Ipe (EE-pay) or Brazilian Walnut is an exotic hardwood harvested in central South America. Ipe’s earned a reputation for being indestructible compared to other hardwood species. Ipe also goes by the name Ironwood – its Janka hardness is 3684.

A quick web search on Ipe turns up topics on its superior fire-rating and mildew-resistance. In 2008, Consumer Reports lauded Ipe number one in decking – you can find it on the Coney Island boardwalk, in SeaWorld, and around the Statue of Liberty. However, there are a few climate issues to be aware of before choosing Ipe decking.

Las Vegas Ipe fiasco

A number of years ago, some Vegas casino bigwigs caught wind of Ipe’s indestructibility and deemed the tropical hardwood hardy enough for their boardwalks. What they didn’t bank on was that this Ironwood wouldn’t be able to take the heat for too long. A major boardwalk overhaul had to be done a few years after installation… Ouch! Needless to say, Ipe that performs well in one part of the world may not make the mark in another.

5 climate control tips for Ipe decking

1. Use the Koppen climate method to find out if Ipe is right for your climate type. There are five major climate types based on the Koppen climate method. Ipe is a tropical hardwood harvested in tropical climates and performs well in moisture-rich climates, but not so well in arid climates.

2. Ipe decking needs to have high moisture content for it to remain stable outdoors. Moisture content between 14% and 18% prevents the Ipe decking from warping. When purchasing Ipe, ask for air-dried instead of kiln-dried decking.

Air-dried Ipe decking sustains its moisture, making it immune to climate variations. If Ipe is kiln-dried, moisture is lost. Kiln-dried Ipe decking ends up dry, thirsty, and less stable – this type of Ipe decking would soak up moisture too quickly in wet climates or become parched too soon in dry climates. In both climates, the kiln-dried Ipe’s stability is compromised.

3. Acclimatization is also important. Let your air-dried Ipe decking acclimatize for 14 – 21 days in the same area as the jobsite. Keep Ipe out of the sun and in an area with good ventilation. It’s not uncommon for decking to expand or contract as much as ¼” during acclimatization.

4. Proper installation design prolongs the stability of Ipe decking. When ground level decks are designed with side ventilation, the decking boards have room to breathe, expanding and contracting with temperature changes.

5. To prevent Ipe decking from splitting at the ends, seal the boards. Sealant acts a barrier to keep excess moisture out, further ensuring Ipe decking stability.

Want to go green? AltruWood’s FSC Certified Tropical Hardwood Ipe decking is a sustainable option. 

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