Archive for November, 2012

The Ipe Report

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


Why is ipe (EE-pay) such an excellent choice when constructing a deck or any kind of outdoor stuff? Here’s a breakdown:

Comparison Chart

While all of the above are great materials to use when constructing a deck, outdoor hardwood furniture or a fence, this Ipe Report can make matters easy. Compare ipe to the others and you’ll see why.

Wainscoting with Ipe

Monday, November 26th, 2012

We always associate this dense hardwood with decks, pergolas – you know, outdoorsy things. Joe, it ain’t so. Ipe (EE-pay) is also a perfect material for use inside the house. For instance, wainscoting. And wainscoting is what?


The dictionary defines wainscoting as “A facing or paneling, usually of wood, applied to the walls of a room.” Yeah, right. That helps a lot. We could write a couple thousand words explaining the embellishment, but why, when we could simply tell it with a few pictures. Don’t be shocked if you already knew the look even though you didn’t know the word.

You get it now.

Wainscoting on a Weekend with Your Lover

Not so fast, Spunky. First you want to test the wall you’re going to be adding this sweet feature. Ipe is hard and heavy. If the stuff you’re covering is weak, you may need to extract that part of the substructure with at least a ½ inch of strand board. But let’s assume that everything’s A-O.K.

You can wainscot high-or-low, but mostly you’ll find it installed to the surface below 60-inches in height. Anyway, whatever tickles your fancy (whatever “your fancy” means) you’ll want to mark-up the wall at the appropriate heights every-so-often, ensuring that everything’s level. If your floor is crooked, you’ll need to account for that when snipping the ipe.

Ready to launch? On the backside of the hardwood, zigzag a fat series of streaks using whatever adhesive was recommended by your lumber-guy. Push the slat on the wood and immediately remove it. Let the wall and the wood rest apart for about 3-minutes. Then press ‘er back on the surface.

Why in the Blessed Mother of God’s name would you do this? Regular old adhesive needs a little air to stick the ipe to the wall.

Since you can clamp the hardwood to the surface, tap a finishing nail to the top and the bottom of each slat of wood. Don’t worry, as long as you hammer them close to the upper and bottom parts of the ipe, you’ll end up covering them with the cap and the baseboard.

Start at one corner and build out.

Plug in your table saw again to slice your ipe to a widths of 6-inches. Rip enough for the baseboards. These babies you’ll nail into the wood.

As for the cap and the apron, rip a 3-inch wide strip. Make sure you maintain a level install along the top edge. For the cap, same process.

The last part is to either paint or varnish the wood. With ipe wood, neither is recommended. A poly coat is the best. Did we mention that you should do this before you start the project?

Our bad.

Trouble Ahead for the White Ash

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Frank Zappa once wrote a song called “Trouble Every Day.” Here’s the salient excerpt from that tune:

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ‘em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City. This menace comes in the form of the emerald ash borer. Take West Virginia for instance.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

This beast has been threatening white ash trees for years. But our story begins a summer-or-so back. Some say, the emerald ash borer in the state’s southern Calhoun and Roane Counties has the potential of making that species of tree on the steps of total extinction.

The bug came to our continent from Asia around two decades ago. It decimated the white ash in Michigan back in 2002. The beetle devastated a little Michigan city of its ash trees, killing well-over 2-thousand of them and costing the place 2-million bucks to dispose of the dead and dying trees. Factor that up-to a nationwide scale and you’re talking billions of dollars.

Then in 2007, it showed-up on the radar in Fayette County, West Virginia.

And since the insect can fly and has no natural predators, it stands to reason that that the worst is yet to come.

How Bad Are We Talking About?

Even with the millions-upon-millions of dough spent to eliminate the monster, so far nearly 30-million trees have caught the bug. To add insult to injury, the emerald ash borer also feasts on green ash – and practically every other breed in the ash family. As of this writing, the insect has blanketed about 2/3rds of the U.S.

Another factor of concern is whether native western ashes like Oregon and Arizona ash may become victims as well.

Spotting the EAB

This little fellow is green – emerald green, which is where it gets its name.

You’ll first spot the EAB in late spring. They only live around 3-weeks. The ladies of the group lay their eggs in the wrinkles of the bark. Once the critters hatch, the larvae munches into the inner bark. You’ll know you have a problem if you X-ray the outer shell of the tree and see tunnels shaped like the letter “S.” In this inner sanctum of the tree, the invasion screws-up the way that nutrients and water travel through the living structure.

By the time you figure-out that the tree is plague-ridden, game over. Regardless, save the kids and call your county Agricultural Extension office as soon as possible.

Sure, they fly from state to state, but when things start to go south, you’ll first discover that ash along the Interstate highway system is going blotto. Why? Bad actors are transporting the wood illegally. The bug is simply hitching a ride aboard the flat bed truck.

We conclude with another slap of lyrics from Frank. Same song. New verse:

Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess!

Two Exotic Woods – Alan Bunga and Merbau

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Occasionally we come across a type of wood with a title that sounds really funny. With roses, that’s almost expected. For instance, there’s one named after the strange David Bowie character from the early ‘70’s. Called Ziggy Stardust, it was created in Canada. In the flower world, there are oddballs like the Cock’s Comb and the Stinking Corpse Lily.

But in the world o’ wood there’s one that caught our eyes. It’s called the Alan Bunga, also known as Alan Batu. There’s a slight difference. Alan Batu is the name of the heavy Shorea albida. Alan Bunga is the title of the lighter Shorea albida.

So, What about the Two Alans?

The Al’s come in a reddish brown color that may have some resin canals which give-off some white streaks. It comes in a medium texture. Because of that, when you’re assembling it with nails, you’re going to want to first drill some pilot holes. Alan Bunga and Batu are known to split quite easily. And when you grind into it, expect a lot of resin that could gum-up your tools.

On the other hand, gluing the materials presents no big deal. Actually, it’s preferred.

Fungus? Usually you won’t have any issues with that or dry wood borers.

Other Fun Facts

This material comes from Southeast Asia. When it’s used outdoors, you’ll generally find it in ship building, container flooring and paneling. On the inside, The Alan bros are used for furniture making, industrial flooring and joinery.


With Merbau you have a lumber that forces you to wear a mask and goggles when you’re farting around with it. Its funky smell as you sand or cut it may cause a sneeze-fest and has the potential of doing a number on your nose and eyes. Another consideration is that you might turn-out to be allergic to the dust. That means unless you’re properly protected you’re subject to skin rashes and a drippy nose.

Other than that weirdness, it starts out brownish-orange in color. As it ages, the hue becomes brownish-red. You’ll also find tiny yellow mineral deposits in the lumber. Because these yellow spots are water soluble, they have a tendency to cause the wood to self-stain.

Get ready to perform a treasure hunt if you want to match one piece to the other. Each board has a touch of variety.

Break it Down

Now that you have the vitals, let’s get into the other things you might like to know about Merbau:

  • This is not a common wood in the U.S. But it doesn’t cost an arm-and-a-leg once you find the right dealer. Kind of has the same price as legal Mahogany.
  • It’s grown in Australia, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific islands.
  • The texture is course.
  • Like the Alan twins, it’s gummy when cutting. Best to glue it if at all possible.
  • You shouldn’t experience any insect or rotting trouble down-the-line.
  • This is an extremely strong wood. Best used in making furniture or as a basis for flooring.

Going back to weirdly named flowers for a sec, have you ever heard of Naked Ladies? They get their name because when they do bloom, most of the other flowers around them are dead.

It’s good being born a human. Although some ladies … never mind.

The Wrong Way – Ipe Deck Finishing

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

We always hear about fashion dos and don’ts. You know, crap like don’t wear white after Labor Day. Really? Tell that to Mother Nature, Vermont Division. That’s the state which celebrates Summer on August 9th between 2-and-4 PM. Lots of snow. Frozen precip, if you haven’t heard, is white.

Along these lines, there are some matters you should never do before or after your ipe (EE-pay) deck has been installed. Top of the list, don’t paint the surface white.

The Wrong Stuff

There are a lot of things that fall into the hands-off category. Like never eat ipe, even from the corner of the structure. More reasonably, put down your fork and saw. Here’s a bunch of stuff that should be on, occasionally off-limits.

  • Don’t fail to pre-finish. Before you begin construction of your deck, slap on a coat. Don’t miss anything – top, bottom, side-to-side. After it’s installed, get the exposed ends. Let it set for a day-or-two so that it’s totally dry when you hammer and screw it into place. By pre-finishing the ipe you are adding decades (hell, maybe centuries) to the hardwood’s lifespan. This is especially necessary if the deck is close to the ground. Either way, begin with this procedure.
  • Never coat your ipe deck by using a squeegee, an air-driven sprayer or a roller. Attach a pair of knee pads, get on all fours and apply it by hand. It’s a potential pain in the vertebrae, but it’s the best way to apply the gunk.
  • Are you contemplating a lap of film-forming coatings? Bad deck owner. Never do this to any wood deck, even if it’s not ipe decking. Marine structures require this process. Land-lubbing ones will require mucho maintenance if you cross this stream. Remember why you bought ipé to begin with? It doesn’t take that much care and feeding.
  • You want to add oils that penetrate the ipe. You do not want to go too far, though. And once you wipe it on the surface, go back over the work to rid the deck of any excess oil. Putting oil on soft woods, you can go bat crap crazy with the amount you apply. Those woods that are lower on the Janka hardness scale can suck-it-up. Ipe keeps the oil at arm’s length. Too much oil will simply make the surface icky.
  • Just because its ipe doesn’t mean you’ll be able to take the deck to the prom forever. Sooner-or-later the hardwood will wear a tattered gown. It’s a pro-choice issue. You can let it age gracefully to a silvery gray by never touching it up. Or you’ll need to do some annual upkeep. Don’t get nervous. Maintenance with ipe means sweeping the surface; with a moist cloth removing any soil or sap; and reapplying the oil. No BFD.

Decking and Exterior Painting: Compliments of Outdoor Furniture

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

One of the best ways to customize your patio decor is by taking the color and stain of your wooden deck furniture into your own hands. Instead of using wooden deck furniture as-is, you can upgrade basic wood furniture with a different stain or paint selection.

Match Wooden Deck Furniture to Your Exterior Paint

One popular option in repainting wooden deck furniture recommended by residential painters is the trend of matching deck furniture paint to a home’s exterior paint job. This is one smart way to tie a uniform color scheme together, providing balance between the color of your house and the color scheme used on your deck.

The DIY task of repainting wooden deck furniture is a simple project that you can finish in a weekend. The first step in the process is to lay down a plastic tarp outdoors to protect your deck as a top priority.

From there, it’s time to get the hard work out of the way and remove old paint from the furniture so that you have a clean, smooth surface to begin working with. After the furniture has been adequately prepped, the fun can begin by adding several coats of enamel paint in the color of your choice.

When painting outdoor furniture, latex paint is not recommended since it can be easily corrupted by moisture in an open-air environment. Enamel paint is preferred since it will dry with a hard finish to resist moisture for long-term durability in an outdoor setting.

As a final tip, if you’ve had your house professionally painted by a painting company, make sure to contact your painters before embarking on this DIY project. They should be able to provide you with a swatch of the paint color that was used on the exterior of your home so that you can better match the shade to your outdoor furniture.

Stain Wooden Patio Furniture for a Natural Finish

If painted wooden furniture isn’t what you’re looking for to complete your outdoor deck, a wood stain may be the next best thing. Staining wooden furniture can match the natural wood color to the materials used in your outdoor deck. A wood stain can also revive old, dull patio furniture that may have seen better days.

In order to properly stain outdoor furniture, the old stain needs to be sanded off first. This can be done with a medium grit sandpaper to remove varnish and finished with a finer grit sandpaper. After the old stain has been removed completely, you can start on the task of staining the furniture with the stain color of your choice.

With light wood furniture, it’s often an attractive option to stain darker to better match your deck materials and any wood siding on your home.

Keeping the Color of Ipé Intact

Monday, November 12th, 2012

The proposed Ipe (EE-pay) deck you’re planning to erect in the front 40 is one of those types of wood that only needs a grain of love after its been assembled. This dark rose-brown material is capable of standing the test of time without a hell of a lot of care and feeding. Unlike softer woods that can be stained or painted, ipe wood comes utterly self-contained.

There are some matters you can do to seal the deal without sealing the wood. Shall we talk about a few of the little things you can do to keep everyone happy?

Irregular Maintenance

Just leaving the wood alone, you’ll be able to watch it evolve from its freshly-cut state to a classic, gentlemanly silver. However, those who’d like to keep that ruby-brunette appearance as rich as the day it was felled, here’s what you need to do. It shouldn’t take all that much work on your end. Nice part: You’ll only need to do this every couple of years.

  • Affix your hands on the handle of a broom. Sweep the surface clean of any residual crap that’s piled up on the surface. A good practice is to do this not only annually, but anytime wet leaves or any junk are resting on the deck.
  • Fill a bucket with water and dip a mop into the liquid to scrub-down any areas that didn’t get the message from the broom. This entire cleaning exercise will ensure that whatever you do, the ipe will age gracefully without any spots in the places that cover the material from the sun.
  • Anytime before you apply anything to any wood – ipe included – find an out-of-the-way location to try-out the product. Let that test area rest so you can see what it will do to the ipe.
  • At the lumber yard, purchase a deck finish with a ultra-violet blocker. Likewise, read the label to assure yourself that it’s safe to use on this hardwood. Or you can DIY-it by mixing together some spar varnish and boiled linseed oil. Let the concoction sit overnight before you lap it on the wood.
  • Since ipe is already extremely water resistant you don’t need to worry about that when brushing on the linseed-based solution. Only concern you have is to apply it evenly. Don’t go overboard with the stuff. You don’t want to make the surface all gooey.
  • What if you want to highlight the darker hues of the hardwood? Before applying the linseed liquid, brush a coat of ipe stain on the surface. Follow directions for use. Note: This will not modify the color of the deck; it only enhances what the wood already shows.
  • Good news! The finish should last 5-years or-so.

Outdoor Furniture to Last Many Lifetimes

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

In the carefree, careless days of our youth we’d cut down anything to make furniture for the great outdoors. Then something went wrong.

We started to run out of precious resources. Since you can’t grow Mahogany overnight, certain species got the seal of disapproval. These rare trees became endangered and foresters were told to take their blades elsewhere.

Enter Ipe

At first, outdoor hardwood furniture makers were stumped. Ipe (pronounced EE-pay) is one of the hardest woods ever discovered. Much tougher than Teak, Cedar or Hickory. Because Ironwood, another moniker for the extreme hard stuff, had a tendency to rip-up tools, craftsmen veered away from the material. As time trudged-on, the things used to slice ipe grew a set, making it much easier to shape, saw and mold the substance.

Ipe checks all the boxes when making tables and chairs meant to stand-up to the devastation that weather can dole-out. Not only does it have no need to be soaked in sealant or stains, it’s mostly resistant to moisture and crawling, gnawing creeps. And it can eat up a sunburn without losing its tough-guy status.

Beauty Contest

When placed on a runway with other outdoor models of leisure – lounge or deck chair, tables and the like – it stands out like Mr. or Miss Universe. Composites and plastic look like pretenders to the crown. Ipe never needs to cover itself with make-up. Its natural beauty requires no paint, aging like an eternal star where you can plant your butt, your drink and, well, your potted plants.

Add fasteners and other ornaments made from stainless steel and you’ll have something that the jet-pack, time-traveling relatives will be able to enjoy way into the next century. Ipe is tight grained, appealing to deck builders and craftspeople who work with wood for its low number in the ugly department.

Let’s Talk Hardness

It ranks over 3684 on the Janka hardness test. The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of wood and how it withstands 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.

Let’s make a couple of comparisons. On the Janka scale we already know how dense Ipe is. Using that same system, cedar comes in at 900. When you speak of teak, that material rolls an even 1000. Finally, the Janka hardness test gives hickory a paltry 1820. Bottom line: This is a totally hard wood.

What is NADRA?

Monday, November 5th, 2012

If you answered the National Database and Registration Authority, you’re partially correct. That NADRA “is a federal department of the Government of Pakistan that is responsible for issuing identification cards to the citizens of Pakistan. According to the organization itself, NADRA also holds the record for maintaining the largest biometric citizen database in the world.” That’s what Wikipedia says. Hello Big Bro.

We’re not talking about that NADRA, though.

The North American Deck and Railing Association, Inc.

This NADRA came about in mid-2000 when folks began to wonder about standards in the burgeoning next generation of wood treatments and fasteners. This association was formed to handle those matters and more.

On some suppliers websites you’ll see this little button. It looks like this:

The group is composed of manufacturers, service providers, retailers, deck builders, wholesalers and dealers/distributors.

NADRA has a heavy people focus that “…helps the consumer by providing information on deck safety, design, and products through by responding to consumer inquiries, and through public relations campaigns such as its Deck Safety Month Program and its Merit Award Program. These campaigns build on the consumer knowledge base, and promote the outdoor living lifestyle.”

NADRA is an organization that helps lawmakers and end-users come-up with realistic code standards for those of us who are either putting in decks or the people who do the work, whether from a materials or construction aspect. A focus likewise of the group is consumer safety, high-quality construction and the materials used.

They are not only wrapped-up in the safety and standards end, they are also an education-oriented group. As NADRA explains on its website: “NADRA believes that the best deck contractors are educated ones. It is in the midst of creating a full slate of courses for its members and for non-members attending the annual trade show, DeckExpo, as well as education to be provided at regional levels and online. Designation courses were first at DeckExpo 2007 in Las Vegas (Deck Restoration, and Project Management). DeckExpo 2011 in Chicago saw two different NADRA courses that include certification for the subject matter upon successful completion of a test. Simpson Strong-Tie is providing a course called Deck Framing Connections, while DeckTools Software offers “Design Software to Increase Sales and Efficiency.” In the works are courses that are aimed at building inspectors to educate them on how to properly inspect a deck.

What you need to know is when you see the NADRA button, you’re assured that you are getting materials and services from a company that subscribes to this organization that oversees what you get has a high standard of quality – as a customer, supplier and company who specializes in giving you the best when you extend your lifestyle into your backyard.