Whether it’s Cumaru, Ipe, Massaranduba, Tigerwood, or another tropical decking species, decking lumber can be a bit mysterious. Hopefully our first article on tropical decking installation de-mystified it for you a bit. As you understand more about your tropical decking, we’re confident that you’ll be able to appreciate this fabulous lumber product even more — and you’ll grow in your ability to intelligently discuss and work with it.
Question: Why did this wood just kill my drill?
Answer: Two chief characteristics that make tropical decking wood so popular are their extreme density and hardness. Those same factors make them hard on tools as well as prone to splitting. To lessen the chances of problems, you need to pre-drill holes before installing screws. (Whereas the fibers of pressure-treated species will easily compress, those of these denser woods will not give.) Drilling these larger holes into material up to 6 times as hard as pressure-treated pine is a big job, and it requires robust drills and drivers.
Even with the proper equipment, you should expect to break a few drill bits during the installation process. You’ll also want to factor in the added time and labor as you plan your tropical decking job.
Question: Why don’t the boards match?
Answer: The issue of color-matching lumber, in general, is a hot topic these days. As an organic material, fluctuation in grain patterns and coloring is common within a species. And we think that’s part of lumber’s beauty. When you compare a real wood deck to composite decking, which is dyed for consistency, the engineered product may seem more attractive (at least at first). Staining and pressure treatments can lessen the color differences, but even treated tropical decking will still display some natural variation.
Ipe is a lumber species that tends to have more color variation than other species. The main reason is that its growing area is extremely broad, and a single mill or distribution center will combine lumber from across that wide range. You need to keep in mind that freshly sawn lumber is different than your finished deck will be. As lumber oxidizes, its appearance changes, over time. Most color variation will mellow, allowing a greater degree of “matching” over time. In addition, untreated decking will become “bleached” and will turn grey over time, with exposure to the elements.
Question: Is tropical decking worth it?
Answer: Yes, they really are. The longevity and low-maintenance characteristics of a tropical hardwood deck combine with their beauty to make them more than a current trend: We expect them to continue to rise in popularity. The issues of color matching, specialty tools, and other issues specifically tied to tropical decking species can all be resolved, especially when you hire a professional who’s experienced with these lumber species. When you’re getting lumber from another continent that’s traveled down some pretty rough roads (and seas and checkpoints), you can expect some wood that needs a little TLC. But the right professionals will make sure that happens and deliver a finished product that’s well worth the wait.