Working at TimberTown over the years, a topic that gets brought up by builders and architects regularly is how to achieve the natural patina look of Ipe or other Brazilian Hardwoods from the beginning of a project. Without regular maintenance, it’s inevitable that Ipe will eventually gray out, but what if the project needs to be gray from the start?
To answer this question, I’ll share a recent story about a commercial project in Austin. We supplied some of the Ipe for the poolside deck and boardwalk of a boutique hotel called “The Carpenter”. During the project, we were also asked to supply additional Ipe for other parts of the project. The reason additional Ipe was needed was a previous supplier tried to pre-silver the boards before install to help the client achieve the look they wanted, as a result 40-50% was wasted.
Why did thousands of dollars of Ipe go to waste? Because no matter how dense and durable a hardwood species, it is still wood and wood has moisture. When that wood is exposed to the elements like changing temperatures and UV rays from the sun that moisture content changes. The problem is the moisture content changes unevenly, so when different parts of a board are swelling and shrinking at different rates it cause warping and cupping. If those boards aren’t properly fastened on a given project, there is nothing stopping that warping from occurring.
For this reason, we would never recommend anyone try to let their hardwood decking or siding gray out without being properly installed on the project first. With a little patience and help from the sun, you’re hardwood decking or siding will be Gray long before it requires any maintenance. In fact, the Carpenter Hotel was finished only a couple of months ago and you can see the Texas Sun has started Graying the Ipe out already.