Ipe vs. Teak

Burmese Teak board shown above is genuine teak (not plantation grown)

Most people are familiar with Teak wood, it’s been well known to last outdoors without many of the common issues of softwoods.

Teak has exceptional resistance to rot and termites but it only offers moderate resistance to marine borers and the powder post beetle.

Since Teak is so well known for it’s exterior durability it has been widely used for outdoor furniture and boat building.

This has driven up the demand for Teak which then increases the price as well. Genuine Teak (Burmese Teak) is very expensive. Plantation Teak that is fast grown is significantly cheaper.

The high price point of Teak makes it out of the price range for many people especially for larger projects.

Teak Wood Lifespan

The lifespan of teak is known to be up to 50 years if properly maintained. If teak is left to turn a natural grey and not oiled each year you can expect teak in this condition to last 30 years or more depending on how harsh the climate is.

Teak Price Vs. Ipe Price

Due to the popular demand of teak over many years the price has increased substantially to the point that most people would find it not cost effective. Our teak price is around $40 per board foot.

Due to the high price of teak many people have used Ipe wood as a cost effective alternative to teak. Ipe is our top recommended alternative to teak it can outlast teak and Ipe is significantly cheaper.

Ipe is primarily sold for exterior decking, fencing, siding and many other exterior projects. It is priced and sold by the lineal foot. As of 2020 our starting price for 1×4 Ipe Wood is $2.13 per lineal foot.

A 1x4x8 Ipe Wood board would cost $17.04 that same board in teak would cost $110.00

Ipe Wood Deck
Ipe Wood Deck – Miami, Florida

Is Ipe Better Than Teak?

Ipe wood is a South American hardwood that is over three times harder on the Janka scale compared to genuine teak.

The Janka test is a measure of the hardness of wood. The Janka test was developed as a variation of the Brinell hardness test. The test measures the force required to push a steel ball with a diameter of 11.28 millimeters (0.444 inches) into the wood to a depth of half the ball’s diameter. The diameter was chosen to produce a circle with an area of 100 square millimeters.

  • The Janka hardness of Teak is: 1,050
  • The Janka hardness of Ipe is: 3,680

Other than Ipe wood being over three times harder, Ipe also has some other exceptional properties that make it one of the best exterior hardwoods available.

  • One of the strongest woods in the world
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Low maintenance
  • Up to a Class A fire rating for flame spread
  • Termite, Mold & Fungi resistant
  • No knots
  • High scratch & slip resistance
  • Can outlast composite material
  • Over three times harder than teak
  • Proven to last 75+ years on commercial applications such as the Coney Island boardwalk

You can view current ipe prices as well as get more information and free samples from AdvantageLumber.com

Gray Ipe Decking

What Does Gray Ipe Look Like?

Ipe is an incredible wood, especially for decking. One of the benefits we often mention is the low maintenance requirement. Once it’s installed, you barely have to touch an ipe deck! Virtually the only thing you have to do is oil it every year or so to preserve that rich brown color.

Of course, people looking for low-maintenance decking often want to know just how little work they can get away with. And who can blame them? Nobody builds a deck because they want to oil it every year! So what exactly will happen to your brand-new ipe deck if you decide to never oil it?

Un-Oiled Ipe Turns Gray

One of the first questions asked is what the decking will look like in a couple of years. It can actually be a little difficult to find pictures of weathered ipe; everyone just wants to show off that freshly oiled color! Well, you can put your curiosity to rest. Click on any of the photos below to see a bigger version:

Is Gray Ipe Weaker?

Another common question is whether the oil increases the ipe’s lifespan. Put another way, does letting ipe turn gray make it weaker?

You can relax. If you skip the maintenance, your ipe deck will still last up to 75 years. Regular oil treatments can increase that lifespan, but most people are pretty satisfied with three quarters of a century.

It’s also true that oiling can help make the wood resist cupping, especially in the case of ground-level decks, but as long as your deck was properly designed and built, this shouldn’t be a problem.

For proof, you need only look at the many large-scale, public projects that have used ipe decking. For instance, the Coney Island boardwalk used ipe for 90 years, and it was never oiled. Even after nearly a century of continual, heavy use, the wood was still strong enough when they replaced it that it was repurposed for use in high-end designer furniture!

Conclusion

If you don’t oil your ipe deck, it will turn gray, but that’s not a bad thing! A weathered ipe deck will still give you decades of low-maintenance backyard fun!

Ground-Level Deck

8 Things to Consider when Planning a Ground-Level Deck

Ground-level decks are a popular option when designing backyard landscapes. But if you don’t take certain precautions, your dream outdoor living space can quickly become a maintenance nightmare. To ensure you get the most out of your ground-level deck, here are several things to keep in mind during the planning stage.

1. Ground-Level Decks Lack Ventilation

The number-one reason ground-level decking projects fail is a lack of ventilation. We always recommend at least 18 inches of ground clearance to allow for good air flow, but ground-level decks, by definition, flout this rule. Therefore, we don’t usually recommend building a deck at ground level.

So what happens? The deck boards cup. Moisture on top of the boards can evaporate thanks to its exposure to open air, but moisture under the boards is trapped. Since wood shrinks as it dries out, the tops of the boards contract. At the same time, wet wood expands, so the bottoms swell out. These two opposed motions cause the boards to curl upward—better known in the decking world as cupping.

There’s very little you can do to improve air flow in a ground-level deck, but there are some steps you can take to minimize the negative effects of poor ventilation.

2. Use Strong Hardwoods

South American hardwoods, which include species like ipe and cumaru, are some of the strongest decking materials in the world. Their dense grain structures resist cupping better than softer woods like cedar or pine. They also contain natural oils that help them to resist moisture and the problems associated with it.

3. Use Thicker Boards

It’s easy to roll up a single sheet of paper, but try doing it with an entire ream! The thicker your material, the harder it is to bend—or in our case, the less likely it is to cup. So when choosing your decking material, thicker boards are better. 5/4x or even 2x boards may be more expensive, but the hassle they’ll save will be well worth the extra cost.

4. Use Narrower Boards

4 Inch Ipe Decking
4-inch deck boards are more stable than 6-inch boards

Similar to the above point, a narrow board is less likely to cup than a wide board. Going back to the paper analogy, it’s generally easier to fold a piece of paper perpendicular to its long axis than its short axis, and the same principle holds with wood. Also, because the board is narrower, any cupping that does occur will be less extreme, simply because there’s less material to expand and contract. So when planning your deck, choose 4-inch boards instead of the typical 6-inch boards.

5. Oil the Boards Before Installing

As stated earlier, all of our hardwood decking species contain natural oils that help them resist moisture-related problems. But you can further protect the wood by coating each board with a special oil-based finish prior to installation. We recommend Ipe Oil, since it was specially formulated to work with Brazilian hardwoods. Be sure to coat all four sides!

6. Use Wider Gap Spacing

For ipe decking, we typically recommend 3/32-inch gaps between boards, and a 1/4-inch gap for our other decking species. Slightly increasing this gap can improve the air flow, even if only by a little. It won’t have a huge impact, but every bit counts!

7. Oil Regularly After Installation

South American hardwoods are known for being low-maintenance, but with a ground-level deck, you’re going to have to do some work. Annual oil coatings, using the same stuff you used prior to installation, will maximize the stability of your deck boards.

8. Build a Ground-Level Deck with Deck Tiles

While the above tips will help, traditional ground-level decks never come with a guarantee. At the end of the day, you’re still fighting against wood’s natural tendencies when installing so close to the ground.

Ground-Level Deck Tiles
Deck tiles are designed to work well at ground-level

But there is one other option. Hardwood deck tiles are made from narrow slats of wood and pre-assembled to resist cupping. They are designed specifically for ground-level use! As a bonus, deck tiles are also a lot easier to install than traditional deck boards.

Conclusion

It should be repeated that we usually try to steer customers away from ground-level deck projects because the risks of moisture-related problems are too great. But if your heart is set on a deck at or near ground level, then these tips will give you the best chances at success.

painted wood pergola

Can I Paint Ipe Wood?

Can you paint ipe wood? It’s a common question, and the experts will always tell you the same two things:

  1. No
  2. Why would you want to?

Those can be frustrating answers. Maybe you want to use ipe for its strength, but you aren’t fond of its color. Or maybe you inherited a finished project from a previous homeowner whose tastes didn’t match yours. So what can you do?

Can these ipe wood posts be painted?
These ipe posts could look striking if painted white. But is ipe wood paintable?

Why Ipe Is Not Paintable

First, let’s look at the source of the problem. We paint wood all the time; why is ipe different?

Exotic hardwoods (including ipe and its friends: cumaru, tigerwood, etc.) are not like most woods. Paint won’t stick to them! For one, they’re just too dense. The tight grain squeezes other substances out, and creates a relatively non-porous surface (compared to softer woods) that leaves the paint with nothing to cling to.

Another reason paint won’t stick to ipe and its ilk is that these woods are saturated with natural oils. These oils repel the paint, much like how the oil on a duck’s feathers repels water.

It just so happens that these two characteristics, density and oils, are what make ipe such a good choice for exterior projects in the first place. The dense grain gives it an impervious structure, and the oils fight off mold and decay. It’s too bad that they also have the unfortunate side effect of making the wood difficult to paint.

And it’s not just paint. Most wood stains and film-forming top coats will struggle to maintain any lasting hold on ipe. That’s why companies developed specialized products like Ipe Oil® and Messmers for dealing with exotic hardwoods. These oil-based finishes were specifically formulated to penetrate deeply into ipe’s dense grain structure and enrich the wood’s natural characteristics.

Can Anything Be Done?

Some woodworkers have claimed mild success in painting ipe by taking a few preliminary steps. First, sand the ipe with coarse-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface a bit. This will give the paint something to cling to. Then, apply several layers of oil-based primer. Finally, you can paint the ipe, but use an oil-based paint instead of the usual latex stuff.

Having said that, these steps will not guarantee a perfect, long-lasting finish; and as a rule, AdvantageLumber.com does not recommend painting ipe.

Alternatives to Painting Ipe

Painting ipe may not be a good idea, but you do have some other options.

Use a Different Wood

If you’re starting a brand-new project, this is the best way to go. A wood like cedar may not have the strength and longevity of ipe, but you can paint it to your heart’s content. The paint will also help protect the wood, giving back some of the durability you sacrificed by using a softer wood specie.

Cover the Ipe in a Paintable Material

Sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Either ipe is required for its structural properties, or someone else installed the wood without asking you first!

In cases like this, when you absolutely must use ipe, you should first consider if you really want to cover up that beautiful, natural hardwood. If your answer is still “yes”, then your best option is to clad the ipe in a paintable material. Build a sheath or covering out of another wood, such as cedar or even pressure treated pine, and paint that instead. You’ll get the strong foundation provided by ipe as well as full control over the final appearance.

Best Wood for Outdoor Kitchens

Best Wood for Outdoor Kitchens

Ipe Wood Outdoor Kitchen

Building an outdoor kitchen is a major investment. You want to make sure you are using materials that are going to hold up to the outdoor environment as well as the abuse of kitchen wear and tear.

You are probably looking at spending thousands of dollars on top of the line stainless steel appliances for your outdoor kitchen.

The last thing you would want is to spend a lot of time and money on an outdoor kitchen and have your grill in your outdoor kitchen rust out after 5 years and force you to redo your outdoor kitchen.

Many homeowners want their appliances to sit in cabinets or an outdoor bar built out of a beautiful long lasting wood.

Woods You Should Not Use for an Outdoor Kitchen

We suggest staying away from softwoods such as pressure treated pine, cedar and redwood.

These softwoods are all susceptible to rot, wood boring insects and are can catch fire quickly. In addition they require yearly maintenance with waterproofing sealers that will peel off.

This will leave you scraping and sanding all the wood and then reapplying the sealer each year. Waterproofing sealers help keep water from penetrating the grain of softwoods which would lead to faster rot and decay.

Additionally your outdoor kitchen will more than likely be placed on a concrete slab foundation. Depending on the design of your outdoor kitchen your cabinets or bar will be sitting on top of the concrete.

Concrete wicks moisture so softwoods sitting on top of concrete will rot faster at the base.

These are just a few reasons why we don’t recommend these softwoods for an outdoor kitchen.

Best Woods for Outdoor Kitchens

There are a few species of wood that we’ve found to be proven to perform incredibly well in outdoor environments such as outdoor kitchens.

These species are Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood, Garapa and Massaranduba. They all come from South America and have proven to last up to 75 years or more with very low maintenance.

Ipe wood decking and Ipe outdoor kitchen cabinets

Above you’ll see a picture of an outdoor kitchen built with Ipe wood deck boards. The deck is also built with Ipe wood decking.

Ipe wood decking is one of the most durable, long lasting decking woods available. It is more durable than teak and is more cost effective as well.

It is also naturally resistant to mold, mildew, rot and decay, wood boring insects can not chew through the wood, It has a Class A rating against flame spread, does not splinter like softwoods and it has proven to last 75+ year on commercial boardwalks like Coney Island boardwalk in New York.

Here’s another outdoor kitchen built with Ipe Wood:

The second most durable wood we recommend for outdoor kitchens is Cumaru which is also known as Brazilian Teak.

Cumaru is almost identical to Ipe it’s just got a little more color variation which ranges from golden brown to a reddish brown. Ipe is more consistent in color which is a chocolate brown.

Many people are drawn to Cumaru because it’s typically 30% cheaper and also a very beautiful and durable wood. It has all the similar properties like Class A rating against flame spread which makes it an excellent wood for outdoor kitchens.

While we don’t have pictures of an outdoor kitchen built with Cumaru wood most of the jobs we supply are used to build decks.

Just like Ipe wood is most commonly used to build decks both of these woods are great for a wide array of outdoor projects.

Here’s a picture of a deck built with Cumaru:

Cumaru Deck

Tigerwood Outdoor Kitchen

This is our 3rd most popular option for an exterior hardwood that is great for outdoor kitchens.

Tigerwood Outdoor Kitchen

Tigerwood is not quite as dense as Ipe or Cumaru but it’s still a very dense and durable hardwood that’s great for outdoor use. In fact Tigerwood is more than double the Janka hardness compared to Teak.

These 3 wood species are the best woods that we recommend for outdoor kitchens.

When building an outdoor kitchen with wood you can often use short length boards depending on your design of course.

We sell short length boards at a significant cost savings that can save you up to 50 percent. Click here to view these discounted hardwoods

Best Wood for an Outdoor Table

Ipe Wood Outdoor Table

If you’re building an outdoor table you want to build something that will last for many years to come without degrading and tons of maintenance.

Not all woods are created equal.

Some woods when used outdoors and exposed to harsh weather and UV rays will degrade quickly. This leads to splinters, rot and decay and you’ll eventually have to rebuild your outdoor table.

The most common wood that people build with for outdoor use is pressure treated pine.

Pressure treated pine is the most affordable option available, as a result many people build outdoor tables such as picnic tables with it.

The downside of pressure treated pine is that it’s a softwood that requires annual maintenance with water sealers. Eventually the weather and UV rays will degrade the pressure treated pine.

You will experience checking, splinters and even rot and decay eventually. You can expect a 15 to 20 year lifespan if you properly maintain your outdoor table each year.

If you’re looking for the best wood than pressure treated pine is not the best choice.

Cedar is the next most common wood option for outdoor use.

It’s known to many as a premium wood compared to pressure treated pine. It does offer some natural resistance to rot and decay.

However Cedar is still a softwood and will rot, decay, splinter and have all the same problems as pressure treated pine. This will also need a waterproofing sealer applied each year.

You can also expect a lifespan of 15 to 20 years if the proper maintenance is done each year.

The Best Wood for Outdoor Use and Tables

Deck with Fire Pit and Pavers
Deck built with Ipe wood

Ipe wood (pronounced EE-pay) is a South American hardwood that has proven to last on many commercial applications such as the Coney Island boardwalk for 75+ years with no treatment.

Here are some of the outstanding benefits of Ipe:

  • Lasts up to 75+ years
  • Low maintenance
  • Termite Resistant
  • No knots!!
  • Tight grain = No worry of slivers
  • Can outlast composite material
  • High density resist scratches
  • Nearly twice as strong as Oak
  • Better than teak
  • Environmentally friendly
  • One of the strongest woods in the world
  • Up to a Class A fire rating for flame spread
  • Mold & Fungi resistant
  • High slip resistance

We also recommend a few other species that have very similar properties to Ipe and offer different grain and colors.

The following woods are also extremely durable outdoors and are more affordable than Ipe.

Cumaru, Tigerwood, Garapa and Massaranduba

This outdoor table was handcrafted using Ipe and Tigerwood and it’s absolutely stunning.

Outdoor Table made with Ipe Wood and Tigerwood

If you are looking to build an outdoor table that will last a lifetime these woods will not disappoint you.

You can purchase them directly online from our website. We also have many deeply discounted shorter length boards that work great for outdoor furniture.

Since we primarily sell a lot of long length boards for decks we sell the shorter boards for a deep discount. Click here to see our discounted hardwood decking

Best Decking For Above Ground Pools

A quality American made above ground pool can last 10 – 20 years if not more depending on the conditions.

You want to make sure your deck will last just as long without all the common issues associated with some decking options.

In this article we’ll discuss all your decking options for your above ground pools and highlight the pros and cons of each.

The first most affordable and most common decking option is:

Pressure Treated Pine Decking

Above Ground Pool with Pressure Treated Pine Decking – 5 Years Old

Most above ground pool decks are built using pressure treated pine because it’s readily available at almost every building material supplier near you and its the most affordable option.

This is a real wood option that requires consistent maintenance to ensure the longest lifespan possible.

Pine is a softwood that is susceptible to rot, decay, mold, mildew and insect attack. In addition pressure treated pine also typically experiences repeated cycles of thermal expansion and contraction (especially if you live in the north and get harsh winters).

Softwoods require the use of deck stains and water sealers that help keep the water out of the wood grain which accelerates rot, decay and insect attack.

Treated pine commonly gives off splinters and slivers in your feet since most of the time you’ll be using your above ground pool deck with bare feet. So be prepared for annoyed guests and crying kids.

The average life expectancy for a pressure treated pine pool deck is 15 – 20 years. Many will see something more like 10 – 15 years. It really depends on how good you kept up with the maintenance each year.

Pools decks obviously are constantly getting saturated with pool water especially if you have little kids who like keep getting out and jumping in the pool doing cannonballs.

The next real wood option is:

Cedar Wood Decking

cedar deck repair

This is another softwood option however cedar does offer some natural resistance to rot and decay but will eventually rot and decay as time goes on.

In the picture above you can see this homeowner is replacing on of the deck boards and the others have splinters and checking that can cause splinters and slivers in your feet.

Cedar also requires a waterproofing sealer to help ensure a longer lifespan especially around pool decks with the constant exposure to water.

If maintained yearly you could expect a life expectancy of 20 – 25 years. Again this all depends on the wear and tear the deck sees as well as the annual maintenance.

The third option that most home owners think will be the best is:

Composite Decking

composite deck fading
Composite Deck with Extreme Fading
Composite Decking Falling Apart

Many homeowners think that composite decking will be “maintenance free”. In the early years when composite decking was first made, many manufacturers spent millions of dollars on advertising bragging that their products were “maintenance free”.

Unfortunately many people found out the hard way there really is no such thing as maintenance free. As a result there was several class action lawsuits for false advertising and other issues.

Composite decking has many issues including severe fading as shown in first picture as well as deteriorating and crumbling as shown in the second picture.

Many homeowners also complain about composites being extremely hot to walk on in your bare feet which is not good around pools. Another common problem is that it can be very slippery when wet which would not be good around a pool.

Homeowners should do a Google search for “composite decking complaints” and “composite decking problems”. We get calls from homeowners each week that need to replace their composite decking after only a year or two of having their deck installed.

We have yet to find a composite decking product that will meet or exceed our customers expectations so we do not sell any composite or plastic decking materials for now.

Last but not least your other option is:

Hardwood Decking

When we say hardwood we are talking about some of the hardest most durable woods on earth. In fact they are harder and more durable than Teak and cheaper too.

The decking species we recommend for above ground pool decks are:

  • Ipe
  • Cumaru
  • Tigerwood
  • Garapa
  • Massaranduba

These South American hardwoods are sustainably harvested and have proven to last up to 75 years with very low maintenance.

They are also naturally resistant to rot, decay, mold, mildew, splinter, class A rating against flame spread, resistant to wood boring insects, naturally slip resistant and not hot to walk on bare foot.

All of these qualities make them excellent around pools!

The only maintenance that’s required is cleaning the dirt and debris off the surface which is required by all decking manufacturers (especially composites).

Pollen, dirt, leaves, rain and other debris will land on all decks so a light power washing is a good idea when needed.

The only other maintenance that many homeowners choose to do is oiling the wood usually once a year. UV rays from the sun will bleach the color out of the wood and turn it grey.

Some homeowners like they grey look so they don’t have to do anything other than an occasional cleaning.

Oiling the wood will keep the beautiful color of the woods and enhance the beautiful grain. Once you see the beauty of these woods most homeowners want to maintain that look.

Do not be confused oiling hardwoods is incredibly easy and it’s not a top coat like water sealers for soft woods that will eventually peel off and leave you with a lot of maintenance.

The oil you simply roll on with a paint roller after that you wipe up any that did not soak into the wood. These woods are so dense they will only absorb so much oil. It will eventually fade away (usually spring time the following year). Then you just apply more oil.