Species like Cumaru, Ipe, Massaranduba, and Tigerwood can certainly provide long-lasting, durable decking. But they take a little extra effort on the front side before they’re ready to be installed. As you read in Part 1, there’s plenty you can do to prepare exceptionally hard, dense tropical decking species for installation. Once your decking boards and plans are ready for installation, there are a few more aspects that will require some added planning and patience. Don’t worry, though: each extra step will prove worthwhile when you have a deck that’s still stable and gorgeous, decades down the road.
Plan Ahead and Pre-Drill Holes
Extremely hard lumber species such as Ipe can be pretty hard on drills and other sharp tools; in addition, drilling screws directly into tropical hardwood decking boards can cause splitting. Instead, you need to pre-drill each hole before inserting screws into them. (Pressure-treated decking lumber has fibers soft enough to easily compress when a screw is driven into a board; hardwoods that are up to six times as hard as pressure-treated pine will respond quite differently.) Pre-drilling will no doubt require added labor and time, so you’ll want to factor that into your project timeline and budget. You may also want to have a few extra drill bits handy, since it wouldn’t be unusual if you were to break a bit or two.
Prepare for Color Variation
Color-matching lumber is a generally difficult topic as it is, but it may be even more challenging for tropical hardwood decking species than for other lumber types. Each board has its own grain pattern and color to begin with, but pressure-treated lumber and lumber that has been stained can allow for much closer matching. If you’re comparing these natural hardwood species to composite decking, you’ll be even more disappointed; after all, manufactured products can be dyed, providing near-perfect matching. (Trust us, though: there’s plenty of reasons not to be persuaded by the allure of perfectly color-matched composite decking!)
One of the reasons that certain species, such as Ipe, can have a broader color variation than other species, is that it has an extremely wide growth range. Each location has its own distinctive soil chemistry and weather patterns, which help determine the color and growth patterns of the trees that grow there. Ipe logs come from many different geographical regions into saw mills, which combine a variety of boards into each individual shipment.
Add in the fact that lumber color changes over time, and hopefully you’ll understand why there will be plenty of variation in your new tropical hardwood deck, especially at first.
You can reduce the issues related to color-matching by carefully placing boards as you plan for installation. After you’re finished, you can also apply a decking oil, and giving it a little time, you’ll see the coloring blend into a cohesive whole that will become even more well-blended over the years to come.