This is a blog re-post from another blog that I started, but I like it enough to put it up here. In 2007, I designed and built an Ipe deck at my father’s house around his pool. This was a project house, and you can see from the first picture that the old deck and fence had to go. The engineering challenge was to sink the deck flush with a new stone retaining wall around the pool and butt it up against the fence.My decision to screw and plug the face boards came after worrying about the severe Texas summers and the stress on the 4/4 x 6 face boards. I have nothing against hidden fasteners, they are clean and make the deck look good, but I also considered ease of replacement should I need to take a board out. It seems a lot easer to be able to drill out the plug and back the screw out versus…well, I’m not even sure how to remove a board after a hidden fastener has been used. You would have to take them all out from the end moving into the one board(s) that you ant to replace. Finally, in my personal opinion, screwing and plugging just flat looks better…I like the aesthetic that the plugs leave.
It was a learning process, and here’s what I figured out:
- Practice screwing and plugging on a spare piece before you actually start!
- Set the depth of your countersink pre-drill hole with a stop collar on the bit. Make sure it is deep enough to receive most of the plug, but not so shallow that the plug can’t grip inside the hole. Most standard plugs are around 3/8″ diameter x 7/16″ long.
- Make sure that you have an extra countersink bit handy, in case you break off your bit (I learned this the hard way). Ipe is DENSE, and the bit gets hot quickly. Keep some water or cutting oil handy, and frequently dip the bit to keep it cool. Be careful with cutting oil – don’t get any on the deck as it will stain Ipe (yes, I learned this the hard way too!).
- Set your pre-drilled hole about 1″ to 3/4″ from the edge of the board, or as close as you can get it based on your plug size and still maintain a nice aesthetic.
- Pre-drill one hole, then immediately set the screw. It helps if you have two drills handy, one with a countersink bit and one with the driver bit, so you don’t have to keep changing bits.
- Make sure you are using stainless steel screws! I like to use a trimhead, Swaneze #7, 2-1/4″ 305 stainless steel with a square drive (they don’t strip). Simpson Strong-Tie’s Swaneze is a good brand, and we at eDeck just happen to stock them! My experience with the “Home Depot” wide-head #8 stainless steel is that the heads break off frequently, even with pre-drilling.
- Get a BoWrench! This little jewel will save you lots of pain if you are working with long or slightly bowed boards. It clamps to the joist and jacks your board into it’s proper position, holding it there for you to set your next screw.
- Use a long guide to gap your boards. I used a 1/8″ plywood scrap and it worked great. Ipe shrinks and swells with heat, humidity, and cold. Proper spacing will prevent the boards from buckling or popping.
Lots of hard work, and success! My dad gets to enjoy his retirement by his pool on his beautiful Ipe deck. It’s now come time to refinish it, so I will post on my experience with Woodrich brand cleaning and finishing products next month.In the meantime, if you have any questions, ask away. If I can’t answer them, I will direct you to deck builders that will give you the straight truth.
Good luck with your next deck project!