What to Look For During Ipe Deck Prep

Written by on August 13, 2016 in Articles, Member Questions with 5 Comments

Often times, when you set up to maintain an ipe deck, it is difficult to know how the wood should look during the various stages leading up to oil application.

If your deck has weathered, which they all do, the one certainty is that you can’t just put fresh oil on without preparing the surface. We had discussed in a previous article the options of mechanical (sanding) prep and chemical (soap) application.

This article is intended to give a few visual tips on how things should look during a chemical prep process. By way of quick review, a good option for a soap mix is outdoor strength bleach mixed 50/50 with water in a garden style pump sprayer.

Soap Application to Prepare Ipe for Oil

ipe deck prep

The upper part of this photo shows how the soap cleans the ipe upon pump spray application.

With this method, you can just sweep the deck off and apply the soap. The only requirement is that the deck is dry at the time of soap application, and that you wet down with water any surrounding vegetation, wood or stone surfaces that you don’t want to get soap on.

If your deck has a wooden rail system that is also being cleaned, do the deck first, then go back around and do the rail system. Then give the deck a big final rinse.

When you apply the soap, you can quickly see it penetrate the dry wood and the original rich color tones become apparent.

It is best to wet down a defined section of the deck, let the soap sit for about 15 minutes, then rinse slowly and thoroughly using a pressure washer with the green nozzle attached.

ipe deck oil

This is how a chemically cleaned ipe deck will look during oil application.

While the deck is wet, you will get a good preview of how the ipe will take oil. Once the whole deck has been soaped and rinsed, let it dry for a day or two.

When the deck dries out, it will likely return to a grayish tone. Do not be alarmed. You don’t need to reapply soap.

If you are using a quality oil, it will penetrate the wood upon application and bring out the rich tones you saw in the wet look.

As always, if you maintain in the spring and fall, the preparation becomes less and less. Depending on your deck’s exposure to weather, you may even get lucky and not have to do any prep beyond sweeping. However, if the deck has been allowed to weather for many months, it is always best to do proper surface preparation.

Please feel free to ask questions below!

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About the Author

About the Author: Scott Burt is a wood finishing expert. IPE decks are one of the areas of expertise in which he is frequently published in paint and remodeling magazines. He also engages in clinics and speaking appearances on the topic. Ipehelp.com is where IPE owners and installers can engage with Scott. .


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  1. Ipe Deck Prep Gear and Methods - IPE Solutions : IPE Solutions | August 13, 2016
  1. neddles says:

    Scott, In a few of your articles you have mentioned cleaning/prep with an “outdoor rated bleach”. Is there a specific brand or specific component of this cleaner that I should be looking for? Is a sodium percarbonate mixture appropriate? Thank you.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi, by outdoor rated bleach, it can be as simple as going to Home Depot and getting the Outdoor Strength Clorox. In other stores, HTH is a common brand. Of course, process is critical when working with cleaning chemicals. Knowing the strength of the mix, and understanding whether it needs to be neutralized and how is really important.

      • neddles says:

        Thank you Scott. After rinsing the bleach application do you follow up with an acidic wash/cleaner of any kind or do you go ahead and apply the Ready Seal after a thorough drying period?

        • Scott Burt says:

          It is best to neutralize with a brightener (always an acid component, gentle like oxalic or citralic). Cabot wood brightener is a good one to use. Rinse thoroughly after application, allow a 2-3 good drying days and then inspect for any scuff sanding that might be necessary prior to oiling. Sometimes there is slight raised grain after the washing process. This can be smoothed off as simply as using a (drywall style) pole sander at 100 grit. I can post a picture of the one we use if you are not familiar with that tool.