2 Main Installation Options for Tropical Hardwood Decks.
Those installing high-quality tropical hardwood decks use basically the same methods used for composite decking or pressure-treated Pine. While species such as Ipe or Cumaru have many unique characteristics, they still respond to the two main methods of installation: hidden fastening systems or face screwing.
We’ll look at some of the pros and cons of both techniques, specifically as they relate to tropical hardwood decking.
While this method allows for an unblemished face, it takes longer to perform and allows for greater movement during seasonal shifts in temperature and moisture levels. Hidden fastener systems can allow for warping and twisting to take place, causing clips to reference off the joists. In addition, any clips that aren’t perfectly level can make it difficult to align the clip with the groove.
For purely cosmetic reasons, this method is still popularly preferred, especially for extremely hard species. Tropical hardwoods are tough on screws, drills, and drill bits, even burning out drill motors, at times. Because hidden fastening systems require less time drilling through these hard boards and drilling into the softer deck sub-structure, many professionals prefer this method. (Of course, if an entire deck — posts and all — is made from Ipe, then that particular benefit is a moot point.)
While you won’t avoid drilling into the hard wood entirely, you can at least avoid the level of drilling that will likely lead to motor burnout. Most clip systems recommend drilling at an angle through the clip and then the bottom half of the deck board, into the supporting joist, firmly affixing each board to the joists while leaving one edge of the board free. The resulting movement is demonstrated by this animation by Ipe Clip.
Advocates of face screwing cite the main benefits as the relatively short amount of time for installation and the limited amount of movement it allows. However, the unattractive exposed screw holes cause many to see this method as inferior to the use of hidden fasteners.
When a decking board is face screwed, the natural flexibility of the boards help to secure them to the joists. Boards remain free to expand and contract, as long as no more than one screw is placed across the width of the board.
While many hold strong opinions about one method over another, the many variables make preference of one over the other simply a matter of personal taste. In the end, it isn’t the fastening system that determine the beauty and longevity of your deck, but the species and quality of the decking boards used. Quality materials mean stable, air-dried tropical hardwood decking at the right thickness and width for your individual decking project.