Choosing the correct lumber for a project can be a difficult task if you are unfamiliar with different hardwood types. Not all lumber is the same. Some hardwoods are better suited for certain projects than others. When it comes to outdoor projects, durability is key. In these instances, Ipe lumber is the preferred choice of many contractors and DIY builders alike. Ipe decking in particular is a highly popular choice in any climate. This is because Ipe is naturally durable and resistant to all varieties of damage and decay.
While Ipe lumber is extremely valuable, it also presents some unique challenges to those who work with it. As with most materials, Ipe lumber should be treated properly in order to achieve the best results. Here is everything you should know about working with Ipe hardwood, and the type of projects it’s best suited for.
Properties of Ipe Wood
Ipe wood (pronounced ee-PAY) is harvested from the Tabebuia tree, which grows predominantly in Central and South America. It is sometimes called “Brazilian walnut” because most commercial Ipe lumber is harvested in Brazil from the Amazon Rainforest.
Before going further, it is important to discuss the sustainable harvesting practices that go into Lumber Plus’ distribution of Ipe lumber. Lumber is a natural resource, and the ecosystems of the rainforests are delicate, but critical. All Lumber Plus wood products are legally harvested from carefully managed forests, certified by either the FSC or Unifloresta, with only a select few trees being removed at a time. This practice allows the forest to continually regenerate. So while Ipe hardwood is harvested from the Amazon Rainforest, it does not cause any damage to the environment. By only using the tallest trees for harvesting, this process actually allows smaller trees to grow. This results in a healthier life cycle for the forest.
As for the wood itself, Ipe lumber is known for its extreme toughness and durability. These characteristics are what make it a top choice for all types of outdoor construction projects. The durability of Ipe wood does not just mean that it can last a long time under the right conditions. While this is certainly the case (Ipe has a lifespan of 70+ years), there is more to it than longevity. Ipe is also water-resistant, meaning mold, mildew, and fungi are unlikely to grow on and damage the hardwood. This also means that Ipe lumber holds up much better when exposed to rain and extreme weather.
The toughness of Ipe’s exterior also provides tremendous resistance against insect infestation. When it comes to Ipe decking, this toughness cannot be understated. Damage from termites or other insects is a common cause of damage for decks made from other woods, like pressure treated lumber.
While all of these qualities make Ipe one of the best hardwoods to work with, DIY builders should know some of its challenges as well. Those who have not worked with Ipe lumber before may find it intimidating that holes must be pre-drilled ahead of time. You aren’t able to nail or drill holes in Ipe wood. This is simply because Ipe is harder than many other kinds of wood. While that hardness is one of Ipe’s greatest strengths, it can make it more difficult to work with.
It may also be harder to apply paint or varnish to Ipe wood due to the presence of natural resins. However, Ipe hardwood has an impressive natural look on its own, so paint is not often necessary. Many homeowners prefer the natural look of Ipe hardwood for their deck or siding. Additionally, some maintenance may be required to preserve the natural color of your Ipe wood over the years. But the overall upkeep required for Ipe lumber is minimal in comparison to most pressure treated lumber.
Best Uses for Ipe Wood
Ipe decking is one of the common uses for this tropical hardwood, but it is not the only one. Ipe is widely used for a number of outdoor projects. Here are some of the most popular uses for Ipe lumber.
Ipe Deck Boards
As mentioned previously, Ipe is a top choice for many homeowners looking to build a new deck. Ipe deck boards offer strong visual appeal and unbeatable durability. Ipe deck boards are extremely low maintenance and can last for decades. And because paints and varnishes are not required, there is also little need to worry about losing the color. Ipe decking can be protected with an oil finish to maintain its natural color. It is also recommended that you apply sealant once a year to your Ipe decking, usually after the winter season. Cleaning Ipe deck boards is also relatively easy. Keep in mind that harsh cleaning chemicals can cause them to lose some of their natural color.
Ipe Siding & Ipe Cladding
Homeowners going for a rustic or natural look often choose hardwood for their siding. Ipe is a great choice for siding for all of the reasons mentioned above. Ipe siding and Ipe cladding are among the most durable options you can choose for your home. And the relatively low maintenance required means your siding can continue to look stunning year after year.
Ipe fencing is yet another great option for this tropical hardwood. It is both stylish and practical. The hardwood’s luxurious appearance is enough to make a strong impression on its own. Combined with its strength and durability, Ipe fencing can also withstand the elements better than most wooden fences. Ipe fencing may cost a bit more than more traditional fence materials. However, you may save more money in the long run due to the extremely long lifespan of Ipe lumber.
Ipe Deck Tiles
Ipe deck tiles generally come in 24×24 pre-assembled pieces that will cover 4sqft. These tiles are extremely easy to install, and can be laid over pretty much any flat surfaces such as concrete or turf. Considering that Ipe hardwood is naturally resistant against moisture and humidity, Ipe Deck Tiles can be a fantastic option for installing a rooftop deck without necessarily needing to spend tons of dollars in installation labor. All this being said, it won’t hurt to reinforce that Ipe Deck Tiles also look amazing after installed.
Ipe Wood From Lumber Plus
Lumber Plus offers top quality Ipe lumber, plus the largest inventory of Ipe in North America. All Ipe lumber from Lumber Plus is handpicked for quality, and is sustainably sourced from well-managed areas. Sustainability is always our top priority in harvesting any lumber, whether it’s Ipe hardwood or another wood type. However, a secondary concern is ensuring that every piece of lumber we distribute is properly treated to ensure longevity and consistency. For our Ipe hardwood, that means we only select slow-dried lumber free of imperfections and deformities.
Lumber Plus can supply hardwood for projects of all types. Whether you’re a contractor, or you’re building DIY Ipe deck boards, Lumber Plus can help you.