Common problems With IPE Decking

7 Common Problems With IPE Decking

IPE is the highest quality decking material on the market because it’s durable and aesthetically pleasing. Yet there are common problems with IPE decking that people experience that can cost you a lot of money.

However, there are solutions to every problem.

The benefits of IPE decking material are that it’s naturally resistant to decay and it’s the toughest wood on the market. But how do you take care of your IPE decking in a way that will not only preserve its durability but its aesthetics too?

In today’s article, we’ll be giving you the top seven common problems with IPE decking and how you can solve them. Keep reading if you want to find out how to preserve the longevity of your IPE decking.

1. Improper Acclimation Problems

A frequent problem with all wood decking is improper acclimation. Even though you’re using Ipe outside, it still needs to acclimate to the conditions. If it doesn’t, you’ll increase the chances of splitting and separation over time.

Improper Acclimation Problems

The good news is, Ipe is hardier than cedar or redwood. It adjusts to temperatures and withstands the elements better than other species. Ipe can handle high humidity, dry climates, and excessive moisture with ease, provided it’s given enough time to adjust on site.

Brazilian hardwood in its original state has a high moisture count. The level is brought down through a slow drying process to prevent cracking and splitting. The wood sits in a warehouse or lumber yard for months, readjusting to its new environment.

Unfortunately, when the wood travels from the yard to a different climate, the acclimation process begins again. If the Ipe moves from a humid area to an arid one, it may dry too fast. Rapid moisture loss in any wood will cause surface cracks and separation.

The Solution

There are three things you can do to combat the chances of this happening to your decking material.

First, make sure the Ipe you buy is premium or select grade. This wood has the least amount of separation and cracks. Natural imperfections are limited to the board’s surface and won’t affect its integrity.

Second, give the boards a few days to adjust to their new home before cutting them. The longer they sit on site, the sturdier they’ll be when it’s time to start your project. Let the wood expand and contract naturally before stressing it with saws and drills.

Third, remember to seal the ends of the Ipe wood after cutting. When you expose the grain, the moisture level will change and spread throughout the wood. Applying sealer to the end of fresh cuts will slow the process and help prevent separation.

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2. Excessive Movement

Adequate airflow is essential to maintaining your deck. Wood needs room to breathe, and air to help prevent moisture buildup. Without it, the dampness will sink in, and your Ipe will start to warp.

Yes, Ipe wood is dense, but it still moves with changes in humidity and temperature. If the moisture levels are higher under the deck than at the top, the wood will compensate for the difference when drying. This can cause coupling, gaps, and buckling.

To prevent this from happening, the airflow on all four sides must remain even. Make sure you space the joints evenly and allow room for expansion and drainage.

Even if you are building a lower deck, leave at least 18” for airflow under the joists. If the wood is too close to the ground or a concrete slab, their temperature can affect your Ipe. Consider oiling and sealing all four sides of the boards.

Another way to combat the problem is to create a slope underneath your deck for proper drainage and ventilation. Pitch the soil on an angle away from your home. Test it with a hose to ensure water isn’t pooling near your foundation or slab.

There are products designed for under deck drainage, such as membranes, waterproof flanges, and under deck ceiling systems. You can find these products online.

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3. Staining, Spots, And Sealing

If sap, pollen, or leaves are left on the surface of your wood, they can cause dark stains. Regular cleaning of your Ipe will help lessen the effects. Make sure to sweep your deck and rinse the debris afterward.

Staining, Spots, And Sealing

Fading is typical in areas with high sun. You can use a UV protectant on your Ipe to cut down on damaging rays. If your budget allows, consider springing for an awning that extends over your deck.

Oiling your Ipe or sealing it will protect the finish. If you prefer to let your Ipe gray naturally, you can sand the spots, but be careful not to burnish the wood.

There are brightening chemicals on the market that you can use to lighten black marks or discolorations. Look for a product that is safe to use with Brazilian hardwood.

If all else fails, you may have to use a wood stripper and reseal your boards. Use caution with these products as they contain volatile chemicals. Always wear a respirator and gloves.

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4. Replacing Damaged Boards

Although IPE decking wood is the most durable material on the market, it’s not completely resistant to damage. Over a few years, you may have to replace damaged boards that have cracked or dried out.

Sometimes hot oil spills from grills can damage parts of your deck. Outdoor furniture such as chairs and tables can scratch your deck and sometimes cause holes in the wood. If this happens, you may have to replace a few boards.

Fortunately, you won’t have to replace your entire deck, which makes IPE wood an affordable choice for decking. IPE is one of the only decking materials that you can replace hassle-free. Composite boards are also an excellent option for decks, but they’re difficult to replace when damaged.

When replacing IPE boards, the new wood will naturally match up with the old decking. Although the brand new boards may be lighter in color, over time they’ll start to darken and look more like the older wooden boards on your deck.

To make it easier to replace damaged IPE boards, you must always opt for pre-drilling installations. There are some clip-in designs, but this makes it more difficult to replace your IPE boards when you need to. It’s advised that you have these IPE boards properly installed for a sturdier and safer structure.

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5. High-Quality IPE Wood Can Be Difficult To Find

Other common IPE decking problems include not being able to find high-quality boards. Depending on where you’re from, it can be difficult finding the correct IPE wood for your deck.

However, there is a solution to this problem. You can find reliable IPE deck retailers online that sell high-end products. One aspect you must remember is that some retailers may run short of IPE decking during Brazil’s rainy season.

This is because only five months of the year are dedicated to harvesting IPE wood. The wet season in South America prevents loggers from extracting wood from the forests. Luckily, IPE deck suppliers plan ahead to ensure they’re always able to provide customers with what they need. That’s why it’s important to find a supplier that never runs out of IPE decking wood.

So when you want to replace some IPE boards you can, because you know your supplier will have what you need.

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6. Maintaining Your IPE Deck Twice A Year—Is It Too Much?

Most people state that maintaining their IPE decking twice every year is too much work. But IPE decking doesn’t require extensive maintenance, because it’s only done annually. What’s more, you can opt not to oil your deck so that it turns a grey color.

Maintaining Your IPE Deck Twice A Year—Is It Too Much?

On the other hand, most people will not skip the oiling process in order to prevent sun damage. But rest assured that the IPE decking material you opt for will be highly durable, so it will last a long time regardless of whether you oil it once or twice a year.

Maintaining your IPE deck is far better than having to replace boards because of damage and lack of proper care. Annual maintenance will preserve the longevity of your deck and ensure that it always looks good as new.

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7. The Boards Are Different Colors

It may be difficult for you to achieve an IPE deck that’s one solid color, because it’s not easy finding boards that are all the same color. If you select plastic or composite woods, you’ll get boards that are all the same color. But with natural IPE wood, you’ll get boards that are between three and five different shades.

On the other hand, the different IPE board shades is the aesthetic that most people are going for. People want a deck that has colors of chocolate browns, olive tones, and lighter brown shades. If you want to see what your deck will look like with a variety of board colors, request some samples from your retailer. This way, you’ll be able to see whether the IPE wood is of the highest quality. There should be no bug holes, sap wood, or knots on the boards. Low-quality IPE boards will also come in various sizes, which will make them difficult to install.

To give you an idea of what the IPE boards look like, visit your supplier’s website and see if they have a gallery for you to browse through. You’ll be able to see the different color IPE board variations you can expect to get from the supplier.

Being able to see the various colors of boards will assist you with proper placement when building your deck. This way, you’ll have a stunning contrast of lighter and darker shades of brown. There are other Brazilian hardwoods such as Massarandupa and Garapa that will provide more consistency in shades, so that your deck looks well put together.

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FAQs

How Long Will An IPE Deck Last?

Your IPE deck will last for 50 years if you take care of it in the correct way. The smooth IPE wood resembles mahogany, and it’s a dense material that’s less susceptible to burning. So it’s no surprise that the burning rate for IPE decking is the same as concrete or steel.

Another reason your IPE deck will last for 50 years is because the wood has a higher moisture content. This means the IPE wood won’t rot over time when exposed to water. That’s why it’s the perfect material to use for boat decks. Since the IPE wood is so dense, your deck is safe from termites and other wood-burrowing critters.

IPE decking is the ideal investment for your home because of its long service life and low maintenance.

How Do I Maintain My IPE Deck?

Maintaining IPE hardwood decking is easy. Simply seal your deck with a weather-resistant product. Additionally, it’s advised to reseal and stain your IPE deck twice a year. You must clean your deck before sanding and reapplying your sealant.

Select a product that’s specifically designed to clean IPE decks, such as Defy Wood Cleaner. This wood cleaning product opens up the pores of the material for improved staining. It’s a safe, oxygenated wood cleaner that deep cleans your deck to provide lustre to the surface.

If there are trees surrounding your deck, use a soft broom or a leaf blower to rid your deck of fallen leaves.

Does IPE Decking Need To Be Sealed?

Yes, you do need to seal your IPE deck, but the sealant isn’t to prevent water damage. This is because the wood is dense and won’t decay when exposed to excessive amounts of water. People do seal this tropical hardwood to protect it from sun damage.

You may experience drying damage in the first month of having your IPE deck if you don’t seal it correctly with the right product. Use an excellent penetrating oil such as DeckWise.

The DeckWise oil will work wonders on IPE decking because it’s suitable for all types of exterior wooden surfaces. This oil deeply penetrates the wood to prevent mold growth.

How Often Should I Oil My IPE Deck?

You should oil your IPE deck twice a year to prevent it from losing its aesthetics and to prevent drying damage. The best times to oil your IPE deck is once in the spring and again before fall. So whether you’re oiling ground level decks or top floor surfaces, always oil them twice a year.

If you oil your deck twice a year it will increase the longevity of the wood and prevent sun damage. The oil treatment will also bring out the color of the wood and give it a lovely glazed look. Be sure to pick stains and oils that are formulated specifically for IPE wood so that it increases the longevity of the boards.

Do Termites Eat IPE?

IPE wood is resistant to termite infestations. These tiny insects eat through wood to live on the nutrients it provides. On the other hand, since IPE wood is so dense, termites have a difficult time eating through the material.

A study from the US Naval laboratory showed that IPE wood resisted termite infestations for 15 years in ground. Other types of wood have not been able to withstand termite infestations in that number of years in-ground, but IPE can.

Termites prefer wood that’s easier to eat through such as dry or damp wood. That’s why it’s important to select the proper wood products for your deck, such as Brazilian walnut, to prevent structural damage from termites.

Should I Sand My IPE Deck?

Yes, you must always sand your deck, especially before staining or oiling your decking boards. Sand down each board with an electric hand sander and then vacuum up any dust left behind. Apply your stains and oils according to the instructions given by the manufacturer.

Sanding your deck allows your stains and oils to take to the surface easily. Additionally, sanding removes rough spots from your IPE deck so you have a smoother finish. The sanding will remove old stains from the boards, so you can add new colors to your deck.

What Is The Best Finish For IPE Decking?

The best deck finish for IPE wood is Messmer’s UV Plus deck stain. This is a penetrating wood and deck stain that protects exterior wood from the elements. The Messmer’s UV product is formulated for pressure-treated lumber as well as IPE decks.

What’s more, this wood stain gives your IPE deck a natural finish, and it comes in two colors for you to pick from. The stain prevents your deck from drying out from UV rays and provides a mildew-resistant coating.

The stain comes in a large tin container and can cover between 200 and 300 square feet per gallon. This coating will last between one and two years. Furthermore, the brand makes a clear finish that is perfect if you want to keep the natural color of the IPE deck.

How Do You Keep IPE Looking New?

To keep your IPE looking new, you must do your regular maintenance of sanding and oiling your deck twice a year. You should also pick cleaning products that are safe to use on IPE decks to eliminate mildew and mold growth.

Fortunately, you only need to clean your IPE deck twice a year before oiling the area. There are detergents on the market that are premix products and they come in spray bottles. The spray cleaners allow you to disperse the cleaning aid evenly over your deck so you don’t miss a spot. Use a cloth, sponge or mop to wipe your deck down.

On the other hand, you can sweep the area regularly to rid your deck of dust, leaves, and debris to keep it looking new.

When selecting materials for your deck, it’s important to pick either composite decking or IPE so that it’s easier to rejuvenate the surface of the wood. If your deck is starting to look dull it may be time to oil the IPE boards. Make sure you pick the correct IPE stains or sealants that are designed for IPE decks to make sure the finish is smooth and leaves a sheen on the surface of the boards.

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Final Thoughts

IPE decks are highly durable because the material is naturally resistant to rot and most wood-destroying insects. Since IPE wood is dense it’s also highly resistant to fire, so it won’t burn easily if a fire breaks out in your home.

Although IPE costs more than other types of wood and there are common problems people experience with the material, it’s a property investment. This is because the wood lasts for up to 50 years without rotting, cracking, or tarnishing, especially when exposed to the elements.

So if you want a deck that will last longer and requires less maintenance, then you should opt for IPE wood for your home. Not only is IPE sturdy, it also adds style and sophistication to the exterior of your property.

Simply ensure that you maintain your deck twice a year and you’ll have a stunning deck for years to come.

What are the most common problems you’ve experienced with IPE decking? Leave us a comment below. Perhaps we can give you some solutions to your problems.

Jeanine Hintze

About Jeanine Hintze

Jeanine Hintze is a professional content writer, and home improvement enthusiast from Long Island.

58 thoughts on “7 Common Problems With IPE Decking”

  1. Avatar

    Hi – I’m looking to install a horizontal IPE fence using 1×6 boards (incl. some 1×4 and 1×2 near the top) here in the Pacific NW (7-8 month rainy season).

    Question 1) I despise the look of PT lumber and want the backside of my fence, with the exposed posts on display, to be not only durable (stay straight and rot/insect free), but to look good & match the IPE fence boards. I can source IPE 4×4 posts for not that much more $ than aluminum and steel post alternatives that I have been considering. Do you think IPE 4×4 fence posts will last as long as the fence boards in my climate AND stay straight/plumb (i.e., not twist like PT lumber would) for the lifetime of the fence? My post installation method would be: posts buried 3-4’ in concrete w/a base layer of gravel for drainage in the post hole and concrete slightly overfilled and troweled to drain water away from the posts. I might even add a product called Rotbloc to the “rot zone” of each post ($2/post) for extra piece of mind. Online, there seems to be conflicting info about how well IPE holds up with ground contact / below grade, so I would love your insight here.

    Question 2: with my post spacing being 5’3” on center and my 1x fence boards each spanning only a single bay (fence boards would be just under 5’3” in length and board ends would be face screwed to the front side of the posts about 1” in from the board ends), can I get away with NOT installing a vertical furring strip on the back side of each bay? I have some zero clearance areas, so accessing the back to install furring strips would be difficult, yet I’m concerned about maintaining consistent horizontal gap spacing and more importantly, preventing board sag. Will 1×6, 1×4, and 1×2 IPE hold steady at 5’3” without the additional vertical supports?

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    We are considering IPE for a rooftop deck in Sedona, AZ. Lots of direct sun, low humidity (except during monsoons), and great (30 – 40 degree) temperature swings daily. Local contractors don’t have much experience with IPE. Have you heard of it working well in the SW?

    Thank you.

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      When is sap not a issue? The only issues you might encounter with this species is slight warping in extreme conditions and graying due to sunlight on wood not treated or placed in open areas. Other than a few minor problems such as those the crucial decision is who and where to buy your wood from. If not cut and manufactured plus stored and shipped properly by the seller? Then you can expect to have issues multiply because of it

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    Hi and thanks for all the info, plus answered questions-many of which I had as well!!!
    We are in Miami FL and have a bunch of 20″x5 1/2″ ipe pieces we wanted to fasten (with 3/16 by 2 1/4″ tapcons 1 screws) directly onto keystone tile flooring. Our neighbor (handyman of sorts) suggested we also add a 6 mil plastic barrier between wood and keystone, with no space between each, each piece will overhang the pool by 3″. since there is no space between each ipe piece we thought it might be a good idea to add a 1/4″ x 1″ PVC trim one one end so water could run off, plus it wouldn’t hurt to lift the ipe off the keystone, we figure. What are your thoughts-will this actually work? We absolutely cannot lift the ipe off the keystone more than 1/4″. Thanks for your help

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    Michael and Amy Norris

    Hello to you in Georgia.

    I have read all of message in this thread. I am rebuilding exterior stairs that lead to my front door. I am located in Napa Valley which is full of Micro Climates throughout the area. On Howell Mountain the stairs will be catching all the morning sun all the way to 3-4 in the afternoon. April -Oct it typically does not rain at all and the humidity is typically 25 – 30%. We have big daily temperature swings as much as 50 degrees in June July and August reaching the low 100’s only to wake up to a cool morning in the 50’s (Perfect for Cabernet grapes). beginning in November it rains a lot through March and sometimes into April.
    I love Ipe colors and qualities, but I am not excited one bit about the possibility of the stairs turning grey while the covered porch stays beautiful. The thought or sanding, oiling, staining, UV protecting….ect does not excite me either considering the upfront cost of Ipe or similar exotic hardwoods. I twas hoping for something that required less maintenance but not willing to settle for Trex or Azek.
    The stairs that were in place for the first 30 years of this house started off as Redwood but were painted white somewhere along the way. I painted them twice in the five years we have lived in this home. When we resided our home with Hardie Planks (color Timber Bark) last year we discovered the old stairs were attached to the house, We removed all the T-111 siding and installed the new siding. The new stair case will be free standing with a wide foot print. The stairs will be 8″ wide with a deep tread of 14″. The stringers are 19′ in lenght rising to a height of 11′ off the ground to the porch. The foot of the stairs will be resting on a natural stone base about 18″ high. The top of the stairs will reach an 8×12 covered porch with black anodized Hog Wire fall-through barrier with an Ipe hand rail.
    Can I treat the wood annually with a UV product? or, will I need to oild and stain every year. With the wood being so dense, how receptive is it to these products? Is sanding required. How long does it take for the stain or oil or UV product to soak and dry before stairs can be walked on?
    Do I need to reconsider a lower maintenance wood?

    Please advise

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      From Florida with a lot of IPE experience. The selection of your boards are most important. A novice will fail every time. I applied Awl Grip varnish as primer and 10 coats of Awl Grip Urethane with Acrylic additive,reducer, either brush thinner or spray thinner. Even for the second largest lumber Co. in Fl. Could not understand the reason for straight grain cut or cross grain. Straight grain is what you want. If you cannot afford to maintain twice a year, wash with turtle wax soap and wax with a wet surface wax. This is the care that is required.
      Otherwise use Pressure treated lumber and stain with a clear top coat or paint with S.Williams All Surface Enamel. I probably wasted my time sounds like you know what you want.

      1. Avatar

        Hi Gary,
        I have a 2 year Ipe deck, partially covered. I have been told the decking doesn’t absorb the drain unless you sand first. Is this true? My first response is the decking should not be sanded. If you use the turtle wax approach on Ipe decking? What floor wax would you use?
        Pat

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    we used IPE handrails on our decks at an apartment project. just about a year old now, the rails are all cracking and splintering. we are getting complaints about splinters/injuries and now need to fix the problem? we were told you don’t need to seal when installing new.

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      I used Cumaru for my deck steps and risers and used some right angle brackets from Simpson (strong tie) to attach the underside and backside of the steps and risers to the pressure treated wood stringers. I also covered all of the edges with the Vycor flashing. Another thing too was I bought stainless steel screws and not regular steel ones. I also wanted some lights so I notched the top edge of the risers to where I could install some rope lighting. If you go to the flickr website, do a search for stlnovas and cumaru and there are a bunch of photo’s of my deck including ones of the steps.

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    Hi, we just installed an IPE deck next to a lawn. The boards keep popping up – once because of the lawn water hitting it and then after each rain. We live in Napa Valley so we have rain but not too much freezing. The deck is atleast 18″ off the dirt. The front end of the 30′ x12′ deck has ample screening for ventilation. We have also sealed the wood.

    Does IPE expand and contract? When would it stop popping up?

    Thanks for any help, suggestions. Candace

    1. Avatar

      Candace, How are they fastened? Boards shouldn’t be ‘popping’ up with proper fastening, regardless of expansion/contraction. If it is a clip system that doesn’t have enough ‘bite’ into the grooves, that could be it. In which case, I’d recommend face-screwing them down. They certainly won’t pop up with a 2 1/2 SS deck screw holding them down. You could also use plugs to hide the heads.

      To answer your question, yes Ipe (and all wood) does expand and contract. Albeit, to a MUCH lesser extent, then say, PT Pine. Typically, in our experience, the expansion/contraction happens within about 1/8th of an inch. They will continue to do this, over the seasons.

      It sounds like your ventilation is sufficient, as long as moisture isn’t sitting under the deck for prolonged periods of time. Based on the details you’ve provided, it’s sounding like a fastening problem.

      We are Brazilian Wood Depot, a large supplier of Ipe and other Brazilian Hardwoods for Decking, Siding, and Flooring. We are located in Atlanta, GA and ship all over the U.S.

    2. Avatar
      Michael and Amy Norris

      Hello Candace, I am rebuilding stairs in Napa County on Deer Park Road between St. Helena and Angwin. The stairs receive about 8-10 of sun per day with a South East to West Exposure. Is your deck new this year? I absolutely love the qualities of Ipe except or the fading. Are you having any issues?

      1. Avatar

        From Florida with a lot of IPE experience. The selection of your boards are most important. A novice will fail every time. I applied Awl Grip varnish as primer and 10 coats of Awl Grip Urethane with Acrylic additive,reducer, either brush thinner or spray thinner. Even for the second largest lumber Co. in Fl. Could not understand the reason for straight grain cut or cross grain. Straight grain is what you want. If you cannot afford to maintain twice a year, wash with turtle wax soap and wax with a wet surface wax. This is the care that is required.
        Otherwise use Pressure treated lumber and stain with a clear top coat or paint with S.Williams All Surface Enamel. I probably wasted my time sounds like you know what you want.

  7. Avatar

    I have a question about storing IPE wood, it’s getting late in the year here in NE Ohio and not sure we will get our IPE hand rail up before the snow. Should we store the wood outside under covered area or inside? I was planning on putting the oil finish on it even if we didn’t get it installed. Would that be ok to do also?

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      Ed, I believe we may have spoke on the phone. Or perhaps I spoke to your wife.

      In any case, if the temps have dropped below 50 degrees F, you should hold off until the weather gets better. Furthermore, I don’t advise oiling the boards before installation. It’s unnecessary and if you feel you want to bump out a few spots with a sander, you’ll have to reoil. Better just to wait till their up.

      My recommendation is, cover the boards (outside or inside doesn’t matter). Don’t trap moisture inside a plastic barrier, cover them loosely. AND, if the boards are stacked, use small spacers between the rows. This will allow ventilation and prevent cupping. Hold off oiling until temps break 50 F. For more information on oiling, visit our website, https://www.bwdepot.com/hardwood-decking/ipe-decking/

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    We live in western Arizona. Summer temperatures run in the 110’s for weeks. We’re thinking if using Brazilian walnut or Ipe to build gates to close off our courtyard. We like the dark color and think it will hold up better than other woods. Do you think we’re making a good choice. Thanks.

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      Yes it will “hold up” better than almost any other wood. However sun fading would be an issue due to its dark color unless you keep it up with uv blocking stain/sealer. Personally I love the look of sun faded Ipe but in a vertical use you could have drastically varying fading from one side to the other.

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      I’ll be building an ipe gate and wall in Yuma. Yes I think ipe is a good choice. I’ve made outdoor benches and truck beds with this wood and never had an issue.
      After you acclimate the wood, seal all the cuts before assembly. Use a uv rated finish. You then can apply the the finish over the rest of it after assembly. I’ve found that using screws or bolts work better than nails provided that you predrill properly. good luck and enjoy your new gates

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      A biased opinion, perhaps (responding from my office at Brazilian Wood Depot), but yes! Ipe works great for fences! Our decking material is purchased and used as fence pickets, regularly. The heat will not be an issue, but it should be noted that without regular (think annually or every 2 years) oiling, the boards will turn a beautiful grey/silver color. It should also be noted that not ALL Ipe is dark, in color. Ipe ranges from light olive to dark chocolate. It is common (and you should expect) to see that range of colors within the same order of Ipe. The range of colors shows the natural beauty and character of the wood.

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    We had IPE railing installed as a handrail on our deck, which is next to our boat ramp, stairway going down into the backyard, and stairs going down into the water. ALL of the railing is splintering, and it has not been pressure washed, as it was not dirty or mildewed so why would we pressure wash it? This installation occurred last year. WE CANNOT USE THE HANDRAILS AS THE TINY TINY SPLINTERS GO RIGHT INTO YOUR SKIN. EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED AND the supplier said, “you MUST have pressure washed it…the installer will come and SAND it for you.” Really?? Now we have to start sanding and treating the wood that was not supposed to need anything??

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      I have had an ipe wood deck and railings in Smithtown NY for 10 years with absolutely no splintering and i have pressure washed it at low pressure to remove mold and mildew

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      Candace, splintering in Ipe is not very common. An orbital sander can be VERY effective (40-80 grit is best) in smoothing out any rough or splintering surfaces. If this is done properly, you may not need another sanding for several years. It’s a quick and painless chore for a beautiful deck that will last decades.

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      Bill, nearly all (natural) woods will bleed to some degree. We found that Cumaru, Ipe and other tropical woods do it less than Redwood, for instance. It is unusual that you would see obvious marks from it on the brick. What type of finish are you using on it?

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    I’m hoping that you can help me with a question. I am an appraiser and recently inspected a hope that had Ipe flooring throughout. In most of the home, the flooring was beautiful but in one section the individual boards were buckled (higher at the seams and lower in the center). The Owner stated that this section of the floor got wet and that in 12 months, the wood will right itself and the floor will be completely flat again. I have no experience with Ipe wood and I am wondering if this is a credible explanation. Thank you for your time.

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      Nick, there are two things that could be happening here; cupping or buckling. From your description, cupping seems to be the more likely cause.

      Cupping occurs when the moisture content beneath the boards is higher than the moisture content above them. The boards will remain cupped until moisture equalization is achieved. Once the moisture equalization is met, the boards will un-cup on their own, over time, just as the homeowner suggested. The process can be hastened by removing them and placing them on spacers with proper ventilation. If the moisture problem is due to a moist sub-floor, the sub-floor would likely need to be replaced and the origin of the moisture would need to be remedied.

      If the boards were installed very tightly and the moisture caused them to expand and buckle, the flooring would likely need to be replaced. Buckling is usually very obvious and makes the boards pop up on one side and down on the other, like an accordion. Usually, there’s not much that can be done to fix this problem besides replacing them. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like that is the problem here.

      We are Brazilian Wood Depot, the Southeast’s Premier Importer of responsibly sourced Brazilian Hardwoods for decking, siding, and flooring. https://www.bwdepot.com/

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    I’m seeing some articles that are saying that you shouldn’t buy Ipe. That it plays a huge role in deforestation, it is all illegally logged, and that Ipe will be extinct in a short time. Granted, the source appears to be a group that sells reclaimed lumber, but if they are correct, I’m very concerned. Can anyone speak on this subject with more authority?

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      Elizabeth, that is a fair concern. I’ve spent the last 40 years in the Forest and Sustainability sector so I’m very familiar with this topic. The truth of the matter is, even if the attack on Ipe was being made with good intentions, it is painfully misguided for several reasons. First off, deforestation of ANY of our natural forests are bad. That goes for anywhere around the world. In the case of the Latin American countries, Brazil in particular, deforestation rates, while on the decline, are still problematic. Around 80% is estimated to be attributable to the Cattle Industry (according to the World Wildlife Fund) and another 15-18% by Agriculture. Those industries are driving the demand for land that is CLEAR CUT for cattle to graze and crops to grow. Timber, like Ipe (as well as some of the other hardwood species), Is one of the only commodities that is coming from these forests. These hardwoods can’t be grown in plantations like mahogany or eucalyptus. That means, they need natural forest settings to grow and thrive. Because Ipe is growing naturally and as a result of regrowth practices, there is economic interest in NOT clear cutting the forests. Governments are committed to growth of their GDP. If clear-cutting natural forests is the way to achieve increased GDP, they will be more willing to allow it. If there is achievable increase in GDP by protecting these forests because of the trees that grow there, the government will be more willing to protect them from being clear cut. The groups that say not to buy Ipe or that Ipe is bad, are simply misinformed and don’t understand economics or government incentives. Simply put, when the Timber industry in South America declines, so does the protection of the forests they inhabit.

      As for illegal logging. Yes, illegal logging occurs. It was a larger problem in recent years past, but since the formation of IBAMA and technological advances that make identifying the lumber species easier and faster, illegal logging has drastically reduced. Illegal logs simply cannot make it to the export locations without being snuffed out by local and federal authorities. And, when caught, the penalties are severe. Now, illegal logging is largely limited to trade within the country of origin, when it happens at all.

      And the idea that Ipe will go extinct is simply “pants on fire.” It’s a very common tree found throughout the tropics. Regrowth has been taking place for many years and is now the law of the land. Not sure where this lie comes from, but it’s almost too absurd to even address. No, Ipe will not go extinct anytime in the near or far future.

      Hopes this helps alleviate your concern. Contrary to the beliefs of some, purchasing Ipe will help protect our forests. Not to mention, the alternatives are plastics that never degrade and wood with toxic chemicals. Ipe is never treated with harmful chemicals and is a biodegradable material.

      There is more information on Ipe and sustainability at http://www.realwood.org.

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      Ron’s explanation is correct. I could write an essay to expand on his points, but instead I’ll leave one important note for the responsible Ipe/tropical hardwood consumer: Buy from legitimate, substantiated dealers.

      The questions responsible consumers should be asking themselves is, and we have been saying this for years, “Does their website look legitimate? Do they have a physical address? Can you drop by and visit their operation? Can you see their Ipe/tropical hardwood inventory? Is their inventory substantial and consistent? And are they sourcing lumber direct from Brazil?” When the answers are “yes”, these are the groups you want to buy from. When the answers to any of these questions are “no”, they are more likely to be participating in an untrustworthy supply chain.

      Some organizations have a website with no physical business address. Often times, these are brokers that may never see the actual lumber and do not know its original source. Standard lumberyards may have an odd bundle of Ipe or other tropical hardwoods here or there, but are not sourcing it directly from Brazil. It is MUCH harder, sometimes impossible, to know where the lumber was sourced in these cases. And again, they are more likely to be dealing lumber that was not sourced responsibly.

      Brazilian Wood Depot, on the other hand, has been in business for over 15 years, has a warehouse in Atlanta that you can walk in anytime, always has a consistent inventory, and imports directly from qualified sources in Brazil. Furthermore, we pride ourselves on integrity; from sourcing the lumber to customer support. Groups like us, that buy directly from Brazil, are doing so to ensure the lumber is responsibly sourced. If you are looking for Ipe or a similar tropical hardwood and are concerned about where or how it was sourced, I’d encourage you to start with Brazilian Wood Depot (www.bwdepot.com). There are other legitimate groups out there, and we support them too – we just do it better, faster, cheaper and with better customer support. Go Natural! with Brazilian Wood Depot.

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    My husband and I live in SW FL and had an approx. 950 sq ft Ipe deck installed. We followed the supplier’s instructions and used Messers products for cleaning and sealing. We sealed it once and then on 2 other occasions hired painters to do the job. Sadly, our beautiful deck that was supposed to last 40-100 years if treated with said materials started to rot after only 7-8 years! Now, it is rotting at such an advanced rate, that I am afraid to walk on sections of it.

    We also did the floor of our covered lanai in Ipe and do not have troubles with that floor. However, we were assured the Ipe could withstand the sun and rain of FL weather and it wouldn’t be a problem. WRONG! We spent 3x the amount it would have taken to use pressure treated wood. Steps we had of PT wood lasted 20 years before we had to replace them. We wanted something that would last longer than PT, but Ipe is not it.

    The owner of the supply company came and saw for himself the damage to our deck. He offered to replace 4 boards! What a nightmare! Shocking lack of accountability. I am sorry that I ever recommended Ipe to anyone. It’s beautiful when first installed, but if you live in a rainy, sunny climate, don’t waste your money,

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      We have been in the Brazilian Hardwood business for over 15 years and have sold Ipe throughout Florida over the years. I have never heard of Ipe rotting in that period of time. Ipe will absolutely outlast pressure treated and that isn’t really debatable. It will outlast PT, plastic, composite, pretty much anything other than steel and concrete.

      I’m wondering if 1. it really was Ipe that you were sold and 2. if the Ipe was properly kiln dried. Does the lumber sit in or on water that does not drain? I would love to see pictures of your deck. If it is Ipe and it was properly installed, I’d like to learn more about it for my own edification and certainly bring it to the attention of my customers to prevent this. We pride ourselves on high-integrity customer support and that means learning about issues like yours. Feel free to contact our shop and ask for Sam, 770-242-0045.

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    William Echelmeyer

    I have 2+ year old tigerwood decking. Looked great when installed. Waited 3 months before sealing. Now it is graying out some and I understand that. My concern is after protecting all furniture legs with felt pads and changing out when worn, my decking is marring/almost scratching every time we move furniture. I have contacted two contractors. One said to replace felt with something else!!??? The other has no idea what is happening. Any ideas for remedy?

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      Replacing the felt MIGHT work. Tigerwood has a tendency to show marks when certain materials come in contact with it. We have seen it happen with a number of different things, water runoff from the roof(with asphalt shingles), oxidation of certain metals, magnolias trees will sometimes have that effect, just to name a few.

      What COULD be happening with yours is that the water that’s running down your furniture ends up on the deck underneath and those very tiny metal particles are oxidizing on the face of the TW boards. I have definitely heard of this happening before.

      The first thing I’d try is a solution of 1 part muriatic acid to 1 part water. This solution easily removes metal oxidation marks. Apply the solution to the area and wipe it up with a cotton rag. Be sure to rinse after you use the solution off of the deck with water afterwards. This method is tried and true for metal oxidation marks. Of course, they will keep coming back as long as that furniture is on the deck.

      Tigerwood also greys a bit differently than the other Brazilian species. I recommend TW for areas that are protected by shade. Works great for siding too! Direct, all day sunlight exposure is simply not recommended for Tigerwood.

      I am with Brazilian Wood Depot. We sell Six species of Brazilian Hardwoods including Tigerwood. In business over 15 years. http://www.bwdepot.com.

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      I’m replacing my dock and am considering using ipe decking. Should I be concerned with moisture equalization as the bottom of the decking will at times be within a foot or two of saltwater and may flood during extreme weather.

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      I did this (brown sheet) so that the lighter tiles on which the deck was laid did not show through. Be sure it does not allow pools of water to form though.

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      My IPE decking has been a constant problem for splintering. My grandchildren have been unable to walk barefoot on it since we moved into our new home only one season ago. What can we do??

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        As for the splintering problem. Splintering is not something we usually (if ever) hear about with an Ipe deck. I would need to see some photos of the deck to determine how to tackle the problem. We have been in the Ipe and Brazilian Hardwood business for 15+ years and we’ve heard just about everything.

        My initial thoughts are sanding might be an effective way to address the face splintering. Also, if the boards are buckling because of improper installation, that can also cause splintering. Again, more details might help me help you.

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      Absolutely! Any system or action taken that helps water drain away from the home and out from under the deck is a good thing. It will help with moisture equalization and prevent cupping. Moisture equalization is key with Ipe and other Brazilian Hardwoods!

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    I don’t want my Ipe deck too gray. It was installed last summer & I want to clean and stain it now. I will use a clean and brighten product, probably Restore a Deck. What oil do you recommend using? I have heard of Armstrong Clark (amber or mahogany), Messmers and Deckwise Ipe oil. Please advise.

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      I work for a pressure washing company and we only use Messmers on our ipe decks. We redo every year for most of our customers

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        Melinda is 100% correct. Messmer’s UV Plus Natural is the best product for Ipe and Brazilian Hardwoods. We do not recommend pressure washing, however. This can cause streaking and can damage the face of the boards creating a “fuzzy” texture that is less than desirable. A pressure washer can be used to apply the Messmer’s Deck Renewer and Brightener. But again, should not be used to clean the boards. I have uploaded an IN DEPTH video on Youtube about how to properly maintain an Ipe deck. I highly recommend watching that video. Youtube–> Ipe Deck Maintenance. It will be the video made by Brazilian Wood Depot.

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    Helpful article! I read another article earlier that was comparing ipe wood to cedar and listing all the benefits of it. It is nice to also know what some of the drawbacks are!

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      Micahel & Amy Norris

      Hello Martin,
      This is Michael Norris in Napa Valley California. By Chance do you have a link to the comparison article you mentioned? I am rebuild exterior stairs where I am still deciding between Ipe, Redwood, and Cedar. I have looked at Trex and Azek and just cannot do it. It looks fake to me. I don’t care how good their warranties are now. It still looks cheap.

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    Is it normal for Ipe to have wood checking or cracks in the middle of the planks. I’ve noticed checking at the ends of the planks and I can cut that off. But I’ve also noticed that on my shorter runs when I cut the boards in the middle there are checking cracks in the middle also.

    Is that normal for Ipe?

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      Michael, yes! Face checking is a very normal process for Ipe. They do not negatively impact the structural integrity of the lumber and they should not lead to splintering cracking, anything like that. Some folks are a bit unnerved by the face checking but, it’s nothing to worry about just a natural process.

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    I’m building a dock on a reservoir and the local building inspector wants written documentation that Ipe is not toxic nor will become toxic to the water supply. Can anyone help address this concern?

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      I’m happy to provide something to that effect. I have Cirad engineering specs that should alleviate the local inspectors concern. Ipe is one of the only options that would be suitable for that concern.

      Feel free to contact us for more info. Our contact info is on our website, Brazilian Wood Depot.

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    I’m interested in putting ipe over a concrete porch that is half covered and half not covered which extends into direct sunlight. I live in CA, the exposure is south west. The ground level that is covered by the roofline is concrete. The ground beyond the roofline is lawn. The deck will be attached to the house over the existing concrete porch and extended beyond the roofline, onto the lawn into direct sunlight by 9 ft. My preference is to let the wood age naturally, becoming silver grayish with wear.

    Wondering if this is the best product for my installation? Thank you.

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      Ipe would be great for that application. One thing that is not addressed in your message is the framing between the concrete and the deck boards. If you are going to build a frame (floater) on the concrete you can use Ipe 1×6 without a problem. If you are planning on fastening directly to the concrete you need to consider Ipe Deck Tiles. Deck Tiles are beautiful and the provide the solution for inadequate ventilation. We are Brazilian Wood Depot and we do carry that product. Feel free to contact us, our contact info is on our website.

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      Any stain like this will go away with time. Unlike manufactured materials, wood naturally absorbs and becomes unnoticeable. Furthermore, there are a number of great cleaning products (renewers, cleaners, brighteners, and strippers). The correct product will tackle just about any stain you can create.

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