When a homeowner or contractor asks for the best of the best, as far as decking materials, the answer, hands down, is Ipe. With a lifespan of more than 40 years, this tropical hardwood will probably be standing longer than you own your home. From its roots in the rainforests of Brazil, Ipe comes to us highly prized, and for good reason.
Because of its extreme hardness and density, Ipe is sometimes referred to as “Ironwood.” This species’ density and hardness make it resist absorbing moisture, allowing it to experience very minimal movement after installation. Those same qualities make splintering or splitting rare during machining as well as making Ipe generally resistant to insect damage or decay. Ipe’s amazingly high density also contributes to its class A fire rating, putting it right up there with concrete or metal, and earning it the nickname “Ironwood.”
In addition to the qualities of Ipe that contribute to its longevity, one of the big selling points of Ipe is its rich appearance. Typical of tropical hardwood decking species, its deep reddish brown coloring is complemented by an extremely tight grain you might expect, due to the wood’s high density. If left untreated, Ipe will fade to a silvery patina; however, when treated with the right timber oil, its brown coloring can be retained.
While Ipe is not subject to a standardized grading system, J. Gibson McIlvain imports only the equivalent of Grade A Ipe. What, exactly, does that mean? Grade A equivalent Ipe is completely clear on at least 3 sides, without any defects, such as sapwood, interlocking or reversing grain, borer holes, or sapwood. The coloring will be consistent and the grain patterns either straight or cathedral.
For some applications, quartersawn Ipe is ideal. Its extreme stability comes with some areas of raised grain that appear as raised ridges which require sanding. Such areas merely reveal the internal medullary rays, which are internal structures of the wood.
Air-dried Ipe decking is typically dried to a moisture level between 12% and 18% in order to prevent excessive movement or checking during seasonal changes. At J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber, we carry both kiln-dried, rough-sawn Ipe and air-dried Ipe decking that is surfaced on 4 sides and eased on 4 edges (S4S, E4E), suitable for installation with either face-screwing or hidden fasteners. For those who prefer the latter method of installation, we can groove Ipe decking boards at our millworks for hidden clip fasteners, upon request, as well as provide the additional materials you need to complete your decking project.
If you love Ipe as much as we do, you’ll be glad to know that its uses extend beyond your decking needs! It’s also great for other outdoor applications such as furniture and siding, as well as interior applications such as high-traffic flooring.
At J. Gibson McIlvain, we take great pride in sourcing only the highest quality Ipe, and it’s no wonder that this species is among our top selling woods. If you’re considering Ipe for your next project, be sure to contact us for a quote.
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.