It's depressing to post something that didn't work out, but it happens and hopefully someone can benefit from the experience.
After following the retailer's installation instructions — using their recommended (and branded) fasteners, the wood swelled... closing up the gaps and then some. This caused the boards to buckle and eventually push the entire lot of them out on the sides as much as 3/4in. The swelling caused the boards to retain (not drain) water which made it worse. Things got dirty. The wood clearly needed far more gap than the retailer recommended and the design of the clips themselves tended to pull the boards tighter than they needed to be (the screws go in at an angle from a single side — rather than from the top and both sides — pulling each board a bit closer. Had these been top-screwed, it might not have been as much of a problem, but then later sanding and re-finishing would be an issue...
The ordering process
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 several orders which were poorly packed and damaged severely during transport. One order was barely B-grade. Fortunately, the sales rep did what he could to remedy the situation, but there's only so much you can do when things start to go downhill.
One year after installation, several thousand dollars of wood had to be ripped up an thrown away.
Lesson learned: Flashy marketing, extravagant promo packs and promises of fantastic product do not necessarily ensure satisfaction on the receiving end.
A few specifics and photos:
- The wood was sold as kiln-dried through Advantage Lumber at 5/4 X 6.
- The wood is not pre-grooved. We cut slots specifically where needed — this is 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, but provide necessary flex. Overkill, but easy to do.
- The boards have construction adhesive between themselves and the framing (which will make removal fun!). This was per installation recommendations.
- 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. This isn't uncommon design (called transitional or using a transition board).
- 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-KD 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.
- Ipe Clips are a bad design... The screw in from one side. This means that the holding power is on one side only, creating an uneven pressure on the board... and one side tends to tip up a bit. Systems that either have the clip fastened from the top or the penetrate the board from each side are a far better solution.
- Investigate alternate materials... I’m almost fed up with wood and might go with a subdeck and concrete pavers. Few composites are even worthy of consideration simply because they look far too fake. There's only one company making a board that isn't embossed with a terrible wood texture, but there is no first-hand information out there about the product.
- Consider maintenance... With the wood, the patina looks terrible 6mos after install — moldy and dirty. Even if the install worked out, how much maintenance will it take?
- Ordering a natural material online is a bad idea... Unlike a composite, there is simply too much variation and the salesperson and the guy pulling your stock are two different folks. At one point, my Advantagelumber.com sales-rep mentioned: "Yeah, I used to work in pulling and I would not have pulled those boards and sent them to a customer" (referring to one of the botched orders). I appreciated the candor and it was, actually, one of the saving graces of the transaction.
- Pick a known and readily available material... Ipe is the decking standard, but it's become impossibly expensive which has left folks scrambling for alternatives. However, none are as proven, nor as available. I'm regretting the choice of cumaru for a few reasons: unavailability of 5/4 material, instability, and inconsistency of quality. Although expensive, I can get ipe in 3/4 and 5/4 thickness at a half-dozen local lumber yards (and online) at a fairly standard quality... I can only find one source for 5/4 cumaru and none locally. This is also one of the concerns with composites. Will that color/pattern be around in 5 years if I need to do a repair?