When choosing lumber for outdoor projects, durability is always a top priority for builders. You need wood that can withstand the elements and stay standing for years to come. You may have heard of many hardwoods with a long lifespan and strong water resistance. But no hardwood is more durable than Ipe.
Ipe wood (pronounced e-Pay wood) is widely considered to be the best natural hardwood for durability and quality. Also known as Brazilian Walnut, this tropical hardwood is the top choice of many architects, contractors, and DIY builders alike. But exactly how durable is Ipe wood? And how can we measure its toughness compared to other woods?
Ipe Decking Toughness
Ipe lumber is used for all sorts of projects, but it is perhaps most frequently used to build decks. This is largely due to its durability and toughness. Decks are built to remain strong and sturdy for decades. A durable hardwood is an essential ingredient to achieving that.
It also helps that Ipe wood has a rich brown color which gives Ipe decking an appealing, natural look. These two factors combined, toughness and visual appeal, make Ipe a great choice for building a deck. There are a few different ways we can measure the durability of Ipe lumber for decking or other outdoor projects.
The first metric for determining Ipe’s durability is its long lifespan. Ipe wood can last for up to 75 years when treated properly. For most other top-quality hardwoods, a 25-30 year lifespan is considered excellent. The life expectancy of Ipe wood is more than double that of most other tropical hardwoods.
Even more impressive is that Ipe wood is also relatively low-maintenance. Thanks to some of its other qualities, Ipe does not require constant treatment to protect it from the elements. Annual treatment with sealant is required to keep Ipe wood at its best. This oil will help preserve the wood grain and color of the lumber. Ipe does the rest of the work on its own.
Part of Ipe’s longevity comes from the fact that it is extremely hard. Even relative to other hardwoods, Ipe stands out in this category.
The industry standard for measuring a wood’s hardness is the Janka hardness scale. This scale measures the amount of force required to embed a steel ball halfway into a wooden board. An average score on the Janka hardness scale is around 1290 pounds of force. Ipe’s Janka scale rating is 3684 pounds. Among commercially available hardwoods, that is easily within the top three.
Another reason Ipe wood is able to last so long is its natural moisture resistance. Ipe wood that has been properly harvested and treated is great at naturally resisting water. This protects it from erosion and splintering, as well as mold and mildew development.
This factor is particularly important when it comes to Ipe decking. Decks are exposed to the elements year-round, so protecting them from rain and snow is critically important. Many commercial products are available to protect wooden decks from the elements. But with Ipe, your lumber does most of this work for you. This is typically done at the end of the summer.
Termites can wreak havoc on any wooden structure. Protecting against termites can often be a major challenge as well. Once an infestation starts, the damage has already begun. So what’s the best way to combat termite infestation?
When you choose Ipe wood, your lumber will be too hard for termites. Termites, and other insects, are unable to penetrate Ipe lumber. Thus, Ipe decking is naturally resistant to damage from all types of insects. If you use Ipe lumber, you don’t need to take any extra preventive measures to protect against termites.
When it comes to fire resistance, lumber is not typically thought of as the best building material. But Ipe wood even excels in this area. Ipe has an A1 fire resistance rating, which is the same as materials like concrete and steel.
Fire safety is always important regardless of the construction materials you use. However, it is always good to have peace of mind that your Ipe deck can withstand potential fire damage. This is particularly useful during the summer months when people use the grill or have bonfires in their yards. Accidental fire damage to your deck, even minimal, is less of a concern when you use Ipe wood.
Building Ipe Decks and More
Building an Ipe deck on your home or project can greatly increase the project’s value along with the comfort it provides. Ipe is among the best tropical hardwoods available for decking materials. You now know all about the durability of Ipe wood, but the benefits don’t end there.
Ipe is a perfect choice for those seeking a natural look for their decking, siding, or cladding. Ipe’s natural texture makes it resistant to most paints and finishes. However, this is not a big problem for most people. Ipe’s toughness means that its rich brown color stays intact for decades, giving it a long-lasting authentic appearance. Because Ipe is able to withstand so much, it is a perfect material for a wide range of projects. Decks are one very common use for Ipe lumber, but this tropical hardwood is capable of much more. Decking, cladding, siding, and wall slats, indoor and outdoor projects, Ipe wood can be applied anywhere.
Another great thing about using Ipe lumber is that it is a natural, sustainable resource. When you purchase Ipe or other tropical hardwoods from a manufacturer like Black Label, you are supporting sustainable harvesting practices. All Black Label Ipe wood is carefully selected from well-managed forests. Only a few of the tallest and oldest trees are harvested each year. This, in turn, allows new life to flourish in support of the forest’s natural life cycle. Ipe lumber is not only one of the strongest materials you can use in construction. When harvested responsibly, it is one of the most environmentally friendly resources available as well.