Throughout the spring and summer months, the millwork department at J. Gibson McIlvain lumber company spends about ¾ of every day grooving Ipe decking boards in order to prepare them for hidden fasteners.
Trucks are constantly waiting at our lumber yard to be loaded with Ipe that will be shipped across the United States for installation on beach boardwalks and commercial & residential decks.
While Ipe is still the top in-demand decking species, current shortages lead to greater consideration of other tropical hardwood lumber species that work well for decks.
We’ll look at a few top choices for Ipe alternatives and compare them to the A-1 decking species as a point of reference.
Only slightly softer than Ipe, Cumaru wood is also known as Brazilian Teak. Available in both red and yellow varieties, Cumaru with the red coloring is more popular as a decking species.
While Cumaru lumber can have issues with stability and shrinkage, careful kiln drying can help produce a suitable decking product. However, Cumaru can still be a risky choice if your job site is in a dry climate, because of wood shrinkage.
The reddish brown coloring of Cumaru mimics Ipe, as does its superior density and hardness. At about 2/3 the price of Ipe lumber, Cumaru is readily available as an alternative to Ipe
Much less common than Cumaru, Tigerwood has a distinctive, striped appearance that resembles the look of a tiger. Also known as Goncalo Alves, this species has a brownish orange background with dark stripes.
This species is known to dry well and display stability; kiln-drying can assist in that stability.
Used extensively for both exterior decking and interior applications, Tigerwood poses a unique challenge for installation. In order to achieve a consistent appearance, special care must be taken.
This dense, hard wood comes from Brazil and is sometimes known as Bullet Wood or Brazilian Redwood. The large Massarunduba tree is extremely large and yields straight, consistent grained boards that are ideal for decking. Its deep, red coloring can mellow to a brown due to exposure to the elements. With a hardness which is 80% that of Ipe, it is very durable.
Drying is a weak point, since splits and checks commonly occur during the drying process. For that reason, use of Massarunduba in dry climates such as the Southwestern US is not recommended. However, in wetter climates, it remains quite stable.
With price and availability similar to Cumaru, this species can be a good Ipe alternative in the right climate.
This unique, lemon-yellow wood is also known as Brazilian Oak. Dense and hard, this stable species provides a distinctive alternative to the darker tropical decking products. Although only 40% as hard as Ipe, Garapa is still harder than most domestic hardwood species.
With the same durability and class-A fire ratings as many other South American decking species, this unusual selection is a great Ipe alternative. (For those who just can’t swallow its unusual coloring, stains and dyes can be applied.)
While we all know that no other species truly rivals Ipe, many species can provide excellent decking lumber when Ipe is not a reasonable choice.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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