3 Ways to Install Your New Deck

Posted July 3rd, 2013 by Decking Materials

When it comes time to install your deck, there are several methods. It’s a good idea to decide exactly what method you’ll use before buying the material, since different techniques have different requirements.

To help you decide which installation method is right for your project, here’s a quick rundown:

Face Screw Method

This is what most people think of at first. It definitely has some merit, being both the fastest and cheapest method available. Standard boards are simply screwed straight down onto the joists. Pretty straightforward. There are a few downsides, however. For one, the finished deck will show the screw heads, which can tarnish the look you’re going for. Also, this method doesn’t allow for the natural expansion and contraction of the wood boards. As moisture and temperature levels change, the screws will be pulled back and forth, loosening and popping out.

If you choose to go with the face screw method, here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Standard (S4S E4E) Deck Boards
  • Stainless Steel Screws

Plug Method

The next method is a natural extension of the face screw technique. The key difference is that the screws are countersunk into the board, and a matching piece of wood is used to plug the hole and hide the screw head. The main improvement is in appearance. The main drawback is the increased effort required to glue the plugs in place and sand them down to create a level surface.

If you choose to go with the plug method, here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Standard (S4S E4E) Deck Boards
  • Stainless Steel Screws
  • Wood Plugs

Hidden Fastener Method

This last method is the most recommended. When it comes to appearance and long-term deck performance, it is easily the best, but there are also a few drawbacks that you should be aware of. First, unless you buy pregrooved deck boards, this method will be very labor-intensive, since you’ll have to manually cut grooves in the sides of the boards. Second, replacing damaged boards can be a serious hassle.

The key upside is no screws will be visible in the finished deck. Also, the unique fastening system allows for expansion and contraction, which means less cupping and no screw popup.

If you choose to go with the hidden fastener method, here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Pregrooved Deck Boards
  • Stainless Steel Screws
  • Hidden Deck Fasteners
  • Wood Plugs (for end boards)


So there you have it.  Weigh the pros and cons of each installation method against your unique project and skill set, then get started building your new deck!

Is Bamboo Decking a Viable Option?

Posted June 24th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Although not terribly common, bamboo has emerged as an alternative to traditional wood decking. You may already be familiar with bamboo as a flooring option, and the process for turning it into a decking material is similar. In essence, thin bamboo planks are glued together to form a board.

Bamboo flooring has received mixed reviews, with some homeowners experiencing serious problems. That’s something you should be aware of when considering bamboo decking, because any issues encountered indoors will only be amplified when the material is used outdoors.

For example: moisture. Most complaints about bamboo flooring stem from moisture issues. You can imagine how that would be an even bigger problem for a deck exposed to rain. The glue that holds the boards together can fail, causing the bamboo to, in the words of one contractor, “fall apart like shredded wheat”.

P1010386 (Large)

So how would yo prevent this from happening? Diligent maintenance, and lots of it. Perhaps there’s a reason bamboo decking isn’t very common.

Are Decking Tiles Right for You?

Posted June 19th, 2013 by ipemadeira

When considering a new deck, most people think immediately and exclusively of traditional deck boards. Another option you might not have considered is decking tiles. These modular squares can be the perfect fit depending on your situation.

Tiles in a Criss-Cross Pattern

Pre-built tiles come in a variety of sizes ranging from 12×12 to 24×24. Some companies even sell rectangular tiles. These options can be arranged in an infinite array of patterns. You can criss-crossed, weave-like patterns, or align all the tiles the same way. The only limitation is that you’re stuck with a grid-like layout. If you don’t like that, then deck tiles aren’t for you.


Because of their modularity, tiles are probably the easiest decking solution to install. You don’t need a frame–just a hard flat surface. You don’t even need to hire a contractor. Most tiles will interlock with each other or come with special connectors, so installing them doesn’t require any special skills. Even the kids can lend a hand, and the whole project can be finished in a couple hours.

Decking tiles are perfect if you move around a lot. Their easy installation also makes for easy uninstallation. If you move, you can take your deck with you. Or maybe your change isn’t quite so drastic; you just got tired of design you chose. Simply lift up the tiles and rearrange them.

One downside is that tiles can be more expensive than traditional deck boards. A 24×24 ipe tile costs $40. To cover the same amount of space with traditional ipe boards would cost about $28.

Deck tiles come in many different materials. As usual, I would recommend steering away from plastic or composites, and favor hardwoods instead.

Is Sustainable Tropical Decking a Myth?

Posted June 17th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Sustainable decking. Responsible forestry. These are a few of the buzzwords tossed around by lumber companies in response to accusations from environmentalist groups. But what do these terms mean? And do they actually translate to a healthier ecosystem like the lumber companies claim? After all, how can cutting down a tree lead to rainforest growth?

Sustainable forestry practices start with tree selection. Contrary to popular impressions, lumber companies don’t move through the forest chopping down every tree in their path. Rather, out of an entire acre of rainforest, only a few trees are felled. Further, these trees are often what are called wolf trees. These are old, large trees that consume resources but don’t produce seeds. Due to their size, they starve the surrounding growth without offering anything in return. You can think of a wolf tree as a sort of cancer, and removing it allows new trees to grow that would otherwise have died.

Once a tree is selected for harvesting, it isn’t just hacked down, either. Meticulous planning ensures that when the tree is cut, it won’t fall and damage smaller trees in the area. Additionally, several new trees are planted to replace the one that was harvested, in a ratio of 5 to 1.

If you take these facts together–removing cancerous wolf trees and replacing them with several seed-producing trees–it’s easy to see how proper forest management can lead to both a thriving rainforest and a thriving lumber industry.

But responsible forestry doesn’t stop there. Obviously, some heavy machinery is needed to move harvested trees out of the forest. Special paths are designated for this purpose, and each path is only used a few times before being abandoned. Sounds wasteful at first, but this practice actually prevents permanent damage and allows quick regrowth. In fact, these “skidding paths” disappear after just 3-6 months, reclaimed by fresh growth.

So, are the benefits of sustainable decking materials a myth? Not at all! From August 2008 to July 2009, the Brazilian Amazon saw a 46% decrease in deforestation–the greatest decline in 20 years.

Ipe vs. Black Locust

Posted June 14th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Black locust is rising as a potential substitute for ipe in commercial applications. This is a pretty big deal, since ipe has long enjoyed the title of “world’s best decking material”. It stands to reason that black locust must have some impressive specs if it’s being considered for major city boardwalks. Let’s take a look.

Black locust has a janka hardness rating of 1700. Not too shabby, but that’s still less than half of ipe’s rating. In fact, if you judge based purely on which wood boasts the highest numbers, ipe’s going to win every time.

So what does black locust have going for it? The big thing is that it’s a domestic hardwood, so it doesn’t have to be imported. This not only saves resources involved in transporting the lumber, it also helps to preserve tropical forests (or so environmentalist groups would have you believe–more on that in a later post). A domestic source is also cheaper for consumers than an exotic one, although the exact price can vary based on region.

Thus far, as long as you don’t mind sacrificing some structural performance, black locust seems like an acceptable alternative to ipe. However, the facts don’t stop there. Let’s take a look at availability. Black locust trees themselves are plentiful enough, but not all of them are suitable for making deck boards. Small trees produce narrow boards full of knots, and larger trees have been reported to have hollows inside them.

Finally, you have to look at how the material performs in the real world. Black locust doesn’t have the greatest track record. Proponents will tell you to be very careful when drying or acclimating the wood. In practice, this means that black locust is extremely susceptible to warping and checking.

Black Locust Warping

Think about it. Black locust is being pushed as a replacement for ipe on major public works projects like boardwalks. Literally millions of people will walk, run, work, and play on these surfaces–do you really want to use anything weaker than the most proven material in the world?

Cedar Decking: Is It Right for You?

Posted June 21st, 2012 by Decking Materials

Because it is a domestic species, cedar is more readily available than the more durable exotic woods, which in turn leads to a lower cost.  When trying to decide between cedar and exotic decking, it all comes down to the trade off of price and durability.

Pros of Cedar Decking

Compared with more durable options, cedar decking is cheap, around 33% less expensive than Ipe.  You still get the natural beauty of real wood, and cedar is very easy to work with.

Cons of Cedar Decking

The lifespan of a cedar deck is about 20 years with regular upkeep and maintenance.  That’s only half of Ipe’s minimum lifespan.  Overall, cedar is simply a weaker, less durable wood.


Everything comes down to your personal situation.  Your budget may not allow for an expensive exotic deck, but before you make a final decision, consider the long term costs.  You can expect to replace a cedar deck after 20 years, which will double the cost of your deck and make it more expensive than Ipe in the long run.

Do you have anything to add?  Let us know how cedar decking has worked for you.

Garapa Decking Review

Posted June 16th, 2012 by Decking Materials

Garapa is one of a handful of legendary hardwoods that are regarded as the cream of the crop when it comes to decking.  What makes Garapa stand out from its fellow South American wood species is its bright yellow color.

Here are some of the outstanding benefits to a Garapa deck:

1. Durability.  Garapa is stronger than most domestic woods. 2x harder than cedar and 1.7x stronger.

2.  Safety.  Garapa boasts natural fire resistance.  It also resists splintering, making it perfect for pool decks or other areas where you can expect bare feet.

3.  Color.  No other species of wood can match Garapa’s brilliant golden color.

4.  Price.  One of the cheapest of the South American hardwoods, Garapa is a great value.  It is both cheaper and more durable than composite decking.

If you’ve had a Garapa deck installed, let us know how it’s worked out for you in the comments.

How Much Decking Material Do You Need?

Posted June 6th, 2012 by Decking Materials
You’re ready to order your new decking material.  You’ve measured your deck and calculated the square footage.  You hop online, only to find that your chosen supplier sells decking by the lineal foot, not the square foot.How do you convert square feet to lineal feet?  You could do the math, or you could use this helpful calculator:


Square Feet


Board Width

4″ 6″


Lineal Feet (includes an extra 5% to account for cuts.)

Decking Prices Compared

Posted June 1st, 2012 by Decking Materials

Cost is a major concern when tackling a decking project.  To help make the process of price comparison easier, here’s a handy chart listing several types of material and their associated price in lineal feet (1×6 standard profiles).  Keep in mind that prices can vary depending on supplier and region:

Let’s put things in perspective.  Here are the costs for each material for a 300 square foot deck:

Keep in mind that this is only a price comparison.  In many ways, you get what you pay for when it comes to decking material.  For instance, you’ll never have to replace an Ipe deck, so that $2100 price tag is a one-time purchase, whereas you may have to replace a Pressure-Treated deck a couple times, which will boost that measly $600 to a more daunting $1800.

Massaranduba: The Superior Alternative to Redwood

Posted May 27th, 2012 by Decking Materials

Are you considering redwood for your deck?  Perhaps you’ve been drawn to redwood by one of its many attractive qualities: color, durability compared to other woods, eco-friendliness compared to synthetics, etc.

Before you pull out your wallet, take a moment to consider an alternative: Massaranduba.  Anything that redwood claims as a benefit, Massaranduba does better.  Let’s take a closer look…


Perhaps redwood’s most sought after trait.  Who wouldn’t want that warm, inviting look for their deck?  However, once you’ve seen Massaranduba’s rich coloration, redwood will look plain dull.

Massaranduba on the left, California Redwood on the right.


There’s no contest here.  Massaranduba is almost 3x stronger than California Redwood, and 6.5x harder.  That makes for a safer, longer-lasting deck that doesn’t require constant maintenance.


Massaranduba, just like redwood, is an all-natural product, with no chemical or synthetic additives.  During its lifetime, it is perfectly safe for both you and your envirnoment, and should you ever need to replace it (unlikely), it is 100% biodegradable.  Additionally, it is harvested using sustainable methods that ensure the forest will remain healthy.


There you have it.  In every regard, Massaranduba is superior to redwood.  So, going back to our original scenario, do you still want to build your deck using redwood?