When it comes to Ipe, what’s not to love?! By far our top-selling tropical decking lumber species, Ipe’s popularity is more than a passing fad. With a lifespan of more than 4 decades, this Brazilian species adds more than just good looks to any home’s interior or exterior.
If we had to choose a single chief characteristic that endears so many to Ipe, it would have to be its resistance to warping and rotting. This characteristic makes it ideal for exterior applications such as decking, for which the species is best known. Sometimes referred to as “Ironwood,” Ipe boasts a density and hardness that gives it a fire rating on par with cement and — you guessed it — iron. While all wood moves to a degree as it absorbs and sheds environmental moisture, Ipe’s high degree of stability means that it moves essentially the same amount in the two most significant ways — tangentially and radially. This dimensional stability allows it to perform well in settings that lack climate control. Where most boards would warp and twist, Ipe boards will remain stable. (Despite its excellent stability, remember that Ipe will still move, so planning decking gaps are as important with Ipe as with any other decking species.)
Like most tropical decking species, Ipe is well known for its rich, reddish brown color. Due to the extensive range throughout which Ipe grows, some color variation will undoubtedly occur. Color matching is another issue altogether, but by sunning Ipe and periodically treating it with decking cleaner and brightener as well as applying timber oil, you can allow your Ipe deck or other application to retain its original color and radiance rather than graying to a silvery patina.
In addition to decking brighteners and cleaners, we also carry Ipe clips that can be used if you choose to use hidden clip fasteners rather than face screwing. We also carry sealer, screws, and bits that will be helpful in working with this extremely dense species.
Even though Ipe is known for its use as decking, it certainly isn’t limited to that use. It’s also commonly used for boardwalks, bridges, marinas, and outdoor furniture. (Like any decking lumber, Ipe decking isn’t quite a finished product; be sure to keep that in mind as you plan your project.) Kiln-dried Ipe can also be used for interior flooring; due to its high durability, it’s suitable for the most high-traffic areas.
One thing we don’t love about Ipe is its continually rising price point and waning availability. And as much as we all wish it were, we realize that it might not be affordable or accessible for every exterior project that you have. At J. Gibson McIlvain we’d love to put our heads together with yours and help you come up with a plan to save money on Ipe or choose a comparable alternative species.