Ipe is, hands down, the best of the best, when it comes to tropical hardwood decking species. Its stability, hardness, weather resistance, and attractive appearance make it a popular choice among our customers. However, for those without previous experience with Ipe installation, even this premium quality lumber can mean problems. With careful installation, though, your new Ipe deck can be all that you’ve hoped it would be.
In Part 1, we looked at how to deal with rough spots and avoid warping. This time, we’ll look at three more potential pitfalls that you may deal with as you install your new Ipe deck.
It’s no secret that many tropical hardwood species can be tough on tools. Along with Cumaru, Massaranduba, and Tigerwood, Ipe’s high density and extreme hardness requires the use of extremely sharp tools. And without pre-drilling, dense species can easily split. While all decking benefits from pre-drilling, Ipe won’t compress easily. Unlike pressure-treated material, Ipe requires the drilling of larger holes with a robust cordless drill.
Because Ipe is about 6 times harder than pressure-treated pine, a drill that can easily handle softer species can kill the motor of a regular drill. Even with a premium drill, you may break a few drill bits, so you’ll want to keep a few spare bits handy. Of course, the extra effort will require added time — something you’ll need to take into account.
Color-matching lumber is far from an exact science, as it is. With all the variation in color and grain, even boards of the same species can vary greatly. Wood is, after all, an organic material — a fact that impacts its beauty. The perceived problem comes when people compare a naturally occurring product such as Ipe to manufactured materials, like composite decking, which may be dyed. So we’re not talking about a problem here, per se, but simply an issue of expectation vs. reality.
Since Ipe grows across a wide area, the color consistency issue can be even more significant than it is with other species. Ipe logs are often brought from many areas to a single saw mill or distribution center, where various shipments are combined into one. Each area often has its own tell-tale coloring, so a combined pack of Ipe boards will understandably contain a variety of color.
Like all lumber species, the color of freshly sawn Ipe can appear far more distinct than it will once the lumber has had time to oxidize. Over time, the colors of the Ipe decking boards will mellow and blend more cohesively. Eventually, untreated Ipe decking will take on a grey hue. You can certainly assuage the color variation by turning boards over and choosing the face that’s closer in color to the board beside it. And if initial blending of the colors is important to you, you can easily achieve that with stain.
Even with these potential pitfalls, we’re confident you’ll be pleased with the end result of your Ipe deck, and you’ll agree that it’s well worth the extra effort.