What Should You Expect when Purchasing Ipe Decking?
The old timers call it “culling the pile”, and even though you paid a premium price for your ipe decking, it is still necessary to give it a close look when it arrives on your site. While it is exotic wood and a premium deck building material, it is still wood. And wood has imperfection – some that is desirable as character, and some that is just not ok.
I always recommend that the ipe batch be ordered at about the same time as the framing materials for a deck project, so that prefinishing can be set up and done well in advance of the ipe installation.
The one critical step to insist upon just prior to setting up for prefinishing, is a full-on inspection of the batch of ipe.
This also leaves time to return and replace boards that are not suitable for your project. A little up front time with the batch eliminates regret in the end.
Here are some basics on how to handle your delivery and get the process moving in an efficient direction.
Receiving and Sorting
The first step to an expedient inspection and organized set up for the pre-finishing phase is to receive and sort the material properly. The batch will probably arrive on a lumber truck, tarped and strapped together, then set by a forklift from the truck to the ground. It is like a large wrapped pallet, and it is impossible to see what has arrived until the truck has left and you open it up.
When you break the bundle open, first off, be careful. This is a heavy load of stacked wood, don’t let any section of it tip or fall on anyone. Secondly, get it sorted onto sawhorses or stickers on the ground, organized by lengths and widths. That is, create piles of all lengths and widths that you receive. As you stack the piles, do a good sight down (look down the length of the board) to assess quality.
Here’s what to look for:
- Accurate Order Fulfillment
- Make sure what was delivered is exactly what was ordered
- If specific quantities of certain lengths were ordered, count them
- If a variety of widths and thickness were ordered for perimeter skirts, etc., count them
- Make sure you got the ‘grade’ you ordered
- flat and straight boards: no curves, hooks, cupping or crowning
- cosmetic defects: dings, deep scratches, rough texture, splits
- look for chatter marks, water stains, tear out, planer tails, etc.
- all boards should be smooth and undamaged
- check moisture content with a moisture meter (12% or less)
- large knots should be rejected
- Colors – red and brown wood grain tones should be prevalent
- If you have a preference, reject boards that fall outside your preferred tone range
- Reject boards that look like sap wood (white or yellow colors)
- If you are a grain pattern snob, reject undesired grain patterns
- If you are unsure about a board, wipe it with a water dampened rag for a better look
After the batch has been inspected based on these criterion, it is a very good idea to cut a couple of small pieces for stain sampling. Product selection has to happen before prefinishing can begin.
Learn more about stains in our article titled:
The prefinishing process is somewhat dependent upon the oil stain product selected.
Our New Ipe Owner’s Manual, which is available to all paid site members, details our recommended process for prefinishing prior to installation.
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