Pete Martin The Painter

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Ipe Porch

I recently refinished an Ipe porch (pictures are below)  And, it was quite a learning experience.

For those that are new to Ipe wood, Here is a bit of information that I learned before and during the process of restoring this deck. And, by restore I mean that the deck had not been treated for several years the wood had greyed.

  • Ipe wood is native of Central and South America. 
  • Ipe wood is extremely hard.  It sinks in water.
  • Ipe, I was told, is very hard to burn.
  • Ipe is beautiful, but it also require a lot of upkeep.

When I say hard, I mean hard.  It is often referred to an "iron wood." Let me relate my experience with the wood so that you can get an idea of what this means. I had hoped to use a deck sander to sand this porch which was just under 750 square feet.  However, almost every piece of wood was concave, and thus the deck sander would only sand the edge of the wood. I needed to get a sander that I could use to sand the entire piece of wood.  It took me a little over two days with a power Festool sander to complete this deck. I used 60 grit paper and I had to replace the sandpaper every 24 square feet. Festool sandpaper is the most durable sandpaper that I have ever last much longer than most of the paper you will get in a hardware store. The Ipe wore the paper out. 

When sanding, I was told by more than one individual that 80 grit is the highest grit that should be used on Ipe. Anything higher will polish the wood...close the grain so that it will not accept an oil.

First the porch, and this is true for any porch or deck, had to be cleaned. It is not necessary to own a power washer to clean a deck.  In fact, if you do not have a lot of skill with a power washer then you should not use one with Ipe wood, damage done by the washer will stick out like a sore thumb.  I treated this deck three times and never used a power washer...just a stiff brush, elbow grease, and a hose.

After it was cleaned, the sanding commenced.  Never sand then clean.  Sanding before you clean will embed the dirt into the grain of the wood

If you have an Ipe deck or porch and you do not know what it was treated with the last time it was finished, then it has to be removed.  I used Benjamin Moore remove to take off any remaining oil that had been previously used.

Finally, I used a brightener to bring the wood back to its original color...before the elements had gotten to it.

Then, one coat of Penofin Hardwood oil.  This is the fist time that I used this product.  Pretty simple to apply.  Temperature of the wood must be above 45 degrees.  I applied with a brush, let is sit between 20-30 minutes and then wiped of the excess.  I started in the middle of the deck and moved towards the sides.  I started out doing two feet of at a time. I did one side, let it sit, while I did the other side.  I wrote down the time that I finished applying the oil so that I would not wipe it off too early. By the time I was done, I had work it out that the optimal area to do was 4 feet of wood at a time (the porch was 12 feet wide). By the time I applied the oil to 4 feet, it was time to wipe the last four feet that I had oiled.