Uneducated Contractors – Ipe’s Biggest Threat

Uneducated contractors are perhaps the biggest reason Ipe is not used more. If you have a contractor, architect or carpenter that does not recommend Ipe for use on your deck you should run and not walk away. Having someone that calls themselves an expert and they do not recommend the best material either shows gross incompetence or lack of knowledge.

To address a few of the comments I have heard over the years from “professional builders”.

“I do not recommend Ipe because it is too expensive.”.

First of all, Ipe is not that much more expensive than many other kinds of wood. In fact, it is cheaper than some. When a “professional” thinks that recommending the best material for a job is not a good idea, I would think twice about using them. What other materials is he substituting because he thinks they are “too expensive”. The truth is that as a building professional unless you are specifically told by a customer that they want a cheap deck, you should always give at least the option of the best material in a quote.

“Ipe is too hard to work with.”

Ipe is denser than other woods. So cutting it will take longer if you do not have the right blades. Remember that it’s that denseness that also makes it last so long and maintain its integrity. That is what you want! Make sure you are using the right blades and cutting will not take long. But you will have to predrill the holes. One time we figured out that using a drill & drive kit for an Ipe deck added 45 minutes on an 800/sf deck. I would argue with anyone, that this 45 min of labor is worth having a deck that can last over 75 years.

“I am not familiar with Ipe, what is that?”

Having worked in the industry for many years, I am still shocked when contractors do not know what Ipe is or do not recommend Ipe first to their customers. Thinking that Ipe is the best material for decks is not just of opinion but a fact. The wood is simply denser, longer lasting and better suited to protect against bugs, mold and other outdoor problems. If a contractor does not know what Ipe is, you have to wonder what else they don’t know. It would be like saying you are a mechanic and don’t know what a Ferrari is. I would be very cautious of anyone that does not know what Ipe is.

“I use Synthetics (Trex, Fiberon, Azek) for all my decks.”

These brands have done a great job of marketing to contractors. They are also easier to work with. The truth is though that these materials are easier to work with because they are not dense or load bearing and they are made in a factory. They have been known to harbor mold in many cases and fade easily. Also, do not be fooled, they do in fact require annual maintenance. Not to mention they look good from some angles, but it’s basically a plastic deck and it looks like it. If one board gets damaged, when you replace it what do you think the new board looks like up against the faded ones? While synthetics have come a long way and many lawsuits later. They are still a cheap alternative to Ipe. Even based on how long manufacturers say their boards last, Ipe will last over 2 times longer. I do not have to sit and badmouth synthetic boards though. I only tell people looking into them, to go find a deck made from them 10 years ago near you. You will never want one after that, but Ipe can last over 75 years and it is natural and can always be reconditioned. Unlike synthetics, whose appearance only worsens with time.

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