If you love the natural look of real wood decking, you probably already know that there are softwood and hardwood decking options that can meet your needs. Softwood decking material options include pressure treated pine, cedar and redwood all of which require periodic finishing and refinishing to look good and last longer. Depending on your project needs, the best hardwood decking material options include Ipe, Cumaru, Garapa, ThermoWood, and Machiche.
Because all wood decking materials are a product of nature, there will be variations of color and graining, strength and performance characteristics of each different wood species. This article focuses on the differences between the most popular hardwood decking options. Hardwood decking has earned its reputation as long-lasting, high-strength, naturally beautiful and exceptionally durable, one deck at a time, for many years. Because it outlasts and outperforms softwood decking and composite decking options, wood lovers naturally gravitate towards exotic hardwood decking if they are serious about a long lasting, investment grade decking material with low life cycle costs. But which hardwood decking is best for you?
Let’s start with Ipe decking, a proven performer and the most popular hardwood decking for public and private deck projects all over the world. Ipe is tough, fire resistant, scratch resistant, slip resistant, incredibly long lasting and has very good dimensional stability. Ipe has been used on boardwalks and backyard decks successfully for decades. Ipe hardwood is available in decking sizes from 1x4, 5/4x4, 1x6 and 5/4x6 to meet the unique needs of different projects. Ipe wood is finely grained and ranges in color from light and medium browns to olive brown to darker browns and is nicknamed “Brazilian Walnut”. Ipe hardwood is sustainably harvested and is in the higher range of decking material prices.
Cumaru decking is another highly durable, sustainably harvested decking option. Pronounced “Koo-mah-roo”, Cumaru hardwood has been used on public projects (like the Coney Island Boardwalk) to private residences and backyard decks worldwide. Cumaru is often selected where performance and long-lasting natural beauty are important and the project budget will not support Ipe decking. Cumaru ranges from lighter to darker browns and reddish browns. Like Ipe, Cumaru wood is incredibly tough, long lasting, scratch resistant and fire resistant. Cumaru is nicknamed “Brazilian Teak” and is more coarsely grained than Ipe and, like all tropical hardwoods, shows lots of exotic color and grain variations. For further comparisons between Ipe and Cumaru click here..
FSC® certified Machiche decking is another exceptional hardwood decking option. Pronounced “mah-CHEE-chay” and nicknamed “Mayan mahogany”, Machiche hardwood decking is handsome and long lasting. Machiche is also Class A fire rated, amazingly strong, scratch resistant and highly durable. Machiche is similar to Cumaru in appearance, has medium to coarse graining and ranges in colors from light brown to reddish browns to chocolaty browns. Machiche is a great decking material for projects that require exceptional performance, natural beauty and an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council®) certification. Pricing is similar to non-FSC certified Cumaru and much lower than FSC certified Ipe and Cumaru. Learn more about FSC and sustainable forestry practices here.
Garapa decking is a lighter colored and more affordable hardwood decking option. Garapa hardwood is finely grained and has golden tones from platinum blonde to honey amber colorations. Nicknamed “Brazilian Ash”, and pronounced “gah-RAH-pah”, Garapa hardwood is significantly stronger than softwoods, nearly 50% harder than oak, yet not quite as hard as Ipe, Machiche or Cumaru. However, Garapa decking has been used on lower traffic public boardwalks successfully and is an excellent option for rooftop and residential decks of all types. Garapa is often selected on projects where the natural beauty and performance of hardwood decking is required and project budget is of high importance. See comparative decking prices here.
Cambara hardwood is a fantastic option for covered porches, verandas and more. Cambara is harder than oak and has the look of genuine mahogany. Because Cambara hardwood is not as durable as other hardwood decking options, it looks and performs best with a sealer or stain finish. The best areas to get the longest lasting performance from Cambara decking are covered porches, three-season rooms, verandas, gazebos and other areas that are fully covered or partially exposed to the elements. Available in 1x4 and 1x4 T&G (tongue and groove), Cambara porch flooring is a beautiful and affordable option for covered outdoor living areas.