Why We Love Ipe and You Will Too


It’s pretty inescapable.

One of the places you probably encounter it is on your deck.

How’s that wood deck looking? A bit worn? Old? Maybe even scratched up? Splintering? Or maybe it’s still in decent condition, but for whatever reason, you’re just not completely satisfied? Maybe you just want an update for the sake of an update? Outdoor spaces are pretty popular these days; you’ll want to make sure yours isn’t just usable, but enjoyable. Regardless of your reasons, if you’re considering updating your deck or railing system, we have a suggestion for what wood to use.

It’s called Ipe (pronounced e-pay), also known as Ironwood or Brazilian Walnut, and it comes from responsibly harvested forests in South America and parts of Central America.

What’s so special about Ipe? A few things.

Ipe is some sweet-lookin‘ eye candy.

The long planks, tight grain, and lack of knots create refined, clean lines. It’s reddish walnut color is rich, warm, and sophisticated. Or, if you prefer something more subtle, skip the UV-protection finish, allowing the color to fade naturally to soft silver with a lovely patina.

Ipe’s beauty isn’t just grain-deep, though. Aesthetics and practicality are sometimes at odds with each other, but not in the case of this ridiculously durable hardwood.

Which brings us to our next point:

In addition to beauty, Ipe’s got more than enough brawn.

In fact, it’s one of the hardest wood species in the world. Hardwoods are tested to make sure they are appropriate for flooring using the Janka hardness test. This test involves pressing a steel ball into the wood with increasing force until it makes a significant indentation. For the sake of comparison, let’s toss around some stats. Western Red Cedar, one of the woods typically used for decking, is indented at 580 pounds. Pressure-treated lumber, another popular choice, is indented at 690 pounds. Ipe, however, takes 3,600 pounds to be indented. It also has triple the bend strength of Western Red Cedar, and is more resistant to shrinking, splintering(!), twisting, cupping, and checking than traditional decking materials. Additionally, Ipe is remarkably resistant to rot and insects, and has been given a Class-A fire resistance rating, which is usually awarded to materials like concrete and steel.

There’s only one problem with a wood this strong: installation. Ipe’s so hard and dense that the average saw or drill ain’t gonna cut it… literally. Carbide tipped saw blades and stainless steel screws are a must, and posts need to be pre-drilled by your supplier for fastening and cable assemblies.

Once you have your beautiful deck installed, though, you can look forward to decades of luxurious outdoor entertainment. A deck and railing system made with Ipe can be expected to last at least 25 years, with some proponents claiming it can last up to 75 years! Only minimal maintenance is required, which may include sweeping as necessary and periodic oil treatments.

To sum everything up, Ipe’s doing a lot of winning. If this wood’s already won you over, check out the Ipe options in the Wood Top Rail Section of our shop. While we no longer carry Ipe posts, our Batu Mahogany Posts and top rails offer a similar appearance and comparable resilience, while also being more affordable. The wood used to make these products is harvested from managed forests to assure sustainability. Contact us for help with designing your Ipe deck railing. Call 1-888-686-7245 or email us at quote@stainlesscablerailing.com.

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