Ipe Deck Construction
After months of searching for suitable materials for construction of a deck our family wanted to add to our house, we finally decided on using Ipe. Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) is a tropical hardwood, grown in countries such as Brazil. Although you can do a google search on Ipe to find pages dedicated to this wood, a few of it's primary advantages include the following:
Ipe is naturally resistant to rot, decay, insect damage and mold, without the use of chemical treatments
Ipe is an extremely strong, dense wood. Because it does not splinter it makes a perfect decking material for bare feet.
Ipe will weather to a silver patina color when left untreated.
Now for the not so great part about using Ipe. First, it tends to be relatively expensive compared to pressure treated wood or some of the other alternatives. Also, because the wood is so dense it must be predrilled, making installation more expensive. However, when compared to the ongoing maintenance costs of other wood species; or, with the up front costs of many of the man made alternatives, Ipe is not that much more expensive.
Another disadvantage of Ipe is the lack of local availability in many areas. In fact, that is exactly what we ran into in our situation. Being a cautious person by nature, I searched the web for weeks looking for good recommendations for a supplier. Based upon numerous accolades on the Porch and Deck forum at www.gardenweb.com, I choose East Teak Lumber, located in South Carolina, specifically dealing with George Guy. George was an excellent person to deal with in that he patiently answered all my questions without any sales pressure. Feeling comfortable with the company, I placed my order and had it shipped to my home in NE Kansas. The total delivered price came to approximately $5.00/square foot of decking. Based upon George's recommendation, I chose to go with the 1 inch decking rather than the 5/4 inch material due to the lower cost.
Another factor that needs to be decided when building a deck with Ipe is the fastening method. Once again, based upon East Teak's recommendation, we chose to face screw our decking with stainless steel screws. Although this left visible screw heads in the decking, we were a little afraid of running into some of the problems that have been reported with the hidden fastening systems. As our deck faces the west and at least at the present time has no shade, we were afraid the Kansas temperature extremes would take its toll on the deck.
The actual construction of the deck took quite some time due to the large number of angle cuts involved with the pattern we chose. In addition, the ends of each board had to be coated with a thin coat of wax in order to keep the boards from cracking from the ends as they aged.
Regarding the railing, we chose the white vinyl railing from Fairway Vinyl, combined with a rail cap made of Ipe, as we liked the look of the light and dark contrast.
Once the deck was finished, our next step was using a stain/sealer on it so it would retain it's dark color. Once again, we combed the web for recommendations. Although there are a number of stains that tend to come up over and over again, we chose to go with a product called Woodzotic, available from www.restore-a-deck.com. Just this past weekend we prepped and stained the deck with Woodzotic. Although I had a difficult time maintaining a wet edge while applying the stain (resulting in some marks that I will need to go back and touch up), I was very pleased with the product. Now we'll just see how long it lasts with full exposure to the Kansas elements.
The pictures below show the deck both before and after staining. As you can see, the project is not 100% completed, as I have not removed the tape from the bottom of the posts on the railing. I plan on adding pictures to this page from time to time in order to show people how the Woodzotic product holds up to the weather.
On each of the pictures below, just click on the thumbnail to get the full sized picture. My apologies if a few of the pictures look washed out, as I am not the best photo editor.
The four pictures below are of the decking just after construction, prior to being cleaned and stained.
These pictures were taken prior to staining, but right after a rain shower.
These are pictures of the deck after staining with the Woodzotic product. I still need to stain the wrapping around the outside of the deck, but this at least gives an idea of what the final project looks like.