When considering what wood to use for outdoor decking, Ipe wood is unbeatable for its durability and cost. Ipe wood is an exotic hardwood found throughout South America that is incredibly resistant to rot, insect infestation, and also has incredible fire resistance. Pronounced ee-PAY, this incredible hardwood has several common names, including Brazilian walnut, amapa, and cortez.
When it became necessary to replace the famous Atlantic City boardwalk, Ipe wood was chosen. It was also used for the boardwalk at the Treasure Island Resort in Las Vegas.
This wood is an extremely dense and tight-grained wood, which is the source of its longevity. When tested by the US Naval Research Laboratory, it received its highest rating. This was based on Ipe wood that was left in the ground for 15 years without termite attack. It is also resistant to mold and mildew. The wood can be expected to last more than 40 years untreated and more than 100 years with a deck oil treatment. Not only is it long lasting, it is a fraction of the cost of teak.
Compared to the more common woods used in outdoor projects, Ipe wood wins out easily. Even against those woods that were long considered superior for outdoor use, such as cedar and redwood. Studies of recent use of Redwood suggest that while the redwoods used in the early 1900s offered excellent quality when used outdoors, that is not the case today. The reason for this is quite simple. The redwood used a century ago was taken from primary forests and those no longer exist. The redwood used today is produced from new trees, and the heartwood of younger trees offers much less resistance to rot and insects than that of old trees. The irresponsible logging practices of the last century depleted all old redwoods except the protected trees in the National Forests.
Using Ipe wood is also an environmentally friendly option. Ipe timber importers to the United States generally purchase timber that is grown in managed forests that have been approved by the Forest Stewardship Council. The practice of taking trees from managed forests means that sustainable forestry practices are used, which is why Ipe wood produces one of the renewable wood products in the world today. Using Ipe instead of teak or mahogany leads to environmentally responsible forestry practices in sensitive rainforest settings.
One of the reasons that Ipe wood is so new to the outdoor product market is actually the same reason that Ipe wood is so durable too. The wood is so incredibly dense that only recent technological advances in machinery have made it possible to process the wood at an affordable price. Ipe wood must be drilled for fasteners and accessories; it is too dense for traditional hammer and nail techniques. This wood is almost 400% harder than teak and is one of the only woods that sinks in water!
When it comes to investing in the beauty and functionality of your home, Ipe wood is a natural choice. Although initially more expensive to install, the rewards far outweigh the initial investment because once installed, Ipe wood is virtually maintenance-free and will last a lifetime. Even pressure-treated woods cannot boast of the staying power of Ipe wood.