One of the biggest challenges for homeowners who plan to add a deck is deciding what type of wood to use. There are pro’s and con’s to every type of wood, budget issues, and where you live in the U.S. is also a big factor in determining the wood you choose.
What is Ipe?
Ipe is an exotic wood from South America with olive brown to blackish coloring. It can grow as tall as 150 feet making it one of the tallest trees in the Amazon region. It has the durability and strength of teak, but for a lot less money. As a deck wood, Ipe is close to perfect. Not only beautiful in appearance it’s also hard, strong, and resistant to rot, mold, termites, abrasion, and weather without the use of any toxic chemicals. When left untreated it turns to a natural silvery gray color that can be restored to its original color with minimal effort. Ipe lumber comes in long lengths and is virtually knot free, with very little to no warping. If you’re one who likes to walk barefoot you won’t have to worry about splinters.
Should you use Ipe wood on your deck project?
If you want a beautiful deck that all your friends will envy and you want it to last over 25 years, then Ipe is definitely top choice. The U.S. Forest products laboratory classified Ipe as “very durable 25+ years” and expects that ipe wood decking will last much longer; this is the highest category available for classification. Thus you won’t have to worry about replacing your deck for a very long time.
Working with Ipe
Ipe lumber is somewhat difficult to work with. It can wreak havoc on hand tools and have quite a blunting effect on cutting edges. However, the upside is the wood finishes and sands quite smoothly with no splintering. Ipe boards can have a fine yellow dust on the surface that may cause dermatitis in individuals who have skin sensitivities. It can also cause an allergic reaction if inhaled; wearing a dust mask is highly recommended.
To compare Ipe wood decking to pressure treated lumber or knotty cedar would be like comparing a Hyundai with a Lexus.
Cedar and pressure treated lumber can usually be purchased for under $2 per board foot. Clear grade western red cedar is around $4 per board foot and is in a closer proximity to the price range of Ipe.
Ipe decking is usually priced in the $5 to $7 per board range, but that can vary drastically by geographical location; worth every penny as you won’t be replacing your deck every 10 years or replacing boards as you would with softer woods that crack over time. Ask your contractor about reducing the thickness to help save on costs. Often times you can down size your lumber from 1 ½ thick to ¾ thick planks and still attain the same structural integrity yet saving some big bucks on your project.
Bottom line about Ipe as a possible wood choice for your new deck: if you plan on living in your home for many years to come and quality, beauty, and durability are important to you – go with Ipe!
For more information follow the links below:
Durability of wear surface:
Decay & Insect Resistance:
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