Ipe decking can last up to 75 years with hardly any maintenance. That’s great! But customers often wonder: what about the framing?
Deck framing is usually made of pressure treated pine. It’s cheap, easy to install, and readily available. But pressure treated pine is only rated to last about 15 years. So why would you spend all that money on 75-year ipe if you’re going to have to replace the deck in just 15 years anyway due to rotten framing?
It’s a great question! Here are a few way to make your framing last as long as your ipe decking:
Build the Frame with Ipe
The most obvious fix is to build your frame from the same material as your decking. This will certainly work, but it will be very expensive. And because ipe is so tough, it will be a lot harder to build the frame and secure the deck boards to it. For these reasons, we don’t typically recommend going this route.
Build the Frame with Metal
Metal deck framing comes with many of the same advantages and drawback as ipe framing: it’s expensive and difficult to work with. Additionally, metal products tend to react with ipe and stain the decking. Because of this, you’ll have to use joist and ledger tape as a protective barrier between the framing and the deck boards.
Metal framing can be a great solution if you don’t mind the extra cost and effort, but we don’t usually recommend it. However, now that we’ve brought up joist and ledger tape…
Build the Frame with Pressure Treated Lumber and Protect It with Joist and Ledger Tape
The third option—and the one we recommend—is to use pressure treated pine, then cover your joists, posts, and ledgers with a protective, waterproof tape.
Most wood deterioration is caused by exposure to the elements, especially moisture. The areas of your frame that are most susceptible to rot are places where the wood touches up against something else, creating tight spaces that trap water. Common culprits are the bases of posts in contact with the ground and the tops of joists in contact with the decking.
Joist tape creates a protective barrier between the decking and the joists and keeps the wood dry. Ledger tape does the same thing, but it’s wider so it can cover a broader area. Ledger tape is good for protecting ledgers, beams, and posts.
You should apply joist and ledger tape to all your horizontal framing surfaces. The tape should be wide enough to fold over the sides for maximum protection. You may have to cut the tape in order to wrap corners without creating wrinkles, which can allow water to seep in.
Using joist and ledger tape on your deck framing will drastically improve the lifespan of your deck without costing you tons of money or effort.
Building a deck in a climate that sees extreme weather such as extreme heat, extreme cold, hurricanes, lots of rain, ice and snow requires some extra planning to ensure your deck will last and resist unwanted movement such as warping, cupping, bowing and twisting.
In dry climates like Arizona, wood decking materials will shrink due to the lack of moisture. All building materials will expand and contract with temperature and humidity changes. Composite decking materials generally expand in the warm temperatures and shrink in the cooler temperatures.
Wet and Humid Climates
Climates like Florida that see extreme heat, rain, humidity and hurricanes are some of the harshest environments on homes and the materials they are built with. Constant rain and humidity will cause wood decking to expand, composite materials will also tend to swell in these climates.
These climates also tend to promote the growth of mold and fungi, especially in the areas that do not see full sun all day. This can also lead to faster degrading, rot and decay of building materials.
Extreme Sun and UV Rays
Many areas such as Florida, Arizona, California and more see extreme sun and UV rays. The UV rays from the sun are one of the harshest elements that attack many materials and building materials like decking are no exception.
The UV rays will fade most materials including wood which will eventually turn gray and composites can significantly fade from their existing color that you loved originally.
Extreme Cold, Ice and Snow
If your area gets very cold and see lots of ice and snow in the winter and then hot and humid temperatures in the summer. Your deck is going to see the widest ranges of extreme conditions which means the most expansion and contraction.
All of these different climates can be harsh on building materials especially horizontal surfaces like decking. There are materials that have proven to stand up to these harsh climates better than others.
South American hardwood decking such as Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood, Garapa and Massaranduba have proven to last up to 75 years in some applications.
These hardwood decking species have shown to work in every climate from the dry dessert to hot and humid Florida all the way to cold and snow covered Buffalo, NY.
The most common decking size is 5/4 x 6” which will have a finished dimension of 1 inch thick and 5.5 inches wide.However just like hardwood flooring the wider your deck boards are the more likely they will be to cup.
Use Narrower and Thicker Boards
The narrower a board is the less likely it is to cup so using narrow boards such as 1×4 (finished at 3 1/2″ wide), is not only more stable but it can save you money and give a more interesting look.
Thicker boards such as 5/4 x 4 (finishes at 1” thick and 3 1/2″ wide) are also more stable then 1 x 4 (finishes at 3/4” thick and 3 1/2″ wide) it’s a quarter inch thicker and gives you more stability.
Sawn Lumber Differences
Quarter Sawn Decking:
Quarter sawn decking comes at a premium due to the labor it takes to mill each plank. To mill quarter sawn wood, each log is sawed at a radial angle into four quarters. Then each quarter is plain sawn. This method of quarter sawing does leave some waste, but much less than rift sawn lumber.
This method of sawing produces a plank where the tree’s growth rings are near, or totally perpendicular to the plank’s surface. Quarter sawn decking offers even more stability and the following benefits:
Decreased expansion and contraction on the plank’s width
Twisting, cupping, and warping resistance
Ages evenly over time
Chances of surface checking are significantly reduced
More resistant to moisture penetration
More character beauty with ray flecks
Are Your Project Conditions Less Than Ideal?
We recommend a minimum of 18 inches of unrestricted air flow underneath your deck. Unrestricted means plenty of air can flow underneath your deck so it’s not completely sealed off with skirting.
Closing off the underside of your deck or not allowing enough air flow will change the moisture level on the underside of your deck boards while the top surface gets air flow and heated by the sun.
This creates two different climates for your deck boards and will cause the top of the deck surface to expand and contract at a different rate then the bottom and this will lead to cupping.
That being said some homeowners have projects like boat docks and ground level decks that can not meet the ideal conditions but still want a beautiful hardwood deck.
In these cases, even though we don’t recommend it unless you can create the ideal conditions we suggest using 5/4 x 4 decking or 5/4 x 4 quarter sawn decking. You should also take as many precautions as you can to mitigate any moisture issues or differences underneath your decking.
Oiling the underside of your deck boards before installing them can also help reduce moisture absorbing into your deck boards.
Projects that used our 4 inch wide decking for their projects
One of our great customers Pro Quality Carpentry completed this job and had to share how beautiful it turned out. The previous ceiling of this screened in lanai was old stucco that was looking dingy and had cracks. The home owner hired Pro Quality Carpentry to renovate their outdoor space and make it look more appealing. Pro Quality recommended our Tigerwood in a nickel gap tongue and groove profile that we custom milled for them. Tigerwood is an exotic hardwood that’s incredibly durable as well as exceptionally beautiful. Tigerwood is naturally resistant to rot and decay and offers a 30+ year lifespan without chemical treatment.
The Install Process Was Simple
First Pro Quality Carpentry started by installing wood furring strips to the existing stucco ceiling and made sure to attach the furring strips to the wood support trusses underneath the stucco. Next they installed our Tigerwood nickel gap tongue and groove and fastened to the furring strips with stainless steel screws through the tongue to leave the ceiling free of faster holes.
This is an interesting project from another one of our happy customers. They are so thrilled with the way the Ipe wood compliments their bathroom. Take note of the long Ipe wood boards that trim out the tile edges instead of using standard bull nose like most people do. If they had used bull nose tile to finish off their shower it certainly would not have such a beautiful contrast that the Ipe wood gives. Look closely and you’ll see they extended the tile past the glass door which seals off the shower elements from the wood, this should help their finish they applied remain intact for years to come.
The shower floor is simply a standard shower basin to match the jetted tub. They built a custom Ipe wood shower floor platform that sits inside of the shower basin which really gives it a designer look. Ipe is a great choice for this application since the wood has proven to last outside in extremely harsh climates for 75+ years. Ipe wood will not give off any slivers in your feet and is naturally slip resistant as well as rot resistant making this wood shower a project that can last a very long time.
This design also allows for the wood shower floor to be easily removed for cleaning or in case if something is dropped like jewelry or razor heads to love to pop off when you drop them. One other feature that many people like with an Ipe wood shower floor is you can build the wood surface so that its completely flat since the shower basin underneath is slopped for proper water drainage.
They also wrapped their jetted bathtub with Ipe wood as well as a few wood accents like the trim around their window and vanity mirror. They have received so many compliments from friends and family and they are very pleased with how the Ipe wood accents their jetted tub. The durability of the wood has exceeded their expectations considering it is such a wet environment.
Summertime is here! While you break out the board shorts, we’ll break out the short boards! We do everything we can to eliminate waste, so we keep cutoffs to sell at bargain prices. Many lumber companies sell shorts at a discounted price, but few will call 7 FEET a short board. We do! Continue reading →
Our Ipe, Cumaru, and Tigerwood decking are among the most sought after materials to use in a variety of outdoor applications. One specific application that’s asked about often are installations over concrete pads.
This situation is common in many pool, patio and porch designs. The concrete gets cracked, stained and pitted and the owners want to cover it with something nice without busting up all the old concrete. Unfortunately, traditional long-length decking boards don’t perform very well over concrete. Continue reading →