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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 15:46



What is Ipe? 
Ipe is an almost magical South American hardwood. The USDA Forest Service gives Ipe top  marks for being bug and rot resistant. The wood is so hard it is nearly as difficult to burn as  concrete. Ipe is almost twice as dense and five times harder than most woods. It has a Class A fire  rating, which is the same rating given to concrete and steel.
 Ipe is dark brown in color, like a mahogany so not only does it last long but it has the beauty of a  fine inteior wood. If you look at all of the pros and cons Ipe wood decking has to be as close to  perfect as you can get in a wood. So like anything that is near perfect, Ipe is expensive compared  to cedar and pressure trearted lumber.
There are some concerns about havesting rain forest trees such as Ipe, so responsible havesting  should be ecouraged. 
Ipe As A Deck Wood? .......
pros and cons of ipe deck material
Should you use Ipe as a deck wood?
Ipe, as a deck wood is next to perfect, a beautiful exotic wood from S.America. Ipe decks and all ipe wood decking structures are hard, strong, and naturally resistant to rot, abrasion & weather. Ipe lumber is almost twice as dense as most woods and up to 5 times harder. What's not to like?
On top of all that ipe wood decking has the highest, Class A fire rating,.... the same rating given to concrete & steel. Ipe wood is dark brown in color, like a mahogany, so not only lasts a long time but has the beauty of a fine interior wood....
Thus looking at the pros and cons of ipe deck material, we have to believe that ipe wood decking is as close to perfect as we can get.
An extremely dense, tight grained wood. Generally a deep rich brown with some pieces displaying red and amber hues.
22,560 psi
Highest rating for insect (termite) and decay resistance.   Offers up to 100 year lifespan.
A light reddish-brown wood with generally straight grain.
670 lbs.
12,400 psi
Not naturally resistant to decay. Should be painted or stained to prevent decay.
Very pronounced grain. Dusty yellow-green palor due to chemical treatment of the wood.
690 lbs.
14,500 psi
A chemical preservative, chromated copper arsenate is forced into the wood.  Offering resistance to decay, but also potential health concerns.
Amine Copper Quat (ACQ) and Copper Azone (CA) – Since 2003 these two chemical combinations have been the two most popular choices for pressure treated lumber deemed for residential use. Not much at all is known of the health risks of these chemicals. On paper these chemicals sound better than ARSENIC but at this point in time whether these new chemicals will turn out to be less hazardous than CCA in the long term is anyone's guess.
Several grades available that vary considerably in in appearance and quality. Usually straight grained with a fine, even texture. Color varies from cherry-red to dark reddish-brown
480 lbs.
10,000 psi
Premium grades are more durable than most woods in common use. Resistant to decay, but relatively soft and quick to weather. Treatment is recommended.
Fresh cut, this wood appears a salmon pink color which turns a coffee brown over time. Species is generally straight grained.
580 lbs.
7,500 psi
This softwood is more durable than most woods in common use. Resistant to decay, but relatively soft and quick to weather. Treatment is recommended.
Interlocked grain similar to true mahogany, but with a courser texture. Species is generally medium to dark brown.
760 lbs.
12,000 psi
Only the dark red species are resistant to decay. Although more durable than cedar and redwood, it is still relatively soft compared to Ipe Decking.
If you wish to build an Ipe deck some consideration can be made for the strength characteristics of the ipe lumber in the design phase. Ipe has a Janka hardness rating of 3640 making ipe almost 3 times harder than northern Red Oak, so you can adjust your wood needs to reflect the high degree of strength associated with all Ipe lumber.
As an example in deck construction using wood like ipe you can often get away with 3/4" top dressing on 16" studding, vs the more traditional full 1" thick or 1 1/2" thick planking. Thus find out what standard sizes of ipe lumber are available, study your deck design and then determine if it is possible to downsize your dimensions.... although keep in mind that visual appeal or local regulations may override your original decisions.
Stock Sizes:
Ipe is typically available in 3/4", 1" and 1 1/2" thick material. As suggested earlier, the 3/4" thick material maybe strong enough to replace traditional 1" & 1 1/2" thick, softwood lumber. You may chose the full one inch thick hardwood ipe decking planks, to compensate for a longer joist spacing of 24", or just because you desire a thicker visual appearance.
That being said, the final say in structural design, rests with your local building controls office or engineer... so make sure that you consult with their inspectors for regulations within your jurisdiction.
Often the wood is rounded or eased on all four edges, so if this is not suitable to your needs, make sure you ask.
Ipe Wood Conditioning:
Ipe Lumber typically comes to you as an air dried product. It is always recommended to sticker and stack lumber with access to a good air flow so that it might equalize it moisture content to the existing environment, prior to construction. This can take a few months depending on your environment. Thus if you are thinking to build an ipe deck plan ahead.
Ipe wood can be fairly easily cut with standard carbide tipped blades, but does require predrilling for both nails and screws. Cobalt Drill bits have been recommended for longer life, especially if you can find the ones that are designed with an extended spiral, for easier and faster chip removal. Don't overheat your blade, or drill bit. This will significantly reduce your blade's life... let the tool do the work.
Ipe is fairly difficult to plane and mould, and it is recommended that you reduce the cutting angle to approximately 15 degrees, for best results. It is a good thing that in deck construction with a wood like ipe, few mouldings are required.
Note: we have been told that if you are doing steps using pressure treated wood stringers, it is best to use 2 - 2x6 for the treads, rather than 1- 2x12, as the the 2x12 will cup as it dries, and has such power that it may pull out the screws that are holding the treads to the pressure treated wood stringers.
End Finishing:
Quite a number of installers recommend that all end cuts be sealed shortly after trimming to length, with a latex based product like anchorseal (a good paraffin based wax emulsion) end sealer to prevent end checking that is invariable with an air dried material. The sooner the cross cuts are sealed after cutting and/or end trimmed, the more effective it will be.
Spacing between boards:
Typically Ipe comes to you air dried between 16-20% moisture content. As suggested earlier, it should be allowed to acclimatize to the installation environment, prior to use, placing it in an area of air circulation, but out of direct sunlight. Shrinkage is typically between 1/16-1/8" depending on the local environment.
Ipe can be butt jointed, but be aware of the expansion/contraction issues at your job site. If you install it in the driest part of your year and then the boards expand in the humid summer months, it could cause undue stress on your screws and floor joists.
Thus most installers that have worked with Ipe decking recommend a gap of between 1/16" and 1/8" between the individual boards. This is to give enough room to allow drainage of surface water.
More in this category: « Cedar Decking