How to build Ipe deck!

Jacky5April 16, 2012

I'm a shipwright with experience in tropical hardwoods and have the deck ready for 'planking'. The deck is located in the South Sierras of California at 4200' (desert side). I want a dull permanent clear finish so I've tested with tung nut oil and am ready to begin the finish work. Deck support provided by the contractor are 2 x 6's fir on edge. The first part is modifying the contractors structure as I rejected Trex and ordered Ipe to complete the job. Will supplement with pictures if this site permits. The planks are of final size 3.5" by 1" and no butt joints will be used. There will be planks meeting planks in a herring bone pattern in three locations to turn a corner with 67.5 degree cuts. The Ipe received has chips, warpage, stains, etc and there's always a best side to finish so all pieces will be cut, endgrain sealed, edge routered to 3/16 round, handsanded/beltsanded, and finished outdoors on sawhorses before being clipped into routered side cuts to the joists. The handrail will be Tigerwood ordered with the larger profile placed over Ipe with vertical Ipe supports sandwiched on each joist. The tung nut oil tests confirmed that thinned tung nut oil is the first application and is wiped off before it begins to thicken but has thoroughly soaked in.(above 50 F degrees for all coats). Cracks are repetitively coated and hopefully filled with tung nut oil. Second (third, fourth...fifth?) coats are polymerized tung nut oil, wiped off before it hardens, allowed to dry, lightly fine sanded and tack cloth dust removed. This is a time consuming process but the objective is a final finish that can be hand wiped down once or twice a year on the finished deck with tung nut oil to maintain a 'bright' though dull permanent rich dark color as opposed to the silvery gray weathered appearance of unfinished boardwalks.

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no interest....

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 3:08PM
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Soundes like you know what you are doing as far as the building.

The finish is another story. You would never build a boat out of Ipe. Aside from the obvious fact that it is too heavy, Ipe opens and closes its grain every season as it loses moisture. The surface checking during the spring will be your nightmare. The cracks can not be filled. They continually open and close each season. A finish that fills up cracks is surface film forming. Surface films all fail on ipe. Elastomeric paint even splits after one season on Ipe. Your objective in a final finish is unachievable. Remebmer you are building a boat dock, not a boat. What is the most beautiful boat dock you have seen? Try to copy it, not the boat.

Your Ipe deck will outlast you. The color of the Ipe will fade to gray. You can only slow down the graying by applying a penetrating oil, outdoor finish several times per year. Penofin and TWP 100 series are the most sucsessful on Ipe. I think they will be fine over the tung oil you already applied.

Also, I wouldn't bother to finish all sides of the decking, unless it will be seen and refinished on the underside, in the future. The finish goes away so quickly on Ipe, finishing all sides of the decking makes no difference. Also, if the finish DOES seal the bottom side of the decking, it encourages cupping. The sun hitting the top side of the boards will encourage the top side to dry more quickly than the bottom...cupping. seal the bottom and it happens more. Keep in mind the finish on the top side of the boards will deteriorate before the bottom. This is encouraging more cupping. Luckily Ipe doesn't hold a finish for long, so once the wood can breathe properly, the cupping will reverse somewhat. This is what builders call "movement" The better you fasten down the decking, the less it can move. That is why most pro builders recommend screwing down Ipe directly to the joist.

NEVER drill pilot holes into the joist. The poor screw has no chance to resist the seasonal movement, if it is anchored into a pilot hole in soft wood.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:34AM
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I've been watching these forums since 08 and I know everyone has their own opinions on what to use to seal Ipe. I can tell you that I've only come to love one product, and that is Rubio Monocoat 2C Decking oil. I am not promoting their product as any sort of compensation nor do I benefit in anyway. I stand out as a deck refinisher because I use the same model as a pool cleaner, I strip and refinish, then I maintain. Rubio offers a refresher that can be applied every 3-6 months. The initial application is a pain in the butt, but once you've got that first coat down, then from that point forward, it's easy and saves money in the long run. Ipe will go through the seasons expanding and contracting, decking has less surface checks than dimensional lumber or larger timbers, but those hairline checks can look gross. Nothing you can do about that.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 3:10PM
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Aidan: I think he's building a deck, not a dock.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 3:14PM
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The tung oil finish would work on a boat, but not a boat dock, nor an Ipe deck. That's why I called the deck a dock. The OP is a shipwright, so I thought an analogy to nautical stuff may help.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 5:53PM
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    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:34PM
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wow, nice deck, nice view!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 10:08PM
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