The Many Uses of Ipe Hardwood
UPDATED FOR 2022
If you know any of us at Hardwood Decking Supply, then you probably know how much we love ipe hardwood. And we’re not the only ones! Ipe (also known as Ironwood and Brazilian Walnut) is our best-selling product. This is not a surprise because it has many outstanding characteristics. In fact, it is such a durable wood that it’s suited for a wide variety of projects, in addition to decks. Let’s learn about more ways to use ipe!
What is ipe wood?
We’ve got to start with the basics! What is ipe and why is it so incredible? Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”), is a hardwood from the tropics and subtropics of Central and South America. This hardwood is harvested from a species of Tabebuia tree that can grow up to 150 feet tall and up to six feet across. Also known as Brazilian walnut and ironwood, ipe is one of the most popular hardwoods in the world.
What are the characteristics of ipe?
Ipe is beloved by builders and homeowners for its natural beauty, as well as its incredible toughness and durability. With a Janka Hardness Rating of 3,680 pounds, it is one of the hardest woods around by a longshot. It’s so dense that it’s considered to be resistant to fire.
Ipe has a long lifespan, even when exposed to the elements, and can last well over 50 years in most cases. That’s 3-5 times longer than many popular wood options, such as cedar or pressure-treated wood. It has a deep brown color similar to mahogany. If untreated, the color will fade to silver, but a UV stain will maintain its color if desired. Additionally, ipe is:
- Highly resistant to decay and rot
- Naturally resistant to most insects
- Suitable for extreme weather
- Durable and tough
- Easy to maintain
The hardness of ipe, one of its benefits, can also be a drawback because it is heavy and difficult to work with. Even with pre-drilling, ipe will dull cutting tools quickly. Using carbide blades and bits improves the workability significantly.
Applications of ipe
Yes, ipe hardwood works great for a deck! However, the characteristics described above make it an ideal choice for other exterior applications, such as furniture, fences, retaining walls, siding, and docks, and even certain indoor uses! Here are our top picks for ipe.
If you’re looking to build a trellis, pergola, gazebo, or fence, ipe is a fantastic option. The wood is gorgeous, of course! Additionally, it’s often an appealing option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact. Like many woods, ipe is natural and untreated, so it can easily be repurposed at the end of its life. Plus, unlike most other woods, ipe’s life cycle is incredibly long. Longevity is a key element of sustainability since it means you’re not replacing the same item every time it breaks down. Once you build an ipe structure, you won’t have to worry about replacing it.
Ipe siding is popular for both homes and commercial buildings. Whether used as an architectural detail or as traditional siding, it can be an exciting alternative to more conventional materials. Thanks to its durability, ipe siding has a long life. Plus, at the end of its life cycle, it can be recycled and reused, unlike vinyl or composites. The fire resistance of ipe is also an attractive feature when used around a home.
Ipe is outstanding as interior flooring. Not only does it lend a lush, rich look to a home, but its hardness means that it’s not susceptible to normal wear-and-tear and it can last decades in a home.
Ipe can be used to make strong, beautiful furniture (that also looks great with your ipe deck!). Popular as a teak alternative, ipe furniture can last over 25 years even when exposed to wild weather. With its remarkable durability, ipe furniture is an investment that can hold up to dogs, children, and even rowdy parties.
We can’t help ourselves! Ipe is a fantastic decking material. Long-lasting, smooth yet not slippery, and naturally resistant to fire, rot, and insects, ipe is truly a knock-out.
Ipe is a fairly low maintenance wood. Always sweep or wipe it clean of dirt and debris. Clean up spills promptly and use a mild detergent with water when a thorough cleaning is required. An annual application of sealer (like our Ipe Oil Hardwood Deck Finish & UV Protector) is a great way to maintain the color of your ipe wood. A sealer will maintain the golden color of your ipe but if you don’t want to go through the work of sealing, you can let your wood weather to a beautiful silvery grey.