech warranty to 15 years in the near future. Eva-Last stands behind its commitment to offer products that truly perform in the way they have been marketed.
Tips for homeowners considering installing a deck:
- Ask the installer for proof that previous installations have been in place for a reasonable time. The best way to do this is to ask for a reference to a customer who has had a deck installed for longer than the product’s warranty period. If the installer claims to have been in the market for many years but cannot point to any happy long-term customers, this is a red flag. Being “in the industry” for a long time means nothing if the products do not last.
- Ask to see the product warranty documentation and check the wording carefully. Any product warranty should clearly set out cover and exclusions, and should allow for no passing of blame if the product fails. Be wary of any warranty documentation that does not provide for replacement of the product should it fail.
- Get the installer to provide proof of previous warranty enactment. If an installer has no history of making good on a warranty, this should be a red flag. Any triggered warranty should be insured by the manufacturer, and should not have to be carried by the cash flow of the installer or local franchise. Too many warranty claims carried by a local installer will end up in that installer going bankrupt, disappearing and leaving you with no recourse.
- Check compliance, certification and testing data to see which standards the product meets.
- If possible, check that the manufacturer and installer have a real-world presence. An investment in premises, facilities and stock will prove that they’re not a fly-by night operator. A lack of any actual infrastructure means you could be left high and dry if the product fails a couple of years down the line.
- Become familiar with South African National Standards which govern the installation of all flooring and especially timber products – SANS 10109-1 and SANS 10400-J.
Eva-Last’s latest compliance report can be called up at https://bpdirectory.intertek.com.
Eva-Last® is a globally recognised and trusted brand that manufactures and distributes specialised bamboo-plastic composite products and building solutions, namely, decking, cladding and indoor flooring. With over a decade of experience in all stages of the industry, from production to installation, Eva-Last® has both practical and technical knowledge that is used to assist owners, developers, architects and building professionals alike in achieving their design objectives. Eva-Last® strives to continually improve and innovate, delivering revolutionary composite products and attentive support to all customers.
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