Ipe is a very dense wood with a lot of natural resins that help it survive in its native tropical environment. If left untreated, ipe is very low maintenance and will last much longer than typical wood decking. However, maintenance becomes more of an issue when you try to preserve the rich dark color the wood has when it is newly installed. Like other woods, ipe will will fade to a silvery/grey color over time. To keep its color ipe needs a sealer/stain treatment to protect it from U.V. rays. Because its natural resins, stains cannot penetrate very deep into the wood so the deck may need to be treated yearly or even more frequently, and the first coating may not last more than 6 months. Over time though, treatments should not need to be as frequent. As the wood ages and the natural resins are lost from the outer surface of the wood, it will begin to take stains better. On a side note, in order to prevent cracking at the ends of boards installation, all the cut ends of wood should be treated with sealer during installation to prevent cracks from appearing.
There are several products that can be used such as:
- Penofin Penetrating Oil Finish
- Messmers U.V. Plus
- Ipe Oil
- Cabots Australian Timber Oil
These finishes, all a mix of oils and pigments, are fairly similar in price and quality. The oils help the finish penetrate the wood and the pigments are what give a deck protection from U.V. rays. Clear coatings will not preserve the original color of a deck. The number of finish color varies depending on the brand.
Wood should cleaned with specially formulated wood cleaner and wood brightener before application. Wood will need to be completely dry for 3-5 days prior to treatment and must remain dry for 48 hours afterwards. The temperature should be about 50 degrees at the time of application and for 48 hours afterwards. A light sanding is also sometimes recommended prior to treatment to open up the pores of the wood for better absorption. Some products recommend waiting 6 weeks or so before application.
Because these finishes are penetrating oils, they may should not need stripping. Ipe only needs to be washed and (and possibly brightened) before the finish is reapplied as before.
Decks should be cleaned at least once per year. Also, debris and pollen should be removed frequently to prevent mildew and discoloration.