Ipe wood is a popular green building material used for decking, furniture and flooring. Like mahogany, Ipe is typically a deep rich brown with some pieces displaying red and amber hues.
A benefit of Ipe wood for exterior applications is it's dense grain, along with natural oils and tannins that protect it from insects and weathering as long as it is regularly maintained. You can buy ipe which is either air dried or kiln dried. Air dried Ipe wood is recommended for outdoor use while kiln dried Ipe is best for indoor use.
Recognizing Ipe Wood
There are many different names for ipe including:
Ipe Decking Needs Maintenance
Ipe decking material has the highest rating for insect and decay resistance among natural wood decking materials, but that doesn’t mean it’s low-maintenance. If you want Ipe to retain its rich walnut-brown color and luster, you must apply a Brazilian wood treatment immediately after installation. You need to continue this maintenance when the Ipe wood “starts to turn blonde” which will vary from 6 months to two years depending on your climate. If you don't do this, the wood will turn silvery gray.
Ipe can stain easily from spilled drinks or petroleum-based products unless a quality stain has been applied. It’s important to realize that Brazilian hardwood is different than other woods and cannot be treated with the same preservatives or stains. Many stains and finishes are incompatible with Ipe wood decking due to the high water and oil resistance of the wood. When shopping be sure to read the label carefully to insure compatibility with Brazilian hardwoods. It's also a good idea to test your finish on a sample board first, to make sure you like the resulting color.
A helpful review on the GardenWeb forum about ipe decking stated “I recently cleaned and stained my Ipe deck with EFC-38 followed by Citralic to brighten the wood. I stained it with Wood Tux. I am very pleased with the results so far.” Penofin has also received good reviews for use with Ipe decking. Make sure when you're choosing your decking material that you not only consider the initial cost, but also the ongoing maintenance that it requires.
Ipe wood is seven times stronger than cedar and is slip-resistant. The Brazilian wood look is a feature that many people really like. That's a major reason why they choose exotic wood decking materials like Ipe, over softwoods or pressure-treated lumber.
Environmentally Friendly Ipe Logging
Ipe is harvested in Brazil where loggers take care to only harvest a few logs per acre each year. This practice allows the forest to regenerate every 10 to 15 years. They take great pride in their policy of legal and ethical logging. For those of us who are sustainable-minded, Ipe is a trusted brand. Find out more about the laws and regulations that control Brazilian rainforests by reading What Makes Our Hardwood Eco Friendly, by Advantage Lumber.
Do you have a deck made of an exotic wood like ipe?
PS If you're doing more research about decks, here are some other useful articles:
- Your Guide to Decking
- Composite Decking or Rot-Resistant Wood?
- Composite Decking Materials for Look, Cost and Maintenance
Ipe is definitely 100% not a green building material, it comes from tropical rainforests where it is a rare tree, the entire area is massacred to take one tree, chop it up, and then import it halfway across the planet. Use locust, mulberry, osage or even black walnut or cherry instead. These domestic hardwoods are much less taxing on the environment to grow, harvest and transport. The first three have a comparable lifespan too
Vinny, Thanks for your feedback. Found a great article, WHY IPE HAS FALLEN OUT OF FAVOR WITH ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS DESIGNERS, that explains more & the fact that more than 50% of Ipe is harvested illegally. I will update article but have to think about how.