Ipe wood decking is one of the most popular choices for creating the perfect backyard extension to your home. Ipe wood, often hailed as one of the premier choices for decking, is renowned for its exceptional durability, stunning aesthetics, and longevity. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to understanding and using Ipe wood for decking projects.
What is Ipe Wood?
Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”) is a hardwood sourced primarily from the Brazilian rainforests. It is harvested from trees belonging to the genus Handroanthus. Ipe is known for its rich brown color, and it can also feature greenish or yellowish tints. In its native areas of South America, Ipe is often used as an ornamental tree. Additionally, its lumber is highly sought after for both residential and commercial decking.
Key Features of Ipe Wood
- Durability: Ipe is incredibly dense and hard, making it resistant to scratches, dents, and wear. Its dense structure also makes it resistant to rot, decay, and insect infestation.
- Longevity: When properly maintained, Ipe decking can last over 70 years, far outperforming softer woods like pine or cedar.
- Aesthetics: Ipe’s fine grain and rich color palette, ranging from reddish-brown to olive brown, can provide a luxurious look to any outdoor space.
- Resistance to Elements: Ipe naturally resists mold, fungus, and mildew, and is highly impermeable to water, making it ideal for outdoor use.
- Pre-Drilling: Due to its hardness, pre-drilling holes for screws is recommended to avoid splitting.
- Fastening: You want to use high quality fastening materials. Stainless steel screws are preferred for securing Ipe decking to prevent corrosion.
- Spacing: Ipe wood needs a little space to breathe. Adequate spacing between boards is crucial for ventilation and to allow for wood expansion.
Maintenance and Care
- Regular Cleaning: Ipe wood is easy to care for. Regular cleaning with a mild soap and water will help maintain its appearance.
- UV Protection: Like teak, the color of Ipe wood can fade. To preserve the rich color, use a UV-inhibiting finish or oil. Without protection, Ipe tends to weather to a silvery-gray patina.
- Periodic Oiling: Application of deck oil every couple of years can help in maintaining its natural color and sheen.
Ipe’s popularity has raised concerns about deforestation and sustainability. It’s important to ensure that the Ipe wood you purchase is responsibly sourced and certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Ipe is generally more expensive than many other decking materials. However, its longevity and low maintenance requirements can offset the initial investment over time. As is the case with teak wood, a quality material is usually well-worth the extra cost.
Still, when you compare Ipe to composite decking, the natural wood can come out cheaper.
Ipe wood decking offers a combination of durability, beauty, and longevity, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking to invest in a high-quality outdoor space. While the upfront cost might be higher than other options, its durability and low maintenance needs provide value in the long run. Remember to consider the environmental impact of your choice and opt for responsibly sourced Ipe wood to ensure a sustainable and ethical decking solution.