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Iron Bark v Merbau decking boards

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  1. #1
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    Default Iron Bark v Merbau decking boards

    hi there

    The journey begins!

    Merbau or Iron bark on my west facing deck?

    I am about to start a deck approx 5000 mm x 6000 mm on the west side of my house. It will have a pitched roof that will cover approx 70% of the deck.

    My dilema is should i use mebau which i have heard is the best timber for decks. but comes from rainforrest locations or use Iron bark which i believe is an Australian haversted hardwood. Merbau is a bit chaeper form what i have be able to assertain but if it is not too much extra and will give as good a job i would think about using it and doing my bit for the planet.

    Will iron bark have the same strength, durability, is it easy to work with, Can the iron bark be coated to give the Merbau colour look?

    Any help would be appreciated and does anyone know where you can get iron bark at a reasonable price in Melbourne?

    Chunky59

  2. #2
    Member Phil B's Avatar
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    Ironbark is durability class one as is merbau, but it's probably a little more difficult to work with but it is great for decks. The downside of merbau is tannin bleed, but otherwise it's also sensation timber for decking. To be honest, I don't think you could go wrong with either and if you want to stain ironbark to a colour similar to merbau then go for the red ironbark and get a good deck stain on it. Plenty of brands of decking stains/oils will have a merbau coloured one.

    Contact Boral Timber in Melbourne and they will point you in the right direction so you can source the ironbark.

  3. #3
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    I would be going the ironbark, nothing beats an australian harwood. As for staining I have to say that is sacrilegious, why would you even consider changing the colour of an australian hardwood, use a good quality oil to really bring out the grain.

    As for hardness the ironbark beats merbau, durability will be the same if not better but it may be harder to work with but it shouldnt be a problem if your prepared to pre drill your holes. see below for where it stands,

    The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood. It involves measuring the force required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood to half its diameter. This method was chosen so that the result would leave an indention 100 mm˛ (0.16 sq in) in size.

    It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear.

    The higher the Janka Rating, the harder the timber is.

    Species Janka (kN)
    Bamboo (strand woven) 16.1
    Grey Box 15.0
    Ironbark 14.0
    Red Mahogany 12.0
    Turpentine 12.0
    Spotted Gum 11.0
    Brushbox 9.5
    Blackbutt 9.1
    Forest Reds 9.1
    Sydney Blue Gum 9.0
    Karri 9.0
    Tallowwood 8.6
    Merbau 8.6
    Jarrah 8.5
    Stringybark 8.1
    Australian Beech 7.5
    Flooded / Rose Gum 7.5
    Northern Beech 7.5
    Messmate 7.1
    Bamboo (vertical) 6.6
    Cypress Pine 6.1
    New England Oak 6.1
    American Oak 6.0
    Bamboo (horizontal) 5.9
    Tasmanian Oak 5.5
    Victorian Ash 4.5
    Baltic Pine 2.9

  4. #4
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    x3 ironbark (or spotty gum) and no merbau stain !!! Save the rainforests and nothing beats Aussie h'wood.

  5. #5
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    thanks for that

    I think i will go down the Ironbark track and put an oil on it

    I have just discovered ther is a Grey Ironbark and a red Ironbark.

    is there any other difference between the two other than colour?

    chunky59

  6. #6
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    No pretty much the same, as stated the colour. Any of the australian hardwoods look awesome and you cant go wrong with any of them IMO

  7. #7
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    have a look at cutek when your looking at a finish. It is a preservative and I use it on all my builds - found it to be longest lasting and dead easy to apply. worth a look.....

  8. #8
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    Go Merbau.
    1) Merbau grows like a weed in tropical environments.
    2) Is heaps cheaper
    3) You will save the old growth Tassie rainforests.
    4) A few tannins is nothing, and your really just making something to be walked upon taht will no doubt be abused by foot traffic and the weather.

    M

  9. #9
    Keg
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    There are endangered orang-utans living in those weeds!

    It's quite irrelevant how well something grows if the resource isn't managed properly and Intsia bijuga (palembanica) otherwise known as merbau/kwila/marabaw is forested at an unsustainable rate from old growth forests in countries where reforestation doesn't occur. Not sure where you got the idea it grows like a weed anyway. From what i understand it grows quite rapidly as a seedling but in a dense environment such as a rainforest it takes a long time to reach maturity. Like most products which come with several names, it's very difficult to ascertain precisely where it has come from and a great deal of it is believed to be forested illegally by the Chinese.

    Here is just a few of many articles outlining the issues with merbau:

    Merbau Decking – Why It’s Unsustainable
    The Habitat Advocate » Merbau’s last stand
    China and illegal merbau from Indonesia
    http://www.eia-international.org/files/reports93-1.pdf
    The geek will inherit the earth.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Micmac View Post
    Go Merbau.
    1) Merbau grows like a weed in tropical environments.
    2) Is heaps cheaper
    3) You will save the old growth Tassie rainforests.
    4) A few tannins is nothing, and your really just making something to be walked upon taht will no doubt be abused by foot traffic and the weather.

    M
    mate

    iron bark does not come from tas, its from nth nsw and qld.

  11. #11
    Keg
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    "Tasmanian Ironbark" is actually a different species. Generally speaking decking timbers such as Ironbark or Spotted Gum come from the east coast. If you are concerned about sustainability check out this guide:

    Greenpeace Australia Pacific - Good Wood Guide
    The geek will inherit the earth.

  12. #12
    Member Phil B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Micmac View Post
    4) A few tannins is nothing
    you wouldn't be saying that if you have ever tried cleaning the tannin bleed stain off pavers/retaining walls/pool coping/footpaths or anything else porous. It is the single biggest issue with merbau and if you are building a deck anywhere near porous surfaces that you don't want to be stained then I'd be steering clear of it.

  13. #13
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    forget merbau, support local industries - and a far better product!

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    locals can always go on government beneifits. Retrade/reskill.

    Support the people in predominanty 3rd world countries. - go Merbau

    I think Phil B said it all.........the tannins "is the single biggest issue with merbau" So save your self some serious coin and deal with the tannins.

  15. #15
    Keg
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    Heck yeah, lets pay 3rd world countries a pittance to rape their land of all it's natural resources so that when those resources run out (very quickly) they are left with nothing....i guess you are all for sweat shops too.
    The geek will inherit the earth.

  16. #16
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    Oh, not to mention the fact that very little of that money even stays in the country from which the resource is taken anyway.
    The geek will inherit the earth.

  17. #17
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    At the past two Timber and Working With Wood Shows, there has been a islander guy/family dealing in a 'black' hardwood they call Pacific Ebony (err maybe it was Queen Ebony). It's generally sold in small pieces and used in small items, guitars etc.

    He said they farm it from their properties on an island that I don't recall. Anyway, what I do remember well is his response when I asked "Is it sustainable?", to which he said "Bro, we have enough for 300 years!"."No, no, I mean is it from regrowth or managed forests?". He looked blankly and turned to someone else...

    I didn't buy any, but at least I have 300 years

  18. #18
    Keg
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    Yeah, shame it will probably take more than 300 years to regrow...and has possibly been there for 300 million years before he started cutting it down.
    The geek will inherit the earth.

  19. #19
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    Sustainability is possibly the best argument for any purchase of a product. Even without that Merbau hmmm, Ironbark mmmm....Wish I had some.

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