Matt Hissong worked as a lumber salesman from 2006 to 2020, but he’s always been a builder at heart. So when pandemic-related changes in the industry led him to reconsider his life’s path, he was ready to leap into his next career. And that’s exactly when he says a once-in-a-lifetime building project landed in his lap. Shown here is a 5,290-square-foot ipe deck that he recently built, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

While a structural engineer sized the piers, steel beams, and framing for the deck, the owner gave Hissong free reign to design the overall project, which includes a pool, a timber-framed pool house, a domed vault over a grotto, and other water features seen more often in a theme park than in a residential project; we’ll feature it in a future PDB article.

After the deck was framed, it was covered by ipe decking panels prefabricated in the author's shop.
Tree wells were framed around several trees that fall within the deck's footprint.
Workers trimmed the tree wells with ipe, then installed custom-fabricated stainless steel grates.

With Hissong’s extensive experience in the industry, he was comfortable speccing Pacific Woodtech’s new pressure-treated LVLs ( to frame the deck. Workers prefabricated 83 1/4-inch-square ipe decking panels in Hissong’s shop, fastening the ipe to pressure treated 2x4 frames with 1/4-in. x 2-in. U2 construction screws ( driven through the frame into the back of the decking. To avoid exposed fasteners, Camo Edge deck screws ( were used where decking was installed in the field.

To preserve the trees on the site, the deck includes generous tree wells. After the deck panels were installed, workers trimmed the wells with ipe, then dropped in custom-fabricated stainless steel grates supported by cleats.

Finished with a penetrating oil finish, the large deck is only a small part of the overall outdoor living project, which also includes a pool house and water features (seen at left and in the background in the photo).

Workers prefinished the decking when fabricating the panels, but the finish didn’t adhere well to the ipe. So after installation, the crew stripped the old finish and applied Penofin penetrating oil finish for hardwoods ( ❖

Photos by Matt Hissong.