Cutting Ipe wood deck for steplights

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by irrig8r, Mar 30, 2008.

  1. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    A customer has a 10 year old Ipe deck that was just refinished and looks really nice. As part of her overall lighting plan, I'm considering steplights.

    I've never cut or drilled Ipe (hardwoods of the genus Tabebuia), but I hear it is really tough on blades and bits.

    Any suggestions?
  2. Chris J

    Chris J LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,843

    If I don't know it, I don't cut it. Maybe some surface mount fixtures would be quite nice for her.
  3. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    I have heard the same thing about how tough the wood can be to cut. I am not big fan of step lights. I usually try to hit the steps from somewhere else, puck lights, small sconces, or even a down light if I can. I'm sure you probably thought through all of your options. There is a decking supplier near me, who has been using that stuff for a long time. I can check with them if you like for ideas. They are the go to people for me for any type of wood decking.
  4. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    Thanks Tommy. I suggested they look at maybe adding a structure for shade that could also be used to downlight from.

    Otherwise this section of deck is wide open and there are no other nearby options for lighting.

    There are two steps that run the length of two sides, one side the Ipe wood, the other side a variety of stacked flagstone called "Three Rivers".

    Another possibility might be pathlights in some attractive planters.

    I'll take photos on my next visit.
  5. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    Nice thought Chris. No room for surface mount fixtures here though.
  6. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    I have worked with IPE on a limited basis to build a table. I found that sharp thin kerf carbide blades and dewalt drill bits to work well in it. I trashed a cheap router bit but when I tried a freud it worked well.

    Be patient when cutting a wood this dense but not so patient you burn it. Also I found pilot holes for screws to be a must.
  7. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Gregg.... we are seeing a lot more Ipe decks and such here. The stuff is a pain in the arse as it is seemingly as hard as steel. One contractor I know of went through 16 12" mitre saw blades building a simple deck!

    You can put the step lights into it, but I would think you will want to budget about 1 hour per fixture labour and at least one rotozip bit per light... I would go with two to be honest. Pick up a sample board and test it out at home... you will need patience.

  8. ChampionLS

    ChampionLS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,066

    What type of step lights are you using? Our lights are round, so we use a Forstner bit to create the profile. All screws need to be pilot drilled prior to screwing the mounting plate in.

    Other brands, you'd be better off using a high speed router and carbide bit to machine away the material, and finish up with a jigsaw. Soaking the wood with hot water and rags prior to installing will help a bit. Make sure to dry everything off before starting.
  9. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Soaking Ipe with hot water and rags prior to installing? Really? The Ipe I know wouldn't soften one iota with this technique. Besides, how would one apply the hot water and rags to the vertical face of an installed stair kick?

    Has this actually worked for you on Ipe Anthony?

    Gregg, exactly what type of fixtures are you planning to install? Im thinking a nice louvered step light that lights the tread without any glare or view to the source. Am I close?

    Have a great day.
  10. irrig8r

    irrig8r LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,553

    I was thinking of a copper louvered step light, like the NS Brickliter or the Vista 2146...

    However, the more I think about it, the more work it's going to be. IO got under the deck and discovered that behind the 1 x 6 Ipe fascia board are two thicknesses of PT 2 x 8. This would be a major PITA.

    I'm going to get some cast concrete planters from a local place, either Silvestri, or the Statue Factory, and add something like this FX FG12 or Copper Deliters.

    I'll plant the pots with something that doesn't require loads of water, and make sure there's something to raise the pots off the deck for air circulation.

    Fewer holes to drill, fewer hassles, and another visual reminder that there's a step down to guests on the upper level.

    Also makes it simpler for the side steps portion which is made of stacked flagstone, and ties it all together with a single theme.

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