Ipe wood has proven itself to be one of the most amazingly versatile exterior building materials for construction projects of all types. Ipe wood is available in a wide variety of sizes from 2x2 Ipe balusters to 4x12 Ipe beams and 6x6 Ipe posts and timbers. Ipe wood has such incredible physical and mechanical properties it can be used in areas that standard hardwoods and other exterior building materials cannot be used. From backyard decks and outdoor furniture to boardwalks, bridges and pergolas, Ipe wood can be used, naturally and beautifully in a wide variety of different projects to build a range of different structures.
The Physical Characteristics of Ipe Wood Make Ipe the Most Appropriate Specification for Many Outdoor Structures and Projects
For decks, docks, walkways and boardwalks, where Ipe will be installed horizontally and receive lots of activity, the extreme hardness of Ipe wood alone makes it the most suitable material to resist abrasion from pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Ipe wood decking is also extremely long lasting and is rated as very durable by the United States Forest Products Laboratory. Because Ipe decking is naturally resistant to slippage and will rarely splinter, Ipe wood works particularly well around pools, docks, piers and other wet areas where people are apt to walk barefoot.
The fiber strength of Ipe wood allows designers to span greater areas than other building materials for larger structures, such as playground equipment, gazebos and pergolas. Because Ipe wood has a fiber bending strength of 23,360 pounds per square inch, Ipe can significantly out span pressure treated pine lumber by nearly twice the distance. Architects and designers can clear-span greater distances with Ipe wood than nearly any other wood species. The long lasting nature of Ipe wood also reduces overall life cycle costs for structures built with ipe.
Ipe wood siding is increasing in popularity due to its beautiful appearance and exotic graining. The long lasting lifetime of Ipe siding helps make it an affordable investment over its life cycle. Ipe wood siding works great for rain screen systems because it is so stable and durable. Ipe wood is also being specified and used when a long lasting exterior building material is needed for fencing and outdoor privacy panels.
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Our hearts go out to all those who have been affected by the devastation created by Hurricane Sandy. The cleanup and repair efforts continue for homeowners and entire communities as well, particularly on the coast, where winds and ocean waves ravaged homes, marinas, docks, boardwalks and more. While home builders and remodelers are dealing with the heavy casualties of homes and buildings, the marine construction industry is fully engaged in the repair of coastal structures including docks, piers and boardwalks.
All that remains of many buildings and a small section of the Atlantic City boardwalk are foundations and framework. Many coastal communities, especially in New Jersey, rely heavily on tourism for their income and tax base. The loss of boardwalks effects their very economic survival. Some proactive communities, including Belmar, refuse to take "no" for an answer and are already hard at work to replace the entire boardwalk structure that was lost to the super-storm. Other communities that lost some or all of their boardwalk are reportedly considering their options.
Some of the devastated communities are considering materials other than wood boards for their boardwalks, such as concrete and plastic decking, which has prompted some to wonder if they will have to change the name of the Drifter's famous song, "Under the Boardwalk" to "Under the Sidewalk" or "Under the Plastic Walk". Despite the high cost of concrete, it appears that concrete will be used to replace an older section of the Coney Island Boardwalk in Rockaway, NY, despite the fact that the sections of the boardwalk that were recently rebuilt with sustainably harvested Cumaru hardwood decking weathered the storm remarkably well.
On boardwalks and other high traffic areas where plastic decking has been attempted, the performance of the synthetic products has been extraordinarily poor. Plastics and other synthetic decking simply cannot handle the abrasion of the relentless foot traffic in high pedestrian traffic areas such as boardwalks. Based on low life expectancy of the synthetic decking alone, plastics don't appear to make sense for this type of an application. Synthetic plastic decking also retains significant amounts of heat making it very uncomfortable on bare feet. The extremely low fiber strength of synthetic decking requires joist spacing to be so close together the number of joists and screws required is nearly double that of smarter decking alternatives such as high density hardwoods. The pricing is higher than other decking options and the performance is lower.
There are many reasons why high density hardwood options like Ipe decking and Cumaru decking make so much sense for boardwalks, marine construction and other high traffic areas. Here are a few:
- Ipe decking has a high coefficient of friction, making it a reasonable choice for wet areas.
- Ipe decking and Cumaru hardwood decking are both extremely high density decking materials, making them highly resistant to insects and decay, naturally and without chemicals.
- The hardness of both Ipe and Cumaru decking is so high, they have an amazing resistance to abrasion, even with sand and extremely high traffic
- Eco-friendly high density hardwoods, including Ipe decking and Cumaru decking, are responsibly harvested by sustainable yield forestry methods.
- Ipe and Cumaru hardwood are all natural, renewable resources that look great and require little or no maintenance over the years.
- Ipe and Cumaru are rated 'highly durable' by the US Forest Products Laboratory, meaning they are expected to last longer than 25 years in an outdoor environment. Both species commonly last significantly longer than 25 years in real project applications.
For additional information on high density hardwoods such as Ipe decking and Cumaru decking, options for boardwalks and marine construction, please follow any of the links below:
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Ipe decking is so long lasting, you will want to make sure that your deck fasteners last as long as your Ipe deck. Deck screws are the strongest way to install Ipe decking and stainless steel deck screws are the ideal method to fasten Ipe deck boards to deck joists for long lasting strength and structural bracing. If you are planning to fasten Ipe decking with screws, Ipe decking is so very hard and strong you must either pre-drill the Ipe deck boards or use a specialty screw to eliminate this step. There are three primary ways to fasten Ipe decking with deck screws:
Pre-Drill Your Ipe Deck Boards and Use Ipe Plugs to Hide the Screw Heads
The fanciest way to screw down Ipe deck boards is to pre-drill the screw holes with a countersink bit. The countersink bit will drill the hole and leave enough room for your screw head and an Ipe plug. After the Ipe deck boards are screwed down, pre-made Ipe plugs can be inserted into the screw holes to hide the head of the screw. While this Ipe decking installation method is the most time consuming, many purists simply love the look of the finished Ipe deck with no visible screw heads. If you are planning to install your Ipe decking yourself, please be aware that this preparation step will take time. If you are planning to have a deck contractor install and build your Ipe deck, they will charge more labor for this method. Many Ipe decking owners believe it is well worth the initial price for the long lasting good looks.
Pre-Drill the Ipe Decking and Screw Directly Into Deck Joists without Plugs
Another installation method is to pre-drill the screw holes in the Ipe deck boards prior to installing, again using a countersink drill bit. This time the depth of the countersink is set shallower to allow only the top of the screw head to set slightly below the top of the deck board. This Ipe decking screw-down method saves the additional step of installing an Ipe plug to hide the screw head, but the screw head will remain visible after installation. Many do-it-yourselfers find this Ipe decking installation method to be the best for their Ipe deck project. If you are using a decking contractor to build your deck, this installation method is less costly than using Ipe plugs.
Use “Self Drilling” Ipe Deck Screws to Install Your Ipe Decking
Due to new advances in deck screw technology, you can now use ‘self-drilling’ screws that eliminate the need to pre-drill the Ipe decking prior to screwing the Ipe deck boards down. We have tested many of these screws and have found the Ejector Screw to be the best and most reliable screw of its kind. With this Ipe decking screwing method, the screw heads will remain visible after installation. The installation itself, however, is performed in about a quarter of the time of a typical pre-drill installation. For clients who do not mind seeing the screw heads on their Ipe decking, this method is the fastest way to install decking. Contractors use this fastening method for commercial and residential projects alike. Contractors for the Coney Island boardwalk and other high traffic walkways have used the Ejector Screw to keep their projects reliable, strong, on time and on budget.
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The Ipe decking on the boardwalk built at Ocean Beach Park in New London, Connecticut is an example of a community, businesses and many good people all working together to create something beautiful and enduring for residents and visitors of this historic seaside locale. New London, the “Whaling City”, has a rich nautical heritage and a beautiful waterfront, bristling with maritime activity. From the Coast Guard Academy, State Pier, multiple ferry services on the Thames River, the Coast Guard Station to Ledge Light and New London Light house, and colonial era Fort Trumbull to Ocean Beach Park on Long Island Sound, New London owes much of its rich history to the sea.
The half mile long Ipe boardwalk at Ocean Beach Park in New London serves as the main walkway and connector to the beach, pavilions, café, restaurants, snack bars, video arcade, carousel and rides, water slide, spray park, swimming pool, playground, nature walk, performance area, and much more. Ipe hardwood is often selected for boardwalk construction for many of the same reasons it is prized for backyard decks; it looks great, performs wonderfully and lasts incredibly long. The warmth, beauty and performance of Ipe decking are perfect for coastal applications.
It wasn’t too long ago when the future of Ocean Beach Park didn’t look very bright. In the early 2000’s the old boardwalk was far older than its life expectancy and was in a serious state of disrepair. Loose pressure treated boards were deteriorating. It was a rare day when youngsters weren't visiting the nurse's station to remove splinters from their bare feet. Ocean Beach Park Manager Dave Sugrue, spearheaded a team of helpful citizens and local community groups in what was largely a volunteer effort to restore Ocean Beach to its former glory. Ipe decking was used for this project due to its terrific strength and well earned reputation of being decay resistant and traffic and splinter resistant. The result is a beautiful boardwalk featuring 5/4 x 4 Ipe hardwood decking. Ipe decking is known to last for decades with little or no maintenance. Ipe decking weathers to a silvery gray patina in very little time in a shoreline installation. Over 400,000 screws were used to fasten the Ipe decking to the frame of the boardwalk and volunteers were there through the heat and the bitter cold for four years to bring this project to completion.
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Ipe pergolas are extremely strong, last a long time and look beautiful. If you want to use natural wood to create a warm look for your pergola, you may want to consider Ipe hardwood as a building material for your pergola structure. When choosing materials to build a pergola, many people want to create a structure that lasts a long time, looks amazing and requires little or no maintenance. Ipe hardwood meets all these design criteria for pergola construction. Depending on your pergola design, Ipe wood can be used for the posts, beams, joists, lattice and any other wood components you would like to design and build with.
Pergolas are an elegant design feature that can add great beauty to a garden, deck or other outdoor living space. The earliest known example of a pergola dates back to ancient Egypt in the garden at Thebes around 1400 B.C. Pergolas have been used throughout the ages to add beauty and enjoyment to outdoor spaces all over the world. Whether you want to create a partially shaded nook or an elaborate arbor or trellis design, pergolas have stood the test of time as a beautiful and stately design element, gracing palaces, courtyards, estates and homes.
Ipe hardwood has such tremendous fiber and bending strength; you won’t have to worry about structural strength limitations as you might with weaker building materials when constructing a sturdy and time tested pergola. The high density of Ipe hardwood also ensures that there is minimal opportunity for insect infestation and decay. In fact, testing performed by the US Forest Products Laboratory has found that Ipe wood is rated as highly durable, which means that Ipe is expected to last a minimum of twenty five years in outdoor installations. The truth is, structures made from Ipe wood often last significantly longer than twenty five years. There are countless examples of Ipe wood lasting forty to fifty years and longer in harsh outdoor environments. Ipe pergolas will endure, beautifully, far longer than other wood pergolas. Whether your pergola is for a commercial project or a residence, choose Ipe hardwood for a good-looking, long-lasting outdoor project.
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Ipe decking is still the most popular and sought-after natural decking material, especially when it comes to durability, performance and good looks. There are also a lot of all natural wood decking materials to choose from nowadays. Cedar decking and redwood decking are two very beautiful wood decking species that have been on the market for years. There are also a few thermally modified decking materials that have come on the market recently and they are not bad looking either when first installed. When it comes to sustainability and durability, however, no other wood or synthetic decking materials compare to long lasting and beautiful Ipe hardwood decking.
Ipe Decking is Sustainable
The word ‘sustainable’, by definition, refers to how long a material will last, its ability to be maintained and exploiting natural resources without destroying the ecological balance of an area. Ipe hardwood decking meets all of these definitions of sustainable criteria, more so than any other outdoor alternative materials. Ipe decking also has many other unique physical properties that make Ipe wood the ideal material of choice for a wide variety of outdoor projects and structures. Fire resistance, insect resistance, decay resistance, incredible hardness and scratch resistance are just a few unique physical properties found naturally in Ipe wood.
Ipe decking lasts... and lasts beautifully
With regard to how long Ipe decking and lumber will last, the US Forest Products Laboratory rates Ipe wood as highly durable. This means that Ipe decking is expected to last longer than 25 years outdoors. In reality, Ipe wood is known to last considerably longer than 25 years. There are countless examples throughout the world where Ipe has lasted forty years and longer in harsh outdoor climates and environments. Life cycle cost analyses have shown that Ipe decking can be one of the lowest cost outdoor materials in terms of total lifetime value per year. While Ipe decking may be higher in cost initially than certain other decking materials, the overall cost per year is often significantly less.
Ipe Decking Can be a Low Maintenance Decking Option
As far as maintenance is concerned, Ipe decking can last for many decades without any maintenance at all. That is one reason why Ipe decking is often selected for commercial and residential such as decks, walkways, bridges, piers, boardwalks and other outdoor structures. Ipe wood ages gracefully to a mellow silvery gray patina that lasts a long, long time, beautifully. Weathered Ipe decking has an inviting look and a calming, peaceful appearance as a special place to relax.
Ipe Decking is Sustainably Harvested
Ipe hardwood is harvested using sustainable forestry guidelines including FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), RA (Rainforest Alliance), IBAMA/SEMA and more. The goal of each of these sustainable forestry management systems is to ensure that there are as many mature trees available at the end of a harvesting cycle as there were at the beginning of the forestry initiative. Ipe decking is available by any of these sustainable yield forestry methods.
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When the steps at the Ram Island Yacht Club in Noank, CT outlived their useful lifetime, Ipe decking was selected to replace the splitting and rotting wood before it could become a safety concern. The membership at the yacht club are no strangers to Ipe decking. Many years ago, when the stairs to the second floor started to wear out, Ipe decking was chosen to get the job done right, the first time. The strength and long term durability, combined with its natural beauty, made Ipe the best choice for a decking material. Ipe decking is a high density hardwood that is naturally resistant to decay and insects.
The outdoor deck, steps and patio at the yacht club recieve lots of foot traffic. Like the rest of the rugged New England coastline, Connecticut winters and summers call for durable materials that can withstand the test of time and exposure to the elements. Ipe decking was the ideal selection for this experienced group of sailors. Ipe decking has been a proven performer in harsh conditions and environments throughout the world in a wide variety of applications for many years.
Whether your project is a deck, dock, stairs, steps, walkway, boardwalk or other rugged exterior structure, Ipe decking is a great material to consider for your outdoor project. Ipe decking is well known for its natural slip resistant characteristics, so it works particularly well in wet environments. Mataverde® Premium Ipe Hardwood Decking is backed by a 25 year limited warranty against decay and insect damage.
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Ipe hardwood has been used successfully for so many years, it has earned its well deserved reputation as the best outdoor wood species for a wide variety of outdoor projects. From backyard decking to famous boardwalks to rain screen siding, Ipe is often the material of choice for beautiful outdoor projects. Ipe wood is hard, strong, long lasting and beautiful. Ipe is responsibly harvested in an environmentally friendly manner.
What Makes Ipe Hardwood So Special?
- Durability- whether you are using Ipe decking, Ipe timbers or Ipe siding, high density Ipe hardwood is known to be an incredibly long lasting exterior wood species that lasts for many decades with little or no maintenance other than an occasional cleaning.
- Hardness- with a hardness nearly three times greater than oak, Ipe wood can withstand all kinds of abuse. Ipe has been used successfully on boardwalks, walkways and other areas that receive tremendous amounts of foot traffic and more.
- High density- the natural high density of Ipe wood makes it an extremely decay and insect resistant wood species.
- Strength- Ipe is a nearly unparalleled wood when comparing strengths of wood species. Ipe outspans and outperforms of all other commonly used decking materials, particularly synthetic composite and plastic decking materials.
- Beauty- Ipe is an all natural wood species that ranges in color from light tan and olive browns to dark brown tones. Ipe also has exotic grain variations and tropical character and striping.
- Economical- While Ipe is priced in the medium to higher range of decking materials when it is first purchased, the long term cost savings using Ipe hardwood are significant. In a recent life cycle cost analysis, ipe was found to be the lowest cost decking material in the study.
Ipe is a fabulous decking material because it holds up so well and remains beautiful and functional throughout its long lifetime. For purists, who like the look of naturally weathered material, Ipe decking is a great choice of decking materials. For others who would like to see the original, natural wood tones, an occasional coat of decking oil can make your deck look brand new. Either way, Ipe decking lasts...and lasts beautifully.
Ipe hardwood siding is reaching new heights in popularity. With all the emphasis on healthy, natural and long lasting homes and structures, rain screen wood siding systems using Ipe are on the rise. Rain screen siding systems add to the overall longevity of a building, so Ipe cladding becomes a natural wood siding material of choice.
Ipe lumber and Ipe timbers are used in building a wide variety of exterior structures from decks, docks and piers to pergolas, bridges, outdoor furniture and playgrounds. Here again, the strength, natural beauty, hardness and durability are big factors for selecting Ipe wood for these outdoor projects.
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Ipe hardwood is a responsibly harvested material that grows to a full height of about 120-150 feet in about thirty years. The best growing region in the world for Ipe hardwood is located in Northern Brazil. Over the past ten to fifteen years, the Brazilian government has created special agencies and has severely cracked down on illegal harvesting and cutting of Ipe and has imposed harsh fines and legislation. The results have been astounding; Ipe and other high density hardwood species are now harvested in an eco-friendly using sustainable yield forestry practices. Any supplier who does not fully comply with the rigorous harvesting standards can be shut down or face severe penalties.
All areas in Brazil where Ipe is harvested (called Projects) are controlled, monitored and protected. Only two to three trees per hectare (about 1 tree per acre) may be harvested over the fifteen year harvesting period within a project. This responsible harvesting method of Ipe and other woods allows a little more light into the forest canopy and helps the flora and fauna of the forest to flourish. Every tree in each parcel within a forest project is marked and numbered. Only the selected trees (Ipe or other hardwood species) may be harvested. This environmentally friendly method of Ipe harvesting ensures that there as many trees at the end of a project harvesting cycle as there were at the beginning.
IBAMA, SEMA and EMBRAPA are three environmentally responsible government agencies in Brazil who monitor the logging activities for Ipe and other hardwood species. Their primary job is to protect the natural resources and environment of Brazil and its ecological effects beyond Brazil. These responsible agencies are firm believers (as am I) in sustainable yield forestry practices. It makes no sense to harvest recklessly or irresponsibly. It is just as easy to do it right. It makes good environmental policy and also has a short term and long term economic benefit to Brazil and the rest of the world. In Brazil, any wood that is harvested by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) suppliers, must meet all of these stringent IBAMA/SEMA criteria as well.
Ipe is such an amazing, all natural hardwood species that works great for long lasting exterior projects. It is important that the truth about this useful and important hardwood decking species be known. Occasionally, when you hear some people who may or may not have good intentions, make uninformed and false claims about the harvesting practices of Ipe and other tropical decking species, it makes me all the more determined to make sure the truth gets out. I believe everyone benefits when we know all of us to learn the facts before forming any of our opinions or making assumptions.
All Mataverde Premium hardwood decking species are harvested by sustainable yield forestry practices, including IBAMA/SEMA and/or FSC Chain of Custody Certification. To learn more about Ipe hardwood and environmentally friendly harvesting solutions, please follow any of the links below:
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One of the coolest Ipe decking projects I have ever seen was built about ten years ago in Gales Ferry, CT. This multi-level Ipe deck features built-in Ipe benches, Ipe stairs, Ipe railings and an Ipe walkway that leads to an Ipe dock. The workmanship was a labor of love for Garth Dolphin and his young family. This Ipe deck allows Garth and his family to relax in a natural setting on the water and to get away from the cares of the world.
Ten years after it was built, this ipe deck still looks spectacular. Ipe decking lasts so long that, despite the rugged coastal application and harsh New England weather, this deck is still in its early years. Garth used stainless steel screws to install his ipe decking. Ipe decking screws provide an incredibly strong fastening system that provides lots of lateral bracing which makes the ipe deck even stronger.
This multi-level Ipe deck takes full advantage of the sloped topography of the deck site. With two full sets of Ipe stairs, this deck is accessible all the way to the water. In the center of this multi-leveled Ipe deck, Garth built a beautiful and very functional Ipe bench system complete with Ipe planters.
The custom Ipe railing system combines Ipe and other materials with a lot of craftsmanship. Ipe 5/4x6 boards and 4x4 Ipe posts were used with painted aluminum balusters to create a beautiful custom Ipe railing system. Check out the artful detailing of the 4x4 Ipe posts and the careful cuts of the Ipe top rail and Ipe sub rail.
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