If you want to keep your Ipe decking drool-worthy, you’ll have to clean and maintain it. There’s no sense spending all that money on your deck unless you’re willing to put in some work.
While most people think of this wood as “maintenance free,” that’s not the case. It’s true, Ipe decking needs little upkeep, but there are steps you must take to keep it from looking worn. This product will be exposed to elements, so it’s crucial to protect it.
Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your Brazilian hardwood deck.
Sweep your deck once a week with an outdoor broom. Excess debris can cause staining or water buildup. Once a month you’ll need to check for proper drainage and ventilation.
- Start by removing any outdoor furniture and toys from the surface. Don’t forget to relocate the grill, grease can splatter underneath it.
- Next, inspect the crevices for leaves or pinecones gathering between the boards. If debris is building up, use a scraper or putty knife to clear it out. Instead of re-sweeping, use a shop-vac to suck up the waste.
- After vacuuming, grab your garden hose and rinse the deck.
If you need to remove pollen or algae from your Ipe: you can make a cleaning solution. Mix 1 quart of bleach into a gallon of warm water. Use a scrub brush to work the solution into the boards.
Rinse the entire deck again to ensure no residue seeps back into the wood. Allow the decking to dry completely before repeating the process.
If you’re letting your Ipe fade to silver, you’ll only need to seal the deck upon installation. However, to keep the original coloring, you’ll have to apply sealer annually.
When planning your project, check the weather to rule out high humidity or rain. You’ll want to do this during low moisture periods. Gather your equipment ahead of time and study all guidelines and directions.
Remember to purchase an oil-based product made specifically for natural hardwood. Popular choices include walnut oil, coconut oil, and teak oil. NOTE: The treatment may change the coloring or undertones of the wood. Test it in a small area before applying it to the deck.
If your Ipe needs sanding, use an orbital sander and 50 grit disks. Move the sander across the boards going with the grain.
Be sure to vacuum (with your shop vac) and rinse any dust. Consider using a pre-sealer to open the wood for better penetration. You’ll find these products online or at your local hardware store.
Apply the sealer with a lint-free cloth or natural bristle brush. Work with long strokes and overlap them to ensure evenness. Use a dry rag to wipe off any excess oil. Be on the lookout for drips in between the boards or along the sides.
Let the sealer dry a minimum of 24 hours before walking on your deck. Product drying times vary by manufacturer, so check the can. Ipe resists absorption – always inspect the boards before assuming their dry.
While Ipe maintenance is straight-forward, there are a few things to consider.
- The jury is out on pressure-washing your Ipe. Some experts say it’s harmful, while others advise it’s okay. If you choose to pressure wash the deck, make sure the setting is no higher than 1200psi.
- Take care when sanding: Ipe contains silica, so use a respirator and gloves to prevent inhaling and absorbing the dust.
- Never apply sealer with a sprayer. It won’t go on evenly and will result in streaks. Spreading the treatment by hand might be tedious, but you won’t have a disaster afterward.
- If you’re unhappy with your weathered Ipe, you can sand it to its original color. Just be sure to buy the correct grit texture. Never go below 50, or you’ll risk burning the wood.
- Lastly, sunlight speeds up the graying process. You may notice the deck is fading in some spots rather than others. If you aren’t ready to seal your Ipe, consider installing an awning to help minimize the effects.
Ipe wood is a significant investment. While Ipe is less work than redwood, it requires routine cleaning. Be proactive in preserving the boards, or they will deteriorate.
There are several cleaners on the market specifically for Brazilian hardwood. Do your research and ask the pros for product advice. If you’re hesitant to seal the deck yourself, consider hiring a local handyman to do the job.
With proper care, your Ipe deck will last as long as you own your home. Ipe decking offers you the beauty of wood and the convenience of PVC. It’s a desirable resale feature and can boost your home’s value in the eye’s of prospective buyers.
If you’ve installed an Ipe deck, What cleaning products do you use? Share your thoughts and advice about Ipe and other exotic hardwoods in the comments below.