IPE (ee-pay): the long lasting Brazillian outdoors hardwood.
Commonly referred to by the brand name Iron Wood, this organically fire resistant building material holds a US Forest Lab rating for 25 plus years durability. With a naturally tight grain that stands up against water, decay, and woodborers, IPE is well suited for docks, decks, and other exterior applications.
Although easily cut and drilled with standard carbide wood working tools, IPE is a true hardwood and requires pre-drilling before fastening. It comes in standard lumber sizes, weathers (when unfinished) into a beautiful silver-gray, and resists movement damage. Being basically free of knots or sapwood, each board is almost perfectly clear. When correctly sealed, it can be expected to maintain a vibrant brown to golden tan color. Very little maintenance is required.
The variety of furnished lumber sizes is sufficient to fit any project. Standard decking size is 4/4 (3/4” net thickness), and when placed on 24” centers will provide a one hundred pound live load rating. IPE is considered premium lumber and has been used in commercial applications such as the Atlantic City boardwalk.
So how does IPE stack against other outdoor lumber products?
· Pressure-treated lumber – is usually pine or fir that has been infused with chemicals that make it rot and insect resistant. If not kept sealed, stained, or painted it is susceptible to quick weather damage. Inexpensive but easy to warp and splinter, PT lumber requires much care in pre-construction board selection.
· Naturally resistant species – such as cedar, redwood, and cypress do not require pressure treatment. Note, however, that the natural resistance is limited to the core of the tree. The outer, cream-colored sapwood of the tree is no more rot resistant than a toothpick. Unless sealed or stained, the sapwood portions of these lumbers will weather to various shades and grays. Most of today’s market will include much sapwood.
· Exotic species – in which stands the IPE, are more durable, more difficult to work, and more expensive than the previously discussed lumbers. But for those who seek that special look, IPE with its greater beauty, a 3-5 times increase in life span, and a stronger damage resistance factor is competitively priced.
Building hint: use the inexpensive lumbers for the less exposed understructure, and then go for the gusto with the exposed.