What You Should Know About Ipe Decking
If you’re looking for a hardwood decking option, Ipe should definitely be on your short list. Prized for its hardness and durability, Ipe is a decking option that will stand the test of time.
Ipe (Tabebuia spp., Lapacho group) is a tropical hardwood that grows all over South America much as yellow pine grows all over the United States. In some cases, it is harvested irresponsibly, but sustainable sources of Ipe are available from a reputable supplier. Our Ipe is sustainably sourced.
Topping out the Janka scale with a rating of 3684, more than three times the hardness of Walnut, Ipe is extremely hard, dense, and heavy. When dry, it weighs approximately 69 lbs per cubic food (compare that to Southern Pine at 35 lbs per cubic foot) and generally sinks in water. Ipe dries well without much checking or twisting and has an exceptionally smooth surface that is not prone to splintering.
Ipe is basically bullet-proof. This hardwood is resistant to rot, insects, and even fire. Ipe can safely be used in ground contact without preservatives. In a 1962 Panama Canal study conducted by the U.S. Navy, Ipe was one of the top performers when it came to rot and insect resistance; it lasted 15 years in the ground without attack by termites.
Ipe is one of the most durable wood species available. The U.S. Forests Products Laboratory has given Ipe its highest possible durability rating (25+ years). Most Ipe decking is guaranteed for at least 20-25 years, and may last decades longer. The boardwalk at Coney Island in New York City used to be constructed of Ipe, and it lasted 25 years before it needed to be replaced. Chances are your deck will see less traffic than the Coney Island boardwalk and last considerably longer.
Because of its extreme hardness, Ipe can be difficult to work. Carbide tipped saw blades are recommended, as Ipe will dull others. Predrilling for fasteners is necessary and, as with all hardwood decking, only stainless steel fasteners should be used. Hidden clip fastener systems are recommended as they allow the wood to expand and contract without putting pressure on screws, keep water from soaking into the decking, and leave a smooth, splinter-free surface.
Ipe is a beautiful dark brown, sometimes with reddish hues. To preserve this natural color, Ipe decking should be finished every two years with an oil-based finish. Because of Ipe’s alkaline characteristics, many oil and water-based finishes will not work, so you’ll want to use an oil finish specially formulated for Ipe. Without this treatment, Ipe will weather to a silvery gray color. Even if you decide to let your Ipe decking weather naturally, you should still apply an oil finish once right after installation.
When you want to build a deck that will last for decades and be nearly impervious to rot and insects, Ipe is a great choice.