Installing ipe wood decking requires a little care. Ipe itself is a very durable material but improper installation can greatly reduce its lifespan. It’s why we recommend having your deck built by professionals; but if you want to install your own ipe wood deck, follow these steps.
Note you are also responsible for checking local building codes and manufacturer installation instructions. Also, it may be a good idea to consult with a structural engineer to make sure your installation will be structurally sound.
1. Acclimatizing the wood
The first step in installing an ipe wood deck is acclimatizing it to your weather. Ipe decking is typically delivered air dried. It should be left outdoors for seven days, with plenty of airflow between lumber pieces, to allow it absorb the local temperature and humidity.
If your ipe wood does not acclimate properly there is a strong chance it will show high levels of movement in service.
2. Span and framing
Prepare your joist spacing according to the dimensions of your deck. A maximum joist spacing of 16” is sufficient for 1×4 and 1×6 decks; for 5/4 x 6 decks spacing should be a maximum of 24”’ and for 2×6 decks spacing should not exceed 32”.
The deck pitch determines water drainage. Make sure the deck is pitched away from the house and water can run off sufficiently. A minimum 1/4″ pitch per 10 feet should allow for adequate drainage on standard and pre-grooved decks. A greater pitch angle is required for tongue and grooved decks.
4. Spacing gaps
Adequate spacing between deck boards is important for letting the lumber expand and contract. The gap also regulates airflow between the lumber. Aim for at least a 3/32” gap between ipe boards. Remember, 4” boards should shrink about 1/8” and 6” boards should be expected to shrink 1/4″.
5. Vertical spacing
For sufficient cross ventilation under the deck, a minimum of 18” should be left under the joists. The sides should be open, too, for freer airflow.
6. End sealing
Use a paint brush to seal the end grain. It dries clear so you do not need to worry about a color shift at the edge of the board. Do not apply sealant to any other part of the deck.
Use stainless steel fasteners to install ipe wood decking. Deck boards have to be pre-drilled to the appropriate size. Trying to install fasteners directly will cause damage to the decking wood and can even cause it to split. Boards will loosen as a result over time. Fasteners and screws of 305 or higher grade stainless steel will also cause discoloration and can fail prematurely.
There are a number of hidden deck fastening methods too; some of which also reduce the pressure on screws as the wood expands and contracts.
Oil and water-based finishes do not apply properly on ipe wood because of its density and alkalinity. A dedicated ipe oil is your best option for finishing the deck satisfactorily. Finishing the deck the first time is highly recommended as it helps the wood remain stable and retain its oils.
The finish must be reapplied every other year or so (depending on wear and tear and local climate). This will maintain the dark brown color of the wood. If finishing is not applied, the deck will gradually turn slivery-grey.
9. Deck accessories and posts
Polyurethane glues are excellent for attaching posts and other decking accessories. Glues are waterproof and can even be dyed to match the color of the deck.
For perfect decks contact Tropical Forest Products.