From Ipe to Tigerwood to Plastic: New Trends in Decks

From on December 18, 2007 in Decks and Patios

With the year nearing its end, we thought we’d interview several landscape design and planning contractors to see what 2007 saw in decks. The scoop is that redwood, long a favorite material for outdoor landscaping structures, is making room for ironwood, or types of wood with a reputation for hardness. One of these is ipe, a Brazilian hardwood, also known as palope. Dave Anderson of Monarch Gardens compares ipe to mahogany. “Ipe is a popular wood these days, but difficult to work with.” he says. “Unlike redwood, which is really soft.” Anderson says denser wood like ipe requires a lot more labor. This includes using special blades for cutting, pre-drilling with a drill bit, and staining before putting it down. However, the benefits can be well worth it, especially in terms of the life of your deck. Anderson says,

“Redwood has an 18-20 year lifespan if you’re lucky. Ipe can last least twice or possibly 4 times as long as redwood.”

Ipe is environmentally friendly wood that’s sustainably harvested and farmed. Anderson also gave us the heads up tiger wood, a type of wood coming from the Far East that is just beginning to strike a positive note with trendy homeowners. Unlike ipe wood and teak furniture, which has the tendency to gray over time, tiger wood turns a beautiful red color.

As Anderson’s experience this year demonstrates, different types of wood are beginning to make an appearance on the market. Other options to redwood, such as composite material, are also growing in popularity.

Todd Lloyd of Todd Lloyd Construction built 2 decks this year and saw similar requests.

“More people are leaning toward composite material versus traditional wood,” he says. “Longevity and low maintenance over the upkeep of redwood and traditional natural products are the reasons.”

Trex and Timber Teks are two companies that provide composite building materials. Anderson says that composites have improved in recent times.

“When they first came out, they didn’t have the UV protection quite right. You’d think a plastic product would hold its color, but a year later, the UV protection would fade out. Now, they’re getting much better with it, composites are coming a long way.”

According to Anderson, the benefits of composites are that they’re recycleable, they go in the same way as any other decking material, they come in lots of purchasing options, and they twist, bend, and curve for flexibility in design. On the other hand, Anderson does not favor the fake graining.

“They’re trying to make something that’s not wood look like wood. It’s not believable.”