Last weekend, I helped a customer and fellow DIYer John Trial reface his existing deck with Ipe.  John’s deck was originally built by the prior owner of the home.  The previous homeowner had used treated timber for the framework, and 2×6 treated timber for the face boards.  After only four years, the treated timbers had become rough, cracked, bowed, cupped and waterlogged.

John decided to use eDeck’s 1×6 Ipe to recover his deck.  John, a banker by trade, is a fellow weekend warrior, so I volunteered to work with him.  I can’t resist getting the opportunity to work with Ipe on a deck project!

After removing part of the treated timber facing, we inspected the framework…all looked good.  We then proceeded to lay the Ipe, beginning closest to the house and worked our way out.  While John’s grandson stayed a few boards ahead of us unscrewing and removing the old treated timber, John and I measured, cut, and laid the Ipe.  John’s deck has good ventilation underneath, and since he was face screwing the boards, he went with a tighter 1/8″ gap between boards.

Using two pieces of 1/8″ scrap metal to space our boards, and a BoWrench(TM) to fit the boards snug, we set our boards.  We used a 3/8″ countersink tool with a stop collar.  The Stop Collar proved to be very useful as we did a few practice holes to set our countersink depth.  You don’t need to press too hard, otherwise the Stop Collar will mark a circle around your pre-drilled hole.  John’s joists were 12″ on center, which meant a lot of screws!  About 2,400 total…but the deck was rock-solid once fastened to the joists.

After pre-drilling the hole, I held the board in place with the BoWrench(TM).  This is a handy little tool that slips over a joist and uses simple leverage to push a board into place.  Didn’t take much effort at all, and our boards had nice, even lines to them.  John then set the #7 stainless steel trim head screw in place, careful not to strip it out.  The boxes of screws (contractor’s pack of 350) each had an extra square drive bit with them, and we found that the bit wore down over time and needed to be changed to prevent stripping out the screws.  John didn’t plug his holes, so we set a shallow countersink and set the screw head just under the deck surface.

Once we got our system going, we were able to cover about 1/3 of the deck the first day.  With three people, it took 30 man hours to pick up the wood, unload it, get our tools ready, remove old facing, and install new boards.

On the second day, with John’s grandson out, it was just the two of us working steady, continuing where we left off.  We would cut one side of the board to length, choose the best face to use, fasten the board, and then go back and use AnchorSeal2(TM) end-sealer on the cut end of the board.  This wax coating goes on like paint, and dries to a clear coating that helps prevent moisture from entering/escaping the board, which could in turn cause cracking on the end of the board.  We did this shortly after the boards were cut, however the manufacturer states that it should be done within 24 hours to cut the chances of end splitting by over 90%.

One point on sawing – we are using a DeWalt 12″ miter saw.  Ipe is so dense that you should use carbide-tipped blades when cutting.  So we used the Diablo blade on both our miter saw and our electric hand saw.  This made cutting EASY – the blade went right through the Ipe with no sluggishness.  Take your time when making cuts and let the blade do the work.  Also, use eye protection and a dust mask.  And wear gloves when handling the boards.  While the Ipe boards are very smooth, I got a splinter from the end-cut and Ipe splinters don’t feel too good!

On day 2, John and I covered 24 1×6 Ipe boards at 18′ lengths.  So in 20 man hours (with breaks!), two of us were able to resurface 200 square feet.  That put us over 2/3 of the way finished.  We are now down to the angled part of the deck.  We will lay the boards out and fasten them without cutting the angled pieces.  If you cut your angle, then lay your boards, your angle could be off if you have to correct any warping.  So after the boards are set, we will go back with a straight edge as a guide and rip the angle with the electric hand saw, leaving a slight overlap at the edge of the deck to match the stepping.  As an alternate, you can also put a header board with treated timber on the side, cut your face boards even with the header board, then attach your fascia (riser) so the edge of the riser sits flush with the top of the deck facing, giving it a nice finish border.

We’re now down to the last part, this Saturday we will finish the deck facing and tackle the angled staircase on the backside of the deck.  I’ll post an update to let ya’ll see the finished product.  It’s still a weekend work-in-progress, but John’s deck already looks spectacular with the new Ipe.


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