When it comes to tropical hardwood decking, sometimes those new to these fabulous decking materials are surprised about the unique movement and installation issues that come up. When you’re prepared for these kinds of things, you can be proactive in accounting for them — and that’s exactly what we hope to help you do. One added issue that particularly affects Ipe is color and grain variation. Yes, color matching is an issue across the board when it comes to any species of lumber. However, Ipe presents an unusual situation.
Ipe Color Variation
While all lumber species will exhibit some variation when it comes to color and grain, Ipe will typically display a bit more variation than other species. The reason is that Ipe grows across a wide growth range, and Ipe boards from various geographic regions often get combined at a single sawmill into a shipment. Of course, each area has its own distinctive coloring due to differences in soil and climate. The result is that a single pack of Ipe can include quite the variety of coloring and grain patterns.
Ipe Color Change
Again, like all lumber, you can expect Ipe to change color over time. Freshly milled lumber will change color most drastically as it oxidizes. Left untreated, it will eventually take on a silvery gray patina. For that reason, we refer to tropical hardwood decking as a “low-maintenance” product rather than a “maintenance-free” product. Without regular applications of decking oil, your gorgeous reddish brown deck will someday turn gray; we find that most of our high-end decking customers prefer the richer, darker hue over the dull gray.
Ipe Color Responses
Simply by giving your Ipe decking a sun tan, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of color variation, since lumber color tends to mellow over time. So despite the color variation, your Ipe boards will look better matched the longer they’re exposed to the environment. So you can assure your customer that their deck will appear to be more homogenous in color as time goes by.
One simple tip to help achieve a more cohesive Ipe deck is to look at the other side of each board before laying it down; sometimes the grain on the opposite side is different enough to allow it to blend better with its neighbor. You can also move boards around in order to reduce stark contrasts. If you — or your customer — don’t want to wait for a better color match as the boards age and oxidize, you can always apply stain to achieve that end. Bleaching products and decking oil will also help blend various colors, but to a lesser degree than stain.
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J. Gibson McIlvain Company
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 and Capitol building. Contact a sales representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling toll free (800) 638-9100.
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