We’re not just talking about Ipe, here; many of the same points could be made about other tropical decking species, such as Cumaru, Massaranduba, Tigerwood, and others. Like most tropical species, Ipe is extremely dense and hard, creating a unique set of challenges for those who work with them. We looked at a few of those challenges in Part 1, and now we’ll consider a few more.
Drill with Care
Dense woods can easily split if holes aren’t pre-drilled before screws are installed. Those pre-drilled holes need to be larger than usual and done with a high-quality cordless drill or driver that can handle the workload; remember, these species are up to 6 times as hard as pressure-treated Pine. Even then, you’ll want to be sure to have extra drill bits handy, in case you break a few. The added time needed in order to properly install a tropical hardwood deck will translate into higher labor costs, too, so be sure to figure that in when you give your customer an estimate.
Expect Color Variation
When you’re working with anything that occurs naturally, you can expect some color variation among boards. As an organic material, wood varies in color and grain, even among the same species or even boards cut from the same tree. Pressure-treated wood or stained lumber ends up muting some of the natural variation, though. And of course, some compare the look of real wood decks to those made from composite materials. If your expectations are formed by such comparisons, you will probably be frustrated with the amount of variation in a tropical hardwood deck.
Such variation is more common among tropical hardwoods because of the vast areas over which they grow. Often, all the lumber that grows across a large forest will be brought to mills and distribution centers, where orders are compiled and shipped out. As a result, the wood you receive comes from many trees of varying size and age in different locations of the forest.
Expect Color Change
In addition to the natural variation in color, real wood always undergoes color change from the time when it’s freshly milled. As the lumber becomes oxidized, color change occurs, usually producing a more mellow look, allowing boards to blend more easily with one another. Without treatments to prevent continued color change or “bleaching,” most species will become a silvery gray, over time, so if you want to retain the rich look for which Ipe is celebrated, be sure to treat it properly.
Ipe and other tropical hardwoods definitely make great decks. They provide a low-maintenance solution that stands the test of time and will likely remain popular for high-end homes and businesses for decades to come. As long as you work with the unique characteristics of tropical hardwood decking species, you will be able to install decks properly and make sure the process goes smoothly. If you follow our suggestions from start to finish, we’re confident that the decks you install will come out beautifully and will ensure your customers are pleased.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is 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, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products and services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.