Extremely dense and hard — not to mention gorgeous — Ipe tropical hardwood decking is understandably and increasingly in vogue for today’s commercial boardwalks as well as luxury residential decks. As fantastic as this lumber truly is, the top factor in allowing it to live up to its potential is proper installation.
In order to take the steps needed to ensure that your Ipe deck is truly able to stand the test of time, you’ll need to appreciate a few things about it, starting with its origin and journey to your job site. Ipe trees grow across a vast range of South America and the boards often touch multiple continents on their way to North America. Understanding a little bit about this process will not only help you understand issues related to Ipe pricing and availability, but it will help you to be realistic about the extra care that is required in order to create a beautiful and durable Ipe deck from what often appear to be unsightly, rough-looking boards.
Understand the Status of Ipe Decking Lumber
First of all, you have to remember that decking lumber is not a finished product. While this issue is not unique to Ipe, it does bear mentioning. While like any decking lumber, your Ipe decking boards will come to you with all 4 faces planed and sharp corners eased (S4S, E4E) as well as routed edges ready for hidden fasteners (if that’s your installation method of choice); however, your decking lumber will still not be a finished product.
Understand the Origin of Ipe Decking Lumber
Like other tropical hardwood decking species, your Ipe decking boards will have come a long way before they arrive at your North American job site. Large Ipe trees are harvested along the Amazon river basin, where they are also sawn into boards and milled into S4S, E4E decking boards. But they have a lot to endure between then and your order delivery. Typically, boards are loaded into a truck and then driven to a city located along a port, where they’re loaded into a metal shipping container. Every splatter of mud or dirt and occasion for condensation will mean unsightly additions to your already milled boards.
Follow the Journey of Ipe Decking Lumber
Even before they make port, most boards will have been stacked and unstacked multiple times, often by hand and in muddy areas. The accumulated mud is often compacted and becomes ground into the wood fibers, making them appear permanent. Once loaded into shipping containers, the lumber that’s been air dried (usually to a moisture content of around 18%) is subjected to constantly fluctuating moisture levels, complete with a daily cycle of heating up during the day, cooling during the night, and dripping condensation; water stains complete with impurities found in the air are the inevitable result.
Continue reading with Part 4.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
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.