Ipe is truly an amazing tropical decking species! With proper installation, your new Ipe deck can last for decades. However, in addition to anticipating wood movement, there are some added installation eccentricities which this remarkable species requires. One relates to color matching, and the other is connected with working with such an extremely hard species.
Allow for Color-Matching Issues Related to Ipe
Color-matching is already a complicated issue in the lumber world. Natural building materials defy Pantone®-level color matching, and that’s simply a part of life. Like wood movement, we cannot avoid issues with color matching; however, also like wood movement, we can anticipate them. When it comes to Ipe, there’s a particularly wide range of color that comes into play due to Ipe’s remarkably wide growth range. The way it is exported, Ipe boards from many parts of that range are typically combined into a single shipping container. Like all lumber species, color among Ipe decking boards not only varies but will change over time. With oxidation and sunlight, your Ipe decking boards will mellow. A simple step you can take is to turn over each board before deciding on which side to use as the face and then position boards in a way so that you experience no major color variation from one board to the next.
In addition to allowing time and nature to take its course, you can use certain products to treat your Ipe deck. In order to speed up the mellowing process, you can apply a brightener; if you wish to create a more cohesive color match, you can opt, instead, to apply a stain. Either way, though, if you don’t want your new Ipe deck to end up gray, you will want to apply a decking oil — and that will end up blending some of the color variations as well.
Anticipate Hardness-Related Issues Related to Ipe
While Ipe isn’t the only extremely dense, hard tropical lumber species on the market, it is the most popular — as well as the hardest. (Both Cumaru and Tigerwood are examples of other especially dense, hard decking lumber species.) Such a hard type of wood can take its toll on tools; it can also split more easily than softer options if it is not carefully handled. For starters, those who are more accustomed to working with pressure-treated decking boards will need to adjust their expectations as well as their installation methods.
While the fibers of pressure-treated boards will easily compress as screws are driven into them, if you don’t predrill holes into your Ipe boards, splitting will probably occur. (Remember, Ipe is 6 times as hard as pressure-treated Pine!) Be sure to use a particularly robust cordless drill, or you will risk burning out the motor; even still, expect to break a drill bit or two. Even before you begin the installation process, you’ll want to take into consideration the added tools, time, and labor required to work with this unusually dense, hard species.
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Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has become one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.