Premium Ipe Lumber: The Perfect Combination of Beauty and Strength
When it comes to choosing the right type of lumber for your marine building project, there’s a lot to consider. Harsh coastal conditions require materials that are strong, durable, and water-resistant — materials like Ipe lumber. If you need high-grade Ipe wood to complete your next marine construction project, the experts at Decks & Docks have you covered. Call or visit one of our locations today and we’ll supply you with the right resources for the job.
What Is Ipe?
Ipe (pronounced “EE-pay”), also known as Brazilian Walnut, is a type of hardwood from South America known for its natural durability, density, and hardness. This extremely strong material is highly resistant to water, insects, rot, mold, and splinters. Its beauty and incredible weathering abilities make it an ideal choice for a variety of marine construction projects.
No building material is flawless, so there are a few drawbacks you’ll want to consider. Because it’s so dense, Ipe is much heavier and more difficult to work with than pressure-treated wood. Pre-drilling is often required to prevent the wood from splitting and cracking, but because it’s so easy to maintain, the quality of this material is worth the extra time and effort spent on initial installation.
How Is it Used?
Ipe is a popular material for a variety of outdoor construction projects such as decks, docks, piers, boardwalks, siding, stairs, benches, and other furniture. Indoors, Ipe is most commonly used for cabinetry and flooring. The wood’s durability and overall quality make it ideal for high-traffic commercial areas like restaurants and parks, but that doesn’t mean homeowners can’t enjoy the beauty and low-maintenance of Ipe lumber too!
Lastly, you’ll want to keep in mind that because this wood is so dense, it sinks straight to the bottom of any body of water – not exactly ideal for floating docks, but perfect for a sturdy pier.
What Does it Look Like?
Combining the strength of an outdoor building material with the beauty of an interior wood, Ipe’s rich red-brown hues are a stunning addition to any space. Over time, sun exposure will cause this color to naturally fade and become a light silver/gray. This change is purely aesthetic — it does not affect the structural integrity of your deck or dock in any way. You may even find that you like the faded silver color better!
If not, don’t worry. The wood’s original brown color can easily be brought back at any time using a high-quality hardwood oil like Penofin, which can be purchased at any Decks & Docks location.
Air-Dried Ipe vs Kiln-Dried Ipe
Ipe can either be air-dried (AD) or kiln-dried (KD). Air-dried Ipe has a moisture level of around 18%, while kiln-drying lowers the wood’s moisture level anywhere between 10 and 18%. The type of wood that’s most appropriate for your project will depend on the annual moisture content of your area to ensure proper acclimation.
Coastal Construction Benefits
What makes Ipe ideal for coastal environments? The marine construction experts at Decks & Docks recommend Ipe lumber for coastal building projects because of the wood’s 1) strength, 2) durability, 3) water resistance, and 4) low maintenance.
Three times stronger than cedar, Ipe has a bending strength of over 22,000 psi, making it perfect for busy beach boardwalks and other crowded pedestrian areas. Thanks to its superior strength, Ipe easily exceeds most code requirements for outdoor construction projects, both commercial and residential.
It’s not hard to see why Ipe is often compared to steel. Not only is it incredibly tough and able to withstand enormous pressure, but it also has an A-rating from the National Fire Protection Association, the same rating as steel. It is perfectly safe to use fire around this type of wood. What’s more, Ipe is naturally resistant against bugs — termites are no match for this impenetrable lumber. Without chemical treatment, it can naturally resist termite attacks for up to 15 years in the ground, longer than any other wood.
Because it’s so durable, Ipe is an investment that pays off in the long run. With regular maintenance, it can last anywhere between 40 and 75 years. And during that time, you’re far less likely to deal with common decking issues like bugs, mold, and fungal growth.
Water & Slip-Resistant
For coastal construction projects, water-resistance should be a top priority. Ipe lumber offers superior water-resistance compared to softwoods and even other hardwoods thanks to its extreme density. The wood’s tight grain and natural oils keep water out, preventing rot and mold growth.
Ipe lumber is also naturally slip-resistant, making it the perfect material for outdoor projects. Piers, decks, docks, boardwalks, and other structures exposed to water made from this type of wood are safer to walk and run on.
Compared to softwoods like cedar and redwood, Ipe requires very little maintenance. Keeping your deck in good condition is simple: sweep away leaves and other debris regularly, use a wood cleaner once or twice a year to maintain optimal brightness, and protect your deck with a UV protectant coating once a year to keep it from graying.
When it comes to lumber, you get what you pay for. While hardwoods like Ipe may be more expensive upfront, the lower cost of annual maintenance and a longer lifespan are worth the investment. And by avoiding common maintenance problems, you’ll save plenty of headaches, too.
Ipe Treatment & Protection
Natural oils in Ipe lumber make it resistant to bugs, and the wood’s hardness prevents rot and decay. But despite Ipe lumber’s natural strength, any type of wood that is exposed to sun, wind, rain, and salt water on a daily basis will eventually lose its luster over time without the right treatment. Luckily, our marine experts have tested just about every wood treatment available to supply you with the highest quality products on the market.
For Ipes and other hardwoods, we recommend the Penofin Hardwood Formula to keep your decking looking brand new in harsh waterfront conditions. This UV protectant coating will also help maintain the original color of your Ipe decking and prevent it from “graying out” over time. Stop by your neighborhood Decks & Docks location to pick up a gallon or two today!