"Ipe hardwood has so many amazing natural characteristics and properties, people sometimes forget that it is a natural wood product. Like any exterior wood, Ipe needs to acclimate properly for best results. If you take care of your Ipe decking, especially initially, it will take care of you by lasting longer and performing better."
For best results and improved long term performance of exterior hardwoods, proper acclimation is imperative. Air dried Ipe hardwood is an excellent material for use in decks, walkways, boardwalks and many other outdoor structures where a strong, dense, insect and rot resistant natural material is desired. Due to its abrasion resistance, fire resistance, hardness, density and other extraordinary physical characteristics and mechanical properties, Ipe decking and lumber is often selected as the material of choice for high traffic areas where beauty and natural materials are required.
Ipe decking, properly acclimated on site at Playland Park, Rye New York
The USDA Forest Products Laboratory has conducted testing and studies of the mechanical properties of Ipe hardwood and other exterior woods. Their testing indicates that the maximum shrinkage expected with Ipe wood from green to oven dried is 8% tangential shrinkage. In terms of 2x4 nominal Ipe, that equates to less than 1/8” shrinkage in the thickness and approximately ¼” widthwise when the material achieves full acclimation.
The Forest Products Laboratory has also conducted extensive testing of properly acclimating exterior wood products and are truly an authoritative reference source for predicting wood behavior in different site environs throughout the world. We rely heavily on their findings for appropriate recommendations and material specifications whenever we are asked to do so.
RELATED: More Info Regarding Acclimation
While it is impossible to determine exactly how each specific piece of Ipe wood will behave, we have lots of overall experience that should be helpful to you. Our prior experience with Ipe wood tells us that the actual dimensional changes on the Ipe wood are likely to be significantly less than the test data because Ipe wood sheds it water much faster than most other wood species. We have found that between the transit time from Brazil and the storage time in the US that Ipe wood is already well on its way toward acclimation before it ever reaches the job site.
For additional acclimation, we would suggest a minimum two week acclimation period on site where the Ipe boards are “stickered” with spacers between the boards. The units of Ipe wood should be covered on the top only (enough to protect the boards from the rain) and the ends and sides of the units are left open to allow adequate air flow for better acclimation. This method has been effective for contractors on many projects including the Coney Island Boardwalk.
Cumaru hardwood decking acclimating on site at Coney Island Boardwalk
The essence of the Forest Product Laboratory’s research will tell you that once exterior wood material acclimates to its EMC (Equilibrium Moisture Content), that the movement of the wood (shrinkage and expansion) will be minimized to seasonal fluctuations dependent primarily on the relative humidity and temperature of the site environs.
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If you are trying to find the best decking material for your project, please feel free to download, "The Ultimate Guide to Selecting the Right Decking Material." This FREE Decking Guide has been widely acclaimed by architects and design professionals throughout the US as a great source of helpful information about decking material options.