How to Sand Ipe Deck

From all of the hardwood materials available throughout the world, you’ve chosen the beautiful and tropical Ipe hardwood for your outdoor deck. In all of its goodness, Ipe hardwood is native to Central and South America and is known for its durable deck material. This hardwood has many great and ideal properties for an outdoor construction project, especially a deck that will see extreme weather throughout the year.

With any home improvement project, planning ahead is essential. In the case of sanding your Ipe deck, the article will guide you through the various aspects of the topic. From why you would need to sand Ipe hardwood before walking on it barefoot to what tools and materials you will need, you will learn the necessary steps to take in sanding your deck. But first here are some facts about Ipe hardwood and why it is ideal for your outdoor deck.

How to Sand Ipe Deck

About Ipe

Ipe is a dense hardwood also known as Brazilian Walnut or Lapacho from Central and South American forests. It is a tropical wood that can sustain up to 50 years when used for a deck floor.

This hardywood is naturally resistant to moisture-causing mold, rot and decay, insect infestation (such as termites), decay, and even fire. Yes, even fire. Ipe has a Class A fire rating for flame spread. Additionally, homeowners choose Ipe for its gorgeous weathering. Its red and brown coloring fades to a lived-in silvery patina under the natural sunlight, when used without any seal coating.

Professional woodworkers, general contractors, and homeowners find Ipe to be useful for multiple outdoor projects. Ipe lumber is also reliable for fencing, siding,and furniture such as tables, chairs, and loungers by the pool.

When shopping for Ipe hardwood, be mindful that you purchase FSC-certified wood. FSC or Forest Stewardship Council is the organization that oversees that Ipe harvested wood is being grown responsibly in managed forests.

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Why Do You Need to Sand Ipe Hardwood?

Sanding becomes an imperative step in the process of building and using your deck effectively.

When Ipe hardwood, which comes from Central and South America, shows up in the lumber yard, on a construction or project site like a deck, you will notice that the wood may have clumped dirt and mud, grime, scratches, or stains from shipping stickers on it from its transport.

Throughout the lifetime of an Ipe wood deck, it needs ongoing maintenance to ensure its longevity and durability. For example, sanding is essential in preparing to treat the deck wood with oil, refinishing the wood, and general cleaning it. Some homeowners resort to sanding even out rough spots from raised wood grain that is usually caused by an uneven coating of a sealant.

Sanding Your Ipe Deck


After your Ipe wood deck is installed you can begin the sanding process.

  1. Remove any sealer.
  2. Gather the right tools and equipment.
  3. Determine the direction of your lumber’s grain.
  4. Sand away.
  5. After sanding the wood deck, you may treat it with oil or sealer.
  6. Maintain throughout the year.

Tools and Equipment


There are a few different types of sanding machines available. Understanding your deck’s needs will guide you to obtain the right one.

A belt sander allows you to control the direction. It is also one of the better tools for sanding a large project like a deck. You can sand the flat surface in just a few hours.

An orbital sander enables you to get a smooth outcome on a surface that has multiple angles. It works best when you are sanding a smaller area.


The grit of the sandpaper determines the result of how smooth your surface will be.

It is recommended to use 80 grit sandpaper for Ipe wood. This is abrasive enough to remove leftover mill glaze, stains, dirt and mud, rough grain, and the like.

Respirator and gloves

For added safety and health protection, it is always advised to wear a respirator and gloves when sanding Ipe wood. This type of wood embodies natural silica and chemicals that are toxic and can cause illness if you breathe in the Ipe dust.

Remove sealer

You remove the sealer to return the Ipe wood to its most natural state. Before you sand the Ipe deck you will need to remove any old sealant or anchor seal. Anchor seal is often used by lumberyards to protect the wood from drying out and splitting.

The best way to remove any sealant is with a wood scraper. You can also utilize a low-pressure washer which will remove the old sealant. Just make sure the washer is not higher than 12,000 psi.

Wood grain direction

Sanding with the direction of the natural grain is the proper way to treat the wood. Vertical and quarter sawn boards feature the easiest-to-spot visual of grain direction. Where it might get a little confusing is when you see a growth ring. Try detecting the raised hardwood fibers with your hand. This would be an uncomfortable surface for your bare feet.

The goal is for an overall unified smooth surface.


Carefully read the directions of your sander, before you begin the process.

Once you attach the sandpaper to the machine and set it upon your wood deck, follow the grain and sand over the surface. Be gentle as too much pressure and over sanding can cause future problems like warping or new diverts in the wood.

After you have sanded a particular area and you are done for the day, take out your vacuum to suck up any dust and debris. This prevents any particles from penetrating the open-pore wood fibers.

It is also recommended that upon full sanding completion you power wash or hose down the deck, which will prepare the surface for any oil treatment you may be considering.


Choosing a wax or oil sealer will preserve the Ipe wood’s natural red tones as well as add some extra protection to your tropical wood deck. It will help prevent end checking or drying splits of the wood from the sun’s UV rays and other weather exposures.

Maintaining Ipe Wood Decks

Ipe wood offers a natural and beautiful deck for homeowners. Even more important is the wood’s sturdiness to handle harsher weather. Because it is wood, this type of deck does need regular maintenance and care.

Whether you schedule seasonal or biannual checks of your deck, you should be taking care of the following for the best upkeep of your deck.

  • Look for any build-up of dirt, mud, and debris like leaves and tree branches, and remove it with a broom or vacuum, gentle soap and water, or power wash, if necessary.
  • Sand away rough spots with an orbital sander.
  • Apply oil sealant. Good maintenance of your Ipe deck will assist in keeping a strong and working deck for many years to come.

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