Deck Masters of Canada
Building Supplies for Deck Builders
1-866-765-2935, 416-881-3325

Decking; Lumber, PVC & Composite

IPE - HEAVY STUFF!

Ipe (pronounced "ee-pay"), is one of the hardest and heaviest natural woods readily available in the North American market. It is often referred to as Iron Wood, or Brazilian Walnut. Available in a variety of profiles and as dimensional lumber for pergolas and gazebos.

Deck Masters of Canada offers:
6x6 posts
Ipe railing components
siding
trim boards
skirting
deck tiles
1x4 and 1x6 cladding
Decking is available in 4/4x6 (3/4" x 5 1/2") and 5/4x6 (1" x 5 1/2")

As an exterior wood or decking material, there are many advantages and only a few drawbacks.

Advantages
Ipe is a South American wood species that is often referred to as an exotic hardwood. It is generally a straight grained wood with few knots, and ranges in colour from medium to dark brown although at times it may have shades of yellow and green prior to UV exposure. The trees can grow up to 160' tall and have trunks up to 6' in diameter. It is exceptionally durable and strong, and overall warps very little. It is so beautiful to look at! It is a "furniture grade" type of wood durable enough for exterior use. Ipe left untreated will gradually silver to a beautiful gray patina.

If you would like to remove the silver, simply use Cutek ProClean with a pressure washer as per manufacturers' directions.  The original colour can be maintained with regular application of thin coats of Cutek Extreme with Colourtone added.  Expect to get 800 sq. ft. of coverage per gallon when properly applied!  We strongly recommend that Ipe be treated with clear Cutek Extreme wood stabilizer prior to installation and that all end cuts be treated with Cutek Extreme as soon as possible (within 24 hours) after cutting.  [We do not recommend stains or coatings that contain linseed oil, rosewood oil, or tung oil as these are considered "vegetable" types of oils that introduce a food source for mold and bacteria into the wood].

Often considered an expensive option, when compared against North American softwoods (western red cedar, redwood, fir, spruce, pine, hemlock), the durability will off-set ownership costs in the long run.  Ipe is naturally resistant to rot, termites, mold and the wide range of weather conditions experienced across Canada and the United States.  It is also one of the few decking materials that has a Class A fire rating! (This is the same level that concrete offers).  It is incredibly long lasting and hard wearing.  It holds up well to pet claws.  Ipe is often considered to be a 40 - 75 year material.

Ipe lumber comes in various lengths (up to 22' from Deck Masters of Canada) and is mostly knot free.  When specifying your requirements, always request the shortest lengths needed for any portion of your project as the price per foot varies depending on the length of board you need.  Unlike typical softwood species (2' increments), it comes in 1' increments.  [4', 5', 6', 7', 8', 9',10', 11', etc.].  It is available in both grooved and S4S (smooth four sides).

Disadvantages
Not many really . . .   Ipe is exceptionally hard wood.  It is very slow growing and often is harvested from areas where silica is absorbed into the wood.  As a result of the silica content and heat generated when cutting, drilling, screwing & routering, it is very hard on tools. Work Safety with Silica.  Installers should always factor in the replacement cost of at least 1 saw blade along with drill bits, and possibly even a screw gun when quoting on installation.  Pre-grooved boards are worth the extra cost versus the time and wear & tear with a biscuit joiner. 

There have been a number of cases of contact dermatitis and issues as a result of inhaling Ipe dust or coming in contact with Ipe dust.  Masks should always be worn when cutting and sanding Ipe.  Long sleeve shirts and full length pants should be worn and leather gloves are strongly recommended.
See article Ipe Deck Installation Leads to Lessons Learned 

Deck Building Tips
Ipe is as much as 5 times stronger than North American soft woods. Therefore a 3/4" thick deck board (1" x 6") is more than strong enough to support the weight requirements outlined in most building codes for deck structures. 1" thick boards (5/4" x 6") are our biggest seller, but we often sell the European standard 21 mm (1" x 6"plus +). Going with boards wider than 6" can cause problems down the road . . . Ipe is so incredibly strong that if it wants to bend or warp or cup, most fasteners cannot stop it! Remember, the holding power of a screw is based largely on the type of sub-structure material - and pressure treated woods are softwoods. As a result we recommend stainless steel screws that are minimum 2 1/2" long with either Ipe Extreme Clips for a hidden fastener look, or Screw & Plug installation. Either way, we recommend the Screw & Plug method for stairs.

Deck Masters stocks both DeckWise and Starborn brands of fasteners and tools designed for the rigors of working with Ipe. Galvanized and coated screws are not recommended as they will, over time, leave unsightly stains in the wood. Due to the hardness of the Ipe, the coating may be stripped off altogether from friction when installing. Also, not every board arrives pool cue straight. Having a good board straightening tool on hand for laying Ipe decking is essential. We recommend the Hetra Powerhand. It is so versatile that it can be used to both pull boards together, or push a board forward. Other reference, Grabber Power Head by HetraWorks LLC. If you are planning to top screw the entire deck surface, remember to pre-drill all the screw holes and we recommend the patented Deckit Spacers to achieve consistent board spacing.

Ipe lumber is almost always air dried and therefore some expansion & contraction may occur.  Always leave a gap between the boards (1/8" min. works well).  Boards may be end butted, but also leave gaps here.  If adequate gaps are not left, board swelling and forced cupping may occur.  Proper drainage during rainy and snowy periods will minimize this, along with regular applications of Cutek Extreme wood stabilizer .

The ends of boards almost always arrive coated with wax to minimize cracking that is often prevalent in the first 1' of boards if not sealed.  The wax is messy, unsightly, and prevents any stain from penetrating.  We recommend the use of Cutek Extreme be applied heavily to all cut ends of boards within 24 hours of cutting.  Regular application of Clear Cutek Extreme to the project with result in a beautiful silver patina with minimal checking & cracking over time. Cutek Extreme with Colourtone added will provide additional UV protection and help to keep the original colour with regular application.

Ipe Compared with Cedar & PT lumber

PROPERTY IPE WESTERN RED CEDAR PRESSURE TREATED
Bending Strength (psi) 22,560 7,500 14,500
Hardness (lbs) 3,600 580 690
Durability Scratch resistant. Extremely hard & dense. Scratches and dents easily. Scratches and dents easily.
Decay & Insect Resistance Very resistant Old growth heartwood was somewhat resistant, but no longer readily available. Surface coated with chemicals that can erode aluminum.  Often gummy & not aesthetically pleasing.  Lots of knots.
Appearance Excellent aesthetics and few knots if any Clear cedar is more costly than Ipe, but beautiful.  Otherwise, interesting patterns and colour variations. Very knotty appearance.  Prone to significant checking & cracking.
Weathering Gradually silvers to a gray patina, 3-4 years. Unless routinely maintained, will gray in 2-3 years.  Susceptible to black mold. Shrinks. Grays in 2-3 years.  Unless kiln dried after treatment, heavily checks and cracks in first year. Shrinks.
Fastening Either clips with 2.5" stainless steel screws, or screw & plug method.  Pre-drilling recommended.  Should not be nailed. Easily splits if fasteners too close to ends or edges.  Non-stainless steel fasteners react to the wood acids & leave black stains.  Screws are preferred. Easily splits if fasteners too close to ends or edges.  ACQ treatment may react with certain fasteners. Nail pop up is common due to board shrinkage.
Other Class A fire rating. Limited strength. Burns easily. 2"x6" recommended for decking. Chemical treatment is toxic. Splinters and saw dust should be avoided. Burning produces toxic fumes with CCA treatment
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