As far as decks go, ipe decking is as strong and durable as it is beautiful. It’s one of the most popular choices in decking materials, and when properly installed will last decades with very little maintenance required.
Because ipe is such a dense and long-lasting wood, it can be harder on your tools than other species and may require extra attention when installing to ensure it performs its best and maintains its rich, lustrous look for years to come. With that in mind, here are a few tips and current best practices to install your ipe deck like a pro.
Most hardwood species need to be dried in a kiln before they’re fastened to the deck so they’re stable (i.e. the boards don’t expand, contract, or twist). Ipe is naturally very stable, even before drying, so it’s often sold and shipped air-dried, depending on its intended use. If so, there may be spacing strips placed between the boards which help drying, but may leave temporary marks. These are easily removed with a light sanding prior to finishing your deck, or they will fade naturally after a short period.
If they haven’t been outdoors already, all new ipe boards should be allowed to acclimate and adjust to humidity levels prior to installation. This can take a week or so, but will reduce any movement later on. Make sure the decking is stored out of direct sunlight (cover with a tarp if needed, leaving sides and ends open for breathability), kept clean, dry and off the ground prior to installation. For more acclimation tips, please refer to our Hardwood Acclimation Guide.
If you’re planning on finishing or staining your ipe deck, consider finishing all six sides before you install it. We recommend an end grain sealant with clear wax to help prevent any end checking. This will give your ipe the highest level of protection, particularly if the deck is low to the ground where it will absorb moisture.
Ipe is extremely hard and dense, and as such requires more effort to cut than a softwood like cedar or redwood. However, there is a simple solution: invest in a carbide-tipped finish-cut saw blade and a course open drill bit. These are much stronger than their standard counter parts and can withstand more heat when in use. Yes, they cost a bit more, but they cut and drill ipe cleanly, quickly, and safely, and you’ll end up with a much nicer looking deck than if you used that dull regular blade that’s been on your saw for the last five years. Reseal all newly cut ends to reduce checking.
When drilling ipe, drill as far from the board ends as allowable to minimize any end splits from over torqueing the screws. If possible, use a high-speed corded drill that maintains consistent drilling speeds along with the course open bit.
There are a number of fastening options available for your ipe deck. High-quality stainless-steel screws (305 or higher grade) or hot-dipped galvanized screws are recommended to avoid any possible staining or black “iron marks” that can occur from the interaction between the natural tannins in the wood and non-stainless fasteners.
Drilling and screwing through the face (the top surface) of each deck board will provide the most secure connection to the deck sub structure. Pre-drill and countersink two holes per board, and install with self-drilling trim head screws so the screw head is flush with the deck surface. The screw penetration to the joists should be at least 1-1/2 times the thickness of the deck board.
For a clean look, you can also consider a plug system whereby the countersinks are deeper to allow for the application of a wood plug and an adhesive
that hides the screw head.
For a clean, fastener-free look, we highly recommend hidden fastening systems such as Ipe Clip or Camo Fasteners. These are rigid, hardened inserts that slide into pre-cut channels on the side of each deck board to firmly hold them to the joists and eliminate the need for surface decking screws. Designed for exotic woods like ipe, hidden fastening systems create a flawless look for you deck.
By following a few simple steps you’ll have a beautiful, luxurious ipe deck that will be the envy of the neighborhood for a long, long time. Drop by and see us at The Decking Superstore and we’ll get you set up with everything you need.
All our ipe is sustainably harvested from certified growers and is available in a variety of lengths and dimensions.