The basics of installing a tropical hardwood deck are the same as installing one with pressure-treated Pine or composite materials. When you use a tropical hardwood species like Ipe or Cumaru, though, you’re using the best material possible for a beautiful, long-lasting deck. You basically have two installation options: face screwed or hidden fasteners.
Face screwing is faster and definitely secure, but many find the exposed screw holes unattractive. Hidden fastening systems allow for movement and provide an unblemished face; however, they can mean an uneven deck surface and do take more time to install. Most people seem to prefer the hidden fastener system for tropical hardwood decks, and the main reason is the appearance. No one can decide which option is best for your deck, but there is a right and wrong way to use both installation methods.
Hidden Fastening Systems
Due to the hardness and density of tropical hardwoods, installing a tropical hardwood deck can wreak havoc on screws, drill bits, and even drill motors. If your decking sub-structure is made from softer woods, you can focus on drilling into those structures to fasten the clips. However, you’ll still have to drill into the harder wood, since many manufacturers recommend drilling at an angle through the clip and then into the bottom half of the deck board. Still, one edge of the board will remain free to move during seasonal shifts in climate.
Face Screwing Method
The seasonal movement allowed by fastening systems is the precise reason some insist that face screwing is the way to go. Movement can mean warping, twisting, or providing uneven gaps. When you face screw decking boards, you utilize the natural flexibility of the wood in order to secure them to the joists. If no more than one screw is used along the width of the board, some movement is still allowed.
Should you choose a hidden fastening system or face screwing method for your deck? It’s really up to you. In the end, the biggest factor in the beauty and longevity of your deck is the lumber you select. A properly dried, high quality tropical species such as Ipe or Cumaru offers the ultimate in stability and beauty. You’ll want to consider your environment and make sure the lumber supplier you choose uses proper drying methods. You’ll also want to factor in an acclimatization period, in order to reduce the chances of extreme movement. You’ll also want to make sure that the lumber has been legally and responsibly sourced and milled. The professionals at J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber can help you determine the ideal thickness and width for your particular project, ensuring that it stands the test of time.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.