When thinking of investing in outdoor furniture or decking, the usual woods come to mind: red wood, oak, cedar. Today there is another alternative. A type of wood that lasts years beyond what most wood would even think of promising. The name of this wood is Ipe (pronounced EE-pay) and it lives up to its promises.
Ipe is a tropical hardwood that can be found in most parts of South America. It has other common names as well such as Brazilian Walnut, Amapa, Cortez, Guayancan polvillo, Flor Amarillo, Greenheart, Madera negra, Tahuari and Lapacho negro. In the wood industry, common trades for it are Pau Lope, Diamond Decking and Ironwood. As suggested by its names, it is an extremely dense wood that actually sinks in water. The extreme density of this hardwood is actually, what also creates the extreme longevity of products created with it. Because the wood is so incredibly difficult to cut, most manufacturers have stayed away from it. Only in recent years has technology advanced to the point that the wood could prove profitable. When discussing hardness, the janka scale reveals that Ipe wood has a rating of 3600lbs with a bending strength of 22,560 psi. The Janka test is commonly used to measure wood hardness. It is the number of pounds per square inch required to drive a small steel ball half its diameter into the surface of the wood. Based on this scale Ipe is 368% harder than teak and 182% harder than hickory.
The density and hardness of the wood provide more than just the ability to sink lawn furniture in the pool however. This dense wood resists rot, insect decay and is natural fire resistant as well.
It has a general dark brown walnut color that fades to a silvery gray if left unprotected but will retain is beautiful dark color if simply coated with one or two layers of deck oil stain. Ipe has a texture ranging from fine to medium and the trees themselves may grow up to 150 ft in height with trunk diameters approaching 6ft.
One of the most popular features of this particular wood beyond its durability is ease in which it can be harvested. Because of concerns over destruction of rain forests in Central and South America many American are choosing to act responsibly and shun the use of most exotic woods. Therein lays the beauty of choosing this wood over other such as Teak or Mahogany. This tree is not an endangered species. In addition, Ipe, unlike other tropical hardwoods, can be grown in managed forests due to its fast rate of growth. This allows for responsible harvested from forests that adhere to standards set by the Forest Steward ship Council that is by far has the most widely respected forestry practices in the world. Choosing to use Ipe wood encourages sustainable forestry practices in extremely sensitive ecological places. These forestry practices offer some of the best remedies to exploitive deforestation.
Because Ipe is so widely found in South America, the wood is also considerably less expensive than furniture or decking made from Teak or Mahogany.