We at McIlvain Lumber Company have seen countless lumber orders in the 200+ years that we’ve been in business. While Teak and Ipe are, by far, our most popular tropical hardwood decking products, lately, Cumaru has been coming in at a close third. In fact, this South American species is often confused with the Asian-grown Teak by those outside the industry; it has even been called “Brazilian Teak.” It does boast a uniquely fine interlocking grain pattern, as well as superior weather resistance that rivals that of Teak and Ipe, so it’s understandable that people would make the comparison. Unlike Ipe and some Teak, though, Cumaru’s coloring is a yellowish brown.
Like Ipe, the Brazilian connection means that we can easily ensure the environmental and socially responsible practices of each of our sourcing partners. Our on-site investigations allow us to cautiously and thoroughly research our lumber sources, and we at McIlvain boast an unrivalled assurance of the highest standards of an ethical supply chain.
Cumaru is admittedly inferior to Ipe in terms of durability, but to be honest, because Ipe is one of the most durable lumbers on the planet, there are few lumbers that aren’t inferior to Ipe in that regard. So looking at the big picture, Cumaru is still superior to most other lumber species. In addition to durability, Cumaru boasts strength and hardness as well as relatively good stability, especially compared to lower-end decking products.
Without proper drying, Cumaru can sometimes have stability issues. However, with even kiln drying and just the right thickness, checking and other stability issues are greatly reduced. If you do not take the time to purchase your Cumaru from a reputable lumber dealer, Cumaru’s inherent stability concerns could pose a huge problem to your project. Buying from McIlvain ensures that your Cumaru will be perfectly and evenly dried for maximum stability.
In addition to drying time, Cumaru requires time to acclimate to its new environment. Once sufficient time for drying and acclimatization has taken place, movement will be slight and rare. To promote stability, McIlvain stocks only 5/4 thickness, which further works to control movement. Again, though, if you purchase from the wrong supplier, your Cumaru could have serious movement issues. Therefore, be sure to research your lumber dealer to make sure they have given their lumber enough time to acclimate to its new climate’s moisture levels.
Like Ipe, Cumaru is both dense and hard, allowing for superior resistance to rot and decay. Despite its density, this lumber species machines easily. This golden tropical hardwood has a uniquely waxy texture that stems from its high oil content. While the oiliness can sometimes mean trouble during finishing or gluing, it also has its benefits, including that it creates a barrier to rotting and other problems. If the oils bother you or give you trouble during finishing, a treatment is available to reduce these issues.
In addition to Cumaru, McIlvain also stocks even more affordable alternatives to Ipe, such as Tigerwood and Massaranduba. However, we are convinced that the tropical hardwood decking product that most closely resembles the quality and durability of Ipe is Cumaru. If you simply can’t afford the rising prices that come with Ipe, the lower cost of Cumaru may be well worth the extra time required for sourcing.
If you have a specialized decking application and are unsure whether you should consider Cumaru or find a way to finance Ipe, you should take advantage of our lumber specialists’ expertise. We make it our business to know all there is to know about the many species that we carry and how they behave in various environments and climates. We can also help you plan ahead to order the lumber you need at the best possible time in order to attain the best possible prices. At J. Gibson McIlvain, you’ll always receive expert service along with our premium lumber at direct-importer pricing. For more information on why we’ve been an industry leader for over 200 years, click here to visit us online today. And for insider tips and woodworking tricks, check out these selections from our lumber blog: