Cool, so atleast someone else also does this, a bit of a relief. I see your point about the navbar being straight html, I'll change this
This is what I do overall.
1) create a navbar page
2) create the top part of the table ---which has <?php include("navbar.php"); ?>
3) create the bottom half of the table
for each of the pages I do this.
<?php include("top.php"); ?>
<?php include("bottom.php"); ?>
the two halves of the table form valid html and they contain static layout stuff. Leaving me free to add content with ease.