The perfect porch / deck material - does it exist???

caligirl_cottageJuly 22, 2009

In addition to our concrete patio (see earlier DISASTER posting), we're putting in a deck as well. I've gone around and around in circles on the material though, and even after hours of reading, I seem no closer to finding the right material. Originally I was going to go with IPE because of it's durability and supposed low-maintenance, but then veered towards Trex because of it's ease of installation. NOW I've read nightmares about both Trex and Ipe and wonder what the alternatives are other than the traditional redwood decks. I thought that since Trex had gone through the lawsuit nightmare, they'd be a safe choice now, having (hopefully) worked out all the bugs in their product, but I'm hearing that might not be the case (even their Brazilia products are getting mold). I'm unwilling to go with the 100% vinyl options because I just can't accept putting vinyl on my house.

With all the porch builders here, the hundreds of decks you've built and re-built, and knowing what you know about call-backs, lawsuits, ease of installation, is there one product that you feel good that you can stand behind???

If it's any help, we are in a moist Bay Area environment, mildew would probably be an issue for us.

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After installing Ipe for 15 years or so I have never had anything close to a nightmare or even a slightly bad dream. In fact all my Wallets love the stuff.

All my high end projects are done with S American Lumber a lot of them with Garapa lately ipe is getting a little spendy.

If you want perfect I suggest Dirt Deck,with the option of Grass at a slight additional charge. No maiantance at all unless the neighbors complain that you are not mowing. J.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 3:34PM
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Thanks John and as much as I appreciate the Dirt Deck option, we've been living with that for the last few years and it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of beauty and comfort in deck chairs, etc. especially during the wetter months.

Also, we don't fall into your "Wallet" category, unless you're referring to the "Empty" kind. I'll look into Garapa though. I haven't heard of this and I know Ipe prices have remained high because of the demand, so maybe something a little less well known will suffice.

Just one more question though on the hardwood decks thing. If I have an installer who's (how can I put this delicately) more on the knuckle-dragging end of the "professional" installer spectrum, would this be a problem? I'm a little worried about putting something in front of him that will be too challenging, and end up with a costly mess.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 3:59PM
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I call all my customers the Wallet,not a bad thing. Thats what we usta call the sponcer for the race car.
Garapa is just as long lived as ipe there are just more garapa trees than ipe trees. Its also a golden color. Its less money right now.

It dont matter what the installer looks like,I my very own self am a RedNeck knuckle dragging Harley riden Carpenter. Its how good he is with wood that counts. J.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 5:01PM
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Thanks John, I certainly didn't mean to insult any knuckle-draggers out there, least of which the Harley riding ones. I should have clarified that when I mentioned Ipe to this particular "porch professional" he gave me a completely blank look along with "never heard of it", thus my concern that the work it takes to install a really hard wood like that might be outside of his current skill-set (and for that matter, his tool-set as well). I know that Ipe and Garapa need to be either pre-drilled, or have special fasteners, and are super hard to cut as well. If someone hasn't installed one before, I imagine it might be a challenge and it might therefore get screwed up. I'm going to look into the Garapa more although so far it's not readily as available as the Ipe is around here. I wonder what color Garapa ends up as it ages. Not grey like Ipe, right?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 7:07PM
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None Taken.

There is a slight learning curve with the S American lumber.The first Job I did with it went very well Its the eight sided one on my site. I also had a lot of years building houses from the ground up but really if the man is a long term Carpenter puting down S American will not be all that tough just like it wasent for me.It wasent a challenge it was an adventure. If this guy dosent see it that way find another guy.

I havent seen any diferance cuting S American compared to Red Oak same tools same aproach. Garapa is softer/lighter than ipe but that is really not the guage to long life Teak is feather light. Left with no finish Garapa will go silver/gray just like ipe or any other lumber exposed to the sun. Diferance with SA lumber is it wont age any more with finish or without finish.

Predrill fastening with ss screws is standard with SA, its also standard with any hardwood not really all that hard. East Teak is selling Garapa at a really good price right now>>800 338 5636 South American Lumber is hands down the best decking material there is. Sometimes after completing a Job it seems a small shame to me to use it that way and not for tables and chairs but money talks. Go Get Em Girl! JonMon

    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 10:14PM
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If I can do it, anyone can. I am building an Ipe deck on weekends and it is really not difficult. If you trust the advise from John and other pros on this site with regard to fasteners and finishing, all should go well. We are extremely happy with the finished product. It took a bit longer than I expected (previous experience was using redwood) but there is no comparison to the finished product. I have found Ipe to be coming down in price where redwood and the better composites are now more expensive. Garape can be a fantastic deal.

Just my $.02


    Bookmark   July 22, 2009 at 11:30PM
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Where do you live? I live in Pacifica; work in Palo Alto. Very different climates. The S. American lumber is pretty common around here. Because we have a long wet season followed by a long dry season, the most important thing is to design your deck with plenty of ventilation. A poorly ventilated Ipe deck will really cup in the spring and summer if the ground under the deck can't dry out with the wood.

I'm sure you can find an installer with experience. If the guy is not eager to learn about new material, I would not use him. If you are close, I would be willing to come by and give a little free advice. I could bring some Ipe scraps for a quick hands-on lesson.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 10:13AM
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Thanks guys. You're right Aidan, it's a shame that there are good quality people who are unemployed while others survive, but I do think that this guy is pretty crammed right now.

So I'm definitely thinking that the S. American is the way to go, but still very skeptical that this guy can do it properly. Maybe I'm just jaded with the whole concrete debacle, but I'm not in the mood to have this take even longer and get screwed up again. Aidan, I'm in South Marin if you'd consider a smaller deck proposal, please let me know. It's truly nothing big, about 7 by 7 with 3 wrap around stairs. It will go on the aforementioned concrete patio and they (supposedly) put concrete footings under the slab to support the deck weight (which should be nominal). It ties into the house which already has a ledger attached. If you have someone in Marin you think is reasonable and trustworthy, feel free to suggest that as well.

Thanks again for all of the advice, this place is such a great resource.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 1:31PM
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We're building a big garapa deck. The only deck-related thing I've done before is replace the PT wood on a much smaller deck. John's right, garapa handles differently and there's a learning curve (see some of our learning curve in the post below) and there are plenty of tips that make it easier, but it's not rocket science and it's not a nightmare. The density of the wood does mean that you have to move the saw slowly through it, and we've dulled a couple jigsaw blades and drill bits, but that's not a big deal.

People always say "don't hire a contractor that hasn't done X before" but OTOH, we're DIY-ers that haven't done garapa before and we're moving along just fine. So if your contractor is a competent carpenter and willing to take some time to learn about the tips to working with ipe/garapa/cumaru/whatever, I wouldn't worry about him. If he's going to go about it the same way he would PT wood, then I'd have second thoughts.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garapa deck

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 4:17PM
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