Ipe is an amazing species; no one is debating that. However, if you fail to anticipate potential issues — many of which are directly related to precisely the characteristics like hardness and density that make Ipe such an excellent decking choice — you may be less than pleased with the result. In addition to the other pre-installation considerations we’ve already discussed in Part 1 and Part 2, we’ll look at a couple more issues related to installing an Ipe deck.
Anticipating Hardness-Related Issues with Ipe
Like other especially dense, hard tropical hardwood lumber species (Cumaru and Tigerwood, for instance), Ipe can be pretty hard on tools. In addition, tools can be hard on Ipe: due to its density, those pricey decking boards can easily split if you don’t properly pre-drill holes. Unlike pressure-treated decking boards (which easily compresses as screws are driven into them), Ipe requires larger holes to be drilled with a robust cordless drill. Even with the most heavy-duty drill, though, you will stand to break a few drill bits in the process.
As long as you use the proper tools and steps, you should be able to compensate for the issues related to Ipe and build a long-lasting, beautiful deck. You will need to account for the added labor, time, and tools needed in order to achieve that, however.
Using Hidden Fasteners for Your Ipe Deck
As with any decking species, Ipe leaves you with two basic installation options: hidden fasteners or face-screwing. Because of Ipe’s extreme hardness and related issues with drilling, many decking professionals understandably opt to spend less time drilling through such hard boards; instead, they prefer to drill into a softer sub-structure of the deck, fastening clips into place. Even still, you cannot avoid drilling into Ipe; typically, clip systems still include recommendations to drill through the clip and the bottom half of the decking board at an angle into the joist beneath it. Using hidden clips will reduce the amount of drill time and risk to drill bits. In addition, using a hidden clip system will allow one edge of the board to remain free to expand, while simultaneously being held firmly to the joists beneath it.
Using Face Screws for Your Ipe Deck
Many deck professionals cite seasonal movement as their top reason to prefer face screwing. By leaving one side of a board free to move, hidden fastening systems can allow for warping or twisting as well as uneven gaps between boards. They further assert that if joists aren’t perfectly level, alignment can be a challenge. By face screwing, the natural flexibility of your decking boards helps secure them to the joists; if you use only one screw across the width of each board, you will still allow for the needed movement to take place.
So what’s the best option? Really, it’s a personal preference issue. Only you can consider the specific environment of your deck along with the look you desire; either hidden fasteners or face screws can provide you with a stable, attractive-looking Ipe deck that will last for decades.