Ipe vs Cedar vs Composite - deck maintenance

I am having a deck built over a full exposure, about 600 sq. ft, roughly 40x16, with some clipped corners and a staircase. I have some questions.. I can go with cedar, composite, or ipe, and I've been weighing the pros/cons of each.. I'm trying to figure out how much maintenance each requires.. It's being built on the north side of a 2-story Wisconsin house, so it'll get plenty of snow and rain, large seasonal temperature changes, etc.
The composite is NO maintenance, but it looks kinda cheesy IMO, so unless they can find a really good looking sample for me, I'm not going for it.. I've seen about 6 composite samples, I'm sure there's many more out there. Any recommendations on a really good looking composite?
I hear cedar is cheap but requires a 'lot' of maintenance. What exactly is a 'lot'? Will I be spending an afternoon, or a full weekend, or even longer sealing it up? Once a year, or every few? I think cedar is out, ipe looks better, and if I have to spend the time on maintenance anyway, might as well look primo.....
I think ipe is my #1 pick so far, unless I hear horror stories... If I go with ipe, same q's, how often do you need to seal it? How much does sealant cost, and how long does it take to apply?
My main question on Ipe/cedar - If I leave it unsealed, it will turn silver/grey. If it does, can I stain/seal it and get the original color back again? How long does it take for a new deck to turn silver/grey?
Thanks for any opinions/feedback,
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I have a friend that built a deck from cedar. He spends 3 weeks a year returning it back to the color he wants to maintain. He says he would never use cedar/real wood again. His son just built a deck and we used the composite stuff from the borg store. Looks fine and there will be no maintenance ever.
Once the deck has weathered you must stain it to bring back the color.
Real problem with wood these days is getting good wood. The box stores only carry green and #2 in my area. Last deck I built was made from #1 (25 years ago) and then it was 20% higher than the stuff at the home centers.
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I've heard good things about ipe.
You might check here for opinions:
http://ths.gardenweb.com/search/nph-ind.cgi?term=ipe&forum=porch&forum_name=Porches+%26+Decks
mfreak wrote:

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| I am having a deck built over a full exposure, about 600 sq. ft, | roughly 40x16, with some clipped corners and a staircase. I have some | questions.. I can go with cedar, composite, or ipe, and I've been | weighing the pros/cons of each.. I'm trying to figure out how much | maintenance each requires.. It's being built on the north side of a | 2-story Wisconsin house, so it'll get plenty of snow and rain, large | seasonal temperature changes, etc. | | The composite is NO maintenance, but it looks kinda cheesy IMO, so | unless they can find a really good looking sample for me, I'm not going | for it.. I've seen about 6 composite samples, I'm sure there's many | more out there. Any recommendations on a really good looking | composite?
If you want no upkeep, this is the way to go. There is some good looking stuff out there (amazing what they are doing with old milk jugs) if you know where to go - think BORG - but it cost about 3 times what cedar would.
| | I hear cedar is cheap but requires a 'lot' of maintenance. What | exactly is a 'lot'? Will I be spending an afternoon, or a full | weekend, or even longer sealing it up? Once a year, or every few? I | think cedar is out, ipe looks better, and if I have to spend the time | on maintenance anyway, might as well look primo.....
If you go cedar be sure to do all the stuff that is hidden in green wood as it will last as long as cedar and costs about 1/3 less. With a North face any stain or sealer you apply will last 3-5 years. My South face deck could only go 1.5 years and I used the best stain/cover I could find.
| | I think ipe is my #1 pick so far, unless I hear horror stories... If I | go with ipe, same q's, how often do you need to seal it? How much does | sealant cost, and how long does it take to apply?
Most of the refinishes I did took a day. Those which took more also had a 60 grit sanding.
If you are interested look here http://www.penofin.com / or http://www.cedar-siding.org/finishing/intro.htm and this one is definitive http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/fplgtr/fplgtr113/fplgtr113.htm
| | My main question on Ipe/cedar - If I leave it unsealed, it will turn | silver/grey. If it does, can I stain/seal it and get the original | color back again? How long does it take for a new deck to turn | silver/grey?
There is no such thing as a good sealer or stain cover. They all wear out and have to be replaced from 1 - 5 years depending upon orientation, exposure, and traffic. No matter what you use, do not believe the ads about Thompson's Water Seal.
I gave up on trying to keep the "original color" of my cedar deck and let it go grey to match the house. It took 3 years for the stain and stuff to wear off naturally and I spent another 2 days sanding the deck to get the remnants off. The whole deck will be a fine shade of silver grey by spring. | | Thanks for any opinions/feedback, |
-- PDQ
--
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Ipe would be my choice. One it turns color, it is going to stay that color unless you are willing to do rather drastic, time consuming sanding. Almost impossible.
I'd put a coat of Penofin oil on it. It has UV inhibitors and will keep it new looking for at least a few years. My Penofin experience is only a few years so I can't say how long it will maintain the color. I used it on mahogany deck material I made some outdoor furniture from.
The lumberyard where I bought my stuff has samples of decking that has been exposed now for a couple of years and the untreated Ipe has changed. Very hard, durable, etc, but it will change colors.
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shows little wear and all boards are straight and joints are still tight. I just sealed the end cuts, when built, no maintained has been done since new.
I would never use cedar much to soft. After a couple of years it will look just like treated wood looks after a year. I know 'cause last year I replaced some old cedar boards with treated and you can't tell the dif this year.
Never a fan of composites so I can't comment on them other than noticing they bow, between joist, for any framing over 16in OC.
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My choice, if I could find it in my state would be Ipe. I want to use it for some furniture but unfortunately, no one here carries it. It sounds as though you are having someone else build this deck? If so, you won't need to worry about this but in case you are building it yourself, Ipe is an extremely heavy and hard wood. You'll need to make sure your carbide cutters are in pristine shape and even then, you may need to get them sharpened periodically. Cheers, cc
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Correct, I'm letting a contractor do it.. I'm slightly handy, but I dont feel like taking on a big heavy deck 10' off the ground.. I could handle the planks and probably the rails and steps, but I have no idea how I'd get the posts positioned correctly, and besides, I value the small amount of free time I have more than the contractor's charges. Im pretty sure I'll go with the ipe..
Especially since I have the contractor's estimates in front of me for cedar and ipe, and the price difference is much smaller than I expected. His estimate has 6x6 posts, 16"OC joists, and the stairs are 4' wide with a landing on top. The framework is PT and the decking is ipe, I think the rails he spec'ed out in cedar. The contractor is a licensed 2-person LLC, he says he will get the required permits and has lots of photos of projects they did, so they seem legit.. I don't know if they have a building, but they have a company truck.
Nothing sounds funny about any of that, right? Is there some way to verify them, any red flags to watch for, or any inspection process that should be done afterward?
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Visit some of his references and check the work.

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(with possible editing):

FWIW, I would suggest ipe only. Cedar is way to soft and requires a lot of maintenance. Composite is usually absolutely no maintenance but looks awful (to me) and has a tendency to sag, particularly when the sun hits it. (might not be too bad on the North side, however).
Ipe is hard as stone, dimensionally stable, and seems to stay whatever color you finish it. (usually dark) Refinishing might be required every 3 to 5 years on the north side but seems to take only a single coat. Applied with a brush, it might take an afternoon. The disadvantage is that it might be pricey in your area - the price seems to vary widely.
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Larry
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Just as a FYI: "lot of maintenance" depends on what you're trying to achieve. Some people _like_ the silvery grey color that cedar turns. If you like that appearance, cedar doesn't really need any finishing or maintenance at all if it's designed right (drainage gaps etc).
As to "too soft". I don't agree. Depends on what you're trying for.
As to maintenance - I'd never resort to sanding cedar. Pressure washing will take the grey off quite easily. "cedar cleaning" chemicals (oxalic acid) and a stiff brush (even a stiff push broom) also work quite easily and isn't particularly nasty.
[I don't like staining cedar decking - leave it natural, perhaps with a clear finish. I'm not that fond of staining PT decking either, When we do, we use transparent stain - which wears off, and doesn't need to be sanded before redoing.

There's an article on composite decking in a recent Fine Homebuilding. Many basic types, each with their own advantages/disadvantages. If you're going to use it, you have to decide _early_, because best results will require narrower joist spacing.

It certainly does.
Ipe strikes me as something best for "formal" or very heavy traffic decks.
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Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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On Wed, 14 Dec 2005 16:42:47 -0000, snipped-for-privacy@nortelnetworks.com (Chris Lewis) wrote (with possible editing):

That is certainly true - excellent point. If you like the silvery appearance, there really is no maintenance - however, you MUST use nails or screws designed for cedar - regular galvanized will leave black streaks. Here we used California clear western cedar 6" t & g for siding and blind nailed it with stainless steel finishing nails. We wanted to keep the natural wood appearance so we finished it with Sikkens.

We agree to disagree! Certainly if there's a lot of traffic, ipe hold up much better - better resistance to scuffing, for example.

I disagree strongly to pressure washing cedar. We did a small bit of that here and the results were so disastrous, I ended up replacing the siding. Pressure washing raises the grain if done lightly, if done hard enough to remove gray, it becomes a real mess. This was done by professional painters, btw, who I fired shortly after they started.
OTOH, a stiff brush and oxalic acid will work, but if you want to keep the original color, NOTHING is better than proper maintenance (recoating in our case) BEFORE it turns. Otherwise there is some sanding required even though I, like you, wouldn't want to resort to it.

I agree. Cedar will naturally darken with age. Staining PT decking does seem to work, but there are only a few stains that will do the job effectively. They penetrate the wood sufficiently to preserve the color. You recoat when the "sheen" starts to flatten. We have done this successfully on one deck; we used Sikkens DEK products - they're expensive, but they seem to last a long time. OTOH, Sikkens SRD was pretty worthless.

Absolutely - and that is one terrific article. Anyone planning a deck should read it before proceeding.

I tend to agree, but it probably should largely depend upon the cost in your area. It is a beautiful wood, imo.
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Larry
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I disagree. I think we're agreeing!

I'm not as fond of pressure washing wood as you might think. An article in FHB, for example, discusses this at great length, as being the most common cause of spectacular disasters in refinishing or repainting siding.
I should have qualified my comment - this is on cedar that I don't intend to refinish. Raised grain is primarily an issue with refinishing, and it dries out on its own.
I would also suspect that pressure washing is vastly more of an issue with siding, rather than 5/4s decking.
The main reason why I bother with the pressure washing is to get off (slippery) lichen that develops in a few places. [Large Western Red cedar play structure built in 1991. Finished (with Thompson's) only once when it was built. Never refinished. The Thompson's only lasted about a year... I learned my lesson on that]

On PT, we use a Olympic transparent stain. We're somewhat fortunate that most of the decking is under a roof, and avoids the worst of sunlight damage, so we don't have to get expensive with finishing products. It tends to last in excess of 5 years, and since it doesn't flake off, insignificant prep is needed - sweep it, get the roller out, and let'r rip.

It is. I've been wanting to find some some ipe to make some small projects with. Just to experiment with. Just haven't wanted to enough to go out searching for it.
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