IPE decking is made of popular Brazilian Ipe hardwood. Ipe is naturally resistant to rot, decay and mold, so it lasts many years. In fact, the same Ipe wood has served the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk for over 25 years. Ipe is also approximately 3 times harder than red oak, so you can often use thinner planks to make a deck than you can with other types of wood.
Picking the Ipe Wood
Traditionally, deck planks are 1.5 inches thick. With Ipe wood, it is possible to go as thin as 3/4 inches as long as your footings will be spaced at 16 inches or less. If you plan to space footers between 16 and 24 inches, use 1-inch or 1.5-inch Ipe planks to ensure stability. For extra strength, you can also use thicker planks even if you space your footers at 16 inches or less.
Check with your lumber provider to find out how long the Ipe has been drying. Most companies typically offer Ipe which has a moisture content of 15 to 20 percent. If you can find lower moisture content, the wood will shrink less over time. With 15 to 20 percent moisture content, the Ipe will shrink between 1/16 of an inch and 1/8 of an inch. When planning your plank spacing, take this into account.
Tips for Building an Ipe Deck
Ipe is an extremely hard wood. It can be cut using a standard circular saw, but you will need to pre-drill each screw and nail hole. Using a cobalt drill bit will reduce the number of drill bits you will use during the building process. When drilling, do not push the drill down too hard. This can lead to the drill bit heating up, which shortens its lifespan.
Always add a weather sealant on the cut ends of the Ipe wood. Though the wood is naturally decay- and water-resistant, cut ends are always more susceptible to water damage than the finished wood. By adding a sealant to the end, you will prevent damage. Though it is not necessary to stain and seal the entire deck, it certainly wouldn't hurt.
Avoid placing the planks too close together or too far apart. Ipe can expand as a result of being exposed to humidity. Placing planks to0 close together can make them press up against each other and put extra pressure on any nails or screws. Ideally, the planks should be spaced at around 1/8 of an inch to 1/16 of an inch from each other. When making this decision, consider your local climate. In areas with lower humidity, the planks can be placed closer together.