Ed Yadlowsky

Finishing Ipe outdoor decks

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I live in southwestern Virginia and have an Ipe (Brazilian hardwood) outdoor deck. This wood is very dense and oily making penetrations and adhesion problematic.   I have tried oil and film type finishes(Sikkens) with limited success. Marc Spagnuolo suggested an epoxy sealer followed by a marine varnish for a table he was refinishing. Is this appropriate for a Ipe deck? He also refers to a CPES (whose source he does not specify) which has a better penetration.  Epoxy distributers indicate that epoxy is not suitable for outdoor applications because it does nor expand with changes in temperature. I need suggestions for a suitable approach.

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Outdoor decks are NOT indoor furniture.  As @Chestnut said, film-forming finishes WILL eventually fail, and require a ton of work to remove and replace. Personally, I recommend the relatively inexpensive Thompson's Penetrating Deck Oil. It does require re-application every year or two, but will shed water reasonably well for that period of time.  I like to scrub my deck with THP and a brick brush before application, to remove any built-up grit and grime. Many folks use a pressure washer for this, but I find they erode the wood rather easily. Maybe no so much on Ipe, but a scrub brush is still less likely to damage anything.

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I have an ipe deck & for the first few years did battle using deck cleaners & finishes trying to make it look like a living room floor. But guess what? A deck is not a living room floor & trying to make it look that way is just a source of stress & expense, and a waste of time. Several years ago I quit trying to maintain it & it has turned a very nice gray & has a surface texture that is rough enough that it's not slippery when wet, but isn't hard on the feet. Another benefit of letting it weather is that it doesn't get nearly as hot in the noon day sun.

But if you must use a finish, do NOT, as @Chestnut said, use any kind of film finish on it. A film finish might last a bit longer than an oil, but refinishing will be much more work. It will require stripping off all the old finish & applying new. With an oil finish you just have to hit it with a deck cleaner & pressure was, then reapply the oil. But that's still not a trivial chore and it'll need to be done at least every 2 years and probably every year.

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I hit decks, and docks with the pressure washer, at least every couple of years, and when it's dry, go over it with a floor buffer with fine sanding screen.   I do own a floor buffer though.   Sikkens lasts pretty good on Treated Pine, but it doesn't look much better than bare wood for long, and looks worse than plain wood after pressure washing.

My pressure washer is 2500 psi at 4.4 gpm, and I use no smaller than a 25 degree nozzle on Ipe, and 35 degree on Pine, but you have to keep even either moving.  Pressure, and water flow will ask for different nozzles for different specs than I'm used to.

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Thanks for the timely response to my question. I did try an Armstrong-Clark oil finish and was very dissapointed with the results. I thought I had wiped up the excess oil on the deck but the finish turned black in about a month and down to bare wood in about 5 months. Do I need to due some special deck prep before oiling it? Although all of you were very negative on any film finish, Earthpaint explicitly promotes a film finish for Ipe. Has anybody had a experience with their products?

Ed

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The Earthpaint "Rainforest" product appears to be functionally equivalent to Boiled Linseed oil. The SDS sheet does not list specific ingredients, other than those considered toxic. However, all the described features align with other natural "curing" oil finishes, like linseed. It has zinc borate added, I presume to enhance UV resistance.

The film finish I assume you refer to is the "Mountain XT" product. SDS mentions it is made of modified resins from Cashew oil, and orange oil extract. Recommended application is as a topcoat for the "Rainforest" product. The modified cashew oil resin has the potential to cause skin reactions similar to poison ivy, in individuals with sensitivity.  (*)

IMO, these products are likely no more durable that any commercial floor coating, or even standard furniture finish, in an outdoor environment.  I'm no expert, but that's how I interpret the data that is present.

 

* interesting side note - Eastern traditional 'Lacquerware' was (and still is, in some cases) finished with a lacquer made with Urushiol oil from the sap of lacquer trees, the same skin irritant found in poison ivy.

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The penetrating curing oils will form a "film" of sorts but it's not like a polyurthane or modern deck finish. The film is close to the wood and doesn't flake off unless heavily applied.

A finish that has zinc in it will act as a biocide and prevent molds from growing in the pores of the wood or on the woods surface, those molds may be what made your other finish look black.

You don't really need durability that's what the Ipe is for. UV resistance will slow the greying of the wood but it's inevitable. You don't need to apply a finish to Ipe for any other reason that aesthetics. Be aware that applying anything to the deck for aesthetics will results in a lot of work every year for the next 100 years. There is no silver bullet finish. It's either apply yearly(maybe every other year) or leave it naked. If such finish existed you'd better believe that company would be worth more than Apple or Google and would be a household name.

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Thanks wtnhighlander,

You have made me realize that one needs to know chemistry or at least have an analytic mind to be a wood finisher in our contemporary world. I will stick with oil.

Ed 

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Ed, I wonder whether you will keep up the annual maintenance regime on your deck in 5 or 10 years. Not trying to be nasty with my comment, I'm genuinely curious. As I said above, I did it for a few years before giving up on it. It was a very difficult decision and I struggled with it because it looks so damn gorgeous after being freshly refinished.

Now in hindsight, I'm quite happy with the weathered look.

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3 hours ago, Ed Yadlowsky said:

I am willing to keep up the maintenance if each refinishing lasts a full year.

Ed 

It will be some work, but there will certainly be reward for it. Every couple of years I reconsider, but priorities, you know.

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