Ipe, or Brazilian Walnut as it is also called, is very fashionable at the moment in San Diego. Homeowners and contractors are using this wood for modern fences and decks all over the county. It’s straight grain, hardness, and longevity, makes Ipe a top contender for wood choices. Wise home owners and builders choose Ipe because of its longevity and value.
Southern California is often the leader when it comes to style, and that applies to woodwork and exterior design. Ipe is stylish no doubt. The deep brown tones & long interweaving grains found in Ipe fit right in with a home of this style. Ipe’s colors also match perfectly with many of the diverse & exotic gardens that you can find in San Diego homes. Ipe has been around for a while though, used in decking for home & commercial purposes since the 50s. So why is it so popular now, in 2019? One reason is more readily available FSC certified Ipe. FSC certification means that the wood you are getting is up to current standards for ecologically-minded logging. Another reason for Ipe’s rise in popularity is that it is the choice wood for building modern horizontal fences. Ipe already has a discernible advantage over other deck & fencing materials, but it’s natural characteristics truly shine when placed in a horizontal fence. Part of the idea in creating a horizontal fence is to make properties seem larger by extending the natural lines of a house. The deep & lengthy grains of Ipe exaggerate this effect, while the wood’s incredible strength allows for larger swaths of unbroken space. Ipe trees often grow over 100 feet tall, so finding the right sized boards for an outdoor fencing project is no problem. Long, unseparated, natural sections of fencing without any compromise for structural integrity is one of the many wonders of Ipe wood.
Another thing that lends Ipe some extra credibility in Southern California is its Class A fire rating. The woods amazing density gives it the ability to perform like concrete & steel in the event of a fire, both of which it is often compared to. There aren’t many choices for a natural look & excellent fire resistance in fencing. Ipe has a far better fire rating when compared to plastic boards & composites.
Ipe quickly rises above other woods when you compare features like durability & resistance to termites. The reason it consistently performs so much better than North American hardwoods, and even most tropical hardwoods, is the challenging environment it comes from. The constant downpour of heavy rain that falls on the South & Central American tropics makes for a tree that can stand up against some of the toughest conditions nature has to offer. Examples of this natural toughness include resistance to mold, fungi, scratches, insects, slips(when used in decking), and waterlogging. Ipe is particularly good to use around water, as in next to a pool or oceanfront property. This tropical hardwood is so dense that it sinks in water, hardly letting any permeate the surface. Other tropical hardwoods have these natural abilities too, but none of them are as tough as Ipe.
Ipe does have its disadvantages. Thankfully, all of the problems that arise when working with Ipe area easily reconciled when you know how to use it. The first & most known of them is a higher price point. Ipe is almost twice the cost of regular lumber. The higher upfront cost is offset by the incredible lifespan of an Ipe fence or deck, which can be anywhere from 40-100 years depending on treatment & weather conditions. It can be stained or oiled and will need to be maintained yearly to avoid graying. Ipe is very hard to work with. Bring plenty of extra drill bits and saw blades. Professional installers often drill and plug the wood to hide screw holes. Newcomers to this material often install it incorrectly, cheapening the high end look it can have. Because of its incredible density, improper installation can also lead to outright cracking/splitting of perfectly fine Ipe boards. Be careful when cutting Ipe, the dust that comes from it can irritate the skin and eyes.
If you’re looking for reliability it doesn’t get better than an Ipe. Again and again this wood has proven itself to be durable above and beyond use in fences & decks. From boardwalks to truck beds, Ipe’s strength & longevity have made it a truly versatile building material.