Deckwise-Ipe-Clip-thumbnailThis 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:

  1. Practice screwing and plugging on a spare piece before you actually  start!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!


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