Once you make the investment in Ipe, maintenance, like with any material that will be facing the elements, is really important to protect the finished look.
The process is as follows…..
1.) Remove furniture and any fixtures or grills on your Ipe deck.
2.) Sweep off debris, loose dirt and dust from the Ipe deck.
3.) You are now ready to clean the deck. I am going to suggest using a VERY mild hardwood cleaner (the Dad’s Handyman Service Team uses Murphy’s Oil Soap dilluted in warm water), along with a soft “car wash style” brush and a garden hose.
4. Lightly scrub the deck with the cleaner and the soft brush. You will see the dirt bubbling up in the foam that you are creating by scrubbing.
5. Rinse the deck with the garden hose. NOTICE: No Powerwasher needed! If you feel the need to use a powerwasher, clean your sidewalks with it. There is no need to clean your Ipe deck with a powerwasher.
6. Your last step in the cleaning process is to let the deck dry naturally.
The next steps are for those of you going forward with staining or oiling your Ipe decking…..
7. You now have a clean and dry Ipe deck. Make sure there is no rain in the forecast for the next 24-48 hours (the finish you will be using will determine how long you will want the forecast to be rain free). Step 7 is to apply your finish to the Ipe. There are many finishes that you can use on an Ipe deck. Some of them include Walnut oil, Teak oil, or Australian Timber Oil made by Cabot. Make sure you are using a finish with a hue that you are happy with. I don’t reccomend using a colored finish on Ipe, but most oils or finishes will alter the natural color of the Ipe, so be aware of that. Test different products on the underside of the Ipe boards. I like using a natural finish teak oil. (oil takes at least 24 hours to dry, so be sure there is no rain in the forecast!) In regards to actually applying the finish, use either natural bristle brush (4″) Or you can use a clean laundered towel or laundered lint free t-shirt. Apply the finish very lightly, and move in 3′x3′ squares until job is complete. Make sure you are applying the same volume of oil as you move along.
8. You will notice if this is new Ipe, that the finish you are using does not get soaked up into the wood very much. That is because Ipe is very dense. If your Ipe is new, I reccomend applying finish 3 times in the first 12-18 months of owning your deck. Try a cycle of Spring, Fall, Spring Or Fall, Spring, Fall. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s needed for Ipe and similiar dense woods.
The most important tips I would like to leave you with before you maintain your Ipe deck……
-Don’t use a powerwasher, there is no need.
-Read the directions on any and all cleaning products and finishes you are about to use on your Ipe. Factors like outdoor temperature are key factors to consider.
-If the finish is applied correctly and your deck is under “normal use”, you should only have to apply the finish every other year after the first three applications. That being said, I would still suggest cleaning your deck once in the Spring, and then again in the Fall. This will keep dirt and pollen to minimum, which will lengthen the lifespan of the Ipe deck. It will also keep the deck mold and mildew free.
Email me with your questions about Ipe decking – firstname.lastname@example.org
For pictures of Ipe decks recently maintained by the Dad’s Handyman Service Team, check out my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dads-Handyman-Service/470127509665318
Thanks for your time and good luck!
-Sean Buino, Chicago’s Neighborhood Handyman