Best practices for installing Ipe wood decks (2023)

Successfully installing Ipe wood decking requires a lot of knowledge on how to handle this exotic wood. Ipe is extremely dense and noticeably hard on tools, as well as difficult to glue and stain.

However, oursIron Woods Ipe Wood Decking Productsthey are incredibly durable and have their own beautiful, unique look and time-tested performance. Features that make them highly desirable for the most varied applications.

Whichever Iron Woods Ipe product you choose, this guide is designed to outline current best practices and installation options. Using best practices is an installation guide to superior results and satisfied customers.

1.Handling and storage

Iron Woods® is available as air-dried or kiln-dried wood, depending on species selection and size, and is commonly used for decking and other outdoor applications. Air Dried decking is packaged for export with drying rods between layers which may or may not mark the wood.

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Wood with "glue" marks from drying spacers

These adhesive marks are normal and can be removed by light rubbing or fading over time. Kiln-dried floors are packaged for export and therefore will not be subject to glue marks. It is important to note that Ipe, as a type of wood, is incredibly green-stable in drying, which is why it is sold in both air-dried and kiln-dried conditions. All other naturally durable hardwoods must be kiln dried for dimensional stability of the residential deck.

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25 year Ipe feature check

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Apparent rot of 25 year old treated pine

Iron Woods® must be stored out of direct sunlight, clean, dry and off the ground prior to installation. Allow Iron Woods® flooring to acclimate and stabilize at equilibrium moisture levels prior to installation to reduce movement after installation. Surface control is a normal feature of all hardwood decks, although much more limited in hardwood vs. softwood decks, as evidenced by these photos of 25 year old Iron Woods vs. 5 year old treated pine. Larger sizes and woods may experience deeper checks during the acclimatization process, which are usually reduced when the wood reaches equilibrium.

2.Cutting, drilling, fixing

Use saw blades with a carbide finish and open drills. Seal all edges immediately after cutting with a clear, water-based, wax-based edge sealer to reduce edge retention. The holes should be drilled as far from the plate ends as possible to reduce cracking of over-torqued bolt heads. Use high speed corded bits that maintain consistent drilling speeds along with open path bits. The Smart-Bit Driver and Depth Setter, available from Starborn Industries, reduces creasing around drilled holes and over-torqued screws. For a cleaner look, consider usingSistema Pro-Plug, also by Starborn Industries. Drill bits are recommended for drilling in heavy wood.

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Starborn's Pro-Plug System is available foripe,Tigerwood&batu

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Applying a water-based wax edge sealer such as Anchor Seal™ immediately after cutting is recommended to reduce edge retention.

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IPE final sealing with wax emulsion


4.0Preparation, Finishing, Maintenance
Cleaning and Restoration

When specifying wood products for exterior construction, it is important to have realistic expectations of appearance. When used outdoors, wood products do not retain the appearance associated with their use in indoor applications such as furniture or flooring. Wood will not retain its original color over time without cleaning and refinishing. Wood by its nature will be subject to a limited amount of natural reaction as it cannot be predicted as a natural product how wood will behave in any environment or situation.

4.1Natural weather conditions

Left unfinished or over time without cleaning and retouching, Iron Woods® will naturally age to a silver gray patina. deck climate. Applying even an inexpensive oil-based topcoat slows moisture absorption and release during the seasonal moisture transition, reduces surface control, and improves stability during the initial conditioning process. This can greatly improve the outcome of your project if you are installing air-dry decks in dry, dry conditions and direct sunlight. It's important to remember that you can apply water-based finishes over oil-based finishes, but you can't apply oil-based finishes over water-based finishes, so keep that in mind when choosing finishes.

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Naturally Weathered Ipe Deck in North Vancouver, BC

4.2Preparing a new deck

Always clean your deck using a baking soda floor cleaner like Penofin Pro-Tech Cleaner to remove dirt and debris from the surface of the wood. Follow up cleaning the deck with an application of wood bleach to remove any age-related stains or discoloration. Oxalic acid-based wood bleaches also improve finish penetration. Be sure to allow the wood to dry completely before and between all applications of cleaner, polish or finish.

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Penofin 1st Step Prep for Hardwoods

If you are sealing to preserve the color of your deck, consider using cleaners from the same manufacturer as the sealer. Care should be taken when using wood bleaches containing oxalic acid, and only if the deck is to be repainted after bleaching. Oxalic acid converts lignin in natural wood species to sugar and can speed up the molding process if left raw after cleaning.


To preserve the natural color, use high-quality oil-based exterior finishes with a UV inhibitor, fungicide, and tinted paint.Penofin hardwood formulais a tried and tested solution for finishing hardwoods such as ipe. Test the finish on a deck notch to determine compatibility and appearance before melting the entire deck. Before application, brush and clean the deck surface to remove dirt, dust and other atmospheric contaminants. Iron Woods® are thick, so apply a thin layer and allow to dry completely or a tacky surface may result. We offer a precast decking product that is cost effective in larger lots.

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Ipe pearl water finished withPenofin

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4.4Comprehensive deck maintenance
& weather conditions

Periodic cleaning and refinishing (as needed) will improve the appearance of your deck. The lowest maintenance approach we've found to keeping your floor finished is to treat it like you would a piece of furniture in your home. Simply clean your deck when it's dirty and wipe it down with a new coat of finish before the finish deteriorates from UV exposure and begins to show graying or other forms of discoloration.

4.5Stains, stains and discoloration

From time to time we get calls asking about black spots appearing on wood decks. These stains are caused by mold or by the reaction of iron with the natural tannic acid found in all wood. Mold and mildew will grow on any surface where a food source has accumulated. This includes plastic and glass surfaces. Mold or mildew can be cleaned with a deck cleaner that contains baking soda, such as Penofin Wood Cleaner (see below).

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penofin wood cleaner

If deck cleaners do not remove black stains, your stains are likely caused by an iron reaction. Iron stains are often seen as black rings around galvanized steel or poor quality stainless fasteners. Small black dots on the deck can also be caused by shavings from iron grates, gravel grains, fertilizers or any iron-containing particles that settle on the surface of the deck. This type of black deck stain can be removed with wood bleach (see below). They are usually supplied as a powder or concentrated solution and mixed with water. It may take several applications to remove the stain. To prevent the problem from returning, it may be necessary to remove the fastener and replace it with a higher quality stainless steel fastener.

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Penofin wood bleaching

If you expect the finish to deteriorate beyond the capabilities of deck cleaners and wood bleaches, all is not lost. Simply remove the old finish using a finish remover such as Penofin Pro-Tech Stripper, followed by a cleaner, wood bleach and an oil-based finish, just as you did when you first laid the floor. That's the beauty of wood. It can always be restored to its original appearance. Unlike PVC or composite flooring, even in the worst possible condition, a hardwood floor can simply be sanded like a hardwood floor and restored to a like-new condition, preparing it like a new floor. Iron Woods® is truly "the outdoor wood floor"

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Penofin wood stripper

Be very careful when handling any of these chemicals and wear protective clothing and goggles. Do not mix these cleaners with ammonia or household cleaners. We recommend testing small areas on a few different boards before general use on the project. Always consult and follow the manufacturer's recommendations when using proprietary products.

5. Collage

Iron Woods® are a bit difficult to glue. Said to be marine grade epoxy. Polyurethane, PVA type III and 2-part resorcinol adhesive types have been used successfully in non-structural applications. Typically, in any weld, the wood must be dried and cleaned with a solvent such as alcohol or acetone to remove surface oils, dirt, or other conditions that may affect adhesion.

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West System Epoxy 2 components

  • Epoxy Types: Similar to "West System Epoxy" or "G-2 Epoxy"
  • Polyurethane types: similar to "Gorilla glue"
  • PVA Type III; similar to "Titebond III"

Wood is an organic material, not engineered, with variations from board to board. When gluing wood, it is up to the architect/engineer/specialist to recognize the potential impact of the conditioning process on the appearance of the finished project. Timber Holdings USA makes no specific recommendations or warranties regarding the staining or bonding of wood products. When using any type of glue, we recommend making samples of a few different boards and testing before using on any project. Always consult and follow the manufacturer's recommendations when using proprietary products.

6. Interval of the spar

When deciding on chord spacing, there are other issues to consider besides allowable deck openings. For new construction with conventional flooring and hidden fasteners, a joist spacing of 12-24'' is recommended, depending on deck board thickness. The additional cost of a few extra pressure-treated chords and a few extra fasteners will greatly reduce deck finishing waste while increasing the deck's overall load-carrying capacity.

7. Deck gaps

For residential applications, the live load requirement of most building codes is between 50 and 100 pounds per square foot. Based on these criteria, Iron Woods® decking achieves minimum deviation at 16 to 24 inch chord centers for 1 inch (0.75 net inch) thick decks, 24 to 36 inch chord centers for 1 inch nominal thickness decks. /4 in. (1 in. mesh), 36 to 48 in. cord centers for 2 in. nominal thickness decks (1.5 in. mesh), 48 to 72 in. cord centers for 3 in. decks (2 .5 in. mesh ) thick and extensions 72 to 96 in. for 4 in. thick decks (3.5 in. mesh). The following range calculations indicate maximum allowable spans based on a 200 lb live load and 300 lb snow load as a "worst case" residential deck scenario.


Not all connectors are created equal. There are many mounting options and systems available on the market today. Whichever system you choose, it's important to remember that once selected, responsibility for fastener performance passes to the fastener company, so consider your options carefully and follow the manufacturer's instructions. The use of high quality T305 or T316 stainless steel fasteners is recommended to provide superior service life and to avoid potential galvanic reaction issues associated with connecting naturally durable wood products to treated softwood substructures. If the screws are left exposed on the face of the planks, it is better to use T305 or T316 stainless steel on darker woods like Ipe and T316 stainless steel on lighter woods like Garapa to avoid staining that can occur from the interaction between the natural of tannins. in wood and clasps.not stainless steel. Regardless of the fastening system selected, performance evaluation and selection is the responsibility of the specifier or installer.

8.1Pre-drilling, countersinking and screwing method

Pre-drill and countersink two holes per deck cord intersection. Install self-tapping screws. The screw penetration into the joist should be at least 1-1/2 times the deck board thickness. Drilling and screwing the face of the deck boards provides the strongest mechanical connection. It is always recommended to pre-drill and pre-drill the ends of the boards when using any type of system, as the ends of the boards are the most susceptible to cracking. Predrilling and countersinking followed by screw fitting. Typically, all commercial decks are built using this method. The images below show an installer pre-drilling and countersinking followed by another installer placing the screws in a two-step process. Stainless steel connectors are now available from Starborn Industries and other manufacturers in natural stainless steel, which can be used if you plan to let the deck weather naturally, or with color-coated heads to match the finished deck colors.

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Starborn Headcote Countersunk Screws

8.2Μέθοδος Self Drilling/Self Drilling Screw Method

Iron Woods® is extremely dense and hard. Using self-drilling and self-drilling screws without pre-drilling creates tension or stress in the wood fibers and increases the possibility of cracks. That doesn't mean you can't use self-tapping screws... it just means you're likely to split some boards, especially if you overtighten the self-tapping screw heads. The same can happen if you overtighten the screws during pre-drilling and pre-measuring. There is a grouped self-drilling screw system that has had good results. The Muro™ Ejector™ screw and key system is designed to remove fibers from the hole as the screw penetrates the deck board, reducing stress on the wood fibers. There are many clustered and unclustered screws and self-drilling/self-drilling screw systems available on the market today. Ejector™ screws are not available with colored heads.

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Simpson Strong Loop DHPD Hardwood Screw

8.3Drill, screw, plug method

The drill, screw and plug has all the mechanical advantages of the drill and screw method, however the counters are deeper to allow for the application of a wood plug and glue to cover the screw head. Commonly used in the construction of wooden boats, this method offers a unique appearance. Drill Screw and Plug systems like the Starborn™ Pro Plug™ provide drills and plugs in one system that facilitates quick installation.

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Unlike most metal deck fasteners, which can react with wood-causing stains, the Ipe Clip® is formed from a flexible polymer resin plastic coating (adding UV and chemical resistance properties), allowing the natural expansion/contraction of the wooden deck.

This hardened plastic, rigid stainless steel insert securely holds the floor to the joists (up to 3x the holding power of other floor fasteners), eliminating deck screws as the deck material wears.

Designed for exotic hardwoods, the plastic resin color also works to further camouflage and hide our fasteners between blank boards for a sleeker, more refined surface. A deck, patio or porch installed with DeckWise® Concealed Deck Fasteners new construction is safer, longer lasting, more durable and looks better with a smooth, flawless surface.

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9.Best practices

To the best of our knowledge, this information is accurate: however, due to the variation of products grown in the wild, it is the sole responsibility of the installer to select the appropriate product for any installation and site condition, verify and monitor local building codes and apply Best Practices in handling and installing Iron Woods® brand products. Installers should follow the manufacturer's recommended application and maintenance instructions when using proprietary finish and fastener products. To maximize the performance and beauty of Iron Woods® products, please read this installation guide before you begin.

Iron Woods Best Practices Document



Best practices for installing Ipe wood decks? ›

Pre-drill and countersink two holes per deck stringer intersection. Install self-drilling trim head screws. Screw penetration to joist should be a minimum of 1-1/2 times the thickness of the deck board. Drilling and screwing through the face of the deck boards provides the strongest mechanical connection.

What is the best spacing for Ipe deck boards? ›

Leave a space/gap of 3/32” between the boards with Ipe decking. This provides the necessary ventilation and allows room for the boards so they can expand and/or contract due to heat, cold or moisture.

What are the disadvantages of Ipe decking? ›

The top 10 possible drawbacks of Ipe that customers frequently ask us about are:
  • “Ipe is too expensive!”
  • “Ipe wood is hard to find.”
  • “I'm concerned about the sustainability and environmental impact."
  • “Wood decking needs way too much maintenance!”
  • “Ipe decking boards are not all the same color.”
Jun 12, 2023

What is the best glue for Ipe? ›

The gold standard of wood glues, Gorilla Glue® is famous for having a strong grip that lasts. Gorilla Glue® endures even the toughest condtions, whether it be extreme temperatures or excessivley wet climates, Gorilla Glue® is formulated to last!

What is the best outdoor finish for Ipe? ›

Ipe is just too dense and oily to make a good substrate for film-forming finishes, and even has a hard time accepting penetrating oils. Even so, a good penetrating oil with a high trans-oxide pigment content is our preferred ipe finish; we've had the best luck with Penofin's Marine Oil.

What is the lifespan of an IPE deck? ›

Ipe decking – About

Ipe Wood Lumber is used for decks, siding, and fencing. It has an extremely long life in the outdoors. It can last up to 75 years, longer then any other lumber or composite decking.

Should you leave space between deck boards? ›

The amount of space between deck boards should be anywhere from ¼” to 3/8” inch. You want plenty of space for water to flow between the boards and to allow small debris to fall to the ground.

Should you leave a gap between treated deck boards? ›

Leave Gap: If the pressure-treated wood has been kiln-dried after treatment (KDAT), leave a 1/8” gap (the thickness of an 8-penny nail) between the boards when attaching, since the wood will expand slightly over time.

How often do you need to seal an Ipe deck? ›

If you love the color of your new deck and want to preserve those hues, you'll need to use a sealer on your ipe every year or two. Consider Hardwood Decking's Ipe Oil Hardwood Deck Finish & UV Protector.

Does Ipe require maintenance? ›

While it's true natural hardwoods like ipe decking don't require much maintenance, any material that's exposed to the elements year-round, as well as events like damaging UV rays, foot traffic, tracked grit and dirt, and even red wine and bbq sauce spills, will require some maintenance so it stays looking its stunning ...

What are the different grades of Ipe decking? ›

The grading system used primarily judges the boards between based on aesthetically pleasing natural appearances. At, we sell two grades of Ipe decking, Grade A (Premium Grade) and Grade B (Rustic Grade). GRADE A: This clear grade is considered to be the highest grade.

What kind of sandpaper to use on Ipe? ›

It is recommended to sand new wood decking with 80-120 grit sandpaper prior to allying Ipe Oil™ Hardwood Finish to open the wood's pores and allow natural oils to come to the surface.

What is the best way to seal Ipe? ›

Applying a sealer is easier than you might expect. You can have your Ipe decking pre-finished with Penofin Hardwood Formula before you bring it on site, or pre-finish it yourself with Penofin or another sealer with UV inhibitor. This helps achieve proper acclimation on-site.

What kind of roller do you use for ipe oil? ›

For the best results using DeckWise Ipe Oil, utilize a high quality 3/8” nap roller, pad applicator or stain brush. When spraying, immediately backroll after each segment is covered for proper penetrative protection.

What is the span of 5 4 Ipe decking? ›


For residential deck construction, 1x4 and 1x6 hardwood deck boards will span 16” on center; 5/4x4 and 5/4x6 deck boards will span 24” on center. used as a guide for spacing between boards. Some shrinking will occur as the wood dries.

Is IPE wood good for ground contact? ›

This wood resists insects, rot and mildew, and it can be used in ground contact without preservatives or additional treatments. Testing by the US Navy in a 1962 Panama Canal study showed Ipe to be one of the top performers in resistance to decay, termites, and borers.


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