Ipe Wood (pronounced E-pay) – what it is
Ipe Wood (sometimes referred to as “Brazilian Walnut”) is an exotic and beautiful South American hardwood that is highly durable as rated by the US Forest Products Laboratory. The scientific name for Ipe is Tabebuia spp. Ipe’s primary characteristics follow:
- Ipe is such an amazingly strong and long-lasting wood species, it is highly valued as an exterior building material.
- Ipe wood is resistant to fire naturally, has a rating of Class A by the NFPA (the highest possible rating, the same as concrete)
- Ipe resists insects, moisture and movement
- Ipe hardwood has a hardness rating of 3640 on the Janka scale, almost 3 times harder than that of Red Oak. This makes Ipe one of the hardest woods on the planet and an extremely popular choice for decking and outdoor wood in Europe, Asia and North America.
- The texture of Ipe wood decking is fine to medium, and it has a straight to irregular grain pattern.
- Ipe wood is ideal for exterior residential and commercial applications such as boat docks, residential decking, boardwalks, pool decking, foot bridges, outdoor furniture, wood siding etc.
- Ipe wood is also resistant to surface checking and has some natural resistance to molds, two of the most destructive forces to deck surfaces.
- Ipe can be sealed to maintain its natural color and beauty, or left to weather to a beautiful silver gray color. Ipe is an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack.
Supply and Demand for Ipe Wood
Demand for Ipe Wood
- Due to its unique characteristics, the global demand for Ipe wood has been and will continue to remain strong.
- Ipe is milled into a wide variety of nominal sizes from 1x2 to large timber sizes like 4x12 and 6x6.
- The various sizes of Ipe wood are used to make a plethora of items such as; Ipe decking, Ipe structural lumber, Ipe posts, Ipe beams, interior flooring, porch flooring, tool handles, truck floors, railroad ties, wood siding, rainscreen cladding and many more.
Supply of Ipe Wood
- The best subspecies of Ipe wood are grown and harvested in Northern Brazil. The ideal growing climate of this region allows the Ipe trees to grow and mature quickly.
- The price of Ipe wood can also be affected by fluctuations in currency. If the US dollar is weak and the Brazilian currency is strong, then the cost of Ipe wood products in North America is higher. As a result of a vibrant Brazilian economy, there have been significant price increases for Ipe throughout the USA and Europe.
Harvesting process of Ipe wood
In Brazil, the harvesting process of Ipe wood is controlled by the Brazilian government to insure legal and sustainable harvesting of these natural resources. The two widely accepted methods to establish legal chain of custody are:
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – an independent 3rd party body that ensures compliance with all eco-harvesting practices and principles. FSC Ipe wood suppliers adhere to strict guidelines for harvesting, milling, transit, shipping, etc. throughout all levels of the supply chain from the forest harvesting site to the end user. FSC certified exotic woods such as Ipe are generally less available and carry a significant premium price.
- IBAMA/SEMA – a comprehensive chain of custody methodology that also insures that eco-harvesting principles using satellite and GPS Technology are followed throughout all levels of the supply chain from the forest project where the Ipe is harvested to the port of export.
- The harvesting season for Ipe and other high density, exotic hardwoods is a short cycle that often begins in July and lasts until the rainy season (typically December, January and February). During the rainy season, harvesting is neither possible nor permitted.