Ipe Decks background and review

Background information

Ipe decking or commonly just called ipe comes from Brazil and is one of the hardest commonly used hardwoods for decks and other exterior and interior applications.

Scientific classification:

Kingdom:  Plantae
Order: Lamiales
Family: Bignoniacease
Tribe: Tecomeae
Genus: Tabebuia

Ipe decking is quickly becoming a favourite of all architects and continuously more popular with all the public. Ipe wood has many superior properties and make an excellent choice for many applications.

Starting 2007 Ipe decking can be obtained with  FSC certification (Forest Stewardship Council - an international council looking after reasonable management of the world's forest). FSC certified ipe decking is considerably more expensive than non-certified and therefore non-certified ipe is the most common.  FSC certificates are occasionally forged.
Among other non construction uses, the inner bark of pink Ipe is used for tee and is also called Lapacho. It is typically used during flu and cold season.

Ipe trees reach diameter most often around 6ft in diameter and often reaching upto 100ft. Boles are clear 60ft and above giving ipe wood desired clear look.

Ipe used for decking

Ipe wood that is used for exterior decking is air dry giving it flexibility with wide range of outdoor moistures. Ipe decking is lighter to medium brown colour completely free of any knots or defects.  Ipe wood is extremely hard giving it much superior properties compared to clear cedar. It can be expected that ipe deck will last almost 50 years assuming the framing will last that long. Properly maintained ipe will hold its brownish colour. If oiled, ipe will be dark brown colour.

Maintenance of Ipe deck

Ipe decks are one the least maintenance intensive wood decks. We recommend oiling the deck at least once a year, however you will notice when the finish is wearing off and needs a new coating. Key advantage is that old coat does not have to be sanded off, it is actually desired to keep it on, and apply a new coating on top. This way oil penetrates deeper every time it is applied and eventually reduces amount of oiling required.

Although it is not required to oil ipe decking, we recommend it as oil not only keeps the colour of the wood, but also repels any liquids (such as spilled wine). Any liquids are instantly absorbed into wood fibres and will leave a stain. Oil will prevent any stains.

Installation of Ipe deck

Installation of an ipe deck should be performed only after careful study of this wood. It is NOT easy to work with and proper installation of entire deck will take at least twice as long as cedar or maintenance free deck an experienced builder.

Most common installation method for ipe decks is with a use of proper ipe clips and grooved ipe decking. It is a good practice to glue all the decking down to help keep the ipe attached firm to the framing and to minimize any future movement do to moisture cycles. It also minimizes any squeaking due to any loose fasteners.  All the ends should be sealed with wax sealent to prevent loss of moisture and minimize any split end cuts.

Application of Ipe decking

Although ipe decking is very durable and suitable for many applications, it is not suitable for all applications. Common misconception is that ipe is the as the name suggests "iron wood". Ipe does get damaged and does require upkeep to stay durable. Ipe, just like any other wood works with moisture and shrinkage will occur opening up mitres, hair thin cracks are expected to occur, some cupping is also normal.  Medium to large dogs will scratch off the oil from decking leaving the deck all scuffed up. After re applying the oil, these scratches will disappear. Ipe decks get quit hot on the sun as they are dark after oiling (not as hot as some composite decking).  Although there are some disadvantages, there are a lot more advantages to the wood than disadvantages. Beautiful look and relatively low maintenance more than make up for any disadvantages.


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