Written by Chris Nolan on
Ipe hardwood decking and Douglas Fir decking are two all-natural wood options for decking and porch flooring. Douglas Fir is a softwood species and has been used often as a porch flooring material (painted to protect it) for covered and partially covered porch areas. I love the look of Douglas Fir but I was surprised to learn that many people are using Fir as a decking material for uncovered decks.
It doesn’t make sense to me to use this material fully exposed outdoors for a number of reasons; fir decking must be maintained annually to prevent it from rotting, any cost savings are negated very quickly because you would need to use a clear vertical grain grade (which is more costly) and there are many better decking material options to choose from. It's beautiful, but plan on refinishing or repainting your deck periodically, whenever needed.
Using Fir decking for porch flooring? No argument here. Using Douglas Fir as an exposed decking material? Unless you are completely OK with regular refinishing, you’re asking for extra work, some potential trouble, and you may be disappointed with the results in a fairly short period of time.
Ipe decking, on the other hand, can be used nearly anywhere outdoors with very little concern about its performance and durability.
Douglas Fir softwood decking (painted)
Ipe hardwood decking
Ipe decking outlasts and outperforms fir decking in every measurable criteria including; strength, stability, durability, density, hardness, scratch resistance and span capacity. Additionally, Ipe decking has a Class A fire rating and has natural resistance to termites, decay and slipping without any chemicals or additives.
The only area where fir decking seems to have a comparative edge over Ipe decking is in the initial price of the decking. However, life cycle cost analyses conclude that Ipe decking is a lower cost long lasting decking option - by a significant amount.
Ipe decking on backyard deck, the original softwood decking rotted out.
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From an appearance perspective, Ipe decking ranges from light brown to dark brown and has magnificent figuring and exotic graining variation. If maintaining the initial color of the Ipe decking is your goal, putting a coat of oil finish on it periodically will show the rich graining and colors of the Ipe hardwood. If you would like to let your high density hardwood decking ‘silver out’ over time, it will not affect the performance or the incredible lifetime of this amazing hardwood decking material.
Ipe decking can withstand decades of punishment without re-staining
If you plan to use Douglas fir as a decking material outdoors, it really needs to be stained, sealed, painted or protected if you expect to get a decent usable lifetime from your deck. If you paint the Douglas fir, you lose the ability to see the beauty of the wood itself. Various stains and sealers work well and let you see more of the natural wood graining. Re-stain or repaint your fir decking as needed, typically every 2 or 3 years.
SEE OUR REAL TIME 15-YEAR WEATHERING TEST DONE RIGHT HERE AT OUR CONNECTICUT HQ IN ALL KINDS OF NEW ENGLAND WEATHER. WATCH THIS VIDEO OF IPE VS. DOUGLAS FIR AND OTHER POPULAR DECKING WOOD OPTIONS.
Learn more about how exterior hardwoods weather and what your options are, download the FREE guide to How Woods Weather
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61 pages featuring over 150 real deck projects and deck ideas:
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|Does Ipe Wood Decking Need To Be Sealed?
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