Archive for October, 2012

What’s the Big Deal About Teak Furniture?

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Such a question. The big deal about teak furniture is that it is teak.

And teak is strong, gorgeous and durable in an outdoor environment. It will force you to peel a few extra bills from the wad in your pocket. That’s a given. But you gets what you pays for. You’re shelling-out for the best with teak.

Think of the cost trade-off this way. By investing more in teak outdoor furniture, you’ll end-up saving all the cash you’d spend on annual weatherproofing and regular treatments. Want some evidence that this brand of wood lasts a long time? Visit a couple of caves in the western part of India. You’ll find teak objects that have been dated back to the birth of Christ.

We can thank the Dutch for figuring out that teak was tops when they dabbled around colonizing Indonesia. Because it’s native to the region, the folks who brought the world wooden shoes discovered that teak was perfect for building ships. Most notably, the Europeans found the timber was hot when it came to resisting dry rot.

How does teak get that way?

It’s all the rubber and oils that saturate the fine grain of the wood. Even when it goes through processing, the protectorants remain locked into the lumber. That makes it resistant to dry rot and weatherproofed, too. The oils likewise create a barrier that discourages parasites and fungus. That translates to not having to treat the stuff. It will handle its own without waterproofing.

This value is not lost on the Indonesians. They’ve been dogged in their management of this resource. While you can harvest teak from Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand, the government of Indonesia has set-up a corporation that handles the plantations where this wonderful wood is grown.

The love takes time. Like about 70-to-80 years before a tree is considered mature. That’s why there’s such a market for reclaimed teak. It’s not your run-of-the-mill lumber in the construction of outdoor and indoor furniture.

Using teak to build structures that can stand-up to the elements, you’ll see the wood began its color plight from maple syrup brown to a distinguished gray.

Not all teak is created equal. The sapwood – outer layer – won’t give you the same quality that the cave dwellers of India experienced. They used what is called the heartwood. The product found closest to the tree’s core. The rubber and the oil gets more intense the deeper you go.

Damage Control – Wood Furniture

Monday, October 29th, 2012

You and the spouse feel like Tarzan and Jane during the outdoor months. Hanging-out in the backyard is your favorite best thing to do other than eat fresh heritage tomatoes from that perfectly loamed garden of yours. You’ve equipped the deck with fine hardwood furniture – tables, chairs, benches, a fire pit and a big-assed porcelain egg for grilling.

One night, a heavy storm comes rumbling through the area. A branch falls, hitting the teak picnic table, leaving behind an ugly reminder. After muttering the obligatory obscenities, it’s time for some retail damage control.

Calm Down, Bubba

The sweetest thing that wooden furniture brings to the dance is that it’s fairly easy to patch a scratch. You can go pro and get something from the woodworking section of your local hardware store. Or you can open a tin of shoe polish that matches the furniture’s hue. Maybe find a magic marker that’s the same color. With any solution you choose, simply dab a bit on the damaged area.

If it’s a deep groove, you may need to call in a pro to restore the canyon. Anyway you go, the nick can be fixed.


Before applying any solution, test things out in an area of the ipe furniture or other wood furniture where any mistakes will not be seen. You do not want the cure to be worse than the disease. Beyond shoe polish, for dark wood, crack open a walnut and rub the meat along the grain of the wood. Does the stuff have a cherry finish? Grab some q-tips and a little bottle of iodine. For those who have pieces with a lighter stain, either purchase some neutral shoe wax or mix iodine and denatured alcohol in a small glass dish and dab it on the offending area.


Most issues that involve water marks or stains can be repaired by merely using common household products. Three of the top items to fix watermarks are toothpaste, mayonnaise or vegetable oil. Wipe-down the area, then wax it.

Let’s say the watermark is on the finish and hasn’t sunk into the wood itself. Cover the spot with a clean cloth and iron it. Apply the iron a little at a time, check, reapply.

Do you have a white stain? Try this: Mix some salad oil and cigarette ashes together and brush the surface with that concoction. Booze stains or milk rings can be rubbed-out with a damp cloth and some diluted ammonia. Just don’t get too heavy-handled. Be gentle.

An Incomplete Master List

There are so many of grandma’s home remedies you can try for other newly added imperfections:

  • Nail polish issues? Use wax and apply it with a fine steel wool. Wipe it down and polish it up.
  • Cigarette burns require creating a goo that consists of linseed oil and well-ground pumice powder. With a soft cloth, go with the grain and gingerly wipe the burnt spot.
  • If someone deposited their gum on your furniture, first smack them upside the head then wrap an ice cube in a cloth. Take out an expired credit card, gently scraping off the gum. Moisten a piece of extra-fine steel wool with mineral spirits and lightly brush the area.
  • Got a heat mark? Use a soft cloth and some camphor oil, rubbing into the grain.

Getting Your Ipe (or Any Wood) Furniture Ready for Winter

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Looking at the title, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why would I need to get some of the hardest wood on the planet ready for winter? Hasn’t the stuff already been puffed-up by Mother Nature?”

Well, yeah. Ipe is known as Ironwood, but even Sheamus with the WWE needs a little TLC now and then. So, how’s about we run-down what you should do for your ipe before it has to fight the weather equivalent of CM Punk again.

Not Just for Ipe

You’re the lucky one with the champion of wood. But if you have another grade, these steps will likewise be helpful for all of your outdoor wood furniture. You paid dearly to extend your living room into the backyard. Treat it with respect. Not just when winter comes blowing in. Make this part of the regular routine:

• Every 3-to-4 months, oil-up the furniture. You need not get fancy with the protectorate. Linseed oil is fine.
• Clean up your act. You want to hose down your furniture to get rid of the junk that’s fallen upon it. Now, clutch your faithful bucket, filling it with an appropriate wood cleanser and the right amount of water. A sponge gets the majority. But for a stubborn clump of dirt or the like, a brush will remove crap that can break-down the integrity of chairs and tables. A couple of times a year will do.
• We talk about the wood a lot, but what about the hardware? Flip the chairs and tables over and scrutinize the bolts, nails, screws and everything that keeps the wood in place. Tighten or replace anything that’s worn.
• When you notice that the outdoor furniture is beginning to show its age, put on your restoration gloves and sand it down. After the pores on the grain have been teased, you can apply some stain or paint followed by a finisher. Think of this as adding a fresh raincoat to the surface.
• Have you purchased any waterproof covers for your outdoor wood furniture? Whatsamattayou? Since you plunged deep into your pockets for the creature comforts, wrap them when you’re not using them. Can’t find covers that will fit? Get a couple of thick plastic tarps, securing them with bungee cord. It’s not only the rain; you need to cover your outdoor furniture from the sun.
• For those who didn’t take our advice and cover their treasure, after a rain you really need to dry-off the furniture. Ipe can handle it, but softer woods can’t. And even ipe can hit the skids if it’s constantly assaulted. Just ask Sheamus.
• Don’t set your outdoor furniture on the grass. Unless you live in the Mohave chances are the sod is wet at least once a day with dew. Water can throw your wood to the canvas faster than Jerry Lawler could give a pair of pile drivers to Andy Kaufman.

Ipe Hardwood Furniture and How to keep it Fresh

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Back in the ‘70’s there was a commercial that aired for a popular brewer in the U.S. The reason we’re showing you this will become clear in just a second:

When you think about ipe (EE-pay) wood, that old ad comes to mind. You can call it ipe or you can call it Pau Lope, Brazilian Walnut, Madera negra, Diamond Decking, Amapa, Ironwood, Cortez, Guayacan Polvillo, Amarillo, Flor, Greenheart, Lapacho Negro or Tahauri.

In the past, it was not considered eco-friendly. Not anymore. Irresponsible harvesting of ipe has been replaced by plantations dedicated to growing a sustainable product. Lucky for us.

Because foresters have taken this new approach we’re able to purchase this medium- to fine-grained   material. Not only is ipe furniture lovely to look at, when it comes to outdoor furniture, you’re purchasing a product that is impervious to bugs, decay, rot and fungus invasions. You can’t find this in any other type of lumber, save for old growth California redwoods. And nobody gets to lay a blade on that type of wood anymore.

Homeowners swear by ipe when constructing their backyard deck. Don’t stop there. What’s good for the goose implores you to take a gander at Ipe-based furniture. If you purchase this stuff for chairs and tables that can handle the elements, there’s a good chance that your great, great grandkids will be enjoying it just as we begin getting imports of tomatoes from Mars.

Carefree or Careful?

This is one of the best get-along, go-along substances. You can oil it down with linseed oil every-so-often. Give your ipe a spa treatment a couple of times a year. Let the oil soak-in for a half-hour then wipe-off the excess. There are other upscale greasers you can buy, but linseed oil works wonderfully.

You will never have to apply sealants or varnish on ipe. Matter of fact, that’s somewhat discouraged because the wood is so self-sufficient.

Ultimately the natural brown hue will go gray. Experts don’t slam the color with that title, preferring to say a distinguished pewter silver.

If you have to clean-off some mildew or sticky sap, grab a small bucket of detergent-laced water and a stiff brush. Those who want to bring back a first-day luster, sand the surface and massage in some linseed oil.

You may see a few small surface cracks as the years roll-by. Not a lot though. This is one of the hardest woods known to mankind. Why do you think they use it to stake the tomatoes on the Red Planet, someday to be enjoyed by your great, great granddaughter when she jet packs home from school?

Add a Roof to Your Deck

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The invitation read: “We’re having a wine tasting party this Saturday. Meet us on our deck at 3 PM.” The problem is the crackers are getting soggy, the cheese is becoming gooey and the wine is watered down. No, your hosts aren’t psychopaths. They just didn’t anticipate that the weather was going to turn terrible.

Rain can put a damper on any plans that involve your deck. There is a way out, though. Build a roof over the outside space. What we’re going to do is give you a way to keep some of the wetter elements of Mother Nature off you and your friends.

Before you begin to assemble the stuff you’ll need to create this thing, you need to find out what the building codes are in your area. There’s also the off-chance that you’ll require a permit and pay for an inspection after the thing has been erected.

Now That You’re Legal

Let’s head to the tool shed and the Big Box Hardware Store to pick up what we need to have on hand to do the deed:

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Wrench
  • Electric saw
  • Tape measure
  • Plywood
  • 2-inch by 4-inch boards
  • 4-inch by 4-inch posts
  • Metal flashing
  • Metal corner brackets
  • Tin roofing
  • Wood screws
  • Roofer’s nails
  • Lag bolts
  • Roofing paper

What are the dimensions of your deck?  Transfer that information to the 2-inch by 4-inch boards. Cut a pair of side pieces and a couple of end pieces. Make sure the end ones are about a quarter-inch shorter than the deck’s width, as they’ll be nailed to the edges of the side panels. Keep cutting. You’re going to collect as many plywood panels as you need to cover the surface of what will becomes the deck’s roof.

Put the two-by-fours on a flat surface to form a box. Bring out the wood screws and metal brackets to connect this part together.

Going back to the saw, cut some more 2-inch by 4-inch boards. These will be employed to add support to the frame. Rule: Create one joist (connected to the inside of the pieces on the side) every two feet.

Grab a pair of 4-inch by 4-inch post. Cut them to be the same height as the roof of your house. For the other two, cut them about a foot shorter. This is to give the roof a slight decline so rain can run-off the structure. Use the lag bolts to connect the taller posts to your house.

You’ll need an extra set of hands for this part: Lift the frame of the new roof to rest on the corner posts. Connect the frame using the lag bolts. In place, screw the plywood panels to the frame.

Roll-out the roofing paper, attaching it to the plywood with roofer’s nails.

Almost done. Hammer down the tin roofing material. Marry that with metal flashing to the roof of your home.

It’s now time to send out those invitations to friends. You’re going to do much better than host a frou-frou wine and cheese dealie. Your buddies will be guests for some beer and brats.

Ipe Siding

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Mention ipe and most folks who are into hardwoods will immediately conjure up a nice looking ipe decking or flooring that rarely scuffs. There’s another use for the trumpet tree. Siding for your house. This elegant lumber is not just one of the hardest woods known to humanity; it takes a stain to further enhance its luxurious look.

Choosing this material to install a deck, connoisseurs find its near indestructibility a necessity because of the ravages set up by Mother Nature. Since siding is likewise an exterior material, ipe fits right in. If you were under the impression that you had to use vinyl or another wood like cedar, stuff from the Tabebuia tree is practically maintenance-free after it’s been installed.

While most folks would think that a natural resource that’s plucked from a rainforest, like ipe, would not be the first choice of environmentalists, they’re wrong. Ipe is renewable as a resource. Because of more growers, harvesters and consumers heightened awareness, the industry has become more responsible. As demand for ecologically-positive wood expands, the marketplace has moved toward sustainable forestry practices. As a consumer, just make sure when you purchase ipe wood you look for a seal that tells you the product has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This group has the support of organizations like the World Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace.

Using ipe for siding lets you put-up a very rich-looking rainscreen cladding. What’s that?

Rainscreen cladding is when you install a second, outer skin to the structure. Siding. The ipe acts as a barrier to keep out water. It also gives to another layer of thermal insulation. Between the two, the actual foundation is blocked and protected. Moisture doesn’t enter any unintended openings because the rainscreen lets-off the pressure, since it’s placed as an outside panels to the structure. That means there’s nothing pushing the water through any joints.

Roll Call

  • Employing an ipe cladding system will increase the lifespan of the original structure. Check out some of the older churches in Europe. You’ll find that even though some are 500-to-600 years old, if they used rainscreen technology, they’re still standing.
  • With that in mind, since ipe is on-the-scene, it’s much more cost-effective in the long haul over other alternative cladding materials. It rarely needs to be replaced.
  • As we mentioned above, ipe lumber is sustainable. Just make sure you purchase the product from responsible growers. Look for evidence that the wood has the backing of the FSC.
  • Installing ipe, you can rest assured that you’re not going to experience warping or bulging as the decades roll-on.
  • Face it. Ipe is simply the prettiest and nearly the hardest wood on this planet. Looking for a stylish solution, three letters: Ipe.

Super Guide to Hardwood Flooring – Part 2

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Recently we talked about some of the varieties other than ipe, jatoba and tigerwood. These three choices for flooring are among the hardest, most durable and beautiful wood surfaces you can get.

Let’s drill down even further and get into finishes you can apply to your new hardwood floor. Get this treatment pre-finished which will lop-off hours of labor. It also severely cuts-down on failure because you’re not applying it. Not to say you’re a dum-dum, but … well, you know.

O.K. non-dum-dum, we’ll first hone-in on the two types of hardwood finishes: Penetrating or surface:

  • Surface Finishes.
    These treatments always win the popularity contest. You’ll start by carefully putting on the desired stain followed by a coat of varnish or polyurethane to seal the transaction. You can pick from this quartet of choices:

    • Conversion.
      This one has the potential of making a glue-sniffer out of the person who slaps it on – very strong fumes. Leave this one to the professionals. They’ve got masks that keep them from a huffing high.
    • Moisture-Cured Urethane.
      Another one that’s best left to the pros. It’s very durable, more so than the other options.
    • Water-Based Urethane.
      Using this substance is very DIY-friendly. It dries fast, is low on the toxic smell scale, won’t yellow over the years and cleans-up splendidly.
    • Oil-Based Urethane.
      You’ll work the hardest on this guy. It’s very common, but you’ll have to brush on a couple of coats – waiting up to 8-hours for the stuff to dry before you reapply. Unlike the water-based variety, expect yellowing as it grows old.
  • The penetrating finishes go deep into the grain of the wood. After it’s sponged-up by the flooring you’ll need to wax the surface. And wax again. And again. And-again, periodically. Since it’s such a stuffy product there are only certain kinds of cleaning materials you can use on the surface.

Lastly, let’s talk a little about sheen. Not that loser. Sheen as in the shine on the floor – satin, low or high gloss.

  • High gloss looks really professional. Check out the floor on David Letterman’s stage when you watch the Late Show. Shiny, yes? Sure is but it shows scratches like a proud poppa.
  • Satin or low-gloss finishes are recommended for your home just because they are easier to maintain and less-likely to show scuffs.

Armed with all this data, how about some great news? By installing a hardwood floor you’re going to be adding thousands of dollars in value to your home. Don’t throw away the vacuum just yet.

Your next project will be to find some swell throw rugs, giving your floors a bunch of attractive toupées.

Super Guide to Hardwood Flooring – Part 1

Monday, October 8th, 2012

We talk a lot about exotic hardwoods like ipe, jatoba and tigerwood. These choices for flooring are among the hardest, most durable and beautiful wood surfaces you can get.

As you know, there are many other types of lumber you can pick when it comes to putting your finger on what’s right for you. The woods mentioned below won’t last practically forever as the ones mentioned above.

In other words, style needs to team-up with substance. Is the floor being installed for a formal setting or a casual room? What type foot-traffic do you expect in the area?

One thing that should top the list: Never base your decision entirely on budget. Your floor is something that needs to last a long time. Don’t scrimp on this matter. Ipe, jatoba and tigerwood are the best; not to mention that these are also great as hardwood decking. Now here are the rest.

  • Cherry.
    Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have your entire home adorn cherry wood flooring? Actually, no. This is a soft wood that’s best employed as an accent. The color of cherry wood is light brown which makes it ideal for staining.
  • Red oak.
    Looking for the most popular flooring material in America? Go no further than red oak. It has the ability to resist wear, but white oak should be your hands-down choice if you’re in the market for something a tad harder. Color-wise, it’s reddish.
  • Pine.
    This yellow-brown wood is about as stiff as red oak. Pine is also naturally resistant to bugs and burrowers. The substance is quite smitten with knots and swirls, though.
  • Douglas fir.
    Douglas-fir should retain its role as Christmas-tree fodder. When it comes to flooring, it dents very easily. It’s half as soft as red oak. The color is in the yellow-tan range.
  • White oak.
    As we mentioned earlier, this stuff is more durable than red oak and considerably harder. You’ll get lots of swirls in this brown with a grayish cast lumber.
  • Birch.
    Not a weakling but softer than red oak. The color ranges from dark, brown red to light yellow.
  • Beech.
    This wood is a great choice because of its uniform grain. It’s mostly dent-resistant and long-lasting. It comes in a red-brown shade.

Once more, we don’t recommend choosing based solely on price, but here are some rough estimates of what you can expect when testing the waters.

Flooring is priced by square foot and whether it’s prefinished or unfinished. Commonly, unfinished materials will chop prices in half, but double the work-time because you’ll have to correctly stain and seal the wood.

Without naming names, the above wood (when finished) will put you out anywhere from 4-to-10 bucks per square foot.

Stay tuned. In part two, we’re going to get into finishes and more!

House Siding

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Those folks who are trying to crank-up their curb appeal to a capital “C” need to look no further than slapping some siding on their homes. In one fell-swoop you’ll be able to increase the value of your house and make the place look like it was just constructed.

You have quite a choice when thinking about house siding. Some are very low maintenance. Some are not. Here’s what’s on the plate:

  • Cement fiber siding
  • Aluminum siding
  • Vinyl siding
  • Wood siding
  • Hardboard composite
  • Fiberglass

Hardboard composite siding and fiberglass materials are still used, but the smart money goes with cement fiber or vinyl siding.

What do you say we explore the more popular ones?

Cement Fiber Siding

Go for the “green” with this stuff. Made from recyclable materials, cement fiber siding is almost a true match to those seeking a “wood look.” It’s a little costly, but most manufacturers give a great warranty – like 50-years worth. That should tell you that this stuff will outlive just about anything else on the street. Details …

  • Cuts and installs the same way as wood siding.
  • Never any issues with insects damaging the material.

Aluminum Siding

This stuff gained a lot of credibility as an alternative to wood siding. The boost was because it is very low maintenance. Not “no maintenance,” though. Sure, it’s durable, but not dent-proof. Prefinished product will chalk and fade after a while. There’s more …

  • Check out the new vinyl coated finishes if you’re concerned about future paint issues.
  • This substance is not that friendly toward any complicated or detailed trim work.

Vinyl Siding

For the economically-minded, this is a no-brainer. You can get vinyl siding in all kinds of textures and colors. It is not indestructible, but strips are easily replaced once you match the shade. A few characteristics …

  • Cold weather is its enemy. Below zero temps make it ripe for cracking if anything is thrown at the siding.
  • Call on a pro to ensure that it’s put up correctly. You don’t want it to buckle or warp by installing it when you don’t know jack about the process.

Beveled Wood and Wood Plank Siding

Consider this an oldie but a goodie. It’s a mainstay for historic residences. The biggest issue with this is that it’s pretty high maintenance. You’re going to need to regularly scrape, caulk and paint the exterior. Drilling down …

  • Rot, warping, insects and splitting can occur with this material.
  • It’s not too easy to install if you already having siding on your home.

Brazilian Cherry Flooring

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Let’s clear things up immediately. Brazilian cherry flooring is not cherry wood. Most of it comes from the rainforests of Brazil, but it also grows in Peru and Mexico. While it’s mostly known as Jatoba, it can also be called courbaril or locust.

So why is it Brazilian cherry? Marketing. The gurus on Madison Avenue thought it would sound better to American ears. Take a look at it. It’s got a got a rich burgundy color.

Whatever you want to call it, here are some fun facts about Brazilian cherry flooring:

  • It ranks over 2800 on the Janka hardness test. The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a type of wood to withstand denting and wear. It’s a way to see how much force is required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood up to half the ball’s diameter. Bottom line: This is a totally hard wood.
  • Aside from the burgundy shade, it can be salmon or red in color. Usually there are streaks of dark asymmetrical stripes.
  • This is not something that you want to make part of a DIY project. It’s advised that you hire a pro if you chose this type of flooring.
  • You can get it in engineered wood and solid wood. In laminate flooring there is absolutely no Brazilian cherry wood used.
  • While this is considered an endangered wood you can still purchase the material. Just make sure that it’s certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Their members include some of the world’s leading environmental NGOs (WWF and Greenpeace), businesses (Tetra Pak and Mondi PLC) and social organizations (the National Aboriginal Forestry Association of Canada) , as well as forest owners and managers,  processing companies and campaigners, and individuals.

When you purchase Brazilian Cherry flooring most likely it will already be prefinished. The plusses getting it ready to use are that:

  • All of the finishing processes happen before it is delivered to your home. That means you won’t have to put up with a mess on your site. Likewise, you’ll get a product that doesn’t smell like all of the chemicals used to make it ready to install.
  • Since everything has been done before it was brought to your location, the finish has already been cured. Once it’s installed, you can walk on it.
  • When we talk about the finish, we’re looking at a couple of top wear layers that have been painted with up to 7 coats of an aluminum oxide-based finish.

The only minor downside to getting a pre prefinished product is that it may get damaged when it’s being installed. However, if the Brazilian Cherry isn’t finished and something bad happens when a professional puts it in, the nick or ding can be repaired as the finishing process takes place.