Building ipe porch with 2 different lots?

Not_an_ExpertJune 21, 2011

I've lurked here for some time, benefitting from everyone's experience and expertise, and now it's unfortunately my turn to ask a question:

I live in area with hot, humid summers and cold winters. My contractor is building a 500-sq.ft. covered, L-shaped ipe deck. Due to an apparent milling problem, some of the original 1x6 ipe boards were about 1/2" too narrow, but contractor did not discover the problem until 2 months after the wood was delivered and after he had already installed about 1/2 of the porch. Supplier sent replacements, which contractor wants to install now.

Problem is that the original, installed boards have been on-site since early spring (and exposed to cold, rainy weather), whereas the replacement boards are being installed after just 1 week on site (in very hot, humid weather). We're using 3/32" spacing, so any width difference would be really noticeable, at least to me, and I'm paying too much $$ for this porch to compromise on the end product, which is what the contractor has told me I will have to do. (It's hard to explain in an email, but just assume that if the boards do not acclimate evenly over time, it will leave a noticeable patch in the middle of my porch that can't be fixed without tearing up the entire thing and starting over from scratch.)


1. Should the contractor have noticed that so many of the delivered boards were not the right width when the original delivery was made?

2. Is it reasonable of me to expect the contractor to re-do the entire porch if the newly installed boards shrink unevenly and create a noticeable patch in the middle of my porch? I sympathize with the contractor, who is a really nice guy, but am I wrong to think this should not be my problem?

Thanks in advance for your opinions -- I'm particularly interested in what some of you contractors/long-time posters(john_hyatt, etc.) think.

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I personally don't see the problem, but maybe I am just not understanding the issue altogether. Is the concern that the new boards are a different width? Different color? Will shrink at a different rate?

If it was me I would make sure to complete each row with boards from the same lot (although if they are the same widths I can't see it being a problem either way). I also can't see there being much difference in the rate of expansion/contraction even though some boards just arrived.

I'm sure the weathered boards look a little different than the new lot, but even though that too will even out in time, I would ask the Contractor to sand the entire deck to make sure everything looks uniform once finished and everything should look consistent.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 6:01PM
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I'm not worried about differences in color or weathering because, as you say, that can be dealt with through sanding, etc.

Rather, my concern is that the existing boards shrunk about 1/4" before they were installed and their curves could be straightened out as they were being laid. But we can only guess at the shrinkage the new boards will experience and the effect that will have after they've been laid with just 1 week of on-site "curing".

If the new boards were being laid towards one end or the other of the porch, we could just pull the new boards up and try again next spring if they don't behave as we expect. But in my case, the section of new boards will actually have a section of "old" boards on each side, so pulling them up and trying again wouldn't necessarily accomplish anything unless you also pull up at least one of the sections of the old boards so that the spacing can be made consistent.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:23AM
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My boards never shrank. Why don't you pull up the "old" boards and put them back with a narrow and the a wide, alternating each one--making it look like a pattern. Surely the GC would do this to appease you.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 10:45PM
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sewlutions - unfortunately, that doesn't work with the existing design. It's hard to explain, but essentially, the porch is L-shaped, with the ipe laid parallel with the "long" leg. Because the length of this leg is around 24', we used two 12' sections with a single vertical interior "border" that ran down the middle. Unfortunately, the border does not hit exactly at the corner of the house where the "L" turns, so there are actually 3 sections of ipe: one 12' section to the left of the interior border with boards laid parallel up to the side of the house, one 12' section to the right of the border with boards laid parallel up to the corner of the house - at which point they shift to 11' length for the rest of the "short" leg of the L.

What all this means is that the 12' sections on each side of the interior "border" have to match up with each other, and the 12' boards to the right side of the interior border have to have the same spacing as the 11' boards that complete the run along that side of the house.

Clear as mud, right? :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 2:53PM
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How does the width of the new boards compare to what is installed? Seems to me you have three options:

1) Tear it out and start over. This seems like an awful waste.
2) Sticker the new boards and let acclimate and see how they compare to the existing.
3) If the width of the new are really close to the width of the existing then I would have the contrator install and get something in writing from him that outline what to do in the event that acclimation of these boards results in width variation that doesn't meet your satifaction.

I would lean toward option 3, especially if the widths are really close to the existing as I think any variation will effect all boards and you will not notice any subtle variation.

My $0.02. Let us know how it turns out.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Just thought I'd update -- new wood was installed about 6 weeks ago and so far there isn't a noticeable difference between the old and new boards. However, I must say I'm disappointed with the overall look, considering the $$ spent.

There's actually been a fair amount of shrinkage, which has resulted in the target 3/8" maximum spacing actually being closer to 4 or 5/8" (and even 6/8" in some places). This may not seem like a lot to some, but it is to me, not least because the wider spacing means the lighter-colored PT support beams are visible! The ipe wood itself has cracks, knots and swirls in several places -- hardly the uniform look I've seen in pictures. And the ipe "top coat" the builder put down gave it a dull look, and it's already turning gray after just 6 weeks. :(

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:17AM
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Can you post a couple photos? That would help us judge our reaction to be either "no big deal, get over it" or "make your contractor fix it."

I have to say, though, 3/4" gaps are HUGE.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 4:54PM
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Where my ipe deck gets the full sun, some of the gaps increased from 1/8" to 1/4" and I thought that was bad. Its hard for me to imagine a 1x6 ipe board losing 5/8" in width. I'm sure that gap would swallow a woman's high heel and it probably should be redone.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 5:58AM
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