The Best Outdoor Uses of Ipe Wood

Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”) is a large hardwood tree typically found in Central and South American countries. It is sometimes also known as Brazilian hardwood, Brazilian walnut or ironwood. Lauded for its many incredible characteristics, ipe is highly durable, strong and has a natural resistance to damp or wet conditions, insects and even decay. It’s these properties that make it the top choice for many commercial and residential uses such as decking and siding. In fact, the famous Atlantic City boardwalk, and many other municipal boardwalks along the East Coast of the United States are made of ipe wood.

The physical hardness and density of ipe is amazing, especially when compared to other popular wood types. The Janka test measures wood hardness and it has determined that ipe is over 350% harder than teak wood, with some comparing its strength to that of steel. This strength and density also makes it one of the heaviest woods available, about 40% heavier than teak. With the same fire rating as concrete and steel, ipe wood resists flames better and for much longer than most woods and its density means it doesn’t float in water.

Ipe wood decking and siding are highly popular thanks to ipe’s low maintenance and durable, scratch-resistant surface. As decking or flooring, ipe is perfect because the wood finish is smooth with no splinters. Natural ipe is eco-friendly and doesn’t require the use of any toxic chemicals. Its lifespan is about 25 years — the highest possible category available for classification – although some say it could be up to 100 years if maintained properly.

Buildings with ipe wood siding are guaranteed to maintain their strength even in the harshest environmental conditions, particularly in coastal regions because the natural oils found in ipe make it resistant to decay and mildew. Many upscale commercial and residential projects utilize ipe wood as it is a more superior and premium choice as well as being maintenance-free.

Being such a hard wood, ipe has very different methods of installation and uses more advanced manufacturing techniques compared to other woods. To insert screws into ipe, holes must first be pre-drilled. Of course, the hardness of ipe makes it unsuitable to any intricate detailing. Paint does not adhere well to ipe due to its high oil and tannin content, but the tight grains in ipe give it a very consistent, dark coloring that normally would not require any finish other than Ipe Oil to maintain its rich, beautiful color.

In terms of ipe wood cost, it is a material that is reasonably priced for all the benefits it comes with. Cheaper than teak, clear grade western cedar is probably closest in price to ipe, but ipe wins in every aspect as you won’t be replacing or repairing your ipe wood deck or siding every 10 years as you would with other softer woods that will crack over time. It is a worthy investment as ipe is a prized outdoor material that will stand the test of time.