Archive for the ‘Product Review’ Category

CAMO Hidden Deck Fastening System

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The Camo Hidden Deck Fastening System is one of many hidden fastening systems available for decking projects. It works by driving the screws in through the side of each board at an angle. This eliminates the need for screwing into the face of the board, providing a safer and more beautiful approach to securing the boards. Below is a video of how the fastening system works.

Comparing Deck Cleaners for Ipe and other Hardwood Decks

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

What kind of Deck Cleaner should I use on Ipe or other exotic hardwood decks and just how hard is cleaning a deck? This year, I decided to compare a locally available deck cleaner to a brand recommended on the Internet for my Ipe deck front porch. This Ipe deck is 8 years old. The Ipe porch is cleaned once a year with a local deck cleaner from Lowe’s, usually Olympic or Cabots. Restore-A-Deck 2 Step Deck Cleaner was recommended on an Internet site so I compared this to Olympic Premium Deck Cleaner. Based on my efforts last Saturday, I recommend Restore-A-Deck 2 Step Deck Cleaner. This porch is 12’ wide by 36’ long. The Ipe porch is on the east side of the home, receives heavy morning sun and is exposed to rain and dirt from five kids and one large, Wire-haired Griffon dog. I bought two Restore-A-Deck packages for $88.99 off the internet and one gallon of Olympic for $16.87 at Lowe’s. Due to column spacing, I used almost the entire gallon of Olympic on 1/3 of the porch. Just one fourth of the Restore-A-Deck purchase was needed to clean 2/3 of the Ipe porch. I estimate that $22.25 of the Restore-A-Deck at $22.25 is about the same as two gallons of the Olympic for $33.74. I started with the Olympic Premium Deck cleaner and followed its instructions. Olympic instructs to wet the Ipe porch first with a water hose. I then applied the Olympic with an inexpensive garden sprayer. Olympic appeared to be a strong bleach mixture and one can immediately see cleaning results. To get most dirt up, however, a push broom/brush with medium coarseness is needed. A second application of Olympic got the porch completely clean. Several rinses of the porch with the hose and a lighter push brush removed all cleaner. Restore-A-Deck is a two step process. I mixed the solid cleaner with warm water in the same garden sprayer. Apparently, the solid did not completely dissolve as the mixture tended to clog the sprayer, but it worked well enough with additional air pressure. Restore-A-Deck cleaned deeper into the wood grain and picked up more dirt and grime. The push brush was needed to scrub in certain areas. As the Restore-A-Deck cleaned, the dirt residue and cleaner created a slippery deck surface so I had to be careful. Rinsing the cleaner off with a water hose took several tries with the push broom. I then mixed the brightener second step in the same garden sprayer and applied the brightener to the porch. The entire process took about 2 1/2 hours with some assistance during the washing phase. Restore-A-Deck is the better cleaner. While the 2-step process took longer and was slippery, the end result is a perfectly clean, almost like-new, appearance. All bleach-based cleaners tend to leave a white sheen on the Ipe. Here are some before and after pictures of the cleaning.

restore a deck

2 part cleaner used

brush clean

Push broom used as scrub brush

foaming action

Restore-a-Deck 2 part cleaner has a foaming action

strips stains

Restore-a-Deck cleaner appeared to strip all old stains and oils off

half cleaned

Top portion of porch has been cleaned, bottom has not. Both are wet in photo.

deck cleaning side by side (1280x426)

Before Cleaning (LEFT) After Cleaning (Right)

Deck cleaning before and after (1280x426)

Before Cleaning (Left) After Cleaning (Right)

After letting the porch dry thoroughly for 48 hours, I applied a coat of Penofin Penetrating Oil Finish to the Ipe porch. ~ Guest Blogger

…Follow along with OHC to see results of Penofin Treatment on this Ipe porch…

A Deck Made from Jatoba, Why?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Fads have a way of repeating themselves. Back in the 50’s, every kid of the male persuasion wanted to get what was called a Mohican haircut. Wanted is the operative word. Most parents wouldn’t entertain such mutilation to their 5-year old. Then in the ‘70’s, the style returned.

Nowadays, it’s pretty mainstream. America is finally growing-up an inch at a time, becoming a touch more tolerant.

In the decking biz, there’s another fad that is in its infancy. It’s called composite decking material. Not a bad product and it still needs to go through the test of time before it cracks the egg-shell of being a trend.

But we have a modest proposal. Before you make a decision, let’s see if we can sway you away from that racing stripe on the top of your head and into something that’s going to last a long time. Something that’s not going to cramp your schedule with too much maintenance.

Step Up to the Jatoba Tent

Most composites are constructed with a modicum of a fossil fuel – oil. With Jatoba, you’re looking at a lifespan of at least a half-century. Unlike composites, it will actually do what nature intended. It will breakdown. When the Coneheads come here from the Planet Remulak, they’re going to have a lot of composites to jettison into space. Jatoba? No big woop.

If you’ve ever listened to the lyrics of the John Mellencamp tune, sing along with us now:

Oh but ain’t that America for you and me

Ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby

Ain’t that America home of the free

Little pink houses for you and me

With Jatoba, each plank is unique. Composites? You’re looking at repeating simulated grain. Your own “little pink houses.”

Specifically Speaking

When you get a shipment of Jatoba, the color will be somewhat medium brown. It could use sun block, because the rays from above will transform it into a red russet hue. Then after sitting in the sun for a few months, it begins to take on a silver-gray tint. You want to keep the red look? Mop on some UV finisher every-so-often. Your lumber expert will give you a good schedule to follow. And, let’s get this clear: You will never need a sealer. Jatoba, as you’ll see in the chart below, is some pretty sturdy stuff:

Final Advantage

It’s hard. It’s bug resistant. It’s not going to rot. It doesn’t drink a lot of water. It’s low maintenance. Other than deciding to let your kid get a Mohawk, choosing Jatoba is a no brainer. One suggestion, if your kid is a little girl, getting that kind of style of coiffure might be setting the wrong signal to her Brownie troop.

Unbeatable – Ipe

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

We always talk about ipe (EE-pay) as being one of the hardest woods known to humanity. While it’s pretty tough stuff there are actually two others that have it beat. The first one is so obvious, it’s almost funny.

It comes from the petrified forest.

Sure, it’s been dead for thousands-upon-thousands of years, but it’s wood. If it were legal to use as a construction material, it would probably laugh in the face of a tornado or a sun-hot burst of fire.

But you want to know the hardest wood that still lives. Travel Down Under. It’s called bull-oak. Fancy latin name: Allocasuarina luehmannii. It’s a species of ironwood that’s native to Australia. It’s endangered, that’s why using it is a no-no.

We talk about the Janka Hardness Scale a lot. The bull-oak weighs-in at 5060.

Earth-Friendly Ipe

You want something that’s not going to screw-up the planet, then you want a hardwood that’s pretty durable. Ipe is harvested from plantations mostly in Brazil, the Lesser Antilles and Central and South America. And Janka-wise, well above 3600 isn’t chopped liver.

To give you some comparisons, look at this chart. You’ll get an idea of some of the more popular lumber and where it ranks on the hardness scale:

Notice that ipe or Brazilian walnut is second from the top.

What it’s used for?

Probably the widest use for ipe is in the construction of decks. Its quality for low maintenance, bug and water resistance as well as resilience to rot makes it the top choice for outdoor use. But ipe wood can also be found in the making of furniture, paneling, veneers and virtually anything you need to stand-up to the elements.

That’s why you’ll also catch Brazilian walnut used for a diverse universe of applications:

  • Fishing rods
  • Trellises
  • Billiard cues
  • Fences
  • Railroad crossties
  • Tool handles
  • Bridges
  • Exterior construction
  • Heavy construction
  • Archery bows
  • Benches
  • Walking sticks
  • Boardwalks
  • Turnery
  • Industrial flooring

Treat Her Right

You will not have to worry about using illegally cut ipe. But to be sure, here’s something we mentioned a while back. It bears repeating:

To maintain a “green” product inventory, responsible mills are ever-vigilant to see to it that their suppliers follow vital protocols. Vendors whose products have been certified through a third party. “Green” wood has one or more of these certifications:

  • The Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)
  • The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
  • The Composite Panel Association’s Environmentally Preferable Products (EPP)
  • The Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC)
  • ISO 14001 for environmental management

The top certification we mentioned, from the FSC, says that the supply chain for these hardwoods must follow strict standards. These rules tell the consumer that the products have met stern ecological, social and economic standards.

By the way, 12 of the top twenty hardwoods come from Australia.

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.

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.

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.

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?

A Pergola Primer

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

There’s nothing worse than seeing some property that has a classy, white, well-maintained Neoclassical house on it. Problem: The owner has buried, nose-down, a rusted 1955 Nash Rambler in the front yard. Some things just ain’t right.

This is a transferrable example when it comes to building a pergola in your yard. The structure needs to have some symbiotic relationship with your home and yard.

What’s a Pergola?

It’s a lot like an arbor in so much that it’s an eye-pleasing piece of landscape architecture. What separates the two are that pergolas are much bigger than an arbor.

The idea came about during the Italian Renaissance. Back then it was made of some type of masonry. Nowadays, you can get wooden or plastic ones to serve the same purpose.

You can leave the top of a pergola open or cover it to keep out the elements. Uncovered, you’ll usually see vines crawling all over the structure.

What’s Best for You

You’ll need to take a few matters into account when picking a design for your pergola.

  • How will the structure match-up with your existing home?
  • How will the pergola fit-in with your outdoor landscaping scheme?
  • How much room do you have to erect this unit?
  • Do you want a dirt floor or some other kind of foundation?

Every pergola is somewhat unique. It all depends on the environment where it will be constructed. There are general styles from which to choose, but it can have personal flairs that only you enjoy.

For example, if you’re looking for something to sit on, like a bench, you probably need to pick a plan that has two sides extending down to the ground.

Backyards that are extravagant, full of flowering plants, crawling vines and grasses might be best suited to have a pergola that fits-in with the greenery. Incorporating baskets or clay containers will make this backyard focal-point an extension of your garden. There are some designs that integrate water features into their pergolas.

Try these suggestions to give your pergola a sense of purpose:

  • We already mentioned this but a pergola can make a great vertical garden.
  • Entertain a lot? A pergola is a shaded area where you can put your tables of food for guests.
  • If you have little children, your pergola could become a magical, enchanted place.
  • Do you and your honey regularly enjoy a summer night together? This could be a destination for your own personal backyard lover’s lane.

Rule of thumb: Be creative. Just don’t ever use a 1955 Nash Rambler as a planter near your pergola.