Things You Should Know Before Installing Ipe Wood Deck

If you are planning to install Ipe wood deck, you should know how much does it costs to install it and what are the Ipe wood problems in order to make an informed decision.

ipe wood deck

Ipe wood deck

An Ipe wood deck is a picture of elegance, rendering class and style no matter where it is set up. It is considered as the best wood for deck. But did you know that Ipe (pronounced as ‘E-pay’) wood is typically found in the forests of Latin and Central America. It is also known as Brazilian walnut and is regarded as one of the densest hardwoods in the world, about three times harder than teak and cedar. Its natural properties render it the longest lasting decking material and the toughest available today.

Ipe wood resembles mahogany a lot and is hugely popular for its superlative strength, durability and the fact that it is both a rich and warm hardwood. Ipe is extremely popular among homeowners as decking material and for patio furniture. If bought from a reliable dealer and found to be FSC-certified, an Ipe wood deck can be a good environmental solution for your outdoor space. If this has quenched your thirst for knowing just “what is Ipe wood”, that’s great. Now, read on to know more.

Why choose Ipe wood as decking material

Ipe wood is world-renowned for its superior properties and characteristics. For instance, it has a tight and dense grain. Its grain could either be straight or wavy and its color can range from a deep and rich chestnut-brown to a deep mix of red and amber. Its fine texture and interlocking grain affords a very important benefit to users–it is extremely slip-resistant.

But that’s not all. A typical Ipe wood deck has a string of equally stunning characteristics that make it the chosen one as decking material. These are:

  • Ipe wood has a high level of natural oils, is very highly dense and strong. For these reasons, it can easily stand the test of time.
  • With a tight and dense grain, Ipe wood can resist rot, decay, mold, fungus and insects.
  • Ipe wood outlives its owners since it lasts for 75 years or more.
  • It requires low or no maintenance.
  • Ipe wood ages gracefully, often if left untreated into a silver-gray patina.
  • And what’s more, Ipe wood is also highly slip- and scratch-resistant.
  • This wood is considered to be three times stronger than cedar and teak.
  • You can customize your needs with this Latin American wood.
  • Ipe wood is an excellent choice for decking, inlays and gazebos.
  • Since this hardwood doesn’t retain any heat, it always remains cool.
  • It can weather all kinds of heavy use.
  • Ipe wood deck wood lasts longer than composite materials.
  • Ipe wood is as highly resistant to fire as concrete and steel, unlike softer woods.
  • Lastly, Ipe wood is also so dense that it doesn’t float in water.



Type of woodFeaturesCost per sq foot
Ipe, Cumaru and Tigerwood1. Dense wood that requires
Specialized tools and labor to install.
2. Can survive in the harshest of weather conditions.
3. Either allow it to develop a gray patina or oil it every couple of years to keep up its natural chestnut color.
4. Lasts for 30-50 years.
Composite DeckingThis blend of wood and plastic fiber comes with a matte finish.
1. Requires periodic cleaning to look like new.
2. It costs lesser than other capped composite decking materials.
3. Low maintenance
4. It comes with a warranty against fading and other defects for 25 years.
Capped CompositeHere, around the composite core lies a layer of PVC.
1. It gives the look of natural hardwood.
2. It does not need much maintenance.
3. It is available in a variety of textures and colors.
Cedar or Redwood1. Though good mid-range options, both these woods require regular maintenance of wood and staining.
2. They cost lesser than tropical hardwood.
3. They last for about 15-20 years.
Cedar: $3.75
Redwood: $7.75

From the above table, you are perhaps better prepared with Ipe wood cost before you actually go to the store to buy the material.

Ipe wood problems

For all the reasons why you should buy Ipe wood for decking, here are some solid Ipe wood problems you should expect to have. So, beware of these before you buy Ipe wood:

  • Ipe wood is tough to cut: Ipe wood is a very tough kind of wood. This tropical hardwood is very strong and has extreme density, so it is very tough to cut clean. Therefore, woodworkers with Ipe wood will find their blades dulling
    Ipe Wood

    Ipe Wood

    very quickly when cutting it, and are best advised to plan accordingly. Besides, when sanding this wood, care must be taken to wear protective glasses because it kicks up a very fine sawdust that can immediately irritate the eyes and often the respiratory system too. Considering these problems, it’s a good idea to work with this wood in the outdoors, particularly on windy days. Another tip is to use carbide saw blades to cut Ipe. They cut safely, quickly and repetitively. However, the flip side of being tough is that it is long-lasting and scratch resistant and insect-proof. Water too does not penetrate this wood, keeping it intact for years.

  • Ipe decking needs pre-drilling: It’s not true that all Ipe decking needs pre-drilling. These days, there are several methods of installation that do not need any pre-drilling. In fact, there are also decking screws that one can use to self-drill as you go about installing your Ipe deck boards. You can also use hidden fasteners since they do not have any visible screw heads.
  • Ipe wood turns gray with time: Ipe is a natural wood type, so it will inevitably turn grey with time, if left to
    Ipe wood problems

    Ipe wood problems

    weather. With time, the surface of an Ipe wood deck oxidizes to a silver-gray, though this does not affect the structure of this wood. However, by proper maintenance, you can keep it looking good. For instance, you can give it a coat of UV protectant oil finish when you see a silver film beginning to layer. This will help the wood to get used to its new environment. However, using protectants poses another problem, again due to the density of this wood. Here, the finishes don’t stick to the wood well enough. Another problem you might encounter is that oil-based protectants take weeks to dry, while varnishes look good only initially, but can pose problems later. Lastly, you might also experience that polyurethane just doesn’t stick well on this wood, so is best avoided. Some deck builders have found using tung oil helpful enough to maintain Ipe’s natural wood color over a protracted period. When used in combination with some resins and mineral spirits, tung oil does give good results.

  • Ipe wood is very brittle: If you think Ipe wood is dense and strong, perhaps you do not know that it is also highly brittle. This means that if you try to drive nails into it, the wood will only end up splitting and if you try to send in some screws, their heads will break easily. The obvious solution to this problem is to use stainless steel screws and place them in pre-drilled holes to fasten Ipe boards.
  • Ipe wood doesn’t stick well: Using glue on Ipe wood can be very difficult because it doesn’t adhere well. To overcome this problem, woodworkers usually choose to use all-weather yellow glue or an epoxy formula. Another solution that actually works is to wipe Ipe wood with acetone before gluing so that the surfaces are absolutely clean.
  • Ipe wood causes health problems: Though Ipe wood may not cause any severe problems, yet woodworkers working with this wood should be aware that it can bring about certain severe reactions such as eye, skin and respiratory irritation, and headaches, breathing issues like asthma and related symptoms and issues with vision.
  • Ipe wood is expensive: Ipe wood costs more than other kinds of wood but it lasts longer than any other decking material. So, in the long run, it proves to be the lowest priced of all decking materials.

Ipe Decking Maintenance

Prevent your deck from cracking: Seal the end-grain of your deck with paraffin wax within a couple of hours of cutting it. This will help prevent cracking or checking. This also protects it from fading. To prevent it from developing a gray film on its surface, it’s good to apply a thin coat of UV blocking oil finish or a water-based one.

Reseal or stain your deck periodically: It helps to keep the surface of your Ipe wood deck clean by sanding it or staining it. You can clean it by using a mix of water, bleach and detergent or use special deck cleaning products and brush the dirt away. If done twice a year, it would help immeasurably.

Keep your deck’s surroundings clean: If there is debris on your deck, sweep it away immediately and regularly. You can use specialized wood products for cleaning, or rinse with water.

Let it age gracefully: Ipe wood naturally ages when left untreated to become a silver patina. Though this looks beautiful, yet you can treat your Ipe wood deck and keep its natural colors. Maintaining it will help it remain smooth and devoid of splinters and free of any fungal growth.

It needs regular maintenance: Ipe wood is a good choice for decks in terms of its beauty and long life. If you have chosen Nature’s finest wood for your deck, cherish it by maintaining it regularly.

Despite all that has been said about maintaining an Ipe wood deck, it’s still well worth investing in this heirloom wood for its lavish color, texture and grain.

You can read more about it over here.

Author: John Clax

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