Advantage Lumber now offers Red Balau decking. Red Balau is low-maintenance and durable, with a lifespan of up to 30 years. This, combined with its rich warm brown color, makes it a perfect, low-cost alternative to Ipe decking. Learn more about Red Balau!
Best Wood for Raised Garden Beds
The best wood for raised garden beds should last a long time without the need for chemical treatment.
Many homeowners looking to build raised garden beds want to grow fresh high quality vegetables they know are free from pesticides and chemicals.
In order to grow your vegetables without chemicals many experts recommend using natural materials that can not leach potentially harmful chemicals into your soil that then end up in your vegetables.
As a results most organic gardeners do not recommend the use of pressure treated wood.
Pressure treated wood is treated with chemicals to prevent the wood from rotting.
Older pressure treated wood contained CCA (chromated copper arsenate).
The EPA banned CCA in 2003 due to arsenic leaching from the pressure-treated wood and into the soil which can contaminate plants and people.
While the new pressure treated wood uses safer synthetic materials. The USDA Organic guidelines still doesn’t recommend them for organic growing:
“A number of synthetic materials are now commonly used in place of CCA. These include alkaline copper quaternary, copper azole, and micronized copper azole. These materials are not currently allowed in organic production, as they are not included on the National List.” – USDA Organic Guidelines
Many of our customers come to us looking for a durable natural wood for raised garden beds. They have concerns about growing their food in a complete natural environment without the use of chemicals, pesticides, insecticides and fungicides.
Pressure treated wood typically contains some sort of fungicides and insecticides to protect the wood.
Here’s a write up from the USDA Forest Products Laboratory describing the two common pressure treated woods on the market:
Alkaline Copper Quat (ACQ)
The fungicides and insecticides in ACQ are expressed as copper oxide (67%) and a quaternary ammonium compound (quat, 33%). Multiple variations of ACQ have been standardized or are in the process of standardization. There are three types of ACQ: ACQ-B, ACQ-D, and ACQ-C. ACQ-B is an ammoniacal copper quat formulation; ACQ-D is an amine copper quat formulation; and ACQ-C is formulated with either ammonia or amine and a slightly different quat compound. Minimum retentions of 0.25 lb/ft3 or 0.4 lb/ft3 are specified for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 0.6 lb/ft3 is specified for critical structural members in ground contact.
Copper Azole (CBA-A and CA-B)
The first copper azole formulation developed was type A (CBA-A), which contains 49% copper, 49% boric acid, and 2% tebuconazole. Type B (CA-B) was more recently standardized. CA-B does not contain boric acid and contains 96% copper and 4% tebuconazole. Minimum retentions of CBA-A are 0.20 lb/ft3 and 0.41 lb/ft3 for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 9.8 kg/m3 (0.61 lb/ft3) is specified for critical structural members placed in ground contact. Minimum retentions of CA-B are 0.10 lb/ft3 or 0.21 lb/ft3 for wood used above ground or in ground contact, respectively. A retention of 0.31 lb/ft3 is specified for critical structural members placed in ground contact.
While most of the pressure treated wood manufacturers state they are safe for building raised garden beds, we get many customers that still would rather not use them.
Additionally most of the manufacturers care instructions state that you need to apply water repellant periodically to protect against moisture damage.
This would be difficult with damp or wet soil sitting against the inside of the boards constantly which will ultimately lead to fast rot and decay of the wood.
What about other softwoods such as Redwood or Cedar?
While Cedar and Redwood both have some natural rot resistance they are both softwoods that also require water repellant sealers to prevent water from penetrating the grain and rotting the wood.
Best Wood for Raised Vegetable Garden Beds
Our number one recommendation for raised vegetable garden beds is our Angelim Pedra Trailer Decking.
This product is commonly used for large flat bed semi-trailers that haul huge excavators and bulldozers which can weigh upwards of 90,000 pounds.
Angelim Pedra is an all natural hardwood from South America that is readily available and responsibly harvested.
This natural hardwood has a janka hardness of 3,160. The janka hardness rating is simply an industry rating of various wood species hardness.
Western Red Cedar only has a Janka hardness of 350 and Redwood has a Janka hardness of 450. That makes Angelim Pedra almost 10 times harder than Western Red Cedar.
Our Angelim Pedra wood is exceptionally resistant to rot, decay and wood boring insects naturally without any chemical treatment applied to the wood.
There is no need to worry about applying water sealers to Angelim Pedra since it is naturally very rot resistant. You can put the soil right up against the wood and water your plants daily without concern.
The Angelim Pedra trailer decking comes in a shiplap profile so the boards overlap forming a nice tight seal.
Angelim Pedra is exceptionally beautiful once a simple UV oil finish is applied to the exterior.
Most of our customers apply Ipe Oil to the exterior only. If you are concerned with the oil finish there are food grade finishes that can be applied instead.
Angelim Pedra is one of the hardest and most durable woods available for exterior use and building.
Building raised garden beds with Angelim Pedra will give you beautiful long lasting garden beds so you can grow your own vegetables for many years to come without worrying about rotting wood or chemicals in your wood.
Best Wood Species for Outdoor Tables
If you are looking to build an outdoor table you want to use the best wood possible.
When building an outdoor table you want something that can last for generations without too much maintenance and issues like splinters.
Most people are familiar with the common softwood choices like Pressure Treated Pine, Cedar and Redwood.
Softwoods require a water sealer to keep water from penetrating the grain which can lead to faster rot and decay.
The water sealer typically needs to be applied every year and you’ll need to sand off any that is peeling first.
These woods will also splinter, check and crack over time leaving the table prone to giving you splinters.
There are 5 wood species that we recommend as the best wood species for outdoor tables.
This incredible hardwood comes from South America.
It has proven to last up to 75+ years on commercial applications such as the Coney Island boardwalk.
We typically sell Ipe wood for decking, fences, siding and more outdoor projects but it also works excellent for outdoor tables.
This porch deck is built with Ipe wood tongue & groove decking and shows the natural beauty of the wood.
Here’s a list of benefits that make Ipe one of the best wood choices for an outdoor table:
- 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
- Twice as strong as Oak
- Time proven on many commercial projects
Due to the popularity and proven performance of Ipe wood outdoors it has become somewhat expensive.
Not to worry we have at least 5 other species that are significantly cheaper and offer very similar durability as Ipe.
Teak is our next top pick of wood options.
Most people are well aware of Teak’s reputation, it’s one of the most sought after woods for exterior use.
Boat builders have used this wood for centuries since there’s few things that see harsher elements than a boat.
Teak (Tectona grandis) grows all over the world, in southeast Asia, the East Indies, Africa, and America.
Our Teak grows in 20–50 year plantations, which means you get the hardest, most durable wood without harming the environment.
Teak is lighter than Ipe in both color and weight. Its color ranges from yellow brown to dark golden brown, darkening with age.
Because it is less dense than Ipe, Teak is also generally easier to work with.
Cumaru wood (aka Brazilian Teak) is the second hardest exterior hardwood we sell. In Brazil, Cumaru is used in mansions, five-star hotels and major commercial projects.
The color of Cumaru varies from a golden tan to a reddish brown with some dark grain accents through out the wood.
It has a 50+ year lifespan without preservatives! Our Cumaru wood is responsibly harvested from managed forests to provide a truly renewable resource.
Cumaru is a great wood choice for building and outdoor table. Take a look at these beautiful outdoor tables made using Cumaru wood.
This beautiful hardwood also comes from South America and is one our employees often choose for their own homes.
Tigerwood (also known as Goncalo Alves) is one of the finest quality hardwoods available that features a unique light golden-brown to reddish-brown coloring with exotic black and brown streaks.
It is naturally resistant to rot and decay, is the third hardest decking we sell, and offers a 30+ year lifespan without preservatives!
The table above features a custom Ipe wood border and inlay with an Ipe wood table base.
This table has an aluminum base, it once had another surface that was old and worn out.
Our customer sprayed the base black and added Tigerwood to resurface the table and chairs. The outdoor table and chairs look great and should last 30 years or more.
This beautiful South American hardwood starts of a golden yellow color but in a short time when oiled and exposed to UV light it will turn a beautiful golden brown.
Garapa is an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack.
It is naturally scratch resistant which allows the surface to remain smooth for many years, making Garapa a perfect wood for outdoor tables and many other exterior projects.
You can expect a 30+ year lifespan without preservatives!
We don’t have a picture of an outdoor table built using Garapa but above is a beautiful deck built with this beautiful and durable hardwood.
Massaranduba (pronounced Ma-Sa-Ran-Doo-bah) is a hardwood native to South America. It’s one of the hardest woods in the world, once it’s oiled and exposed to UV rays it looks very similar to Ipe wood.
One surprising fact about this natural hardwood is how well it performs under heavy load (bending strength) tests. These tests revealed that, as a decking material, Massaranduba is even stronger than Ipe decking.
This makes Massaranduba an excellent choice for outdoor tables.
We don’t have a picture of a table built using Massaranduba but this picture of our siding we milled gives you a good idea of how the wood will look.
4 Cost Effective Ipe Wood Alternatives
Ipe wood has become increasingly popular for many reasons. It’s proven to last outdoors in harsh climates for 75 years or more with little to no maintenance.
Hardwoods such as Ipe offer the following benefits:
- One of the strongest woods in the world
- Low maintenance
- Up to a Class A fire rating for flame spread
- Termite, Mold & Fungi resistant
- No knots or slivers
- High scratch & slip resistance
- Can outlast composite material
- All natural, chemical free decking
- 75+ year lifespan
Not only is it one of the most durable exterior woods it’s also one of the most beautiful wood options.
Ipe wood is a deep brown walnut color with a tight to medium grain. The grain can range from straight to irregular with some boards exhibiting high figure.
Ipe Wood Alternatives
Due to supply and demand Ipe wood has become the most expensive hardwood decking option.
Many homeowners now find it’s out of their price range.
Some homeowners are still willing to shell out the money because they know it’s going to be a great investment that they’ll only have to make once.
Don’t be discouraged there are 4 other wood species that are much more cost effective and nearly identical to Ipe.
Some of these species once they are oiled and exposed to UV rays become almost indistinguishable compared to Ipe.
The first specie people substitute for Ipe wood is:
Also known as Brazilian Teak, Cumaru is nearly identical in terms of hardness. The janka hardness of Ipe is 3,680 while Cumaru is 3,540. For comparison Red Oak’s janka hardness is 1,290 so Ipe and Cumaru are nearly 3 times harder than Red Oak.
Cumaru has a little more color variation with colors ranging from a lighter yellowish brown to reddish brown.
Choosing Cumaru for your project will give you a very similar look to Ipe as well as all the same durability benefits at a significantly cheaper price.
Massaranduba (Brazilian Redwood)
Massaranduba (pronounced Ma-Sa-Ran-Doo-bah) is a hardwood native to South America. It is one of the most beautiful and hardest woods in the world.
One surprising fact about this natural hardwood is how well it performs under heavy load (bending strength) tests.
These tests revealed that, as a decking material, Massaranduba is over three times stronger than California Redwood and is even stronger than Ipe wood.
Massaranduba is also nearly 8 times harder than California Redwood.
This is also another great cost effective alternative for Ipe wood. It starts out looking more red but once it’s oiled and exposed to UV rays it becomes more brown and closely resembles the look of Ipe wood.
Also known as Brazilian Ash, Garapa is one of the finest quality hardwoods available that features a fine-grained timber that is light yellow to a warm golden hue.
Garapa is an exotic hardwood that is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attack.
It’s also naturally scratch resistant which allows the surface to remain smooth for many years, making Garapa an perfect wood for exterior decking.
Compared to the dark brown color of Ipe, Garapa starts off a golden yellow but once oiled and exposed to UV rays it becomes a beautiful light golden brown.
Garapa is also significantly cheaper than Ipe making it another great alternative for Ipe.
Tigerwood is one of the finest quality hardwoods available that features a unique light golden-brown to reddish-brown coloring with exotic black and brown streaks.
This beautiful hardwood is naturally resistant to rot and decay, is the third hardest decking we sell, and offers a 30+ year lifespan without preservatives!
Our Tigerwood Decking is responsibly harvested from managed forest to provide a truly renewable resource. Tigerwood offers similar benefits compared to Ipe and is available at a fraction of the cost.
Most hardwoods are photosensitive which means they can lighten or darken when exposed to natural or artificial light.
All of the alternative species listed here are photosensitive, they all start out lighter and will become a little darker and will more closely resemble Ipe as they age.
All of these hardwood species are excellent alternatives to Ipe wood, most of our employees choose Tigerwood because as true wood workers they all love the beautiful grain and Tigerwood is the best value.
How Long Does a Wood Deck Last
There are many wood choices to build a new deck with and some will last longer than others and offer less maintenance.
When it comes to a deck built with wood most homeowners think of pressure treated pine. It’s the most cost effective wood option and is readily available in most local building supply stores.
Pressure Treated Wood Decking
Softwoods like Pressure Treated Pine can be susceptible to rot, decay, mold, mildew and insect attack.
These woods require an application of a water sealer every year or sometimes every other year. This helps keep the water out of the wood grain which can accelerate rot.
A good water sealer should keep the water pooled on the surface and prevent it from penetrating the wood. Once the water stops pooling on the surface you should reapply more water sealer.
Treated pine can also give you splinters and slivers in your feet. This can be reduced by keeping up on the maintenance.
You can sand and pressure wash a pressure treated wood deck which can help you restore your deck surface.
Below is a picture of a 10 year old pressure treated deck that was sanded and is getting a new stain and water sealer applied.
This is a lot of work but if the homeowner keeps up this maintenance he should be able to get another 10 years or more out of their deck.
The average life expectancy for a pressure treated wood deck is 15 – 20 years. Many will see something more like 10 – 15 years.
It really depends on how good you keep up with the maintenance each year as well as if your deck is constantly exposed to water and doesn’t get a lot of sun exposure to dry the deck out.
If you’re a busy homeowner and think you might not be able to keep up with the maintenance then a deck built with pressure treated will most likely have a shorter lifespan.
Cedar Wood Decking
The next most common wood decking option is Cedar. Cedar is another softwood but cedar does offer some natural resistance to rot and decay.
Cedar will eventually rot and decay as time goes on and just like pressure treated it requires a water sealer to prolong the life of the wood.
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.
Decks built with Redwood will require the same maintenance as Cedar and Pressure Treated Pine to help extend the lifespan of the wood.
Redwood is a softwood that offers some natural resistance to rot and decay. One very important thing to consider though is old growth Redwood was considered very durable to rot and decay.
Nowadays the majority of what you see for sale is younger secondary growth Redwood which is still considered moderately durable to rot and decay but not as much as the old growth material.
Most people are not aware there are hardwood species proven to last up to 75 years or more with very little maintenance. Some of the species are over 3 times harder than Oak.
The decking species we recommend for most outdoor applications are:
These South American hardwoods are sustainably harvested and have proven to last up to 75 years with very low maintenance.
These species are 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 for decks, fences, siding, benches and many other outdoor projects.
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.
Additionally with softwoods you really need to get a brush and apply water sealer in all the spacing between your deck boards to try and protect the edges of the boards from rot.
This is not the case with these hardwood species since some of these species are proven to last up to 75 years without any sealer or chemical treatments.
The oil is simply rolled 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.
Teak Decking Now Available
Advantage Lumber just announced its line of Plantation Teak decking. This is Teak that was grown on eco-friendly plantations, gives you the perfect blend of high-end looks, performance, and environmental consciousness. Learn more about Teak decking!
Ipe Wood Suppliers – 11 Things You Should Know Before Ordering
The following tips we’ve had to compile and share with our readers and potential customers because we unfortunately receive phone calls from people saying I placed my order with “X” and this is what happened…
Think Twice Before Ordering From a Drop-shipper! Here’s Why:
1. Cheapest Price = Cheaper Grade Wood
Drop-shippers sometimes offer slightly lower prices per linear foot for Ipe wood to suck customers in and get their money.
As with anything you purchase in life, the cheapest is never the best. Don’t expect your Ipe wood order to be the one thing that defies this rule.
Drop-shippers do not move the volume so they often get lower quality materials while their broker pushes better grades to their top customers.
The most recent trick we have seen is to offer the cheapest price Ipe wood as their standard grade when in reality they are shipping you B grade or worse.
2. Deceiving Shipping Information
Some drop-shippers have published pages on their website deceiving buyers with the grand illusion they have hundreds of locations you can pickup your order.
Tricking potential customers by sugar coating the wording on your website is deceptive.
The truth is they have your order dropped off at the closest freight terminal for you to pick up. This is the cheapest option they can offer since they don’t ship enough volume.
With Freight shipments the more volume a shipper moves the more of a discount they receive. Therefor they can not offer you an 87% discount on freight or free shipping on some orders like we do.
Shipping direct to your job site or home would cost more for a drop shipper as its one more trip the freight company has to make. Shipping direct also creates more headaches scheduling deliveries and tracking orders for drop-shippers so they avoid this.
This leaves you trying to pickup an order that weighs thousands of pounds and upwards of 20ft long from a freight terminal with loading docks made for semi-trucks.
If time, additional labor and equipment needed to pickup your order are not important to you this may not be an issue for you. Figure out how much it will cost you to pickup your order if you plan on going this route.
We ship all orders direct to your home or job site.
Additionally we have seen drop shippers offer shipping insurance as an “up sell” to ensure you receive your order.
Trying to pass fees like this off to your customers is very shady. All of our orders are insured. When a customer gives you money for goods a business is obligated to deliver what the customer paid for.
3. Packaging Up Charges
We’ve seen some suppliers try to pass packaging charges on to their customers for upgraded better packaging to help ensure the order gets to them undamaged.
We custom build shipping skids that run the entire length of your decking order, we double steel band the wood to the custom made skid and wrap the entire skid in cardboard and shrink wrap the entire package at no additional cost to our customers.
4. Verify Your Suppliers Locations
Google search your suppliers business address. Middle men drop shippers are often operating out of small rented offices. Use Google maps and street view for this. It’s easy to spot someone operating from a shared office with other businesses and no warehouse.
Some even operate from a postal mail box with a suite number to make it look like they have an office when they are really running out of their home.
Why is this a bad thing? We’ve been in business for nearly 30 years in that time frame we have seen many of these internet drop-shippers close up shop leaving some customers shafted in the process.
It’s very easy to close up a rented mailbox or small office lease when you run into financial trouble, lawsuits and etc…
Make sure your supplier is transparent and allows you to visit their factory and inspect the wood. Drop-shippers pretend they have warehouses full of inventory when they don’t.
We’ve even seen videos and pictures they take from their broker and publish them to their website pretending it’s their warehouse.
Please visit our contact page on our site. We are very transparent about our warehouses and welcome customers to stop in during business hours.
5. Place a Small Test Order
Place a small test order first. We routinely sell people a couple boards to build a bench or an Adirondack chair first.
Many people have never used a wood like Ipe before so this allows them to get familiar with the wood.
It is also a great way to test out a supplier, you can buy ipe wood online directly from us. Order one board if you prefer or a whole truck load.
6. Minimum Orders
If an Ipe supplier has a minimum order quantity this is usually a strong indicator they are drop-shipping. Their broker that fulfills their orders does not want the headaches of packaging and shipping a $2,000 order.
Now imagine getting a few replacement boards that you need if you are short. Often customers change their plan in the middle of your job or you will end up with more cuts and waste then planned for.
Additionally if you’ve ever shipped thousands of pounds of lumber through LTL freight you’ll know sometimes a few boards will get damaged. We go through extensive efforts into packaging an order but occasionally damage still happens.
Having 4 stocking warehouses in the US and 2 in Brazil allows us to get your replacement boards out the same day.
A drop-shipper is left trying to beg his broker to send out a few boards if they still have them. This is usually an issue since they have minimums.
We’ve heard of some sellers just trying to give partial refunds for the damaged boards. This still does not get the customer the new replacement wood they need to complete their job.
Drop-shipping Ipe suppliers don’t have inventory, they don’t know what they can supply you with so they take your money to lock in your order.
After they have your order they frantically call brokers trying to fulfill your order. However most drop-shippers don’t have access to real time inventory from their brokers.
The broker is constantly selling off their stock so the inventory list the drop-shipper had in the beginning of the week quickly becomes outdated.
These inventory issues have caused major setbacks for homeowners and especially large commercial projects.
As a result it can be common for these brokers to sneak in B grade boards or boards with defects to try and fulfill an order.
We have seen some drop-shippers publicly admit to using their personal home computers that contain their personal information and personal pictures to run their drop-shipping operation.
Data breaches occur with some of the largest brands online. Using your personal computer that your children and family are using to run your business with your customers sensitive information should never occur.
Unfortunately some drop-shippers lack the business resources to ensure your data is properly secure.
We have 4 warehouses in the US and two in Brazil – We own the mills and sell direct to ensure the highest quality and that all legal paperwork is documented properly to meet Lacey act standards as well as IBAMA standards in Brazil.
Each one of our factories is FSC certified by the Rainforest Alliance. This is a lengthy and expensive process.
These certifications further ensure you are buying legal and sustainable wood. Verify your Ipe suppliers chain of custody certificate directly on FSC’s website here: https://us.fsc.org/en-us/market/find-products/fsc-certificate-database
Only legitimate companies will have this opposed to using counterfeit documents.
10. Verify Online Reviews
Search “Company Name reviews” on Google and Facebook. A lack of reviews or very low number indicates a very low trust score.
Some drop-shippers get a few friends or family members to post a few positive reviews about their business.
The margins for a drop-shipper are lower and can be as little as 10% so if something goes wrong with an order they often can not afford to fix the problem.
We have always gone above and beyond to make our customers happy even if it means that we lose money on that order. Our reviews speak for themselves.
Many drop-shippers don’t have experience in the wood industry or with wood products. If you are somewhat new to working with a wood like Ipe you will have some questions.
It’s best to get answers from someone that’s a veteran in the wood industry opposed to someone who has… been outsourcing B2B web-development to India.
We have unfortunately seen some sellers advise their customers very wrong for certain applications. Hardwoods like Ipe are some of the most dense and durable woods.
When they are used properly most applications will outlive the customers that purchased them.
The practice of drop-shipping is not bad, we routinely supply some of the largest building material box stores in the world.
We have done business with the largest box stores for years because they know and trust our company as the most reputable Ipe supplier. They know the quality of the products we deliver and rely on our company to meet their customers expectations.
Many customer insist on using big box store because of the volume of other building materials they purchase and have established line of credits with these stores. We understand this and have happily been apart of their supply chain for years.
You should be very cautious of some online sellers deceptive advertising and marketing practices.
The “fake it until you make it” approach that some drop-shippers use has cost contractors and homeowners major set backs and more money in the long run with their projects.