Ipe decking quality - pictures attached

jennyologyJune 27, 2012

I've spent a long time researching ipe here on gardenweb and elsewhere, and finally made the decision to go with it. We bought our decking boards from a local company known for their quality hardwoods.

Our contractor began installing today and set aside about 8 boards (out of a total of 41) which he feels are of unacceptable quality for our deck. Mainly for "chatter" and a few gauges he doesn't believe can be sanded out.

I'm not looking for perfection in my decking boards - I just want to stave off any problems in the future, or avoid having areas that might be a nuisance when finishing.

Here is a photo of one board that's already been cut - I'm thinking of replacing it. Is this something any of you might be OK with, or would you agree with me and prefer to replace it?

Here's another board we'll return. It looks like an issue from the mill - can anyone explain to me what this is?

Here are a few other images - I'm just curious to know if this is par for the course in ipe decking or if they really should be exchanged (especially since I was supposed to be receiving a premium product).

The board in the middle of this photo has a strange darker area - my contractor thinks it's fine and can be sanded out/blend in with the oil finish. I'm worried it's something like a smudge of anchorseal from the lumber yard:


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You have a few milling defects in those boards; tear out can be sanded, but some of that heavy skip can't be, especially since it can affect the thickness. Loose knots are a defect that should be switched out; however, grading standards are entirely interpretable. One company might say Clear Grade or Premium, but that means random unit inspections and allowable milling defect, where another does individual pallet inspections and only allows pin knots or tight knots and worm holes. It also depends on the finish you are going with also, but that's another story.

The black streak looks like a water stain from when it is sticker stacked. Can be sanded. What concerns me more though is that nice piece of sap you have 4 boards up. That board needs to be replaced and also tells me you didn't buy premium quality. There should be no sap in Ipe unless you're buying #2's.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 10:38AM
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Thanks for your response, Derek. I was under the impression I was getting premium quality - I was diligent in asking when I was considering online retailers, but for some reason, I didn't confirm with the local place - I just assumed. :/

I'm having a hard time identifying the sap board you're talking about. Which photo? How do I tell what's sap? I've looked for images on images.google.com but can't find a good example.

A lot of my boards seem to have very large grain, radial patterns, marbled look. Is this considered less than premium?

Thanks for your help,

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:18AM
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What does your invoice state about the grade or quality of the material? Depending on what is on the invoice most all of that may be allowable in the grade which would mean you may be out of luck.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 12:39PM
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Well, the invoice only says "D4S," which I understand means "dressed four sides," similar to S4S or "smooth four sides."

The local company website says: "We stock only 100% heartwood, rich reddish brown." I assumed that would mean premium or 1st quality. Their website displays the Ironwoods brand ipe logo.

I believe I recognize the piece with sapwood - the very light blond streak on the edge (3rd board from the top in the photo below)? There's another board (not pictured) with something similar. Should I replace that board - would I run into trouble with rot down the road?

Also, one board is already checking all along its length - particularly within lighter colored radial grain patterns. Would it be wise to replace this, or is this acceptable?

Another board I noticed today has a very sharp lengthwise edge extending about 5 feet, as if it hadn't been eased. I wish my contractor had noticed that before installing it. Thinking about popping it out and replacing.

Practically 25% of the boards delivered had unacceptable flaws on both sides. I paid more per lineal foot than East Teak and Advantage Lumber had quoted ... but I liked the idea of going with a local, reputable company and the total came out about the same since I saved on shipping.

I'm going tomorrow to pick out new boards to replace the unusable ones they selected and delivered to us. Any advice on recognizing better quality boards? I'll try and stay away from the lightest colored ones and any with obvious defects (knots, gouges, machine skip, etc.).

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 11:24PM
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Just as you stated try and stay away from the light colored boards, look for obvious surface irregularalities and try and pick even straight grain. You may not make out really well. As far as getting new pieces for free or them accepting the bad ones back, I have no idea but based on what your invoice says you may not have an awful lot of recourse as far as a return.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 8:44AM
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Thanks for the tips, millworkman. Fortunately, the lumber yard has been good about taking the returned lumber. They're known for quality wood and good customer service, so I think they'd agree that a customer would expect to get a fairly good quality product.

It rained this morning and I noticed how a lot of the checking in a few of the boards appears diminished or completely gone. Interesting how the moisture in the wood practically hides it. I guess it'll come back when the sun comes out.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 9:56AM
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yes it will, and i am glad that your lumber company will stand by their products with good service. That is one of the reasons I have always recommended shopping in lumberyards and contractor type building material dealers as opposed to the HD's and Lowes and Internet Dealers of the world. They are ok (barely in my opinion) for the mindless things that you can walk in and grab off the shelf, if it requires any thought process or knowledge I have found those are not the places to purchase those type of items.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 4:05PM
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Don't worry about the checking. That's how the Ipe breathes. The checks open as the water content evaporates from the wood. After it is a stable moisture content, the checks close back up. The gaps between the boards widen as the checks close up.

When the wood gets wet, it swells. That will close up the checks, and narrow the gaps between the boards. This is seasonal movement that is natural for any wood. Ipe just has it's own way of showing it.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Also, sapwood is easy to spot. There is a definite dark/light border. everything on the light side of the line is sapwood. Don't pick boards with the dark/light streak.

Also avoid boards that feel lighter than the rest. This is lower quality, or maybe sapwood, or maybe it is a species that doesn't qualify as Premium Ipe. Ipe is not a species of wood. Ipe is a marketing name for a genus of "Ironwood" from South America. Tabebuia is the proper name for the genus commonly called Ipe. Not all of the 100 or so species of Tabebuia are equal. Only a handful actually qualify as premium grade Ipe lumber.

Start talking like that at your local lumberyard, and they'll let you swap out whatever you like!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Thanks for those tips, aidan. Our lumberyard received another small shipment of ipe today. We went down to pick out our replacements. I was astonished at how poor the majority of the boards were - knots, gouges, milling defects, etc. Stuff that couldn't be helped by sanding - huge chunks missing. We were able to pick out just as many as we needed that were decent, but most had wide grain patterns. I wonder if this is a bad time of year to be in the market for ipe.

We've got two boards with sapwood streaks on the edges. Are these at risk for rot or cupping in the future? I might have enough extra ipe to replace these - would that be a good decision?

Also, the 12 boards we purchased today are currently sitting on top of my contractor's pickup truck, about 15 miles away from us, for the weekend. I was treating our previous ipe delivery like a baby - keeping it nice and flat, out of the sun, etc., just as I'd read to do. Should I worry about 2 days of hot sun exposure on my boards on top of that pickup, or just relax about it?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2012 at 6:31PM
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The deck is almost done. I'm wondering about the countersink depths of some of our screws. Our contractor used the SmartBit tool, yet we seems to have a lot of inconsistency with screw depths. Some are almost flush with the surface, yet others appear to be 1/8" to as much as 1/4" deep:

We have a picture frame border around the deck. On one side, the field board ends are screwed about 4" from the ends. Is this too far, or OK?

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 10:07AM
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I don't think the screw are too far in from the end but I would be very concerned about the screw depths and would be quite concerned about my contractor allowing this to happen without someone noticing and thinking to stop and investigate.
I am not an expert on deck construction by any means but that appears to me to be a recipe for trouble as any water that sits on the deck will now be getting into the wood well below the surface and create headaches for sure.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2012 at 8:48AM
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