IPE - what is it?

wildebloemAugust 5, 2009

I am constructing an ipe deck. What IS this material? I have looked online and found it described as Brazilian teak, Brazilian walnut, and under several other names.

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It is a hardwood from the tabebuia family. It is not related to teak or walnut anymore than I'm related to you. Now, go build your deck, and be glad you chose Ipe for decking material.


    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 6:11AM
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Thank you for the information - I finally found the tree in the trumpet vine family. Wonder why it is referred to as teak or walnut. I was unable to find its species name, however - do you happen to know it as well?

If I should be glad to have chosen ipe, I assume it is true it is very hard and will last a long time. I hope so, the balcony/deck is on the second floor and a pain to get to.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 11:56AM
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They (whoever they are) call it walnut or teak because people are familiar with those words...it's marketing. Would you rather buy lauan, meranti, or Phillipine Mahogany? Same crap, different names.

Tabebuia is the genus, and there are over 100 species. A number of those qualify as Ipe. That is one of the reasons that the Ipe that is sold here can vary in color from blond to black.
If you need to know more, Google it.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 5:36PM
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I did google ipe - that is how I became confused in the first place and asked the members of this forum for information. I assume like the other Gardenweb forums, questions is what this forum is about? But thank you for the comments. I did not realize there is such huge variation in the wood and will at least know to ask about the color when I order.

I am also looking at "Philippine mahogany" - thank you, too, for the advance "warning" on that particular choice. I had seen a sample, had not seen it before, but like it for some work I have in mind.

If anyone else has comments about ipe or other deck woods to consider, I would love to hear. I will not order the wood until late next week.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 9:26PM
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Its not really possible to order ipe by color or exactley what tree it comes from.

Ipe is some good stuff and in demand so its a little spendy right now on the flip side its a top end outside wood. So is Garapa for a little less money. J.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 7:45AM
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Ah, I will have to just hope for a color that suits then - the house we are building has clear cedar siding, hopefully the ipe will look good with that. But from what I have seen, at worst, it will look great.

We do not know garapa. Just looked at a photo online though and my husband prefers darker. Still, thank you for the suggestion.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 7:55PM
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Ipe ranges in color quite a bit from yellowish or greenish browns to reddish browns to almost black, but the majority of Ipe is harvested from a species called Tabebuia Serratifolia. "Good" Ipe comes from the trees that have the yellow flowers. The pink or white flowers come from other Tabebuia subspecies but aren't consistent with the color or density as Serratifolia. Without seeing the flowers it is difficult for most to distinguish what kind of Ipe it is but a general rule of thumb is: any boards that are extremely dark brown or black doesn't come from the yellow flowered specie. Personally, I like the look of inconsistent coloring between each board, adds more to the "exotic" look. But then again, even if you were guaranteed all Serratifolia Ipe, you can't get truly consistent material since most loggers and lumber suppliers have strict guidelines to harvest this material and mineral deposits, soil, climate, water, age, have an affect on each tree and their characteristics such as grain and color.

Also, brooklyndecks is right, Brazilian with any other wood word is just a marketing ploy. I've heard some wild ones and played with a few ideas myself.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 1:52PM
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"Brazilian with any other wood word is just a marketing ploy."

Marketing and trying to give customers some idea of the color/grain.

Many of the tropical woods look similar to domestic species, at least enough to give an idea.

Others are so strange no one even tries.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 12:37PM
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That's one way to put it. But Brazilian Teak? Cumaru has many variations. What about my favorite one: Brazilian Koa for Tigerwood? I've never seen a Tigerwood Ukelele before. People add Brazilian to the name of things to highlight density and durability. I was going to do Patagonian Kamani for Curupay, but only for the end grain.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 4:35PM
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