Ipe Deck Finish: 5 things not to do

**2015 Update: This Topic has moved to a New Home**

Ipe Maintenance Tips from the Wood Pros at Topcoat Finishes

6 Course Method

Todd massages out another ipe deck…

1. Do not use film forming coatings. Period.

This rule, in my strong opinion, applies to all decks, including ipe. We have stripped far too many failing film coatings (like the old Sikkens formulations) to think it is any kind of a good idea. Sure, it works on boats, but is way too high maintenance for a home. Owners of boats with exotic woods generally have very good maintenance habits prior to each season, which attributes to the success of films on boats. But a boat is only in the water half the year. And home maintenance hasn’t achieved that level of mainstream fashionable enthusiasm…yet. May your ipe deck finish be the one that shoves the whole neighborhood in the direction of wood snobbery.

Read in more depth about Rule #1 at ipehelp.com.

2. Do not overapply penetrating oils, but do use them, and wipe excess.

I have been told that ipe has the structural density of steel. Throw a piece in some water, and watch it sink. This density makes it a finishing anomoly. When you apply penetrating oil to softer woods, you can lay it on heavily by brush and it will suck in. Ipe will laugh at you as it spits most of the oil back out. The residue that is left will stay tacky for weeks, and then become a choice breeding ground for mildew formation. The art of the ipe deck finish is to apply it with a brush and then wipe off excess, like a hand rubbed finish on a fine piece of furniture.

[Related: More Ipe Finishing Tips]

3. Do not install decking without finish applied on all 4 sides, and sufficient rack time to dry

Do seal (with oil or wax) the cut ends (end grain) on installation. Prefinishing ipe, in our considerable experience in prefinishing ipe, has been the biggest factor (along with MAINTENANCE) in extending the life cycle of the finish applied. The less the wood moves (yes, its ipe, but ALL wood moves, especially in 6″ widths, laying horizontal in deck-like exposures), the happier the finish will be. Also, as decks are often low to the ground, with minimal underside air circulation, it is very cheap insurance to prefinish. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Prefinish. Then maintain.

4. Do not mislead the ipe owner that the deck will stay pretty forever because it is ipe.

Do not even tell them that they can reasonably expect 4-5 years. Ipe owners basically have two choices in how they want to live with their ipe: do no maintenance and let it turn silvery gray like the teak furniture; or accept the reality that if maintained periodically (read: every year or two), it will age with remarkable grace. Maintain the teak furniture too, for a more aesthetically pleasing outdoor living experience.

5. Do not apply finish by sprayer.

Get your kneepads on, do it the old fashioned way and enjoy!

[If you are a Vermont homeowner in need of a deck consultation, Contact Us Here!]

Please submit all other questions or feedback on ipe deck finishing at our dedicated IPEHELP site, where we are continuing the most interactive and ongoing ipe finishing discussion on the internet.

Thanks to all who participate!



Prefinishing all sides prior to installation is best practice for dimensional stability.

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  1. Gary says:

    I have a sunroom with Ipe tongue-in-groove flooring. It’s a great rustic look in a totally enclosed heated/AC room, so it is essentially indoor flooring. It’s about eight years old and all I have done is vacuum regularly and mop with Bona products occasionally. The finish has started to fade/dull somewhat and I want to re-coat the floor with Penofin (as was used originally). One area has a rug so it has aged a little differently than the rest, and there are a few minor water spots from where some houseplants leaked a little. Should I sand the entire floor before re-coating it? If so, what grit do you recommend? Any other tips or cautions, other then the typical ones for sealing Ipe? Thanks!

  2. Heather says:

    Scott- we live in Colorado and have extreme conditions. We have an ipe deck that is very large. It seems very dry and the color is grey. How should we go about prepping it (cleaning) and finishing it? I see you recommend certain oils but is there a specific method of cleaning and oil for weather that we have here. Please advise and thank you in advance.

  3. Candice says:

    Hello Scott,
    Got a new Ipe deck last fall. The guys applied Penofin Penetrating Oil to it in the final step. The deck had a warm lovely finish. In the coming months, there was other construction done in the backyard and the deck was very dirty as a result. A couple months ago, in an effort to get it clean, I used a power washer (40 degree nozzle…tolerable to my own feet, not too much pressure) to clean it. Immediately after, it looked much better. But then I noticed it started to look very dull. Did the power washer remove all the oil? What do I do now? Is my deck being damaged in the meantime by the valley’s intense sun all day?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Candice, hard to say without seeing pictures but it sounds like it may be weathering out and due for seasonal maintenance. Visit ipehelp.com if you want to research and explore further.

  4. Josh says:

    My wife and I had an Ipe deck installed about 18 months ago. We were under the impression that the only reason to oil it was to maintain the reddish color. We prefer the faded grey color and so we chose not to oil. Now, we can’t touch the deck without getting a handful of splinters. We clearly made a mistake. Is it too late to oil? If not, should we re-sand the entire deck first? Appreciate any guidance you can give.

  5. Rudy burnham says:

    Have a ipe bridge over water in my back yard,what’s the best way to clean without hurting the fish or puluteing the water,association in the neighborhood is very picky.

  6. Mitch says:

    I am just completing a tigerwood deck. I live in Southern California. I used Ipe oil on all 4 sides prior to installation. I used face screws and wanted to give the boards a quick sand and another coat of oil. Will this be a problem at all?

  7. Cheryl says:

    A contractor built an Ipe outdoor bench for me. He is saying it has to be sealed with a clear coat to prevent cracking and splinters, but the sample he showed me turned the wood a dark, deep red. I would like to Ipe to weather naturally to gray- will that happen if a clear coat is put on? Is a clear coat required for Ipe, and if so, does it need to be reapplied occasionally? Does a clear coat prevent splinters? Thanks!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Cheryl, good question. Yes, it is important to seal the wood to keep it from drying out and splitting, checking, etc. Since you want the piece to weather and gray naturally, here is a product that is designed to do just that: http://www.sherwin-williams.com/painting-contractors/products/catalog/superdeck-exterior-waterborne-clear-sealer/?referringCategory=

      • Chris Vassalotti says:

        Hi Scott, I had thought only oil based products worked on IPE. Is this suitable for an IPE Deck as well being waterborne? Does this require any special application techniques on IPE or do you just apply and let dry (no wiping)? Being in Chicago, how often would you apply?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Chris, not sure which product we are talking about.

          • Chris Vassalotti says:

            a reader indicated they wanted to protect their ipe, but let it gray.

            Your response was…. Yes, it is important to seal the wood to keep it from drying out and splitting, checking, etc. Since you want the piece to weather and gray naturally, here is a product that is designed to do just that: http://www.sherwin-williams.com/painting-contractors/products/catalog/superdeck-exterior-waterborne-clear-sealer/?referringCategory=


          • Scott Burt says:

            Ahh, ok, now I see. We haven’t time tested this product, and it is the only one we are aware of that is designed to allow weathering to gray. The fact that it is waterbased would make me not apply it to brand new ipe. I would let it weather for a season first. I’d let it go a year and see how much the wood dried out and reapply as needed based on observation. I would imagine would lives a fairly dry life in Chicago…

          • Steven Bryant says:

            Scott, getting ready to refinish an IPE deck that has not been worked on for about 8 years and yes it has greyed and has surface checking. It needs to be sanded and oil sealed. What type of sander do you recommend on a DIY basis and grades of paper
            apps; i.e., 80 and 120? Also, what clear oil based sealer do you recommend for North Carolina?

          • Steven Bryant says:

            Scott, thanks for your response to my inquiry that I’m sure would benefit many discriminating ipe owners. Not sharing your experience in working with ipe and related restoration products unless there’s money on the table does’nt work for me. You are not the only experienced ipe source on the planet. Have a good day!

          • Scott Burt says:

            Hey Steven, not true, we built the site IPE Help to help address these types of questions, as a free guest, anyone can view articles specific to IPE and ask general questions with no charge. The paid portion is where I help owners solve project specific problems that take much more time and communication to resolve, as well as help in planning new decks and setting up maintenance programs for existing decks. Feel free to join the discussion there.

  8. Gabe Ewing says:

    Great write up Scott. The discussion is insightful too.

  9. Garry Boyce says:

    Have you used penofin hardwood for Ipe decks? http://www.penofin.com/wood-stains/hardwood-formula-wood-stain. Is there any reason why you recomend marine grade instead?

    • Garry Boyce says:

      My carpenter is saying that penofin will probably not warrantee the finish if I use Marine on the non-marine deck.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Garry, the hardwood version is also good. In fact, I have been told by a local supplier that it and the marine are the same now. We have phased out Penofin from our ipe program, though.

      • Marc says:

        Say what? You’re not using Penofin Marine Oil anymore??? After extolling its virtues all this time? What have you switched to?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Marc, yes, times change…more suitable (but compatible) products appear. We are still in the penetrating oil realm with 3 products this season on all of the (dozens) of ipe decks we are doing. Stay tuned over at ipehelp.com as we will be sharing this season’s results over there.

  10. Ben says:

    We built a fence and some benches out of Ipe lumber without finishing. Recent rain seems to have brought out the natural oil which is now dripping down onto the adjacent finished surfaces below. I have read a great deal and found lots of talk about checking, warping, fading, silvering etc. but not a single work about natural oils seeping out. Am I missing something?

  11. Ray says:

    I am building a picture/mirror frame out of IPE wood. This will only be used indoors. I’ve cut the corners at 45 degree angles.
    1. Do I need to use an end seal to prevent checking?
    2. Won’t the glue used to keep the end pieces together fail due to the wax/end seal?

    I already put end seal on which I plan on scraping the excess off. But did I need to put any on in the first place?

  12. Jim says:

    I stripped and pressure washed my IPE deck with Behr stripper, Sanded, Brightened with Sherwin Williams Revive It looked beautiful wet. Dried out looking pretty blanched. Applied Cabot Australian Timber Oil in Honey Teak and the deck looks worn and dry with almost a grey or silvery hue on top. What do I do to get back the IPE rich look. Thanks

    • Laurie Knight says:

      My husband told me not to let the painters powerwash the small ipe deck over our small pond at our front entrance. By the time I returned home that day the painters had arrived and already attacked the ipe! It’s streaked from the power wash and looks anemic! How can it be restored? It was 2 years old.

    • Scott Burt says:

      You would pretty much have to strip the ATO out and start over.

  13. Fran Exley says:

    Getting ready for Spring. Would like to to clean (Pro-Tech Cleaner), brighten (Pro-Tech Brightener) , and oil (Marine) the deck with the Penofin products. I had a few questions:

    1) Can I apply the cleaner and brightner back to back or do I need to wait for the cleaner to dry for a period of time?

    2) I watched the video on how to apply both the cleaner and brightener and it appears to be pretty straight forward with the application and then using the nylon brush to agitate. How much time should I budget for a 20 by 40 deck to complete the process for each clean and then for brighten.

    3) Finally, I’m debating if I can handle the do-it-yourself oiling process (more from a time perspective). How much time should I budget to apply the oil and wipe behind for a 20 by 40 rectangular deck?

    • Scott Burt says:

      I’d be shooting for a couple of long days, one on the cleaning and brightening, which in most cases can be done immediately. Worst case scenario for a less experienced person, maybe two days on each. The best results happen when things are done at a rigorous pace.

  14. Jill says:

    Hi Scott, my builder is installing a large exposed Ipe deck in Santa Barbara (.7 mile from the beach) and not putting any spaces between the boards since he thinks this looks better and claims to have done this before. We’re having humid weather now so it will probably shrink rather than expand in the future but I’m still leery of this since nowhere can I find this as an accepted practice. Should I have him reinstall/replace with a gap?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Jill, gotta say that this practice flies in the face of all conventional wisdom about deck building that I have ever heard. It is critically important for any deck to drain. I would not expect it to shrink that much. Your installer making a poor functional decision based on what he thinks looks best is not a good idea. My vote would be yes, pull and reinstall, and not at your expense.

  15. ROBERT MC says:

    Hi do you consider 1 x 6″ IPE sufficient for decking or should I pay up for the 5/4 x 6? Is pre grooved worth the added cost? Thanks!

  16. John Register says:

    My ipe has been acclimatizing for about 3 weeks now and I have to leave for a month and my deck project will have to wait till then. My wife is worried about theft so asked if we can put it in the house. We’ll raise the a/c up to 83 while we are gone to save on electric bill and so the humidity will be between 50 and 60 percent. Will re-acclimatize again when I get back. I can also lock up in a large shed which is insulated. Is either option acceptable?
    John R

  17. Suzanne says:

    What a great source of info, thank you! I am having an IPE deck installed. I want it to go to a natural gray color and therefore am assuming there is no maintenance required except cleaning to remove mildew periodically.

    My friend just told me that IPE needs oil no matter what or it will get dry and crack and splintery. I live in Atlanta. It’s hot here, will that happen?

    Thanks for any advice you can give.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Suzanne, over time, yes it will dry out and become a bit splintery…how long that will take will depend on sun exposure. It would be measured in years. You could decide somewhere down the line to clean and oil it if desired.

      • Ftancrsca says:

        Arrived at my Michigan cottage to find what looked like scratches in my ipe deck. I scrubbed with plain water and a medium bristle brush, and a ton of dirt came off. Now patches where I scrubbed look very light. I can wash the entire deck, but should I then seal or oil it?
        Photo attached.

        • Jim says:

          I have done the same on my deck. I have had luck using a TSP/water solution and scrubbing and rinsing thoroughly. Let it dry for 24hrs and oil with either penofin oil or ipe oil. Do not over apply and wipe off any excess. Any residual oil will become sticky. Also make sure it will not get wet for 24hrs. Good luck.

          • Francesca says:

            Thanks, Jim. I will try this. Porch and steps looked beautiful when installed 7 years ago. Now they looks terrible. Sorry I ever tried to clean it, but the ‘scratches’ also looked awful. I think it was a dirt layer that was scratched, not the porch itself.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Yes, clean the whole thing. A pressure washer would be much faster. Then, re oil.

  18. Beau says:

    Hi Scott! My IPE deck is cupping. It was installed about 2 months ago with screws. It was oiled on the underside and sides before installation but not the top. For a host of reasons we have not been able to oil the top side of the deck but plan to do that soon. Any advice on how to correct the cupping? Is sanding an option? Would oiling the top help or hurt the situation? The deck is about 2 feet off of the ground and is laid on 4×6 joists about 16″ on center.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Beau, oiling the top side may help to stabilize the wood and make the cupping go away. I would guess that its probably cupped up (crowning)?

      • Beau says:

        Thanks Scott. Yes. It is crowning. Any benefit to trying to sand it down before applying the oil on top?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Beau, you can try, but it is unlikely you will be able to sand much of the crown out. Best bet would be an upright floor sander and about 24 grit.

  19. Mike Nelson says:

    Pic 3 of 3. 20 hours later…the finished deck!

  20. Mike Nelson says:

    Pic 2 of 3. Applying the oil…

  21. Mike Nelson says:

    Glad I surfed my way to your site. I re-finished our deck in October and have some questions for next time. We live in Northern Virginia and had our Ipe deck for almost a year when I read that we need to re-finish it 1-2 times per year. I found as many pointers on your site as I could and set to it. The deck is approx 300 SF. I rented a rotary sander and connected it to a shop vac. I sanded the whole thing once at 80 and once at 120, then hand oiled/wiped with with Penofin hardwood penetrating oil. (Sanding pic attached here, oiling pic in next comment, finished deck in 3rd comment.) Oh my goodness, was this a job! It took me two very full, long days, and completely exhausted me and I’m in relatively decent shape. The two days being outside and away from the office was OK, but really didn’t expect it to take so long (typical for my DIY estimates). My first question is what you think about using a vacuum *belt* sander on an Ipe deck? Is it necessary to sand before oiling each time I re-finish? If I re-finish once in the spring and once in the fall, should I sand both times? Any time/effort saving tips? Thanks!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Mike, it looks great! And no, you should not have to sand it every time. Low pressure washing with proper soap and a good rinsing is an easy maintenance alternative. Stay tuned, we will be ramping up the maintenance resources around here before spring deck season…

  22. Kristen says:

    I have an IPE deck in Colorado which had been maintained yearly using Cabot Australian Timber Oil. This fall, a contractor mistakenly used the wrong product (he stained the IPE with the same product that was used on our fence – Behr either solid or semi-solid.) How would you recommend removing it and restoring the IPE wood to it’s previous appearance?

  23. Noelyn Kljavin says:

    Hi Scott,

    Such a fun forum to browse.
    We just installed a small ipe front porch here in Northern California (SF Bay Area). I am 1 mile from the coast. The porch is SW facing with a trellis overhead covered in UV protected Lexan.
    We are about to oil it with Penofin Marine Grade but I’ve been reading about finishing all sides. We only sealed the ends when cut. Of course we now cannot seal the sides or bottom (deck is 18 inches off the ground with good ventilation but it would be challenging!) Do you think my ipe will cupp eventually if I oil the top only?
    Thanks for your input!

  24. Jennifer says:

    Hello Scott–
    If this ends up being a repeat of a question I just tried to post–sorry! (technical difficulties) I just wanted to get your opinion on how to treat freshly trimmed ends of ipe planks to help
    prevent checking. Anchor seal or another end seal? Ipe oil? Nothing? My contractor seems to be an advocate of no treatment. I still plan on sending you pictures of the final project! Thanks again for your help and time.

  25. Jennifer says:

    Hello Scott! Sorry to be bothering you again so soon, but might you share your opinion on how to best treat (if at all) the ends of ipe planks when they are trimmed? Anchor seal or other kinds of end sealer seem to be generally recommended to help prevent checking, but my contractor is not a fan (and isn’t treating the ends with anything). Thanks again for your help and time!

  26. Hi Scott: Thanks for the great advice during my project… I’ve hit a snag. I’ve been having a terrible time with 5/4X6 cumaru for a deck project I’m working on… perhaps you can help to give some insight.

    Links and more photos can be found at: http://www.redneckmodern.com/2014/12/wood-woes.html

    Initially, getting good wood was an issue — the 5/4 X 6 cumaru I ordered is available through just a few suppliers and is mail-order only in the lengths I need (12+ feet). I had to return two orders. Bummer.
    But even after 2/3 of the deck has been installed, the swelling of the wood has been a massive issue — to the point where it needs to be pulled up and the area re-addressed. Bummer.

    I’m wishing I’d have gone with ipe — or even a synthetic decking material. And now I’m thinking pavers/stone.

    A few specifics:

    • The wood was sold as kiln-dried through Advantage Lumber at 5/4 X 6.
    • The wood is not pre-grooved and we cut slots specifically where needed. • We thought this might be more stable than having a long groove along one side. Each slot is caulked with clear acrylic sealant after install to prevent overt water/dirt infiltration in the slots, btu provide necessary flex.
    • The boards have construction adhesive between themselves and the framing (which will make removal fun!)
    • The framing members are covered with Vycor deck protector.
    • The deck surface is built in three areas each separated by a longitudinal border (that also helps to frame out the pool). This means there are perpendicular pieces that need to stay aligned through the seasons.
    The deck was installed with Ipe clips (Ipe Clip IC100EX-TBL) with 3/32 spacing… this was recommended by Advantage Lumber (not the 1/4 spacers).
    • The boards “seasoned” for an entire year outside and pressure-washed prior to install (the project was delayed from September to June), so it wasn’t super-dry
    • The boards were coated 4 sides with Messmer’s UV prior to install (twice, actually — September and June).
    My thoughts/questions:

    • I’m almost fed up with wood and might go to a pressure-treated-plywood subdeck with concrete pavers (would Wonderboard make a better sub-deck?)
    • The patina looks terrible 6mos after install — moldy and dirty. Will I have to massively pressure wash (sand?) and re-coat each season?
    • Is cumaru more unstable than ipe? I’m sort of regretting the choice of cumaru for a few reasons: unavailability of 5/4 material, instability, squirreliness…
    • Clearly the boards needed more space to expand, however, how much? In my design, the edges themselves cannot allow for expansion due to needed alignment and eventual skirt-wrap with Cor-ten steel.


  27. Beau says:

    Scott…Please Help!
    My contractor didn’t know anything about IPE. He wanted to protect the underside of the boards prior to installing so he oiled one side plus the sides but not the top side. Unfortunately he wasn’t careful with the unfinished side and there are major oil blotches all over the top side of the boards. What is the best way to handle this?
    Thank you!

    • Beau says:

      I’m having trouble posting a picture…

      • Scott Burt says:

        Hi Beau, looks like the picture posted. The deck just needs to be sanded and finished. Not a huge deal. It is good that it got protection on 3 sides prior to installation. Post pictures when it is finished, it will be beautiful.

        • Hi Scott: Thanks for the great advice during my project… I’ve hit a snag. I’ve been having a terrible time with 5/4X6 cumaru for a deck project I’m working on… perhaps you can help to give some insight.

          Links and more photos can be found at: http://www.redneckmodern.com/2014/12/wood-woes.html

          Initially, getting good wood was an issue — the 5/4 X 6 cumaru I ordered is available through just a few suppliers and is mail-order only in the lengths I need (12+ feet). I had to return two orders. Bummer.
          But even after 2/3 of the deck has been installed, the swelling of the wood has been a massive issue — to the point where it needs to be pulled up and the area re-addressed. Bummer.

          I’m wishing I’d have gone with ipe — or even a synthetic decking material. And now I’m thinking pavers/stone.

          A few specifics:

          • The wood was sold as kiln-dried through Advantage Lumber at 5/4 X 6.
          • The wood is not pre-grooved and we cut slots specifically where needed. • We thought this might be more stable than having a long groove along one side. Each slot is caulked with clear acrylic sealant after install to prevent overt water/dirt infiltration in the slots, btu provide necessary flex.
          • The boards have construction adhesive between themselves and the framing (which will make removal fun!)
          • The framing members are covered with Vycor deck protector.
          • The deck surface is built in three areas each separated by a longitudinal border (that also helps to frame out the pool). This means there are perpendicular pieces that need to stay aligned through the seasons.
          The deck was installed with Ipe clips (Ipe Clip IC100EX-TBL) with 3/32 spacing… this was recommended by Advantage Lumber (not the 1/4 spacers).
          • The boards “seasoned” for an entire year outside and pressure-washed prior to install (the project was delayed from September to June), so it wasn’t super-dry
          • The boards were coated 4 sides with Messmer’s UV prior to install (twice, actually — September and June).
          My thoughts/questions:

          • I’m almost fed up with wood and might go to a pressure-treated-plywood subdeck with concrete pavers (would Wonderboard make a better sub-deck?)
          • The patina looks terrible 6mos after install — moldy and dirty. Will I have to massively pressure wash (sand?) and re-coat each season?
          • Is cumaru more unstable than ipe? I’m sort of regretting the choice of cumaru for a few reasons: unavailability of 5/4 material, instability, squirreliness…
          • Clearly the boards needed more space to expand, however, how much? In my design, the edges themselves cannot allow for expansion due to needed alignment and eventual skirt-wrap with Cor-ten steel.


  28. Jennifer says:

    Hello! Thanks so much for your website–it’s been a great help! I am about to have an ipe deck installed in Florida. I followed your advice, and sanded and oiled all 6 sides of the planks with ipe oil. They look great! The planks will be face screwed and plugged. I’m assuming the contractor will sand around/over the plugs. What is the best way to then oil the plugs? Can the oil be applied just to the sanded areas/plugs? Should the whole deck be sanded, cleaned, and re-oiled instead, or is that not necessary since the planks were prepped already? I don’t want to over oil the deck and end up with a sticky result, but I’d also like the plugs to blend in. Thanks again for your help!!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Jennifer, it is home project enthusiasts who make this part of our site so good. To your question, when the carpenters install, they will plug, then chisel off the plugs, then lightly sand smooth. (make sure to clarify with them, that this is what they will do). Then, you can just oil those areas for now. Everything will get caught up on the next round of maintenance.

  29. Cheryl Arthur says:

    I have an Ipe deck that is covered and is used for a food service venue. So there are many dark grease spots and stains from various food and drink being spilled. To refinish it would you suggest sanding or a serious cleaning or maybe both to get these oil stains out? Do you think we will even be able to get the oil stains out? After that process whichever you suggest what would be the best application to protect it from this sort of thing happening again?

  30. John says:

    HI Scott Great site.
    Couple of questions for you.
    1. After installing a new ipe deck you recommend sanding it. What is the best way to prep it for the finish after, I don’t have a festool ROS so I was going to use a normal one so there will be dust leftover. Can I vacuum or rinse with water?

    2. Is it still necessary to use a cleaner or brightener?

    Thanks for any guidance. John

  31. JP Caramanica says:

    Hi, Scott. Great site. I recently had an IPE deck installed. We had a local handyman stain/seal it and unknowing to me he used Thompson’s Water Seal instead of the Flood CWF for Hardwoods I wanted him to use. I didn’t realize he did until I got back from a work trip. Any recommendations or should I just wipe down/clean the excess oil and wait until next year to apply a better protectant?

  32. Adam says:

    Scott, I recently found about 900 linear board ft of ipe that was previously installed on a deck for about 5 years. It was well cared for but removal caused many of the holes to chip/ splinter. It’s 5/4 x 6″ (nominal) my guess is that removing 1/8″ of the surface would remove the most of the deepest gouges. Obviously I plan on reusing all holes, I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on 1 of 2 options… 1. Reuse as previously installed with previous too up and sand off the top 1/8″ of material or 2. Flip the boards, drill new counter sunk holes. Sand and oil? And if option 2, do I sand off the previous top layer ( that would now be on the bottom? Thanks in advance!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Adam, removing 1/8″ of ipe would be like removing 1/8″ of steel…not a good option. Leave the existing finish, flip, counterbore, sand, oil, done.

  33. nancy says:

    Love your website. We are trying to get all information we can before installing our new ipe deck. I have read your blog for hours. Very informative. Just want to make sure I understand everything correctly. Refinish each board as it is being installed on all sides with penofin marine oil and 4″ boards are preferred with the blind system fasteners our deck will be 10×10 and 10 feet high live in winston salem. NC the deck will be exposed to the weather, lots of Sun fully exposed for majority of the day. We do plan on keeping the beautiful color of the wood. So every spring we will wash and reapply oil. My biggest concern is the cupping. We want it done right the first time. Do I have all the info correct? Or did I miss something? Thank you very much. Sincerely. Nancy

  34. Eric says:

    Hey scott,
    I oiled my ipe deck the other day with penofin marine. Unfortunately, we had some showers pass through about 12 hours after I finished and now there are some pretty distinct water spots. How would you suggest I proceed? Can I re-oil the entire boards that are spotted or do I need to power wash the entire deck and start over (ugh!!)?
    Thanks as always for the advice!

  35. Elaine Kohn says:

    Hi Scott,
    Do you have any experience with a Penofin product called “First Step Prep for Hardwood”? It has been recommended to us for use instead of cleaning with just a brightener in prepping the deck for its first annual maintenance. The Penofin literature states that it “cleans, brightens” as well as removes hard mill glaze. I’m not sure that the latter makes any difference since we pre-finished the wood prior to its installation. It contains oxalic acid. Any insight you have will be greatly appreciated.

  36. Elaine Kohn says:

    We installed an IPE deck about one year ago. It is time to “refinish”. I followed the advice on your website in 1) coating all 4 sites with IPE Oil (we cannot get Penofin Marine in So Cal); and 2) sealing the ends. Here’s my question: In several places, moisture has dripped from the overhand over the deck and left water marks on the wood. Can we take care of this by washing with a mild soap per your recommendation (like Cabot’s Wood Brightener or do you think we are going to have to sand first? (P.S. — we only put 1 coat on the first time. We probably should have put another coat because the wood just sucked up the oil like crazy). Any advice you have would be welcome.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Elaine, this sounds like a normal annual maintenance cycle which should be remedied by a good cleaning (low pressure wash with a pressure washer and cleaner or brightener).

      • Patrick says:

        Just as an FYI, I am in SoCal (San Diego) and you can get Penofin Marine here in places like Dixie Line and other non-HD/Lowes type places. Probably other woodworking and paint places also. I’ve done my whole house siding with it. Patrick

      • Elaine Kohn says:

        Thanks Scott. I’ll try to send a picture of the result. And thanks again for all of your outstanding advice.

  37. Ann says:

    Hi Scott, We have an Ipe deck built almost 10 yrs. ago. I’m pretty sure our contractor broke rule #3 and definitely broke #4 & #5. We maintained it pretty well for the first 5 years but with four young kids we got lax. We live in northeastern CT and the deck is on the north side. The deck is getting that silvery look and I want to do the right thing to get it looking really good again. We were told to never power wash, just lightly sand and re-apply Cabot Australian Timber Oil in Teak. We have always been pretty happy the way it turned out. From reading the comments, I have some questions:
    1) Should we power wash before we lightly sand? Do we need the Cabot Wood brightener?
    2) We have always used the Cabot Oil but I see you don’t recommend that so I looked into Penofin and Armstrong Clark. Penofin is a natural color so I am thinking I may try the Armstrong Clark Mahogany Stain for hardwood as I liked the way the Cabot looked. Do you think that would be ok?
    3) When is the best time of year to maintain the deck? Ideally I’d want to do in spring but for us early spring is too wet/nights too cool and late spring there is too much pollen. During the summer months the deck gets too much use. Now we are into fall once again…is September ok?
    4) We are still really busy with the kids. Do you have any names of contractors in the CT area that maintain decks the correct way – your way?! Most seem to have their own way of doing it and it’s usually the quickest way (like spraying on the oil) and using products they like which may not be the best for Ipe.
    Thanks for providing such great information – I’m so glad I found your website!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Ann

      Thank you. To your questions:

      1. Yes, yes.

      2. Armstrong Clark would be a great choice.

      3. I prefer early spring, that way it is looking and performing at its best when you are using it most.

      4. I will check my Rolodex, but in the meantime, it is something you could do yourself with some coaching.

  38. Lynn says:

    Scott – we need your help. We have IPE on our 10 year old covered porch. It has been stained 2 times with Sikkens but neither application held up well. Our painter just finished sanding the whole deck down, replaced damaged boards and then stained it with Ultra Premium Penofin – Chestnut. As you can see by the picture the new boards are perfect but the old ones are light, spotty and show deep scratches from our dogs. We need a product that is semi-transparent to cover the imperfections. Penofin suggested their cleaner, brightener and a darker color of Verde. Our paint store is suggested BM Arborcoat Semi Transparent Classic oil. We sampled the Arborcoat and it covered but I don’t know if it will last. The painters are going to sand again tomorrow. I would really like to get it right this time. Any and all suggestions would be greatly appreaciated.

  39. Linda McKinney says:

    Scott, please advise.
    Our 8 year old IPE deck was not properly maintained and when we reached out to our painter last year, he said the original oil product was not appropriate due to the few years since it was done, harsh winters, sun, etc. He convinced us to let him use BM Arborcoat, Waterborne, Deck &Siding Solid. What a mistake! Now after a year, it is pealing off.
    What do you recommend ? Sanding then reoiling?
    Picture was taken at high noon thus the shadows!

  40. Mai Kibena says:

    Help!!! My husband put stain on Ipe and did not wipe it off right away and now the floor is sticky. We have tried several things to remove the stickiness but nothing has worked. Do you have any suggestions. I would be grateful. We have loved to IPE until now.

    • Scott Burt says:

      There is a detergent called TSP which you can mix and scrub the deck with Scotchbrite sponges.

      • Todd says:

        Scott, I assume a deck brightener is better to use than TSP for general prep of a new finish? Would you be kind enough to share what price range (per sq. ft.) you charge to refinish a deck that has never been properly maintained and is well weathered because of said lack of maintenance. FYI I’m on the west coast. Hoping to not sell myself short.

  41. Camille Azar says:

    this is an edit to previous post I believe is right description is crowning of boards of cumaru and not cupping

  42. Camille Azar says:

    Dear Scott
    I have noted significant localised cupping on a properly installed Cumaru deck affecting 5 -6 boards this happened because of placement of under grill material that became wet acting like a sponge in contact with one side of boards in a very wet summer unfortunately the boards are also stained from the material do you recommend replacing the boards or washing with cabot brightner power washing and resanding to level before penofin marin application .

  43. Gromes says:

    My neighbor recently had installed an Ipe wood porch on the front of his house. Shortly there after his wife hired some ‘day laborers’ to come apply Ipe oil to the surface. Apparently the one guy told the other he was doing in wrong by applying it with a roller like a paint and never wiped off any excess; long story short the wood is now wet and tacky. I want to help him out with this, but we’re not sure what to do. The original installer suggested using witch hazel and old t-shirts to wipe it down, but this porch is 24′ by 10′ and we are not young men. Another person suggested we use a pressure washer with a deserve filled with original dawn dish detergent. Now that sounds more like our speed, but we wanted to check here on the internets to see if it was a good idea or not. And if not, what is recommended that a couple of old guys like us could do ourselves?
    Much Thanks for any advice,

    Gromes in NJ

  44. Eric from Philadelphia says:

    Scott. Great website — I haven’t been able to pull myself away the past 24 hours. Unfortunately, it’s an index of everything I’ve done wrong with my IPE deck. I had seen a newly installed deck finished with sikkens and I admit, I absolutely fell in love with the look, so when I installed my 300 s.f. deck a few years ago, I went with Sikkens and everything you predicted would happen did happen.

    So I’m on a mission to bring it back. I have 2 questions: 1) do you think I need to strip the old finish off before sanding, or is sanding enough to get that old coating off?

    and 2) what do you think of brighteners — are they necessary if I’m going to sand the whole thing anyway (or does it depend on how weathered the deck currently is? My deck is covered but some sections get more sun than others, so in places it has gone grey, and in other places, the Sikkens topcoat is still visible. Also, for what it’s worth, the sides and bottom are also coated with the topcoat, but they appear to be in decent condition.

    Any advice appreciated. I know you’ve covered some of this in other comments. Thanks again for such a valuable resource.

    • Scott Burt says:


      1. Sanding is sufficient if you have the equipment and a bunch of abrasives.

      2. I like brighteners on decks that just need to be cleaned. If you are sand stripping, the brightener would not be necessary.

  45. Bob Cole says:

    This is not a finishing question, but I’d appreciate your ipe expertise anyway: I have installed ipe tongue-and-groove on the large covered porch of my 114-year-old house. I’m replacing the 6×6″ pine posts with white oak. I’m wondering whether I should use plinths on the base of posts, and if so, which type. Plinths would forestall wicking of moisture into the posts, and allow more air circulation for the ipe, but I wonder whether they are necessary or advisable.

  46. Fran Exley says:

    Great Website – I wish I would have found it sooner. We had our deck built and the contractor used IPE. Once installed, the deck boards have moved apart from each other. The contractor used the Tiger Claw installation system. I attached a photo and want to know if this is standard with IPE. Interestingly enough, it has happened twice. We are trying to figure out what do since underneath is a covered patio — so our concern is that we may distrupt the drainage system.

    So, my questions are:
    1) Have you ever seen this before?
    2) Is it a result of “bad” IPE or is this common?
    3) Is it a result of fastner installation?
    4) Do you have any suggestions for us?


    • Fran Exley says:

      Picture attached. Also, there are multiple places with gaps like this but not on every board.

    • Scott Burt says:


      It looks like an issue with the fastener system to me.

      • Bill says:

        What do you mean “it looks like an issue with the fastening system”? I see that he may have used nails vs screws and the wood is split at the screw but it’s also split where there is no screw. I’d like to ask the poster how thick the boards are he used. This post is of interest to me because I’m about to install a 5/4 x 6 deck and I’m afraid of using the hidden fasteners on the south facing side, I’m concerned about them not being strong enough and the boards cupping. Face screwing concerns me because I’m worried about the planks splitting as shown in the picture. If I face screw them is there a reason to be concerned about splitting??

  47. Noah says:

    Hi Scott, great information on this page. I have a question regarding the Penofin Marine – the front of the can says “one coat”, then the directions on the back suggest two. I can’t imagine that Ipe would even accept more than a single coat. What do you generally do?

    Many thanks!

  48. MP says:

    Scott, Love the blog! Just bought a house with a front and back IPE Deck. The back deck is covered and still has that sheen. The front is open and more exposed to the hot humid sun. I called a professional who did my inside Brazilian Cherry. His quote was $2800 for sanding and application of Penofin. He told me that if I wanted it to look “fresh” it would likely be that charge every 18 months. That is just crazy in my eyes. We are going to do it ourselves now. It looks pretty dry. Will I need to sand the complete deck before applying Penofin or can I get away with power washing it at this point? Appreciate your input.

  49. Scott Burt says:

    Many of our readers have asked about sanding as a prep method on ipe. Here is a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6dM5hW9JyM

  50. Rachel B says:

    Thanks for all of the information! I have a question about stripping. About 5 years ago a Sikkens stain/sealer was used on our Tigerwood deck. We haven’t touched it since. The deck is now 80% gray but is still holding on to the original product on all vertical surfaces and in some spots protected from the elements. As a result we have a multi-colored deck!

    Over the last few days we have used a Flood deck cleaner and a power washer and have successfully removed most of the mold, dirt and other residue and some of the old stain/sealer. However, the old stain/sealer remains.

    We sanded a couple of steps and were successful in removing the product but it was a painstaking process. I purchased a wood stripper by Cabot and the Cabot wood brightener and we are going to try the stripper in spots but do not want to damage our concrete patio below. Do you have any experience with the Cabot stripper? Or could you recommend a wood stripper for us? I have heard about the Restore A Deck products too, would they be safer?

    We are going to apply the Armstrong oil stain in Amber after the old stain/sealer is removed. Any advice would be appreciated! Thank you!

  51. Charlie says:

    Hi Scott – I was wondering if you can share some of your knowledge. I am having a house built in Central Florida and the wife would like to have an IPE wall that goes from the front of the house (outside) continue to the inside and to the back of the house (outside) so when we have the pocketing sliding glass doors opens (front and back) it would give the impression that the inside wall/space continue the outside. Here is my dilemma – would the outside IPE weather different than the inside IPE even if we keep up with maintenance?

    Thank you in advance for your insightful reply!


    • Scott Burt says:

      Charlie, the outside will weather…probably fade. The sheltered sections shouldn’t weather at all. Annual maintenance would be the way to keep the exterior portion looking clean and fresh for continuity to the interior.

  52. Great post! Been reading a lot about deck work. Thanks for the tips here!

  53. Trish says:

    We just had our ipe delivered for our deck. Some Boards look great and others have many large rough raised areas that don’t look quite right to me. Looks like saw blade marks or something. We had ordered grade A or premium and did not expect such inconsistency. Is this normal ? Would a thorough sanding correct it? Also there are some long cracks in the 4×4 posts and I am thinking that is not good either. We have the manuf coming to look at it before installation but would love your comments. We are in central pa and plan to let the deck weather grey.
    Thank you.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Trish, you can certainly reject boards that don’t seem to be at a grade A standard. Send them back. On the posts, it is normal for beefier posts like that to have cracks along their length. As long as they are structurally sound and solid, they should be fine.

  54. Rick says:

    Dear Scott,
    Is it acceptable to clean an IPE deck with a pressure washer? I was told by a construction friend that it was not good for the wood grain. If it is okay, would you also recommend some type of deck cleaner to use alone or in combination with the pressure washer?
    Also, we bought the house from someone who installed the deck about 6 months before they moved out and they had been using Australian Timber Oil [clear]. Would you recommend Penofin Penetrating oil over the Australian? Thanks, Rick

    • Scott Burt says:

      Rick, yes low pressure washing is fine. It is a good practice. You could start with a mild soap such as Cabot Wood Brightener. I would recommend Penofin Marine over the Australian Timber oil.

  55. Dan says:

    Hi Scott,
    I appreciate what you’re doing here and thanks for the post…

  56. Roxane says:

    Do I need to clean my new ipe before applying oil on all the sides?
    I was going to hose it down, let it dry 48 hours, and then apply Penofin Marine Oil. Do I NEED to wash it with Penofin First Step before I use the Marine Oil?

    Also, are there any circumstances where sanding ipe is OK or will sanding cause the ipe oil to surface and interfere with the absorption of the Penofin Marine Oil?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Roxane, you don’t need (or want) to wash it first. When we prefinish ipe decking, we often sand at 80 grit, a quick buzz, prior to oil application. That is a good idea.

      • Roxane says:

        Scott, thanks for the previous reply. Here is another question:

        I have had time to examine my clear grade ipe decking material and notice some checking in the 6 x 6’s and 2 x 12’s. I realize checking is a natural occurrence (and they are not too deep), but has the quality and strength of the pieces been compromised? Can I apply some Anchorseal classic over the cracks AFTER I oil with Penofin Marine Oil? I was thinking this may prevent them from splitting worse.

        Should I have rejected this wood? I am planning on doing another deck and would like to know if I should be more particular on the condition of the wood. What are the defects that I should look for in my next purchase?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Roxane, checking is to be expected on lumber that size. In the future, on decking, just look for the garden variety cupping and twisting. And check moisture levels. There is usually a couple of “hockey sticks” in the batch.

  57. Alisson Richards says:

    Hi, we have an ipe porch that has not been cared for in several years. We finished washing and scrubbing it with TSP and mild bleach solution and as it was rinsed it looked wonderful. Now that it is dried, it looks gray again. Will the application of a finish/oil restore the color, or do I need to do something else? I am wondering about what finish as I can not find the Penofin marine but can find Penofin hardwood or Flood CWF hardwoods. thanks

  58. Jean McDermand says:

    Help Scott Help!
    Our Ipe wood was just delivered. I want to prefinish before install. I, like many others have read so many websites, spoke with different suppliers, with each telling me a different way to handle the ipe wood. I finally came to your website and have just read all 300 plus postings and still I am at wit’s end as to the proper way to prefinish all 4 or is it 6 sides of the boards!? Like you have so patiently helped so many others, here are my questions:
    1) Do you have a list of instructions for prefinishing (before install) ipe boards?
    2) The boards seem to be very dirty and have nicks here and there, esp. the butt ends, and the butt ends already seem to have some sort of sealer on them, would this be what you refer to as mill glazed?
    3) In addition to sanding top and bottom should I sand the butt ends and the grooved sides too?
    4) In additions to collecting dust with sander, I will use an air hose to remove any leftover dust, do I also need to wet wipe each board after sanding?
    5) Do you have installation instruction for ipe decks?
    6) Do you need to clean cut each butt end of each board before install?
    Help, help, help!

    • Scott Burt says:

      1. Sand at 80 grit. Apply oil by brush, let sit, wipe, flip, repeat and rack it up. There is a rhythm to it.

      2. No, millglaze is a soft sheen on the faces of the boards from the cutters of the planer they were passed through. Sanding removes it.

      3. No, the butt ends will be cut on installation, then sealed.

      4. No.

      5. No.

      6. Yes.

  59. Margaret says:

    I have a screen porch that is porcelain tile with Ipe wood laid in a pattern. Honestly I never even though about doing anything to it but it needs help now. Being next to the tile probably makes it more difficult. One side gets a lot more sun and rain so obviously it has more wear on it. Can you help me with what you might recommend. The Cabot’s wood brightening, you say to use a sprayer but that wouldn’t really work for me. Thanks so much I appreciate it.

  60. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the finishing tips!

    I’m currently facing an issue with my IPE deck. Installed just over a year ago, all of the planks are now cupped. While a poor installation or material prep should fall under a warranty, the installer is now out of business.

    What are my options? Can I remove the boards, and install them “cup down”? Is sanding the surface flat and refinishing an option? I don’t have it in the budget to re-do the deck we rebuilt last spring.

    • Scott Burt says:

      I would not flip the boards. I would probably wash it, let it dry and re-oil it in hopes that it will restabilize. No guarantees whatsoever though when dealing with wood and the elements in a situation like that. You could also consider renting an upright sander and a bunch of very low grit pads and spending some time.

  61. Marc says:

    Wow, great article and comment thread! My deck (in eastern Massachusetts) is a combination of Ipe and Garapa. It was built in 2009. When new I used Australian Timber Oil and had good results, the color lasted at least through the first 12 months. However, it has been neglected for the past few of years, and gone to gray (except for vertical 4×4 members which have held color surprisingly well). If I want to restore color what’s my best strategy? After a light sanding, will the Penofin Marine Grade bring out and “trap” the color? If I can’t find that product or brand what’s a good alternative? Thanks!!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Marc, I would recommend low pressure washing with a wood cleaner/brightener, then applying a good quality penetrating oil. I haven’t observed the best results with Timber Oil. If you can’t find Marine Grade, use the hardwood line.

      • Marc says:

        Thanks Scott! Is using a pressure washer with the wood brightener an imperative? I don’t have one. Can I get away with a stiff-bristle brush? Is sanding required? I’ll attach a picture of my deck, it’s part Ipe and part Garapa. I contacted a local deck refinisher and they recommend Storm Stain Exotic. They say maintenance will be easier as it would only require an annual light wash whereas Penofin requires deep clean every few years. Any thoughts? Finally, can you recommend someone in the greater Boston area??

  62. Great post! Been reading a lot of tips for painting my deck. Thanks for the info!

  63. Rafi says:

    This is a great blog. I’m glad that I came across to this site as I have just started my ipe deck building project in Northern Virginia (DC metro area). I have 2″X6″ ipe ordered from http://www.macilvain.com and will be arriving in few weeks. This is for a deck 12″ above the ground. My contractor will make sure ipe will not be directly on the dirt, and he does proper venting when building the deck. He will stack the ipe upon arrival, and let it dry for 2 weeks before installation begins. The question is about prefinish and rack time. What type of oil we should use to prefinish ? And what is the recommended way to do this, and the rack time to dry. I understand for maintenances (twice a year ?) it is recommended to use Penofin Marine branded Oil. But I haven’t seen any recommendation for prefinish oil and the process to do this.

    • Rafi says:

      Sorry my typo. The ipe importer URL is http://www.mcilvain.com/

    • Arthur says:

      We have an old log cabin with an upper exposed deck that has a stone patio below it. We want to change out the deck flooring so that the space below stays dry. One contractor is recommending ipe tongue and groove porch flooring with a slight pitch to the deck to allow for water runoff. Would that work? Alternatively another contractor is recommending fiber glass which we are not crazy about given the look and feel of the cabin.

      • Scott Burt says:

        Not really, water would still end up below, just in more of a hurry. Tongue and groove on an exposed deck is a bad idea. Talk to an architect about designing a properly panned set up using membranes and a drainage system. It is possible but costly.

  64. Sie Nurcahya says:

    Hi Scott:

    I’m so glad I tumbled across your blog.

    I am in the process of purchasing Cumaru decking (5/4″ x 6″) from AdvantageLumber for 100 square feet area.
    For Deck Stains, what are your thoughts of TWP116? AdvantageLumber sells IPE oil that they said can be used to stain the Cumaru.
    Between Penofin and TWP116, which do you recommend?

    Thank You.

  65. Arun Pillai says:

    This site is fantastic. I’m reading up on IPE decking as I’d love to cover our terrace with IPE. We live in a condo but have a pretty sizable terrace. This terrace has old interlock (about 25 years) and we want to cover it with IPE. I can put joists to rise the IPE by about 6″ or so. Will this be good enough?
    Also, IPE is pretty expensive. I’ve found a place that sells a secondary grade IPE – apparently has a bit more knots. We have harsh winters here (cold temperature from October – April). Is it better to use the best grade, or is secondary grade alright for this weather?


  66. Martin says:

    Hey Scott. I may have found you a month too late. I am in the process of finishing up a 450 sqft ipe deck. It is made with 1×6 planks. I had not seen the recommendation to oil all sides prior to installation and am now a bit concerned. The premise seems to be that you want all sides oiled to prevent uneven absorption of water. That makes so much sense.

    I live in L.A. and I am hoping that our climate is dry enough that it won’t be an issue. Because the other solution is to pull each board, oil, dry, and re-lay. I used camo fasteners, so removing them is possible. And I guess I could remove every other one and access all 4 sides that way.

    So, would you do it?


    • Scott Burt says:

      Martin, I don’t think I would pull the decking to oil. Getting all four sides oiled is for dimensional stability – to prevent cupping. If your climate is fairly stable, it may not be an issue.

      • Liz says:

        Hi Scott,
        We just had a tongue&groove ipe floor installed on our covered screen porch. It appears that the workers spilled something on the floor that has left a dark stain(approx 5″ diameter) , it also looks like there are water stains in the form of a line along the 24″ height walls from where snow maybe sat before the screens were installed. Is there any hope in removing these stains? Thanks for any advice.

  67. David B says:

    Ipe columns for our front porch.

  68. Harry Wallace says:

    You strongly recommend Penofin Marine Oil, how does this compare to the Penofin for hardwoods, I have two cumaru decks 18′ by 8′ and live at the beach on the Gulf Coast had some success with IPE oil, but it only lasted 3 months before starting to gray, so want to try something else. I have had to take down my decks due to major remodeling and plan on re-coating on all sides, before relaying.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Harry, we have had much better luck with the marine grade than with the hardwood. It still requires maintenance though. It sounds like in your exposure, after the initial application, you might want to top it off at the two month mark, and then check again in 6-12.

  69. Camille Azar says:

    one more picture cumaru deck penofine oil treated mantis clip fasteners

  70. Camille Azar says:



  71. Michael says:

    Hello. I was wondering what product is being used on the top picture . The work looks great. I’m planning to build a horizontal ipe fence with a gate. I was wondering if there is any advise you have in order to have a nice looking finish like the one on the picture. Thanks.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Michael, it is Penofin Marine Grade penetrating oil. Pretty much just follow the steps in the article. I would also emphasize a preliminary sand at 80-100 grit. You can share pictures right here in the comment section when you get going on the project if you have questions as you go.

      • Michael says:

        Thanks for getting back to me and for the great advice. I will share once it’s all done. Take care.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Looking forward to it, thanks Michael. Merry Christmas.

          • Michael says:

            Hey, I was wondering why you would chose penofin marine oil over ipe oil for the finish??

          • Patrick says:

            Michael (and Scott of course!), a few years ago I came across this site when looking for Ipe finishing info. To answer your question, the Penofin Marine works incredibly well. We did our entire 2nd storey of our house siding in Ipe wood, plus our upstairs deck railing out of 2 1/2″ Ipe slats. We used Penofin Marine and while we don’t get snow in coastal San Diego, we get heavy salt fog and tons of unrelenting, beating sun. The combo blackens and twists most other wood. The south and west sides have had more than 18 months of constant exposure and are still rich and brown. Just this week I did a new porch area with Ipe and Penofin and I can barely tell the difference between the new and old. I can certainly vouch for the stuff on some adverse conditions.

          • Scott Burt says:

            Good to hear, Patrick. Readers can now post pictures in the comment section. Feel free to post up. Always fun to see the projects.

          • Scott Burt says:


  72. Scott Burt says:

    Dear Subscribers and readers, we have added a new feature here at TCR wherein you can post pictures in the comment section of our articles. We are very excited about this and would like to ask that our ipe deck followers start posting up pictures of your own deck projects! I would like to do a future article that includes a slideshow of our readers’ decks, so please help out, it’ll be fun! Thanks, Scott

    Ps…here’s a redwood deck we restored in September!

  73. nicole says:

    hi scott. ? for you. we live in key west. have just installed an ipe deck. pre grooved and used a clip system. used sealer on fresh end cuts. here is the ? with the extra wood we are making shutters. now cutting the boards at the ends and even long cuts. i think we should use end sealer on any cut we make end or long. but i can’t find the answer. when i research sealers everyone refers to end cuts. how about long cuts. lets say you have a 6 inch wide board and you are going to 5 inch wide. should i use end sealer along that new long cut? sorry if its a dumb ? but can’t find answer. thanks nicky.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Nicky, thanks for stopping by. I would oil them on all surfaces. I don’t think its necessary in that case to use a dedicated end sealer. Just oil everything. Let us know how it works out! Good idea by the way.

  74. Luis says:

    Hi, I have a 2nd story balcony made out Massaranduba wood (54’ x 4’). It was build in April 2013. At the time of installation, they lightly sanded the boards with 100 grit paper, cleaned them with a damp rag and gave them a light coat of Ipe oil with another rag on all 6 sides. At the beginning of the summer (June) the wood was looking vey dry on top and faded. I re-applied the Ipe Oil on the top again with a rag, I did not clean or bright beforehand. It looked great for about a month and then it started to fade and dry again. The balcony is only partially covered and it gets wet when raining. The outer edge of it looks blackened, I guess from dirt and possibly mold. I tried cleaning a couple of boards with a very light solution of warm water/oxyclean and a hand brush, all the gunk seems to come out but it leaves the wood with a whitewash look, not really sure why.
    Although Ipe Oil has positive reviews, and from what a have read on this and other sites, I don’t think it was correctly applied in the first place, it has not worked out for me. Nevertheless, I still have some Ipe Oil left.
    On the other hand, I read in another site that natural oil stains are food for the mold and algae and that is why is better to switch to water based stains like the Defy Hardwood, plus they are easier to clean
    I was thinking of washing it with “restore a deck” cleaner and re-staining it with the Defy hardwood. I was going to use a brightener but I have aluminum windows and doors underneath the balcony and I read that the brightener could corrode the frames. Not sure if that is truly the case.
    Given that the method of application of the Ipe Oil, Do you think the cleaner would be enough or would it be better to use a stripper? If that is the case, is the stripper safe for the aluminum frames? Sanding with 80 grit would be the last resort.

    I would greatly appreciate If you could please shed some light on what would be the best course of action for my situation.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Luis, it is not unusual for perimeters to weather (darken) differently than the rest of the deck. It is hard to diagnose without seeing it, but my guess would be that a deck cleaning (pressure wash) is in order, and a stripper is probably not necessary at this point. You have read correctly that oil can become a breeding ground for mildew or algae, but that is more likely the case when oil is applied straight over an existing condition, with no prep before hand. Please keep us posted.

  75. Lisa says:

    Hi, there is a correction to our previous comment. The porch was installed August 2012, not 2013. Sorry for any confusion.

  76. Lisa says:

    Hi Scott,
    We live in northern NJ and have been following your blog for quite some time. In August, 2013, we installed an Ipe tongue and groove flooring on our front porch (+/- 8’0″ x 22’0″), which is open on two sides, but covered. We followed all of your recommendations for the installation (oil all sides and ends of Ipe prior to installation; wipe off excess oil in timely manner; use Penofin Oil, etc.) It came out beautifully!
    Since we don’t want the silver grey look that comes with the natural aging process, this past Saturday (11/2), we followed your instructions once again. We used Cabot Wood Brightener to clean the porch floor. It did a fantastic job. Once it dried, we re-finished with the Penofin Oil.
    Unfortunately, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the person who was helping us. He did not remove enough of the excess oil. I didn’t realize it until the following morning. As you can imagine, this has left a large portion of the floor tacky. I spent the better part of yesterday (Sunday) afternoon trying to hand rub out the tackiness with a lint-free cotton cloth. This worked (somewhat) on two sections, however, the sun went down, the temperature dropped (to 40-45 degrees) and the center section is still very sticky/tacky.
    Is there any way to rectify this? The porch is our primary entry and I don’t want to track the sticky oil into the house or out onto the stone steps. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated.
    Thanks so much.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Lisa

      Thanks for commenting. That is a typical problem. It is possible to use a TSP (trisodiumphosphate) mix and a Scotchbrite pad to scrub out the excess stickiness (rinse thoroughly afterwords). You should be able to find this stuff at your local paint or hardware store. Please let us know how it goes!

      • Lisa says:

        Thanks for getting back to me Scott.
        I’m very familiar with TSP and will try it this weekend.
        A couple of more questions:
        1) Is it possible to use the TSP only on the section that has the sticky build-up or do we need to go over the entire porch floor?
        2) Once we remove the sticky build up of oil, do we need to re-apply another coat of the Penofin oil (obviously wiping it off properly)?
        Again, we’re very grateful for your help!

        • Scott Burt says:

          Lisa, you can use the tsp just where needed, and you probably don’t “need” to reapply oil, but it will depend on how hard you have to scrub. I would do these steps, then do a water rinse or wipe down, let it mellow out for a few days and see how it looks. Please keep us posted on your resolution.

  77. Marty says:

    I had an Ipe deck installed about 18 years ago in Michigan. It is at least 20 ft off the ground and made of 4″ boards. I cannot remember if it was sealed before installation or not. In summer it is shaded by trees and in winter covered with snow. Anyway I have not done anything to it in 18 years except blow off any leaves which accumulate! It is now showing dark areas. What can I do at this point? I would appreciate your advice.

  78. Scott says:

    Hi Scott,

    I live in Atlanta and just had a large square ipe deck built. Unfortunately the boards near the house immediately began to cup after a hard rain and a deck wash. The deck sits 8″ from the ground where it meets the house. Two sides of the deck are attached to the house. One side is a couple of feet from a privacy fence. And one side opens to the back yard. I’m worried the deck will continue to cup do to lack of ventilation.

    I’ve spoken with the company that sold me the material. They recommend I pull the boards up, air dry them to reverse the cupping, and Kerf cut three lines along the bottom of the boards to prevent future cupping.

    Material was not pre-finished on all sides but sealed with Messmers Natural after installation
    I waited 10 days after installation before sealing
    Board widths are 4 7/8″ – I had them cut down.
    Installed with Ipe Clips with stainless screws at a 45 degree angle
    Ground gradually slopes away from house

    Any advise on how to move forward would be much appreciated.

    Thank you,


    • One more thought. The current Ipe Clips allow for a 1/8″ gap

    • Scott Burt says:

      Scott, tough situation for sure. It definitely sounds like a lot of work to pull and kerf the decking. Without seeing it, I think my first concern would be fastener locations being compromised and losing purchase on reinstallation. 1/8″ is not much drainage. I think the best solution might be to install a grill strip near the house to facilitate drainage as it sounds like thats the most troublesome area. I have pictures of this type of set up from a recent deck restoration we did if you need a visual.

      • Scott says:

        Thanks Scott. I was thinking of creating grills would love to see your pics. Also, In your experience what’s the liklihood of cupping being reversed if pull the boards up and dry them out?

  79. Joshua Weir says:

    Hi Scott,
    I have learned many of the techniques you use with trial and error and a bunch of luck I’m sure. Anyway, I have been using BioShields products for some time now…their primer oil, penetrating oil and resin and oil stain finish. Pretty good stuff. 2 coats, prior to install, mostly on riped 1×6…making a custom 1×3. No issues, pretty standard stuff for us.

    Anyway, I’m installing a 1×6 deck now on reverse sleepers over an existing elastimeric deck. I am also a welder and have been fabricating stainless steel handrails next to the deck. As I have been grinding and cutting the steel the dust got on the deck, we had morning dew and now I have a blackened deck…looks like black stains, or little black dots from the felt tip pen. I have an issue. So, whats the best way to clean up the new ipe deck? Sanding with 80grit Rubin with the Rotex and my CT26 vacuum seams like your suggestion? Also, the client now wants the the 1000 sq ft deck oiled. Sounds like that will lead to cupping the more its oiled and not treated on all 6 sides? Any advice on getting the stains out (the decks not even all down, this is killing me) and also what to do for oiling in this situation?

    PS – Die hard Festool fan.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Josh, the safest bet would indeed be to sand, which is probably not a bad thing anyways. At that size, sometimes it makes sense to rent a upright orbital (floor) sander and hit it at a low grit, then vac and oil immediately. Oiling won’t necessarily lead to cupping, it is just one of the many potential contributing factors. Glad to hear that you have had good luck with Bioshield, I used it back in ’07 on a large custom interior (maple) and was not a big fan at that time. Keep us posted on your project. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  80. Scott Landis says:

    Scott: Very good info on ipe. We installed an ipe porch, with four or five ipe steps on our home in southern Maine. The deck at the top is about 4-ft. off the ground and the ipe boards are 4/4 thick x 5.5″ wide. The steps are 8/4 thick x 7.25″ wide. The whole business was installed about 10 years ago, with no finish. (We generally like the weathered grey teak look.)

    You’re absolutely right about narrow ipe’s tendency to cup. We experienced no cupping at all on the wider 8/4 steps, but mild cupping on the 4/4 top platform. And the two outermost planks in the platform have cupped quite a bit. Can’t figure out why the two outside plants cupped more than the rest, as they all have more or the less the same exposure to the elements. Of course, as they cup, they hold more water and tend to cup even more.

    The whole deck has weathered grey and it does indeed wear like iron (but without the rust). After 10 years of total exposure to rain, snow and sun, the wood is still solid and shows minimal checking or degrade. No rot. Over time, however, the grey has darkened with mold and dirt, and I’d like to reduce the cupping. This afternoon I took an orbital sander to the surface (100-grit discs), which has restored some of the reddish color. It’s not quite original, and there are still some dark streaks. (I’m sure I could have eliminated them, too, if I sanded more, but life is short.)

    My question goes back to the finish and prep. I pulled quite a few of the silicon bronze screws with which the planks were applied, because I didn’t want to sand the heads. But I really don’t want to pull the planks to get access to the bottom for finishing–with the possible exception of the two outside planks that heavily cupped.

    I’d like to avoid sanding the deck again, and would prefer applying something like Penofin Marine, if I can reapply it with minor prepping every couple of years. Do you think it’s worth doing, without yanking the planks to do the undersides? Or am I asking for further cupping, even after 10 years, if I only oil one side (and the exposed ends, of course)? And would you suggest using TSP and water to prep the surface for the Penofin after sanding?

    Should I have used a coarser grade sandpaper on the deck for better absorption of the Penofin? Thanks very much for any suggestions you can offer.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Scott, I’ll try to answer all of these questions in one fell swoop. Yes, I think 100g is a bit too fine. I wouldn’t go higher than 80. No, you do not need to clean after sanding (just vacuum with a dust attachment). A product like Cabot Wood Brightener wouldn’t hurt though. But, you can go straight to oil. No, I do not think it is critical to pull and flip the boards at this point.

  81. Terry says:

    BM worked great! Let me know how I can send a picture/



    • Scott Burt says:

      Terry (and all of our readers), we have added a feature that now allows readers to upload images right here in the comment section. Have at it everyone!

  82. Barry says:

    I just installed an Ipe deck myself – boy is that stuff hard to work with. I got a steal on the wood. It is a 2×4 tongue and groove, making it harder to work with. I just sanded it and I am ready to seal it. I was looking at the Penofin and I appreciate your comments. I have a friend in the hardware business who told me about a product called “Seal Once”. It is relatively new. Supposed to be a water based acrylic deep penetrating sealer – something about nano-particles. I like the idea of an old fashioned oil based time tested product like penofin but I am told that this new stuff is supposed too be great – certainly seems a lot easier to work with.
    I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestion

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Barry, being tongue and groove, I hope that deck is under a porch of some sort! Personally, and professionally, I wouldn’t roll the finish dice on a complete unknown product. There are very few waterbornes I would put on ipe, maybe one at this point. I really would steer you toward one of the better penetrating oils, based on experience. Keep us posted please on how you proceed! Thanks for stopping by.

      • Barry says:

        Thanks Scott. It is not under a porch, but it is pitched 1 on 12 to allow the water to run off. I will stick with the Penofin. Do you still recommend the Blue label V.S. The exterior hardwood?

  83. Terry says:

    Hi – had an Ipe deck installed on the front of our new house. It’s been about 6 months and I want to finish with oil to bring out the deep red tones. The deck has grayed in some areas and has “water stains” where water pooled after heavy rains.A few questions:

    1. Prep. – Should I sand or pressure wash or both?

    2. Should it use Penofin or Messmers oil. Local people (Wilmington, NC) recommend Messmers?

    3. How to apply: brush, pad or cheesecloth?

    4. How long will it take to dry (watching the weather)

    Thanks for a great blog!!!


    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Terry. It is hard to say, without seeing, but generally at just 6 months of weather, washing would be sufficient (with Cabot wood brightener or something similar). If that gets it, sanding is probably not necessary. If the stains are deeper, you may need to sand. I have not used Messmers, so cannot speak to that question. Brush is the best application method. At least 24 hours without rain or freezing cold would be best.

      • Terry says:

        Ok, I gave it a good cleaning with Benjamin Moore composite Deck Cleaner and a lot of hosing. Looks good.

        While at BM, the manager steered me away from Messmers Oil and recommended a fairly new BM Product called Arborcoat Translucent Stain. I told him I wanted to see the full Ipe color and not hide it with a “color”. He recommended the “natural” color.

        He claims this holds up extremely well to sun and weather. If a section of the porch takes a beating, touch up vs. redoing the whole porch will work with this product. Literature states that it is “specifically designed to enrich the beauty of woods like mahogany, teak and ipe.” The stain is a “blend of alkyd, acrylic and urethane resins.”

        Have you heard about this option?



        • Scott Burt says:

          Terry, I have put Arborcoat transparent (very similar to translucent) on lots of things from full on house restoration to veneered overhead doors to cedar rail systems, but have not put it on a deck yet. My understanding is that BM took woods like ipe into consideration in the formulation of this new translucent option. In theory, it sounds like a good option, but I have nothing practical at this point to base an opinion on. Let us know how you proceed!

  84. Steve Bortolussi says:

    I’m in the process of building a 600 square foot Cumaru deking here in southern Ontario, I was thinking of using TWP 1500 natural total wood preservative, have you any thoughts on this product?
    Thanks for the very informative blog

    • Scott Burt says:

      Steve, I have a colleague locally who uses TWP on exotic wood decks and he reports that his results for the past few years have been very good. Please let us know how it works out.

  85. Anna says:

    The contractor who just refinished our ipe porch and balconies screwed up. He was the one who originally painted them when the house was newly built, so we trusted he would use the right product. We came home to find that they had been stained with Deckscapes SW water based solid stain. Needless to say that the beautiful grain is gone and it is now covered in matte mahogany color. It is going to be a mess to have them stripped them now. What to do? If we keep this for a year or so and then strip them and coat them with an appropriate stain, is it going to cause any harm to the wood? Any suggestions are appreciated.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Anna, that is a bummer, sorry to hear that. Yes, let it weather out as long as possible before stripping and refinishing. The wood will not be damaged. Ipe is a smart wood, it knows that finish doesn’t belong on it, so it will pretty much reject it over time anyways. Keep us posted on your resolution please.

      • Anna says:

        Thank you Scott, I appreciate your input. Here is an update. I have three large balconies and two very small balconies. Over the weekend I decided to check how easy it would be to remove the stain with a stain remover (I disliked the uniform chocolate stain that much). It took about 6 hours for each of the small balconies, including stain remover followed by brightener and then by sanding with 80 grit paper. After letting them dry for a day, I coated them with Messmer’s UV Plus (light coat plus buffing) and they look like new, the wonderful wood grain is showing very beautifully. The contractor decided he would redo the large balconies, but does not want to go through the three step process, so they are just sanding and scraping. So far, it is coming out OK, but it is a very lengthy and messy job even for three guys.

  86. Clay says:

    Thanks, I appreciate it. I didn’t know whether there was some balancing between the protection from checking of even a topcoat of oil vs. the possibility that one-side-only-oiling imbalance might itself worsen cupping.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Clay, it is kind of a combination of both of those thoughts. The oil will just make it more difficult for the natural graying to occur, and may mess with dimensional stability, resulting in cupping.

  87. Clay says:

    Like so many others, I don’t know why I didn’t come across this site earlier … Maybe because it was only now that I searched “ipe oil”?

    Anyway, my small (10′ x 25′) ipe deck has just been built here in coastal NorCal, and the wood was not oiled before install – only end-sealed. It is only about a foot high, but built over sloped asphalt which will not be damp. No access from beneath of course. I want it to go to that gray look ultimately, but don’t care much how long that takes.
    In this circumstance, should I oil / treat the top surface only, or is that more likely to cause cupping? Install is countersunk 316 SS square-drive screws, countersunk.

    TIA for any guidance!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Clay, if you want it to go gray, I would not do any oil. Let it go naturally, it doesn’t take too long.

      • Mark says:

        First, thanks for taking the time to do this blog. It’s a great resource and those of us not close enough to you to do business with you are truly appreciative.

        I live on a coastal island in South Carolina. My 2×6 ipe deck is 3′ off the ground. When it was installed 6 years ago it was not sealed or treated unfortunately. Now on occassion my grandchild and other youngsters get splinters. I want to use the pressure washer, cleaner, and light sanding followed by Penofin Marine oil but obviously only 1 side is accessible. Do you think the application of the oil to just one side will cause cupping?

  88. Brian says:

    Maybe I’m the odd duck here, but I am more interested in the water-based treatments. It seems that oil is slow to absorb, gets tacky and you cannot reapply very quickly. Do you have any experience regarding water-based finishes? Any that you like?


  89. Dee says:

    We have had installed a IPE wooden deck at our home’s front (outdoor) porch recently. Its a very solid Brazilian wood and we love it! It was appropriately oiled (underside, edges, top surface etc)at that time.

    However, there are not lot of homes with IPE wood in our area, and so the painters and others folks we might use to get the job done will probably not be very familiar with the correct process for the annual maintenance job.

    So couple of quick questions in that regard:
    1. What is the material we should be using to prep the wood before the annual maint oiling in say a year from now? Any particular brand or product that you prefer?
    2. What is the process for prepping and then oiling the wood?
    3. Is there any particular weather (outdoor temperature) that would be ideal to get the job done in?
    4. Is the IPE company’s own oil good for use, or is there any even better product out there we might use on the wood?

    Thank you… Dee

    • Dee says:

      Hi Scott – I might also add – the first oil job (before installation) was done on an unsanded finish. (The guy who did the oiling thought it would look nicer with a natural unsanded look – which is why we left it as such). Thanks.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Dee, it is probably best to continue to use the oil that is currently on it. If you are inclined to change, we use alot of the Penofin Marine Grade oil. Depending on the exposure of the deck, you may need to pressure wash, cleaning with something like Cabot’s Wood Brightener. It will all depend on how it weathers. Usually either washing, sanding or both are part of the process. It is best to do when you are expecting a few days without rain.

      • Dee says:

        Thanks v much Scott. I will circle back to you in about a year when we are ready for our first annual maintenance job.

        But in the meantime, I did pick up other bits of advice from your previous post. These two options were to the question regarding how to do a maintenance job on a 2 year old ipe decking that was turning silver-grey.

        However, Since ours is still rich deep brown/red, and we hope to stay on top of it (!), would the instruction be any different for us if we never get to the silver-grey color on our deck in a year from now? And which of the two options would be the better for us in that case? (Note: we have not sanded the wood so far, but if it is advisable to sand it at least once, we are happy to do so).

        “One, apply Cabot wood brightener via a garden style pump sprayer and lightly pressure wash with the green tip (all pressure wands have a selection of color coded tips). Let dry for at least 24 hours. Oil.

        Two, sand at 80 grit on an orbital sander attached to a vacuum. We use Festool sanders and dust extractors, which eliminate all dust from the process, so no washing is required, and you can oil immediately.”

        Many thanks for sharing your expertise!

        • Scott Burt says:

          Dee, if you stay on top of it, option #1 may well be sufficient (in theory, without me having seen the exposure etc that the deck is subject to). Please keep us posted!

          • Dee says:

            Hi Scott – thanks for your great advice. The contractor who installed the IPE deck and will be maintaining it is happy to invest in the Festool sander that you recommend (he seems to be learning from my research off your site, about how to maintain the IPE decks he has been installing of late and is really happy at the new maintenance business coming his way!)

            So – he visited the Festool web-site and it looks like there are numerous options and available sanders. We have a straight forward 10 ft by 20 ft (=200 sf) porch with no particular difficult corners or edges. Is there any specific model you would suggest.

            Also just to confirm (from your previous comments) that: (a) you would generally prefer an 80 grit; and (b) having an attached dust extraction system.

            Thanks again for all your help!

          • Scott Burt says:

            Thanks for the feedback, Dee, and good for you! I would recommend that your contractor get the Festool RO125 sander, CT Midi dust extractor (vac) and a box of 60 and a box of 80 grit Festool Granat sandpaper for the sander. This should make for happy decks, happy customers and a happy contractor. Please, continue to keep us posted!

  90. debra says:

    hi scott,
    we just installed an ipe deck, in 6″ wide planks, it is 12″ off the ground, it has starting getting water stains from the sprinkler so i was wondering what we can do about it….it was not pre-finished/sealed at all, do we sand it? if so, do we have to do the specialty sanding i read about above? i am concerned with the cupping you talk about since it has not been sealed…what do you recommend as a course of action at this point? we live in southern California if the climate makes a difference in what we do…
    thank you!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Debra, depending on exactly how long the deck has been exposed, you may need to wash it with a wood brightener, such as Cabot’s – and/or sand the deck to best prepare it for finish. This would be the case if it has begun to turn gray. If not, do a sample of oil on one board and see how it looks.

  91. David says:

    Scott: Like your blog. Quick question. I have a red cumaru deck, several years old. One part has a lot of sun exposure and I used Messmer’s Part A and B to clear and brightened. I power washed. Applied Ipe Deck Oil. Great stuff but the coverage claims to get up to 300 square feet per gallon, 150 square feet for rough wood. This is 5/4 decking. I used a brush and it kept sucking it up without any real buildup. Tried it out on a couple of boards and came back the next day and reapplied because it looked so dry. It is supposed to be a one coat coverage but if it looked somewhat dry and patchy, even though it looks much better, is this normal? Is there any problem going over it with another coat so long as it does not get tacky and I wipe up. I am thinking that this area of the deck is just very dry. Other areas with shade have not required much at all. Any harm in brush it until it seems to absorb what it needs? The boards I recoated seem to look better and they are not sticky, etc. Of course, it just means the coverage description on the Ipe Deck Oil is significantly off.

    • Scott Burt says:

      David, thanks for stopping by, and sorry for the delayed response. Those coverage recommendations that manufacturers put out are just guidelines. Reality often dictates that application, and I think you are on the right track, from what you have described. As long as you don’t sense a film build up or extended tackiness or stickiness, you can keep throwing oil into the wood as long as it seems to want to suck it in. We run into that situation alot on porches, where part of the deck is exposed and part is covered. It is like finishing two very different decks at once. Please keep us posted on how it works out for you.

      • David says:

        Scott: That is what I concluded. Keep brushing it in until it looks good but does not shine. Pretty much two coats gets it. It really brought back the reds, yellows and browns in the red cumaru. Cost about $600 in product, which includes deck wash and brightener and about 9 gallons of Ipe Oil at $57 per gallon (no shipping costs). But I am happy, it looks great, and, hopefully, when I treat it the next time it won’t require two coats because of the penetration this time around. I previously used CWF Hardwoods, which is a water based product. I used it on all sides when it was installed new. But I am convinced an oil based product is much better. The Ipe Oil has low VOCs and it really did not smell very much after it was drying, although my wife did detect some smell. A couple of days of hot sun and it pretty much was gone. A lot of hard work but it looks great!

      • Jack Richardson says:


        I appreciate all of your comments regarding Ipe flooring. I’ve just installed tongue and grooved Ipe flooring to our new screened porch. We finished the Ipe with Floods CWF Hardwoods Cedar Tone Material (water based) The floor looks good but I really want a darker finish, what are my options now?

        Do I need to resand the floor and start over? What kind of stain would you recommend to use on the ipe for a dark finish color and what kind of top coat / sealer would you recommend. The area is totally covered.



        • Scott Burt says:

          Jack, you will at least want to scuff the floor. You can restain, but make sure to stick with a waterbase. Sample first. BM Arborcoat comes in a Teak tone that is pretty dark, that might be worth sampling.

  92. Linda says:

    Hi. You seem very knowledgeable and we are in need of advice. We have had our ipe deck for 5 years. We have pressure washed and finished it every year. We were told when it was installed that sikkens was the only way to go. We have found it almost impossible each year to get out the dirt and mildew as we have a heavy tree canopy and I expect too much sikkens. The work is too hard. We are trying to figure out a better way even if in the short run it requires more work. I have been tempted to just let it go a couple years, continuing to pressure wash, and try to clean off as much of the existing residue as I can. We would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Linda, thanks for jumping in and sharing your experience. Sikkens doesn’t do well on decks. (There, I said it). People sometimes recommend it because it is sometimes used on boats. The difference is, boats don’t sit stationary and completely horizontal out in the elements during all four seasons of the year. And, people tend to maintain boats with more tenacity than decks, so the Sikkens (or any film forming varnish type product) looks pretty good there. Your deck is in a bit of a catch 22 at this point. If you let it go, the Sikkens will fail, and you will be facing an ugly, labor intensive strip job (we strip failed Sikkens quite a bit). Meanwhile, you are putting an exorbitant amount of effort into maintaining the finish now, and it is not looking or performing to your satisfaction. Your example is exactly why I don’t recommend the use of film forming coatings on decks…I have seen too many people get to your situation where you feel like whatever you do with it now, you are throwing good money after bad. Wish I lived closer, I’d come take a look and advise more specifically.

      • Linda says:


        Thanks for your reply. I think we have decided to strip and refinish our ipe deck. Can you recommend a product that would be a good stripper for our situation? Also, it sounds like we should consider sanding as well to get us back to the original beautiful finish. I have read that you recommend 80 grit with an orbital sander. We probably won’t actually do the stripping and sanding until next spring but we would like to get everything planned. Any suggestions you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Linda, it depends on how weathered it is. If it is pretty weathered out, you might be able to just sand. If there is still alot of healthy finish, chemically stripping would be better. If that is the case, it is best to have that done by a pro, as the chemicals used for stripping are rather unforgiving and kind of dangerous to work with because they are very caustic (hot). In the spring, or even now, you could sand a board and see what you think. After sanding, wipe with paint thinner on a rag, and this will give you a good indication of how the board would look with oil. Be sure to saturate rag in water when done, and let it dry before disposing of.

  93. Thomas says:

    Armstrong Clark semi-transparent that is. By the way, I called and order from the company directly because we didn’t have a local dealer. FANTASTIC people there. Really liked the company!

  94. Thomas says:

    Separate question: Installed a 600sf kiln dried 5/4×6″ tight knot cedar deck last summer. Let it acclimate, then used a milz glaze cleaner and let it dry. Stained with a pad using Armstrong Clark transparent.

    During several heavy storms, when water was standing on the deck, I could literally scrape the stain right off the wood. Almost like a scratch ticket. Yet, all the stain on the rails and vertical surfaces look fine.

    So now, all the stain as worn off on the heavy use areas – stairs and the pathway from the door to the stairs – and I need to restain this summer. Any suggestions?

    Oh, and my installer did seal the edges. But he didn’t stain the sides or bottom. It’s an elevated deck but has 20 mil barrier between the joists to create drain troughs that empty into a hidden gutter. So the space below the deck is open, about 9 feet off the ground with direct exposure to wind, constantly. Do I have to worry about rotting? Is it okay to just leave the boards down? Someone else told me to pull them up and restain everything. Seems the labor in that would be darn near the cost of new decking itself. Thanks in advance, Thomas, Seattle

  95. Thomas says:

    Great site! I’m installing an ipe front porch/deck. About half is covered, half exposed, but not much sun. I live in Seattle so a lot of drizzle. Do you recommend Armstrong Clark as an equal to Penofin Marine?

  96. Bryan says:

    Have a stone patio with Ipe railing with stainless cable infill. What is best finish for handrail and vertical posts? Pennofin oil or some type of varnish? Is one a better maintenance alternative?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Scott Burt says:

      On the handrails, I prefer Epifanes matte finish, which is a marine grade varnish. Several coats, and maintain. Everything requires maintenance, but varnish on the handrails is better aesthetically and performance wise.

  97. Sylvie patrick says:

    I have water pressured my untreated ipe deck leaving marks. Also some parts are covered some part under the sun. So I want to recover uniformity and the original color. Help what should I do.

  98. CT-ref says:

    Hey Scott – I have a 900 sf Ipe deck in CT, built 4 years ago. Waxed the ends when I built it, had some floor guys sand it all perfectly level, since then have not done anything to maintain it. Weathered gray, only a bit of minimal cupping noted here and there, some mold/mildew nearest the house and entire deck is on the north side. Some morning or afternoon sun, sits under a big oak tree, so lots of pollen hits it over the year. I generally leave the snow on it for the winter, just shovel a path to get out the door.

    Ok, it’s time to bring back the original beauty of this large deck, none of the deck guys around here have any experience with this, they just want to treat it like every other deck they do.

    Reading through your postings, I have a sense of what you would recommend, but can you quickly recap, not sure if any of this particular info is enough to cause a variation in your approach. Which to me would be Clean with Brightener, power wash, lightly sand (pole sander or Festool?, 80 grit), treat with Penofins Marine Grade (wipe off the excess).

    Thanks in advance, great writing here.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Low pressure wash with brightener. Festool sand if needed. Penofin marine grade as you described, and then maintenance. There are other oils that also work very well if Penofin is hard to come by. Armstrong Clark, for example. Let us know how it works out.

  99. On The Level says:

    I have a deck that is PT with mahagony picture framing. Installed last year fall here in Ct.is the penofin Marine grade what you use on pt also? I really like the look of the pt and mahogany when it’s wet and would like the finish to duplicate that look, not the sheen just the color. I have used mostly Ben Moore alkyed oil on past decks but that has to much of a yellow tint. Also the mahoga greyed a little so I hand sanded but there is still some greying between grain how can I avoid it looking black when stain is applied. Do i have to sand till all greyin is removed railing height does no allow the use of orbital sander so….

    • Scott Burt says:

      Penofin doesn’t do much in pt, visually. Its almost like it goes too deep and gets lost. I would try a semi transparent stain like SW Deckscapes. In pt, yes it is a good idea to remove the gray. Washing with a wood brightener works well. Cabot makes a good one.

  100. Bob Cole says:

    I’m installing 5″ wide, 11/16″ thick T&G, with back relief, ipe on a roughly 11×40′ covered porch, in a humid inland environment (state of Maryland). The ipe is going over pressure-treated 2×10 on 16″ centers, about 2′ above ground, ventilated on three sides. There is a roof, but the posts are about 9′ high so a lot of weather gets in.

    I’d appreciate general advice, and have a few specific questions too:

    Fasteners: Stainless steel, trim head – but what length, and which specific type (there are many variations)?

    Moisture: EMC (equilibrium moisture content) is a concern. How close should I get before installing? And, am I trying to match the ipe to the pressure-treated joists, as well as waiting for the ipe to reach EMC? (I’m using the calculator at http://www.csgnetwork.com/emctablecalc.html)

    Buckling: Are there some steps I can take to prevent buckling? Should I allow some loose spacing of the T&G, and if so, how often?

    Weathering: It’s a wrap-around porch, and the exposure to sunlight varies a lot. I was intending to let it weather to gray, but am concerned about uneven weathering. Is this a case where treatment is a better option?

    Thanks very much!

    • Scott Burt says:


      Thanks for writing.

      1. I am not an installer, so I am not a fastener expert. I would check with your ipe supplier on the fasteners. One thing I will say, is counterbore them, so the heads are below the surface.

      2. If the ipe is below 10%, oil it on all sides as per this article, prior to install. Don’t worry about the pt, that will be shrinking for months.

      3. Generally, I have seen installers use the thickness of a screw basically to establish the gap between boards. This is key for drainage.

      4. Treatment is the best option for water/sun resistance, which will reduce checking, splitting, cupping and twisting over time.

      Let us know how it goes!

  101. Dan Lowenthal says:

    I am having an Ipe fence installed this week. How long, after the boards are prefinished, must they dry before being installed? Also, is there any particular way that they need to be stacked (or laid) to dry–or is leaning them up against the existing fence ok? Thanks in advance!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hope I am not to late with this, Dan, but 24 hours is usually adequate, and leaning them would be fine. How is the install going?

      • Dan Lowenthal says:

        Thanks so much Scott! One other question: my installers are asking if I want the edges mitered–should I tell them “yes”? The Ipe boards are being applied to the fence horizontally.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Dan, if you are talking about at the joints, yes, even a 22.5* “weather cut” would be preferrable to butt joints. Having not seen the design of your fence, I have to guess that is what you are referring to?

  102. Elaine Kohn says:

    Hi Scott,

    We pre-finished 4 sides of ipe. I was planning on having our painter here at the time of installation so that he could apply finish to board ends as they are cut.

    My question is: Is one application of penetrating oil sufficient for the ends or, should they be cut, then 3-4 coats of oil, then installed. It seems like a saw a post where the boards had started splitting on the ends and you advised to keep oiling and saturate the ends with 3-4 doses.

    Also, do the ends need to dry after being saturated or can we install immediately after the ends have been done?


    • Scott Burt says:

      Elaine, saturate with 3-4 rounds. Each round sucks in pretty quickly, so you don’t have to allow more than mere minutes in between rounds. You can install right away. It doesn’t require the services of a painter. A careful carpenter can handle the task, right at the chop saw.

      • Elaine Kohn says:

        Thank you Scott. I wish we could clone you here in Southern California.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Thanks Elaine, I think that is the nicest thing anyone said to me all week! Never been to Southern California…one of these days.

          • Elaine Kohn says:

            If you ever do come out this way, please email me first. We would love to show you around.

  103. Peter Galbavy says:

    As a slightly lighthearted interlude, here’s one thing not to do: http://cheezburger.com/7561946112 😉

  104. Elaine Kohn says:

    Scott: Penofin Verde is available, but we already used a product called IPE oil because it was the only oil based product I could find that seemed appropriate. I didn’t know the Penofin Verde is OK.

    Patrick: So near yet so far. Yes, you can buy Penofin Marine in San Diego County. However VOC laws prohibit its sale in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernadino and Riverside Counties. I guess I could drive to northern San Diego County and bring it back, but I’m not about to do that. Plus the deck is in Laguna Beach, one of the most strident of the green cities. The IPE oil was available at Austin Hardwoods in Orange County and therefore, I assume, is not prohibited by the VOC laws. The guy at Anderson Clark said he could loose his license by shipping to Orange County–and that product is manufactured in California!

    Scott: I see your rationale for using the same product on the ends. I’ve read that one should wait anywhere from 1 month to 4-5 months and then add a second coat of oil on the top. Do you know anything about this? Do you think there would be a problem if I added the Penofin Verde as a second coat or should I just wait until we are ready to do the annual maintenance?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Elaine, I probably wouldn’t get into mixing products early on. Wait and see how it holds up. If the current oil weathers out completely by next spring, change then. To your second question, when to recoat is completely a function of the weather exposure that the deck sees. Basically, if it is a harsh exposure and seems to fade out quickly, then an accelerated reapplication would be prudent. Just don’t overapply.

  105. Elaine Kohn says:

    Here’s the good news: I read enough to know that we should acclimatize the ipe and finish it on all 4 sides. We live in Southern California and practically every product recommended for ipe is not available due to the Southern California Air Quality control. I wanted to use Armstrong Clark which is made in California — but we live in one of the only 2 counties in California that have restrictions against them selling it here. So we used IPE Oil.
    Here’s the bad news: I didn’t find your website prior to purchasing the ipe — so I bought 1 x 6. Our joists are every 12 inches so hopefully the wood won’t cup too badly if we use enough screws.
    Here’s my questions:
    1. I know we should use 316 stainless steel screws, but what size and length should they be?
    2. How many screws would you use per board / joist — 2 or is it advisable to put 3?
    3. When the ends are cut should we use the IPE Oil or should we use the product that company makes called IPE sealer?
    I know nothing about construction, but our contractor is not that familiar with IPE and I’ve had to insist on just about everything every step of the way (e.g., the finishing on all 4 sides). We are getting ready to install so I hope you will have the time to answer my questions sooner rather than later.
    In closing I have to say this is just an INCREDIBLE thread on IPE and I only wish I had discovered it sooner. I don’t know why it didn’t come up on some of my searches. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with all of us. It’s truly helpful.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Elaine. Is Penofin Verde an option? It is 0 voc. Installation is not my area of expertise, but I have finished enough properly installed ipe decks to be able to suggest that I wouldn’t use less than 2 1/2″ screws on a 5/4×6 installation. I have seen both 2 and 3 screws used at each joist location. I am more of a fan of just using oil at the end grains than the special end grain waxes or sealers. Those always seem to wick up through the faces and leave a distinctive smudge at every butt joint. Keep us posted on your project, please!

      • Patrick says:

        Elaine, we just did an Ipe fence and our whole house in Ipe siding in San Diego. We used Penofin Marine and it is freely available here. Patrick

  106. George says:

    Wow Great information, Thanks
    I’ve got 4/4 6in tigerwood in shipment arriving in a few days. I had planned on sticker stacking it for about a week to acclimate to the moist air of the Seattle region, then installing it and finishing. I now realize I should finish all 6 sides before instalation. My question is when do I finish it? Can I finish it as soon as I get it and then let it acclimate, or do I acclimate it prior to finishing? Oh, and I do own a moisture meter if that would be of any use in your answer. Again thanks for the great information you have put up on the web!

    • Scott Burt says:

      George, sorry about the delay in responding. You are on the right track. Do some random sampling with your moisture meter, looking for an average of 10% or less. If you get that, proceed with oiling and racking to dry. If not, sticker and acclimate. Please keep us posted.

  107. Joe Dunbar says:

    Hello from North Carolina,

    I am getting ready to replace my back deck (faces north) with Ipe. Not only is there minimal sunlight, I am covering the deck with a new extended gable roof and enclosing the deck with Eze Breeze. Basically what I’m saying is that the Ipe floor will have minimal if any rain, sun, weather etc.. Additionally, I will be installing insulation under the Ipe wood between the floor joist as if the deck was being built as an additional room and code would require insulation, even though technically I am not building an addition and not insulating the walls.

    Once the floor is down and the Eze Breeze windows are installed, and the deck is more or less closed off, pressure washing etc is out. I’m really not interested in annual maintenance etc.. I’m very much a DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME type of guy, and when I do perform maintenance, in the view of many, i go overboard, if there is such a thing. Because of this “character flaw” of going crazy with maintenance and being a perfectioness, I don’t like maintenance. So my question, is Ipe the wrong product to be inside a screened porch with an area rug, air conditioning and heat? And what would I need to plan on for upkeep. I definitely don’t want greying wood and I am not into tacky wood, will the oils dry in the surface of the wood enough that a area rug would be ok to use? The room will be furnished with outdoor sofa, glider rockers, bistro table and chairs etc. (300 square feet) moving all of this furniture out anually etc to oil the floor is not impossible but not my idea of fun. dont get me wrong, some maintenace is fine, but reading this blog makes it seem that annual oiling is required etc. After reading your blog, it seems Ipe is basically a pain in the Arse, but I’m not ready to toss out the idea of using it yet. The floor will be 4″ strips and no gaps, it will be installed tight like a interior floor. if it were yours, how would you proceed. Thanks. Joe

    • Scott Burt says:

      Joe, sounds like a cool project. I would stay with penetrating oil as my finish. I think the deck will do pretty well as a floor in this scenario. We maintain a couple of screened in porches that are similar to what you are describing. With pressure washing not an option, you may end up needing to sand in a few years to prepare for recoating. Festool dustless sanding would be the option. Meanwhile, you should be able to annually oil with just a simple sweep/vac prep. Keep us posted please.

  108. Dan in Japan says:

    Greetings from Japan!

    Thanks for the information about caring for Ipe decks.

    I am in the minority of posters on your site, in that (I think) I like the look of silvery/grey aged Ipe.
    Our flooring in our house is a grey oak, and I think the reddish tones of oiled Ipe will not blend well.

    Our deck is 250 sq. foot. We will use 1.2 x 4 inch boards.
    The deck will get plenty of sun and ventilation, the climate is pretty moderate and dry here, so I’m not worried about mildew.

    I was hoping that I could achieve a nice greyish deck by simply doing nothing?
    Or do you recommend a type of oil that will allow for natural aging but keep the wood in top condition and to prevent stains from food spills, bird poop etc.

    Would annual pressure washing be necessary?

    I’m not adverse to maintenance if you think I’m making in a mistake in hoping I can do nothing to the deck.

    Thanks for your help.


    • Scott Burt says:

      Dan, you should be able to just let it weather out to gray. I would not use any artificial weathering agents. I don’t particularly care for this approach, but it is possible, and can be reversed most anytime down the road.

  109. Jim Shultz says:

    I live in Minnesota and just finished my deck with ipe oil. There are a few boards that are “tacky” and don’t seem to want to dry. Is there anything I can do?
    Now after your suggestion, I’ll keep a rag handy to wipe off any excess.
    Thank you…….Jim

  110. Rob says:

    Scott, thank you for all the great info and detailed responses! Wish I had found this before we started our small 5/4 x 6 tigerwood deck. I see that I am not the only one who wants to do this right!

    Here’s my dilemma, please bear with me!:

    We are in Seattle and started installing our decking in March, but did not do any prefinishing because we did not know any better and were trusting our contractor to walk us through everything correctly. We put down a few boards but had to put the project on hold because of life circumstances. Most of the boards (including the attached ones) were left exposed to the Seattle weather and have taken a rain/sun beating in the last 3 months. I have time now to get the deck finished and want to make sure I do it right by prefinishing all sides. I was planning to use Penofin 1st Step Prep and Penofin Marine. So here are some questions I have:

    1. Some of the boards have started cracking/splitting in the grain of the wood (some internally and some at the ends). I was not expecting this to happen with hardwood. Are these boards salvageable or do I need to avoid using them? Will the Penofin Marine help or hurt these boards?

    2. I also have some boards with mild cupping (on the good face side). Is there some way in the process to negate this (during drying or with stacking)? If the other side is acceptable, would it help to install with the cupping down?

    3. The deck is low to the ground and we are using Deckmaster fasteners as well as screws & plugs. Luckily, only 3 boards were put down with the Deckmaster so I will pull those off to finish correctly. But the deck “border” and stairs had to be attached with screws/plugs (no plugs yet) and the undersides are directly on the framing and not accessible. There is some mild cupping on some of these as well. Those borders run perpendicular to the internal decking and have been squared, so they define the correct length and spacing of the other boards. While definitely a pain, is it worth pulling off those border boards to get it done right? Basically, I would have to pull everything off then reattach and start again.

    4. I live in a townhome, so I do not have a lot of space to rack dry, and none indoors. Any ideas or tips for an acceptable way to dry the boards? I might be able to rig up a cover of some sort on the side of the house. I would assume it’s best to wait for a long stretch of warm weather without moisture. Should I prefinish all sides at once and lay them to dry with the undersides on the rack? Or should I finish and completely dry the undersides first and then turn them over to complete the faces? Any alternatives to an actual rack?

    5. Most of the boards have dirt and water stains now. There is also some roughness from the mill and in the wood grain that I want to remove. My process was going to be: Clean, sand, and oil. Do I even need to use a cleaner & brightener if I plan to sand (will both processes renew the wood the same)? If so, do I need both cleaner and brightener?

    Thank you in advance for any specific help/advice you can provide!!

    I’m sure I will have more questions arise, so I will continue to scour this page to find any previous answers/comments which are applicable to my situation.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Rob, to your questions:

      1. No, that is called “checking” and it is an indication that the boards are dry and need oil.

      2. Yes, install “crown up”.

      3. Kind of your call. I assume these are 6″ boards on the border? They are prone to cupping. The big picture “proper” move would be to pull them and finish all sides for the best shot at dimensional stability. From a practical standpoint, its a chunk of work. Your call.

      4. We use Erecta Rack to reduce the footprint as much as possible. There’s no real shortcut on drying. It depends on humidity. They might dry in 24 hours, enough to be stacked, or it could take 72 if it is humid. The key is to look for them to not be sticky prior to stacking or installing, and thats why the wipe during finishing is key. Don’t leave any excess film. I know a good paint company in Seattle that could probably prefinish the decking in a shop environment if you need a referral.

      5. You could just sand at 80 grit. I recommend Festool on that for best results, and dust free. This way, you don’t grind dust into the grain and get a cloudy finish. And you don’t get swirls from sanding.

      Hope this helps. Keep us posted!

  111. Shayne Manning says:

    Question that is related – your comment re Sikkens. We are getting ready to install Fijian Mahogany windows and doors from Loewen and planned on using Sikkens. Obvious some will be in sun (Cincinnati, high humidity in summer and low in winter). What is your suggestion for a low maintenance finish that will allow us to see the wood and require the easiest maintenance in the years ahead.

    thanks Shayne

    • Scott Burt says:

      Shayne, I think the best option both in performance and aesthetic would be a marine grade spar type coating such as Epifanes urethane matte finish. It is somewhat labor intensive to do the initial coatings (4 coats with light scuff sanding in between), but the annual maintenance is pretty easy (scuff and add a coat).

      • Shayne says:

        Scott: Thank you for the very prompt reply re our mahogany windows./doors.

        A related question re the Ipe lintels we are having fabricated of 4x12s laminated with 2×12 and 3x12s (depending on the detail) to form lintels from 5 feet to 21 feet long. Some of these are just decorative but some are structural and support a 5 inch stone veneer.

        We will coat all sides and ends with the Penofin Marine per your recommendations noted for decking before laminating. And flashing will be installed above the lintels. We will do the yearly resealing.

        I realize that all wood moves but this concept came from the historic stone houses that have wood lintels which is quite nice architecturally.

        Any additional recommendations besides following your deck recommendations?

        Thanks Again, Shayne

        • Scott Burt says:

          Shayne, on lentils and handrails I would recommend that you consider using a spar urethane. These are lower maintenance items that will hold up longer than the decks, which get pounded. I recommend Captains or Epifanes, both of which are boat quality urethanes. Do not, however, consider putting these on the decking…stay with the penetrating oil there. The urethanes are pricy but worth it on these types of details. Get a quart and sample it up. It takes about 4 coats, with scuffing in between to build a bomber finish.

  112. Garry Allen says:

    Scott there is so much good info here….THANKS!! I have a few questions if you would be so kind. With the Penofin Marine…do you HAVE to powerwash, or strip, or sand when reapplying the next coat? I would love to be able to just wash and bristle brush before reapplying. I have heard folks have good luck with the TWP 100 and that you can just wash and brush that and reapply. To summarize:

    1) Any thoughts or experience regarding what you must do for prep with the reapply of Penofin Marine?

    2) Have you used the TWP 100 and what would you think?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Garry, it varies from one situation to the next. If the deck has just faded, but not turned dark gray or black, you can just clean as you describe. We do encounter that situation in some of our maintenance accounts. TWP is a good cleaner. We do use it in some deck cleaning situations. If you do use it, be sure to rinse thoroughly.

  113. Sharon M. says:

    Hello, I have a 80 ft by 12 ft Ipe deck that is 7 years old and very high off the ground. We have never done a thing to it for fear of doing the wrong thing. It is obviously grey at this point. I did power wash it last year and in 4 weeks it looked like I had never done a thing. Unfortunately it is very rough on the railings injecting splinters in your hands if you run your hands along it. The floor boards which are 5 1/4″ wide are not nearly as rough. We are not at all happy with the grey but have been so fearful of having anyone come into finish it as we had heard horror stories of applying the wrong finish. So glad to hear you have so much info about how to deal with this glorious wood that is, as well, quite temperamental. Our deck faces the east and we live on top of a mountain in NY state that at times has it’s own weather. You probably get that in Vermont. It can get very windy and the sun bakes our back deck like you wouldn’t believe. Should we apply the Marine varnish (which we applied to some Mahoghany doors on this deck and didn’t last 1 year) or something else and …. how often do you suspect we will need to do it…..every year?? God help me. ;( I appreciate your help.

    • Scott Burt says:


      Wash the deck again, only this time apply Cabot Wood Brightener with a garden style pump sprayer first, then just rinse with a pressure washer. After it is dry, light sand at 80-100 grit. Apply Penofin marine grade penetrating oil, per the steps in this article. Maintain annually. On your rails, clean same as deck, only sand to 150 and apply Epifanes marine varnish matte finish with a brush, sanding lightly between coats (4 coats). This will make your deck look and perform well. I can definitely relate to the exposure you are describing.

  114. David says:

    We are doing a front porch project with wood 6×8 columns(treated lumber covered with a skin of exotic wood), I have recently been reading about ipe and am excited about the idea – until reading all the comments here. Is the maintenance as labor intensive as it appears here? If the columns grey, it will really detract from the overall appearance of the project. The original project called for painted permacast columns, but I love the look of wood. Am I biting off more than I can chew with trying for wood? Are there other woods that are less labor intensive to maintain?

    • Scott Burt says:

      David, in a horizontal orientation, such as columns, it will do much better. Also, in vertical orientation, you would also have the option of using different product types, such as Spar Varnish or Urethane. We have used Epifanes boat Spar matte finish on ipe with great results vertically (just not recommended on decks). Other good species would be mahogany or sapele.

  115. Dave Thompson says:

    I have a customer with a large covered ipe deck porch installed two years ago. The front steps and first 10′ go from absolutely no finish and starting to turn gray to very worn and then to spotty finish. The balance of the 30′ is generally in decent shape with a few dull spots. What should be my steps to re-oil? I am guessing only the top was finished.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Dave, we see that alot…different weather exposures on the same deck, especially on partially or fully covered porches. Best practice is to pressure wash the whole thing with a wood brightener and rinse thoroughly. When the whole thing is wet, that gives you a visual idea of how oil will look on it. From that, you can determine if sanding is necessary after it dries. It usually is not necessary, in which case, proceed with oiling. Sometimes we will return to freshen up the areas that we know will weather hardest – the areas that were gray before you washed.

      • Dave Thompson says:

        Thanks Scott, I am a transplant from Illinois where I did strictly interior painting. In Sunny Colorado I am learning the outside part of the trade. Is one of your recommended oils better for Colorado climate? And would you suggest yearly upkeep? The people I am working for have a gorgeous home and are not worried about cost but I don’t want to overdo it.


  116. Troy says:

    Scott, I followed your advice when building my deck – it has come out fantastic, and passed its first Indiana winter without any cupping. I went with 6″, 5/4 boards, picture-framed with ipeclip hidden fasteners.

    I want to put my kids portable swimming pool on it for the summer – one of those 8ft circular pools that stays up all summer. I’m not worried about the weight (this deck foundation is so overbuilt its crazy), but I am worried about the chlorine from the water staining the ipe. Do you see permanent damage to the ipe, or will it recover with another penofin coat?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Glad to hear the deck project went well, Troy. I have to discourage you from putting the pool on it, though. We have one of those pools at our house, so I know what you are talking about. While the weight may not be a problem, there are other issues that make it a bad idea. Your deck would weather all around the pool all summer, leaving you with a large circle, the size of the pool that is either brand new looking from being covered, or darkened by mildew from holding moisture between the bottom of the pool and the decking all summer. Also, the chlorine and other pool chems would tend to “spot” the deck around the perimeter and traffic areas to the pool. You would likely end up having to completely strip and refinish the deck after each season of hosting the pool on it. I wouldn’t recommend putting the pool on the deck.

  117. Christopher Jacobs says:

    I just had an Ipe deck built and it was finished about 1 month ago. Unfortunately the contractor did not pre-treat the wood, but the decks are high enough for me to get under them. I am in Portland, OR so it is still raining quite a bit. I have 3 questions:
    #1 Should I climb under the deck and treat it now, or is it too late?
    #2 I don’t mind doing maintenance so what should I use on the top of the deck to make it look its best with the grain and luster?
    #3 Should I apply the same material on the under side of the deck where appearance is not as important or should I use something that is more robust and lasts longer.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hello Christopher,

      What product was used on the faces when it was finished upon installation? This may effect some aspects of my answers below, but generally:

      1. It’s not too late. If you are up to the task, it’s cheap insurance to help prevent cupping.
      2. You should use a penetrating oil with transoxide pigments, such as Penofin Marine Grade Oil or Armstrong Clark.
      3. Yes. The boards are most stable when they have the same type of coating all the way around. From the topside and bottom, be sure to get the side edges of the boards as best you can so that all edges are sealed.

      • Christopher Jacobs says:

        I am pretty handy with a spray gun. Can I spay on Penofin Marine Grade Oil on my Ipe deck or is there a more preferred way to apply it. If there is a more preferred way, could you give details of this application procedure?

        • Scott Burt says:

          Do not spray it, Christopher. For many reasons, which would be enough to write another whole article about. For application, brushing the oil on is best, and then wiping off any excess oil that does not penetrate the wood, within 15-20 minutes. Depending on the length of your deck, and the pace at which you work, this may mean brushing 3-6 courses at a time, and then going back to wipe off excess. Just don’t get so far ahead of yourself that you can’t reach back to where you started, because you definitely don’t want to walk on the wet oil. Hope this helps.

          • Christopher Jacobs says:

            Had an Ipe deck built about 3 months ago by an established professional deck builder. I treated my deck with 3 steps. I used Penofin’s cleaner, then the brightener, and finally the Penofin Marine Grade Oil. Before applying the oil the boards all looked a uniform grayish white. After applying the oil there was a tremendous difference between boards. Some were a rich brown, some marbled, some a yellow white. Looks ugly now. I carefully followed your and Penofin’s website video instructions such as doing smaller sections and wiping of the excess with a clean rag.
            Two questions:
            1. Is this a common problem with Ipe, and what can be done to get that beautiful uniform color I see on your and Penofin’s web site.
            2. Would a picture of the deck be helpful in your evaluation, and if yes, how can I email it to you.

          • Scott Burt says:

            Hi Christopher, good questions:

            1. On many of the decks we do, the ipe is carefully “culled” and selected for uniform color. But, ipe generally has a good bit of color and grain diversity, as you described. I actually find the diversity to be quite pleasing, its part of the beauty of wood as an organic building material. If you prefer a more uniform look, there are really only a couple of options…you could try to track down a semi transparent oil based stain with a mahogany, ipe or cedar tone. If you go this route, make sure it has high quality trans oxide pigments. The easier option would be to just let it weather. It will take on the original tone you described, and then over time, slowly weather out to a silvery gray. To me, the non-maintained silvery gray look is kind of a shame for such a beautiful grained exotic wood species.

            2. Not necessary at this point, I know the look, and (as above), I like it!

  118. Andy Crichton says:

    Hi Scott, a wealth of interesting information, great resource.

    For UK readers I would echo Owatrol UK as the first place to go and seek advice on specs for oiling and finishing ipe.

    As you say at the start, wooden boat owners are in the main, wired for maintenance. On a boat deck, twice weekly cleaning with a soft mop and salt water is the “correct” approach, that would keep untreated teak silvered and in top condition for many years. When the owners want to digress from the natural look, that is when the expense and complications come along.

    Ipe isn’t used as decking on boats, but if you can get your message across to homeowners about how to set up their ipe decks right in the first place, the incidence of mental amounts of reparation not preparation should drop and save folks a lot of time and money and hassle. Long old job though!

  119. ken says:

    Just finished refinishing the ipe decking. After all the research I decided to approach the refinish procedure as refinishing a piece of furniture and not merely decking: Cceaned with deck wash, scrub brush and 3M pad, rinsed with water from a hose (no power washing); let dry then sanded all the boards; vacuumed these clean; wiped the surface with acetone then brush applied Penofin and wiped off the excess. Very pretty. I was afraid by not using a “deck brightener” I would not be able to renew the original ipe coloring but not to worry: the color, except in a few spots, came back to not new but “new with a patina.”

    Thanks for your advice and encouragement.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Sounds great Ken. Ipe is rewarding that way, it comes back really nice. When I hear all these stories it makes me want to start a gallery of our readers decks here on the site.

      • Randy says:

        My contractor just finished our Cumaru deck last Friday and the end result was amazing. The deck looks like a show piece and thanks to your forum, I made sure my contractor oiled all four sides of the Cumaru before he installed the decking boards with ipe clips. I hope you create a website, where we can show off our decks.

  120. Thomas Persch says:

    We have a turntable for historic operating trolley cars. The turntable has an ipe deck. Unfortunately the historic trolleys splatter grease on the deck. When the deck is power washed to get the grease off, there is a residual black stain. How can the stain be removed or is there a topping stain or caoting that can cover the stains?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thomas, hopefully the ipe was well sealed initially. There is no way to really cover the stains. You would have power wash/sand probably to remove or at least reduce them. Sounds like it would be a constant battle. Is there any way to put some sort of rubberized matting down in the areas that get the most spatter?

  121. Rick says:

    Scott, thanks for all the useful info. I have oiled my 2 year old deck once, using Messmers UV. It is no longer sold locally. Penofin is available locally but only the Premium product. Can I go over the Messmers with the Penofin? Is Penofin premium OK to use? Thanks.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Rick, yes and yes. As long as you clean/prep as needed, you should be fine using one penetrating oil over another. As long as it is a penetrating oil. You may also want to check out Armstrong Clark.

  122. Randi says:

    I am very concerned that my IPE deck is ruined. My inexperienced contractor, applied a
    Benjamin Moore Premium Exterior Stain Exterior Deck and Siding Stain- Alkyd Translucent (326). This is after I explained to him it is IPE wood and only use IPE type oil. Now, I have a dark red stain on my deck. He also did not apply correctly and there are paint brush marks, bubbles etc.
    He has tried 2 times now to strip the deck back to the beautiful ipe wood using a benjmin moore stain remover. He is coming back to apply the remover a third time.

    Do you have any suggestions to save my deck?

    Thank you.

    • Scott Burt says:

      It doesn’t sound like this is going well at all, Randi. Sorry to hear that. Given your situation, it is difficult to make suggestions without seeing what is going on at this point. (I have a pretty good idea how it probably looks). Do you have the ability to provide a link to pictures of the deck in its current state? If not, feel free to email me a couple at vermontpainter at gmail.

    • Randy says:

      I would have your contractor replace all your Ipe decking boards.

      • Scott Burt says:

        That would be nice, but not practical or probable. It can be corrected, its just really important that it get done right at this point.

  123. Jack Straw says:

    Would you suggest a different/better option? We considered composite posts. Thanks.

    UVM ’86

    • Scott Burt says:

      Cedar is fine. It is a little soft, especially in relation to ipe. Composite is nice in the sense that it doesn’t even rot, but isn’t quite the right “look” for your situation. Mahogany is very pretty and appropriate, and visually would oil quite similar to ipe if thats an option.

      • Jack Straw says:

        I went to the lumber yard yesterday to view the railing system and simply could not justify putting “plastic” on wood. The contractor will not be happy, but Ipe it is. No new bikes for the kids this year.

        You strongly recommend Penofin Marine, but the contractor likes Sikkens. Friends with an Ipe deck swear by TWP. I also here Clark Armstrong and Ipe Oil are a fine products. The deck will get morning sun and that is about it. No wind either. Will it really make much difference with any of these?

        • Scott Burt says:

          It depends which Sikkens product he is referring to, Jack. See Rule #1 about film forming coatings. If it is a penetrating oil, it is probably ok to proceed with. I do like Armstrong Clark as well, very nice products. Whichever oil you go with, it is going to require maintenance. Ipe on the rail system might be overkill…and I can sympathize with your contractor on difficulty to work with in that application. It depends how critical your eye is and how important it is that rail system closely match the look of your ipe. Red cedar is in the ballpark visually. Mahogany is much closer in color and typical grain pattern, and much easier to work with. On the bikes, that is why it is pronounced “eeepay”!

          • ken says:

            From my experience as a finisher mahogany is a great choice and, if finished carefully, has a nice “feel” for a railing system.

          • Scott Burt says:

            Totally agree, Ken, on both counts. I have been working some mahogany screen doors in our shop this week with Spar Varnish. Mahogany is stunning. For those interested in viewing, you can see pictures on our company facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Vthomepainters

  124. Jack Straw says:

    Like everyone else, I simply cannot thank you enough for your time and expertise. We considered building a composite deck for maintenance reasons, but after doing more research, quickly decided upon Ipe. The contractor would like to use cedar railings. What would you suggest?

    By the way, I attended UVM and never wanted to leave. Very beautiful part of the country where you live.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Jack, we maintain one porch that has this combo. It makes for kind of a two tone look which can be appealing as long as you understand that cedar cannot be made to look like ipe. On the one we maintain, the ipe gets Penofin Marine and the cedar gets a Cabot semi solid oil stain. What year were you at uvm? It is still wonderful here.

  125. Eric says:

    Hey Scott, great website! I really find your site helpful! I’m building a deck here in Minnesota and am using IPE 5/4 x 6 deck boards. I have a few questions and I apologize to you and other readers for the redundancy of them:

    1. Do you recommend using the Penofin Marine product even here in MN? Do you have any opinion on Ready Seal or the Penofin for Hardwoods products?

    2. I plan to screen-in underneath the deck and would be putting a screen on the tops of the deck joists before laying down the IPE. Are there any potential problems with the IPE coming in direct contact with the screen? Any other potential problems?

    3. I see you recommend sealing all sides of the decking, how often do you suggest sealing the underside of the deck boards? Also, the lumber yard recommended using a product called Lock-Seal on the ends of the boards. Do you recommend using the Penofin Marine instead?

    4. I’m considering using the CAMO system for attaching the IPE to the joists. Do you have any opinion or experience with this system?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Eric, thanks for your kind words and for participating in our epic ipe discourse.

      1. Haven’t been to MN, but I don’t see why you shouldnt give it a go. Ready Seal is good product. I have used it on cedar and pt, but have just never put it on ipe.

      2. What is the purpose of the screen? Not sure I like the idea from a drainage standpoint, but I dont think there would be any ill reaction between ipe and screen.

      3. Yes. I have worked behind carpenters who use the special end grain stuff, and it almost always creates some weird residual.

      4. I love hidden fasteners because it makes maintenance much easier, and visually looks alot nicer.

      • Eric says:

        Thanks for the response Scott! Just a couple clarifications to your response:
        1. Would you prefer using Penofin Marine over Penofin for Hardwoods?
        2. The purpose of the screen is to fully “screen-in” underneath the deck (bad mosquitos in MN). How often do you recommend sealing/oiling the underside of the deck boards?
        3. So should I avoid using the end-wax altogether and just use the Penofin sealer on the ends. Will this have the same affect of protecting the ends from checking?
        4. A lumber distributor thought I would be safe using 4/4 thickness instead of 5/4. I’m building a 16’x27′ deck and will have 12″ OC deck joists. I know IPE is a darn strong wood but what are your thoughts about the recommended thickness? With the size of the deck we may have lots of people on it at one time so I want to make sure we’re ok. Thoughts?
        Thanks Again!

        • Scott Burt says:

          Eric, my opinions on your questions are:

          1. Yes. We have had better luck with the Marine formulation.
          2. We find that its rare to ever need to reapply to the bottom sides. They get little exposure. Ultimately, sun is a key component in fading out oil. Undersides usually get no sun. We do service upper balcony decks that are visible. They may get dirty and require cleaning, but rarely reapplication of oil.
          3. Not a fan of the wax. I recommend and use oil in the end grains. You have to saturate them though with 3-4 doses.
          4. I would prefer 5/4 for stability. Have been on 4/4 decks that, even though they are ipe, feel a bit spongy. Not like they are going to break, but flex is undresirable.

          Hope this helps. Let us know how it goes.

          • Eric says:

            Hey Scott, thanks for all your help I need some quick advice please! Well the IPE arrived today, just in time to seal it over Memorial Day weekend! 450 sq. ft. of decking to tackle!
            It looks like the distributor got a little messy with the wax on the ends and it dripped onto some of board faces. I’ll likely be trimming the ends during installation but it’s the wax on the face that I’m concerned with. I also noticed some rough areas and marks from the bands that were used during shipping on the board faces. Can I sand these areas before applying the Peno Marine? If so, what grit sand paper should I use? I read somewhere that sanding prior to sealing can remove the “nap” and not allow the sealer to penetrate. Thoughts?
            One more question, as you know from my previous posts, I’m using the CAMO hidden fastener system. The manufacuter has both SS screws and their own coated screws. Any thoughts on using one vs. the other? I was concerned that the “coating” may leach and discolor the wood.
            Thanks Much!

          • Scott Burt says:


            This is fairly typical, and most of the time we sand prior to prefinishing, for these reasons and others. Orbital sand at 80 or 100 grit to cleanup is a good ida here. It actually takes out any mill glaze effect and opens the wood for the oil. I would recommend this. Identify which sides are going to be the faces and sand them completely. I don’t have enough knowledge of the fastener systems to be able to advise there, but my gut feeling would be similar to yours. Let us know how the process goes. Take pictures. We do plan to get a gallery going for our readers who contribute to this article. Good luck! (And be sure to dispose properly of your oily rags).

          • Eric says:

            The 100 grit sanding worked perfectly and the boards look awesome after applying the Penofin Marine! Two more questions:

            How long should I let the boards dry/rack before I can start stacking them in my garage until I’m ready to install them? I’ve allowed each side to dry 24 hours so far.

            I know you mentioned I should seal the cut ends with Penofin Marine instead of using an end wax like Anchorseal. I’m just a little concerned that not using end wax will allow the boards to have a higher chance of checking. Will the Penofin Marine work just as well?

            Thanks Much!!

          • Scott Burt says:

            Eric, glad to hear it went well. 72 hours minimum before stacking. Or, as long as it takes for them to not feel the least bit tacky or sticky. Using the wax on the end grains is fine, just be sure to keep it super clean and don’t get any on the faces. Keep us posted on your progress!

          • Eric says:

            Thanks Scott. The boards are not tacky at all after 48 hours.
            The deck framing is done so I’m ready to start laying boards. How long after I seal the boards should I wait to install them? The same amount of time you recommended before stacking the boards or can I begin laying them after 24 hours?

          • Scott Burt says:

            If they are not tacky, you can go for it, Eric.

          • Eric says:

            Scott, I just finished laying about 30 prefinished (with Peno Marine) deck boards. I routered the edges and sealed them with Peno Marine before I screwed them into place. I let the Peno soak-in for about 30 minutes, wiped excess, then reapplied before I screwed them into place. I noticed the other day that the cut edges are starting to check/crack a bit. Any suggestions? Should I try and reapply more Peno on the edges (between the cracks abit) or should I just use the Anchor Seal on the remaining boards? Since I’m routering the edges I’d hate to have the wax show but I’m also concerned about the checking. As always, thanks for the advice!

          • Scott Burt says:

            Eric, work more Peno into the checking. The wax is not so good on anything but end grain.

          • Eric says:

            So just to be clear, you recommend using end wax on the end grain? I thought the ends could be sealed with peno? The fumes must be getting to me 🙂

          • Scott Burt says:

            Personally, I am not a fan of the wax. If its my call, its oil in the endgrain. I may have misunderstood or misread, but I had the impression that you were already using the wax for end grains. If thats the case, I don’t fight too hard to talk people out of it, but I definitely advocate strongly for keeping it off any other part of the board. If you are not using the wax, don’t.

  126. Bryan says:

    Bryan, I am very concerned now that I have read your comments. I just installed a deck (22’X8′) with rap around stairs around the whole deck (4 steps). The deck is 1X6 and the steps are out of 1X8 IPE.

    I used a hidden fastner system (brackets and screws) for the steps and am using a clip system for the deck.

    I did not prefinish the boards and I have already noticed some peeling up on some of the boards. I was able to sand these out and have applied some IPE oil to the steps but only on the top and sides.

    My immediate concern is I did not wipe off all the excess oil and now there are some tacky spots. What is the best way to remove these?

    I am also concerned about the stability of the boards especially the 1X8. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.


  127. Steve says:


    As many have said before me, this is a very informative thread; thank you for maintaining it.

    Here is my deck issue. I live in Seattle and have an Ipe deck off of my house which sits underneath my neighbors fir trees. Annually, I have been reapplying Penofin Hardwood oil but the area under the fir is a collection point for sap, dirt and needles. It seems as if the finish holds on to the dirt and sap requiring me to pressure wash the whole deck to clean it (I am fairly confident that I wipe thoroughly, but maybe not).

    My questions are:
    1. Would the Marine finish behave any differently?
    2. To remove the sap, do you have any recommendations to cleaning other than pressure wash? I am hoping not to have to pressure wash each year (as someone has said before me, this gets old as I get old).
    3. How important is the use of a cleaner or brightener in the adherence of these oils?
    4. Any other suggestions?

    Again, thanks for sharing your expertise.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks, Steve.

      1. Yes, it would probably perform a bit better in the environment you describe, and resist the organic matter more effectively.

      2. It’s probably not much easier physically, but you the good old fashioned bucket and scrub brush method would work. Sanding is not really an option here because of the sap, but sanding is a very preferred method for deck maintenance in general.

      3. In the maintenance cycle, very important to remove any foreign matter prior to applying the maintenance coat.

      4. Ask the neighbor to prune or remove the tree? :/

  128. Peter Galbavy says:


    Great blog and excellent comments and follow-up. Thanks.

    Now, for my issue; I am in the UK and had an ipe deck built on my sloping garden about 3 years ago. I guess for someone from North America this would be a small deck – about 8m x 4.5m (maybe 500sq ft?). The contractors recommended a South African product called Rystix as it is formulated for hard woods like ipe. This may be like the Sikkens you mentioned. Initially it looked great but was only treated on the exposed surface and in the foot traffic areas moisture has penetrated and the “film” has been worn away and some mold/lichen/whatever has stuck in the damp conditions.

    I have been putting in conduit under the deck recently and decided to replace the original screws with stainless steel ones anyway so I will be lifting the boards once the weather gets a little better. I want to take the opportunity to “do them properly” while I can. From reading this page I guess the best would be to pressure wash the lot first, sand away the bulk of the remaining coating and then finish all 6 sides of each board as drying/racking allows. In some cases I may see if turning the boards over will give a better visible finish too – is this advisable or not? I am also happy to buy a few replacement length of ipe (it’s 6″ BTW) for the few lengths that have got visible damage – like slight cracks and splinters.

    Your favoured/recommended marine oil is not available in the UK – so what in general should I look out for? A product called Liberon Decking Oil gets good reviews but I have no direct experience. I want to avoid the Rystix since it seems great for hot/high UV climates like SA and Oz but not very hard wearing for damp, grey ones like London 🙂

    Any and all advice greatly appreciated.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Peter. In your situation, I would recommend investing in one of the Festool Rotex sander/extractors to maintain the deck. That would be the quickest and easiest way to remove the remaining film of finish and any discoloration. You could quickly strip and refinish, dust free. As to oil, I still recommend a good penetrating oil where possible. Can you get Watco teak oil? Or, we have also been having good luck with Arborcoat oil modified from Ben Moore if you have a supplier, it is products #636 and 637.

      • Peter Galbavy says:

        I have been looking at what is available in the UK and it appears that Owatrol D1 deck oil is well regarded. I have ordered 1l (quart?) samples of their stripper, neutraliser and D1 oil to test – but also having a detailed conversation with one of their guys it seems that the “D1 Pro” product may be better for Ipe but that costs more and is not available in the smaller containers. I’ll see how my testing goes before committing either way, but I am hopeful.

        Now just for some decent weather to let me work outside.

  129. alka says:

    Last two years messmer UV Oil was applied and deck is now black!
    Applied excess and not wiped down. how to strip oil?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Alka, it depends how much of it weathered out. If it is still thick and sticky feeling, thats a mess. But if it did weather as it turned black, a combination of pressure washing and sanding will work.

  130. Dave says:

    Hi Scott,
    I just had a contractor build an 8′ x 8′ IPE deck for my lanai in the north shore of Kauai (on the coast exposed to the elements- tons of rain, wind, salt water). I don’t think he did any prep work on it as we were thinking of leaving it unstained. We are now considering a sand and coating of WATCO Teak Oil (and follow up annually). The reason / goal, is to sand away much of the marks and scratches + maintain at least some of the new wood richness and color and perhaps minimize mildew that I’ve seen on IPE decks in Kauai.

    Any thoughts on what I should do at this point – for sanding and finishing? How about maintenance? Thanks again…great website you have!


    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Dave. On the sanding, I would recommend Festool sanders and extractors, so that you are not exposing yourself (and surroundings) to all the airborne dust. The abrasive grit will depend on how badly weathered the decking is. 80 is a good place to start. For maintenance, once you get it right this time, going forward you should be able to just scuff and recoat. It is worth investing in a good sander and vac set up. Let me know if you need recommendations.

      • Dave says:

        Ok- thank you. And for the finish in the harsh island elements? What is the best oil- Penefin or teak oil? Also it was built a couple weeks ago and currently has no treatment I guess we should expect some movement? Thanks again.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Dave, Penofin is good, but you have to be sure to prepare properly prior to application and then maintain it at least annually. Good luck.

  131. Jed says:

    Hey Guys:

    Such a great website that is full of useful information!

    The time has come to re-floor our covered front porch located in our victorian home in Maryland (decent temp and humidity swings through the year). My wife is leaning toward a tongue and groove PVC porch floor, but I’m trying to convince her to go w/ tongue-and groove ipe. A few questions:

    1. given our climate, is T&G ipe a bad decision? should I just use regular deck-style boards to avoid checking, gaps, etc. due to moisture, temp, etc.? If going w/ the T&G, I assume the 4″ is a better choice than the 6″

    2. I’ve had a few contractors agree w/ the all sides coating, but a few mention that coating the underside of deck/porch boards is a bad idea (unless topcoat is maintained religiously), b/c any moisture that would get in gets trapped by the bottom coat, causing premature problems?

    3. Is annual maintenance (washing and oiling) sufficient in a covered application like ours, or is Spring/Fall necessary? I believe I read it’s a matter of washing, re-oiling w /no sanding necessary, correct?

    Thanks very much for your time and a great resource!

  132. Eric says:

    Hi Scott,

    I have a contractor building a front porch, which will have an ipe floor. The porch will be covered, but there will be an uncovered landing on the stairs with ipe also. My contractor has suggested Sikkens, but based on my research it seems that Penofin Marine may be a better product. A couple questions – my contractor said that if he stains all four sides, he would do this indoors since it is currently 40-50 degrees in virginia… in which case he would need to cut the wood after installing. He said that cutting the wood may cause it to splinter and he will need to apply a touch up coat after installing it, which won’t look great. He suggested installing, then applying the stain when it gets warmer, but only on the top. What are your thoughts?


    • Scott Burt says:

      Prefinishing all sides is absolutely best for dimensional stability, to resist cupping. You can do it outside in those temps. Just be sure to wipe thoroughly and use a proper drying rack. If he uses a good quality blade (and sharp) splintering will not be an issue, and it is standard procedure to put oil in the cut end grains. Not a fan of the top side only application of penetrating oil or stain. And not a Sikkens fan.

  133. George says:

    Hi Scott,

    This is a great site!
    Have you used Woca Exterior Oil or Woca Decking Oil Exclusive? It is water based. I would appreciate your opinion.


    • Scott Burt says:

      George, thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I have used woca trip trap but not for many years. I remember it to be a good but pricy product. Have not used any woca in any exterior app.

  134. Ken Anderson says:

    Scott, I have done a fair amount of ipe, myself. But we do use Australian Timber Oil with a lot of success, but using the following cleaning/prep technique: after a light cleaning with a neutral based cleaner (like a sodium percarbonate), we allow to dry, then a solvent wipe with lacquer thinner or a denatured alcohol and apply the oil, ever so lightly within 15 minutes.
    I will say that the maximum amount of time for recoating is definitely 2 years. This is highly labor intensive, but our customers love the result.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Ken. It is good to hear that from a reputable professional, and I think you are correct that the success of the coating is in the prep. Thanks for you sharing your steps with our readers. I think part of what has shaped my perception of that product is that we have been brought in to remove failed attempts at it by others, which failed more than anything due to improper prep – mostly not removing mill glaze from the ipe prior to application. On occasions where we have used ATO, it has not failed, just weathered out. Labor intensive indeed, but many of the best wood finishes are, and high maintenance. Thanks for stopping by, hope you have had a good year and a bright looking ’13 on the radar.

  135. Robert Andrus says:

    Hi Scott,

    I have three red palau balconies, the wood is marketed in L.A. as “mangaris.” I installed it three years ago, just cleaned it and brightened it with the Penofin system, it came back looking great, then put Penofin Hardwood oil on it and it turned many of the boards a very very dark and ugly color, almost black. I was very careful in applying it, let the wood dry well for 3 days in hot dry weather, didn’t apply it in the sun, etc. I called Penofin, they said it was due to the wood. These results were similar to what happened the first time I put it on. I assume it’s because of the Penofin, the local dealer who sold me the stuff has no clue. Do you have another product you recommend or any clues about why this happened? The Ipe Oil company said their product would not do this but no one here uses it and so feedback is very scarce. Any thoughts?

    Thank you,


    • Scott Burt says:


      As you can see from the dozens of reader comments and questions, decks have tons of variables that play into the success of their finish, and exotic wood decks are the trickiest. You might check out Armstrong Clark, Messmers, (I’m personally not a huge fan, but) Sikkens. Another option, which has gotten mixed reviews but we have been impressed with so far, is Arborcoat transparent/clear, which is an oil modified. I just sanded out the 2 year old cedar veneered carriage house style overhead doors on our shop, converting them from penofin to arborcoat.

      Sometimes, certain pieces just go really dark with any oil. Generally, most people don’t mind the diversity of grain and tone. If its excessive, or just plain ugly, you should do some experimentation by sanding out just one of the dark pieces and doing some new product sampling on them.

  136. Hugh Huston says:

    Hello Scott,
    Trying to clarify what I think I’ve learned on your excellent site.
    Working on our dream ipe deck. 2,000 sq ft of new 5/4 pre-grooved all clear deck in 12 foot lengths. We see that 4 inch is safest choice to avoid cupping, but prefer to use 6 inch if it can be managed. If we pre-finish with Penofin Marine Oil on all 6 sides can we avoid cupping? Should the new ipe be sanded or cleaned be first treatment. Is there a very best hidden fastner to use that might help with cupping? What is recommended spacing on fasteners and can more fasteners be added help with cupping? Most of the deck will face north and be well elevated/venilated. Part of the deck faces East and is only 14 inches above grade. We will try to well venilate that area. Is the oil fine on the ends or should we use a specific end sealer. We plan to traet the deck every year to keep it new looking. The suppliers say to use Ipe Oil or Australian Timber Oil or Messmers UV. What is better about the Penofin? We are also doing an inlay design with Garapa, Camaru, and Tigerwood. Should we prefinsh with same oil? Sorry for all the tedious questions, but we are undoing a composite deck nightmare and trying hard to get this right the first time. All the best, Hugh

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hugh, I will try to hit your questions here…cupping is a natural act and really difficult to avoid. All of the things you mention are best practices for dimensional stability (fasteners strategy, 6 side prefinishing, etc). Some of our lakeside north facing ipe decks are the most prone to cupping and checking. They get a blast of morning sun, and then sit wet in the shade for the rest of the day. This dries them out prematurely. The vicious cycle of checking and cupping leads to oil fatigue. Annual maintenance is the only real answer. We do have alot of 6″ decks and the cupping doesn’t get ridiculous in most cases, just much more present than in 4″ widths. Do not use the Australian Timber Oil. High failure rate in this application. I have heard good things about Mesmers but have not used it enough to comment. I do like Armstrong Clark stains, but have stuck with the marine grade penofin on them, mostly because it is predictable and easy to maintain if you do it right. We are starting to run some of the oil modified BM Arborcoat transparent as well. Keep us posted.

      • Hugh says:


        Thank you so much for your patience. I realize that these questions are repetitive.
        For the ideal finish should we sand with 80 grit or something finer with the recommended sander? On 6″ stock what is the ideal size sander? I agree on brand you recommend. We will choose the penofin marine oil. Starting pre finish next week. The post from July 11, 2012 from Marcin talks about a top and bottom side. I assumed that was in the eye of beholder. Is there something else to consider regarding cupping and top vs bottom? Oil ends or use the “end sealer (wax)”? Hope Sandy left you alone.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Thanks Hugh, it was a big ole storm, but we are doing well. 80 grit is ideal with that type of sander, and I would go with the 5″ flavor. Usually, the raw stock comes in long lengths and there is most of the time one face that is a little better than the other. If both are flawless, look for the natural crown and rack it crown up. It is really important that all pieces go on the drying rack with what will be the exposed face up. You probably won’t see much cupping at that stage, but if you do, go cup down. I find that oil on the ends is preferable to the wax.

  137. Ed says:

    Hi Scott,
    You are very informative. I need some urgent help. I a project for a client, of which we are re-using some Ipe doors. The doors are about 10 years old and woudl be for interior use, now they are in very good condition, they were treated with an oil product several times over the years. The big issue here is that the client has requested to have the doors re-finished with an off-white color paint. Can you advise on the procedure, application and in your best opinion the product recommended. The biggest issue they are worried about is having it bleeding through the finnish painted door over time.

  138. Natalie says:

    Oops! Here’s a “P.S.” with some info which I should probably have included in the first place…. 😉

    It’s a south-eastern Pennsylvania, 2nd floor, relatively small Ipe deck.

    Everything is Ipe except the 8″x8″x9′ corner columns (white paintable fiberglass) and the balusters (metal).

    It has a small, open, A-Frame type roof connecting onto the house’s roof and part of it has a LOT of direct morning-afternoon sun exposure and the half has very little direct sun.

    Hope this helps….?? THANKS again Scott!! 🙂

  139. Natalie says:

    Hi Scott ~

    We have a 2 year old, unfinished, Ipe deck that was sanded twice upon installation and is now silvery-grey. We want to restore it to its original reddish color, need to do it on a DIY basis, have purchased 2 gallons of Ipe Oil and borrowed our contractor-neighbor’s power washer.

    Prior to applying the oil, what is the BEST method for preparing the surface:

    1) Power-washing w/ water only and what psi (800? 1100?);

    2) Power-washing w/ water and which cleaner or brightener?;

    3) Handheld orbital sanding with what grit (80? 110?) and THEN power-washing (with the method you recommend in my #1 or #2 questions above)?

    We have sought advise from several companies, contractors, and blogs and are getting a lot of conflicting recommendations (i.e., “Be sure to sand off silver-gray first, then power wash off sawdust, then apply Ipe Oil” VS “Whatever you do, do NOT sand it again as this will further close the pores of what is already a dense wood and make it extra difficult for the Ipe Oil to soak in – this was why we recommended you let the wood age after installation/initial-sanding for 1 or 2 years before you apply the Ipe Oil.”….??????)

    Ugh 🙁 Any definitive advise you can give and/or ultimate Ipe-Restoration authority to which you can direct us would be absolutely wonderful at this point as I am starting to lose hope that we will ever be able to find the right method to use which will not damage our deck and/or be a total waste of the precious little time and resources we have to do this project. THANK YOU soooo much!!! 🙂 ~Natalie

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Natalie

      Two of the methods we use for this situation could be done by a homeowner who is reasonably handy and willing to work.

      One, apply Cabot wood brightener via a garden style pump sprayer and lightly pressure wash with the green tip (all pressure wands have a selection of color coded tips). Let dry for at least 24 hours. Oil.

      Two, sand at 80 grit on an orbital sander attached to a vacuum. We use Festool sanders and dust extractors, which eliminate all dust from the process, so no washing is required, and you can oil immediately.

  140. Grace says:

    Hi Scott,

    I wish I had thought of looking up the topic of finishing ipe prior to our deck being installed, am feeling a bit sick to the stomach thinking about the investment and wondering how long it will last…

    We have a ~700 ft ipe deck (6″ wide planks) in our Northern California backyard. Deck was installed a couple weeks ago. The boards were not finished, didn’t even occur to me. I’m already noticing a tiny bit of movement in the boards, i.e., they don’t lay as “flat” as they did when first installed. Not sure if that’s the first sign of cupping.

    Questions for you:

    1) Do I ask our contractor to uninstall the deck and finish all the plants (the deck sits about 18″ off the ground, attached to the house, there is an old concrete patio under half of it, and then drainage rocks under the rest)

    2) Sounds like I should use the Pennofin Marine Grade, apply liberally, then wipe off excess after 15 min. Since the boards are new, do I need to prep the wood first (e.g., sand or otherwise)?

    3) How long do you estimate it would take to do a ~700 sq ft deck, and could a non-professional like myself tackle it?

    Thanks so much,

    • Scott Burt says:


      That is the first sign of cupping. Technically, yes, you do pop them (or otherwise access) to oil the bottoms. With new boards, they just need to be clean. A light sand or a good scrub will do. Two people could do it in a saturday, and yes, you could do it yourself. Just please heed all of the mistakes that other readers have shared (ie, not wiping soon enough/well enough).

      • Grace says:

        Thanks for the quick reply Scott! Yes, I have read through this entire chain in detail so have picked up on all your helpful tips. Looks like we have our weekend work cut out for us…!!

        • Scott Burt says:

          Good luck, stay sharp and keep us posted! I am thinking we should have a diy ipe deck photo contest. Lots of people maintaining exotic decks in some cool sounding locations.

  141. Sara O'Neill says:

    Would you use Penofin Marine wood finish on an interior floor in the caribbean? Also how long do you think it would take to prep and finish a 600 sqft floor? what would your process be?

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Sara, no I would not recommend Penofin for an interior floor, unless it was in a screened porch or something. Its not an ideal interior finish, as it is not designed to be inside (ingredients are suited to exterior exposure and the smell would be bad). Go to a tung oil or penetrating interior oil for that. As to prep, it depends on what kind of wood and what is currently on it for finish?

  142. Troy says:

    What is the approximate coverage of the Penofin Marine Wood finish on the IPE?

    I am trying to figure out how much to buy.

    I need to preseason 550 lineal feet of 5/4 x 6 IPE before installation.

    Thanks in advance.

  143. Troy says:

    What is the approximate coverage of the Penofin Marine Wood finish on the IPE. I am trying to figure out how much to buy. I need to preseason 550 lineal feet of 5/4 x 6 IPE before installation.

    • Scott Burt says:

      Troy, you will probably use 3+ gallons.

      • Troy says:

        Thanks much. When you do the preseason:
        1) Do you do 1 or 2 coats? If 2, how long do you wait between coats?
        2) How long should I wait after the wiping off to flip the board over to do the other side?
        3) For pre-grooved decking, do you try to get some of the stain into the groove?

        • Scott Burt says:


          1. One
          2. If you identify what will be the exposed face (based on grain, cosmetics, crown, etc), you can flip immediately
          3. Not much. Grooves are so mill glazed that they dont allow penetration, so they gum and effect the tight fit that keeps water out in the first place.

  144. Angela says:

    Hi Scott,

    I think I’ve learned more from reading this one thread than I have from hours and hours and hours of online reading. We are in the planning, design and cost-estimating process of replacing a large deck at the back of our home in Atlanta (approx 1,300 SF). I had a puzzling conversation with a deck refinishing contractor today who claimed that IPE wood does not cup and that he has never seen prefinishing (nevertheless 6-sided prefinishing)on IPE deck boards prior to installation. What scares me is that based on my research, he seems to be the sole “specialist” contractor for refinishing/maintaining exotic wood decks in a city of over 5 million people! I contacted him to see if he was willing to refer any deck build/design contractors with deep experience working with hardwoods. I’ve checked out a couple of the referrals he gave me, and on the surface they appear to be reputable and appropriately experienced. I’ll reserve further commentary until I meet these contrators in person. I absolutely believe all of the advice you’ve shared on this forum. I don’t want to get steam-rolled by contractors that think they know better. Here is my question: What are the non-negotiable requirements I should give to the contractors I am getting quotes from related to materials, construction standards/methods, etc? The obvious ones I have picked up on from reading this blog include: 1. 4″ Timbers 2. Prefinish on 6 sides using Marine Penofin product 3. Concealed fastners/screws

    Any additional help or insight you can provide is very much appreciated!

    • Scott Burt says:

      You are making me want to open a shop in the Atlanta market, Angela :). Most contractors who either install or finish ipe (or really any) decks assume that prefinishing is not an option because ipe factory suppliers do not offer it (for a plethora of reasons). Most deck or finishing contractors don’t have the facilities to do handle that type of bulk prefinishing themselves, and they certainly don’t want to spend time doing it in your back yard, so they are most likely to tell customers that its not an available service. It is a custom service, which is how we offer it out of our prefinishing shop. But it is also something that homeowners who are handy, not afraid of a little hard work, and have the space to do it, can actually do (although there is alot of handling to it, and ipe is heavy).

      The non-negotiable requirements question is subjective. Sure, lots of people have ipe decks installed and don’t finish them at all, they fairly quickly turn silvery gray and within 5 years get a little smarmy with mildew and a bit gross to bare footing on. However, they will never rot. To some people that is an acceptable minimum standard.

      To me, and most of the clients I work with, it is the appreciation of such a beautiful (and pricy) exotic wood species that makes it important to prepare it correctly (as per the processes I advocate on this site) and maintain it so that it always looks its best and resists organic deterioration as described above. Customers who prefer this approach enjoy and appreciate how a maintained ipe deck gets better with age, like a fine wine.

      Check this one out: http://topcoatreview.com/2011/11/better-than-new/

      So for me, the non-negotiables certainly start with the decking being prefinished on all sides prior to installation, for dimensional stability. I do prefer 4″ because it is less likely to cup (all wood has the potential to cup, just as all wood expands and contracts – it is organic, after all). Blind fastening systems are nice because you lose the visual of such beautiful wood grain being peppered with screws. And it also makes sanding easier if it is necessary in the future. Penetrating oil is absolutely preferred, and I do prefer Penofin. (there are many that I recommend strongly against, but I will refrain here).

      In my opinion, an ipe deck is a large investment in a home and should not be compromised in any way. Keep searching until you find the right professionals, and if you do not find them locally, it might be possible to locate a supplier that would ship to our shop for prefinishing and we could ship it to Atlanta. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, as doing business locally is more cost effective, if you can find the right situation.

      Thanks for your feedback on this site, and I hope you continue to enjoy it. Keep me posted on your progress!

  145. John G says:

    Hi Scott

    Firstly, what a great site and after months of researching, it seems I finally found a guy who 1) know his stuff, and 2) cares about customers! (65+ answers all replied to!) Well done!
    I have a very large deck (Ipe) poorly installed (6yrs ago) and even more badly finished (some spray lacquer?) and I have spent the last 6 yrs waiting for the entire deck to finish bubbling & peeling and finally its all back to silver.
    I want to get it back to “new” so what should my plan be?
    Remove “silver” coating – jet wash or sand?
    Prep? What to use?
    Finish? Penofin hardwood or marine? (wet look would be nice, do they differ?)
    I now live in the Caribbean so sun is harsh and we are 100ft from the beach!
    Thanks in advance for your help !

    • Scott Burt says:


      Thank you for your kind words. It is a pleasure to discuss topics that we are passionate about. To your questions, you could either pressure wash or sand. Sometimes both washing and sanding are necessary. It sounds like you might be doing this yourself? If so, it depends on what you have, or are willing to purchase for gear. If you can provide a little more info on that end, I can better advise. As to product, I do like, and have had very good luck with Penofin Marine. As many readers of this site can attest, process (including timely and thorough wiping) is key. And annual maintenance is highly recommended to keep the perpetual rich look. Happy to hear that you have a large deck in the Caribbean so close to the beach!

      • John G says:

        Thanks Scott

        I have a good jet washer here and a number of belt sanders. Should I use 80g paper? Specialist tools are hard to come by here!

        I will try a sample area this week with the Marine Oil. Is it true the wood should not be hot / in the sun when applied?

        Thanks for your advice – if you ever want a vacation in the sun, i have some spare knee pads and a brush!

        • Scott Burt says:


          Thanks for the offer, I will keep that in mind! Yes, 80 grit is preferred, and definitely do not apply the oil in the sun or if the surface is hot to the touch.

  146. patrick says:

    Scott, love your tips, thank you. We are using ipe shiplap profile for siding in southern california, near the beach (about 1/4 mile). The ipe will only be the top 4 feet of siding below the eaves / soffits and the eaves have a large overhang, so I don’t think it will get much rain. What it will get is beating westerly setting sun. My plan was to use the marine penofin on all sides. My questions are:

    1. we have two gallons of penofin hardwood. So I don’t waste it, can I use it on the backs and sides if I use marine on the front? I don’t want to do this if the formulas are different and it will cause cupping.

    2. the shiplap profile has a 1/2″ tongue and a 1″ (leaving a 1/2 reveal between boards. Should I worry about that 1″ tongue curling up / cupping? Do you have any strategies for minimizing this or should I not worry. Maybe leave the longer tongue in back so it’s not exposed to elements? The overall board is 5 1/4 wide. Thanks

    • Scott Burt says:


      We have done that same milled profile, only in cedar, and its a nice look. I wouldnt hesitate to go for it with ipe. And I do think it would be ok to use hardwood oil on the backs and marine on the faces. Post a picture of the finished look if you can sometime.

      • Patrick says:

        Scott, thanks, we have gone with the shiplap profile, with the larger lap at the top and back. This will be screwed through into the studs with stainless screw. We also are making sure we leave the boards free top to bottom by about 1/8 so they have room to move for different seasons (not that they vary so much in SoCal). I should have some photos in upcoming weeks.

  147. scott: fantastic blog. thanks for the resource. on-topic, knowledgable, honest and threaded information seems like it should be commonplace, but it isn’t. good thing i found it in time.

    most of my questions have been answered by the above, save these:

    we’re building a platform around a small swim-spa (about 400SF of deck) — about 10in off the ground. 16in on center joists (plans on my own blog linked above)

    (1) i’m worried about cupping. in choosing wood, i can use 19mm x 3.5in boards or 21mm x 5.5in boards… which would be the better option? thicker 6in or thinner 4in? 6in sure would be easier to install…

    (2) i plan to use “ipe clips” or equivalent biscuit-cut clips with SS screws. any thoughts/concerns there?

    (3) i also have the choice between garapa and cumaru — other than the color difference, anything to be concerned about?

    (4) one of the big concerns is heat retention (we get a lot of california sun). my plan is to coat for the first year (or two) and have it weather after that. but is one wood or treatment better than the other insofar as heat retention?

    fwiw: from the above (and side banner ad), i’ve learned in the past 15mins to: (a) make a rack to dry the wood. (b) definitely pre-coat all sides with clear penofin marine as well as use it on the fresh cuts (c) make sure the deck has as much ventilation as possible… thanks for that.


    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Hunter. To your questions:

      1. 4″ would be less likely to cup.
      2. They are a great idea. We maintain many ipe decks with the clip system and its nice not to have to deal with fasteners on faces during maintenance.
      3. I would choose ipe over either of those.
      4. Keeping the deck oiled is key. If you let it weather for too long, the grain starts to check and dry it out, opening a slippery slope because water can more easily penetrate the grain. I would recommend staying on top of it annually. We have some decks in super tough lakeside exposures that we do in the spring and again in the fall.

      Please check back and share your experience, as and of course have a look at the rest of the site. Thanks and good luck.

      • hunter says:

        thanks, scott:
        (1) sadly, because of the design and situation, it looks like 6in boards will be the width — so, i guess, the thicker the better. would 21mm really be more beneficial than 19mm? I’m guessing so, but…
        (2) do you think the clips help to prevent cupping due to the way they attach?
        (3) Unfortunately, ipe is out of the question, cost wise… so it’s either cumaru, garapa or good ol’ redwood (2X6)… so, between garapa and cumaru…?
        (4) roger on the maintenance… any thoughts about heat otherwise? this was one of the attractions to garapa — a lighter tone.

  148. Lisa says:

    Hi Scott,

    My husband and I just placed an order for Ipe 1″ x 4 tongue and groove flooring which will be delivered tomorrow. We live in northern New Jersey. We plan to install it on our covered front porch (two sides butt against house, two sides exposed. We are replacing a painted, tongue & groove flooring. Dimensions are 8’0″ deep. x 22’0″ long. Although not a professional, my husband is excellent at woodworking and we plan to install this ourselves.

    We were told by the lumber yard to prefinish all sides and they recommend the Penofin line of products. I see that from some of your comments you have switched over to the Marine Oil Finish. We were hoping that we could use one of the Penofin products to slightly tint the wood a little bit darker than its natural color (perhaps the Penofin Ultra Premium in Transparent Sable). Can you please share any experience you may have with using tinted products on Ipe?

    Do we need to “prep/clean” the Ipe with anything before we apply the Penofin finish?

    I am getting very nervous by some of the others’ comments about having a “tacky” surface that won’t go away, etc. We want to be sure to follow all appropriate recommendations so we have a flooring that will last long after we are gone. We do not plan to let the flooring “weather”, as it won’t look right with the style of our house. We plan to apply the oil regularly based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

    Another question… since this material is coming from a local lumber yard, do we need to have it sit and acclimate once it is delivered to us? We are hoping to treat the boards on Saturday and hopefully install on Sunday. Do you think this is feasible or do we need to wait longer between treating and installing?

    Overall, is your experience with Ipe a positive one? The flooring is expensive, but we were thinking that the promoted benefits outweighed the price. Is there anything else we should know/do to ensure a quality installation before we begin?

    Any comments are greatly appreciate! Thank you!

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Lisa

      The Marine Oil that I use alot is made by Penofin. Tinted products are fine as long as they are transoxide pigments, which all of the Penofin products are. This is a higher quality pigment that endures better.

      Your approach sounds fine. A couple of tips would be to go light with the finish on the top edges of the tongues so that the oil isn’t sticky where you try to lock the pieces together. Your husband probably knows how to make wedge blocking to install the floor tight.

      If you have the ability to check the moisture content before finishing and installing, that would be good. I’d expect to see it in the 8-12% range. I would be inclined to leave a bit of expansion room if/where the floor runs parallel to the house, in case the wood gains moisture content over time.

      It seems that most of our readers who have had Penofin tackiness issues have acknowledged that they didn’t wipe properly.

      Keep us posted.

  149. Marcin Kott says:

    Hi Scott,

    I wish I had discovered this site before the contractors put in our garapa deck. They assured me that it does not need to be finished on all sides, just the top. The deck is very low to the ground, but only about 1/3 of it is exposed to the rain. Because of our 6 inch boards, we are definitely seeing cupping.

    Because of the spotty weather, we have waited about two months to put any finish on it, but now is the time for it and im double checking on the finish to use. I will be using the penofin marine grade like you recommend but Im afraid that the cupping will continue without me unscrewing every deck board and finishing it on the underside.

    Would it make sense to put on the top coat now, and then as time goes by, if i see cupping, to go back and do the underside, or should i just do both now?

    thanks for any help

    • Scott Burt says:

      Sorry to hear this, Marcin. And I do disagree with your installation contractor, especially when the discussion is about 6″ ipe. Compared to 4″, the 6″ is more susceptible to cupping. Ideally, yes, all sides should get finished for optimum dimensional stability. To your question, it kind of depends on how bad the cupping is now. My guess is that you are probably only seeing it in the 1/3 of the deck that is exposed to weather. If you put a speed square, or any straight edge, across the board from edge to edge, you can measure the daylight at the bottom of the straight edge. The cupping phenomenon that you are seeing could get worse if you only finish the top side now. However, pulling the boards to do all sides is a bit of a chore at this point, I am sure. Unless you have a chunk of time on your hands, the short term solution might be to do the tops for now, and keep an eye on the cupping. If the cupping gets too extreme, it can definitely cause the boards to hold water in the center, which over time leads to premature checking and finish wear. Please update on how you proceed and how the deck does over time.

      • marcin kott says:

        hey scott,

        yeah, you confirmed what I had feared. Today I prepped the deck for the marine finish, sanding it down a bit. The cupping is indeed on the 1/3 exposed to the weather, but its odd because its only a few (3-5) odd boards that tend to do it. Someone I know mentioned that maybe its because the contractors put those boards down wrong (upside down). if thats so maybe the simple solution is to turn them over.

        I will let you know how the cupping progresses, thanks for the replay

  150. Sandra says:

    Hello, I just had an ipe deck installed.I have two questions. the first is that the installers had to leave a part without installing because it is in the edge of the lake where the railing goes. we are waiting for a steel cable railing to come so that the contractor can install the posts and then the deck installer can go around the posts. My question is is it a problem to leave the deck a few weeks without sealing until we complete the deck?I am in Miami and the deck faces West!My second question is once ready to sea ttys deck, how should it be cleaned and prepared for sealers. It came with a lot of rough spots and I wanted to giveit a good sanding before sealing. is this recommended? if so what are the steps? should I clean then sand then pressure wash? Or if I am sanding I can skip the cleaning phase? thank- you for your help!! Sandra Liberman

    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Sandra

      1. Not a problem at all.

      2. Sanding should be sufficient. 80 grit with a good (Festool or equivalent) sanding/extraction system is ideal.

  151. Ted says:

    Hi Scott:

    Thanks for this posting, I think your recommendations are spot on!

    I’m curious as to why you use Penofin’s Marine finish rather than their Hardwood finish? Have you compared them in a deck type application on Ipe?

    I only ask because it seems different than Penofin’s recommendation.

    Thanks a lot!


    • Scott Burt says:

      Thanks Ted, for your comments. Yes, we switched from the hardwood to the marine grade about 3 years ago because we have many customers with lakeside ipe decks, in brutal exposures and the hardwood would literally disappear over the winter. They both require annual maintenance to keep an ipe deck looking new, they actually improve with age when maintained. The marine grade has been easier to clean and maintain for us. In less harsh applications, and especially on ipe decks with some shelter (porches or shade conditions) the hardwood flavor does just fine. So, yes, we have literally seen what each finish can do in the exact same exposure for a year.

      • Ted says:

        Hi Scott:

        Thanks a lot! My experience with the hardwood finish on a different “exotic” hardwood (Ulin) is similar to what you’re describing.

        In my case, half of the deck is covered and half is not. The covered portion still looks pretty good, but the uncovered portion pretty much weathers away over a single winter season.

        I’ll be giving the marine grade a try when we reapply this year. Thanks again for the tips!


      • Ken says:

        I bought a home with an ipe deck near the water. It appears that the deck was either “protected” with the wrong sealer or has just plain gone ugly with age.

        In the shady spots it appears there is still what appears to be sealer coat but it is also full of mildew, in the lighted areas its a combination of ugly fade, sealer and mildew…not pretty.

        So, powerwash then sand then seal or what??

        Thanks, great site.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Thanks Ken. Yes, those are pretty much the options. I would probably wash, sand and then start fresh. Sometimes they do just go ugly from age and lack of maintenance, like everything else.

  152. Josh says:

    Hello All, I need Help!

    Now this might be posted somewhere on here but I can now find it. I have just installed a tiger-wood porch and I was told to Use IPE oil to finish it . I Finished all the back and sides of the wood before instal. They looked great . After install I sanded everything and then finished the top. Now I did not see on the can that the excess should all be wiped clean within 5 min. Aaaaaaaaa! I did not have this problem on the sides and back but the Top since I used a roller as it said on the can it applied to much. But now again it was my fault that i did not wipe the excess but now I am left with a mess on my brand new porch. Its been 3 days and its still tacky and has a sheen. Now the weather has not been to dry here so I know that is not helping but I need to know if there is a way to Sand – wipe – scrape or anything to get the tackiness off ? I like the dry hand rubbed finish that is should look like I guess I just has a dumb moment and made this mistake . Any help would be great . Thank you

    • Chuck Halling says:

      Josh, someone earlier on this thread had the same problem. See above. I recommend steel wool to remove the excess. You might also try adding more oil, because the solvent in the oil might dissolve the excess oil. Then wipe off with rough cotton towels.

    • Connelly says:


      I had the same problem. Things I tried: pressure washing, scrubbing with Tri-Sodium Phostate (TSP), scrubbing with steel wool, light sanding, and applying more Ipe Oil (hoping it would dissolve the tacky spots). Here is what worked: nothing.

      After several weeks areas of high sheen still remain, but are not as bright and shiny as it was. It is still enough to bother my. Being that it has improved, I am hoping it will continue to get less bright as time goes on.

      If I could do it all over again, I would not use Ipe Oil. One, for the tackiness problem. Two, there is already significant fading on ares of my deck exposed to direct sun for much of the day.

  153. Chuck Halling says:

    Thanks for the quick reply Scott,
    While I was at work writing to you, my wife was at home cleaning our Tigerwood deck (I arrived home in time to help). We used Penofin Cleaner then Penofin Brightener. The cleaner turned the brown oxidation to grey slime which we removed with scrub brushes and elbow grease. Then the brightener did its magic, but it only works if it’s clean first. The results were remarkable. It looks as good as new. We need to let it dry thoroughly before we reapply the oil. If I could send you before and after pictures I would.

    • Scott Burt says:


      I am glad you were able to bring it back, and I have to tell you that you took the most character building route! We have all at some point done the elbow grease method and its a real character builder! If you are going to commit to maintenance, we can definitely help you find an easier approach. Meanwhile, I would love to see the pictures. It is very rewarding work, especially with exotic woods. Feel free to email me at vermontpainter at gmail.com. Might be fun to post up some reader projects at some point. Cheers!

      • Chuck Halling says:

        Okay, I’ll bite. If there is an easier approach to removing the Penofin Cleaner, I’m ready to hear it. Scrub brushes will get old as I get old.
        Second question: Can the Penofin Marine Grade Oil finish be applied over old Penofin Hardwood Formula, without stripping it off first? I’d like to switch, but not if I have to remove the existing oil that still looks great.

        • Scott Burt says:

          Chuck, there are a couple of options. Depending on the size of your deck, a pressure washer is a good idea, or if it is smaller, a good sander and dust extractor. Either of those would be far more enjoyable then scrub brushes! And yes, you can apply the Marine Grade on a deck that has previously had Hardwood Formula. Clean it, scuff it and go for it. Just be sure to wipe really well. Several people have reported nightmares from lack of rag wiping.

  154. Chuck Halling says:

    Does the advice you offer for Ipe decks apply directly to Ipe siding? It seems it would because it is the sun and rain that age the finish not the foot traffic. I ask because many architects in the Pacific Northwest are specifying Ipe as a siding product on commercial and multi-family buildings, leaving the building owner to provide the yearly re-finishing. My observation has been that few owners realize what they have gotten themselves into. Surface coatings such as Sikkens seem to last longer, though they too will begin peeling after six years or so. The refinishing is less frequent but removing and re-applying a coating is much more complicated and costly. Thoughts?

    • Scott Burt says:


      Yes, I would treat ipe the same in a siding application as in a decking one. I would still prefer a penetrating oil, as it is much easier to maintain and will not fail as obnoxiously as a film forming coating. For a film forming coating to survive, it needs to be maintained as frequently as a pentrator anyways.

  155. Joe says:


    What stain/sealer o you recommend ?? I know you like penofin.i want to get the wet look

    Thanks so much

    • Scott Burt says:

      Penofin marine, or armstrong clark, and more recently we are even incorporating the transparent and semi-transparent arborcoat on some of our decks.

      • Joe says:


        Thanks again for the info on this … I went with the penofin oil and loved the way it looked for the first few weeks.. My only issue s ts starting to fade and turn ” grey” .. I think it’s cause I didn’t eave it on long enough..was a little nervouse at first..

        I’m thinking of adding a second coat . Do I need to clean it first with a cleaner?? And eat do you recommend

        Thanks for you time

        • Scott Burt says:


          I would give it another round, hand rub with a rag if you can. Sounds like you did the first application pretty recently, so you shouldnt really need to do any prep. I think what you are seeing is the density of your ipe making it challenging to get the oil in, and usually it is exactly for the reason you suspect…not leaving it on long enough. Thats why at this point, using a wet rag and working it in is best, just remember to wipe everything in good shape when you are done.

  156. Connie says:

    Hi Scott,

    Just came across your blog, very informative…Thank you for sharing your expertise. I am in Northern California, I installed an Ipe deck (5/4×6) with no visible screws, about 10 years ago. I did not apply any type of finish only waxed the ends. I power washed the deck recently, the grey is mostly gone, however, it does not look anything like when it was new! At this point, the surface is a bit rough to touch, should I sand it? Would sanding make the wood look as good as new? If so, what type of sander and sand paper should I use? After sanding, I read some people use acetone prior to applying the finish, is that necessary? Regarding the finish, I am not sure which product to use, what do you think about super deck 2500 exotic wood finish? How does that compare to other brands such as penofin? Any and all advise are sincerely appreciated. Thanks again for your time.


    • Scott Burt says:

      Hi Connie

      Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. We sand alot of ipe decks in our annual maintenance program, with great success: http://topcoatreview.com/2011/11/better-than-new/ . The only way to do it is with a dust extraction system so that the dust is sucked out of the grain of the wood at the time of sanding. It makes for an very rich look and facilitates penetration. 80 grit is a good starting point, and I recommend only Festool sanders and extractors for this type of work. I am not familiar with the sd2500 oil. We have had good luck with the marine grade (blue/silver can) Penofin, but it has to be maintained annually. The maintenance is pretty easy. Wish I could fly out there and do it for you! We have been updating alot on our Facebook page lately with some examples from our maintenance crew: http://www.facebook.com/Vthomepainters.

  157. Connelly says:

    Did I kill my deck?

    We just built a Tigerwood and Ipe deck. Tigerwood is the main decking with Ipe trim. Today, I applied Ipe Oil as directed with a 3/8″ nap roller. I didn’t realize how much time was going by. 20-30 minutes passed before I stated wiping off the excess Ipe Oil…or, I should say, attempted to wipe the