Is Sustainable Tropical Decking a Myth?

Posted June 17th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Sustainable decking. Responsible forestry. These are a few of the buzzwords tossed around by lumber companies in response to accusations from environmentalist groups. But what do these terms mean? And do they actually translate to a healthier ecosystem like the lumber companies claim? After all, how can cutting down a tree lead to rainforest growth?

Sustainable forestry practices start with tree selection. Contrary to popular impressions, lumber companies don’t move through the forest chopping down every tree in their path. Rather, out of an entire acre of rainforest, only a few trees are felled. Further, these trees are often what are called?wolf trees. These are old, large trees that consume resources but don’t produce seeds. Due to their size, they starve the surrounding growth without offering anything in return. You can think of a wolf tree as a sort of cancer, and removing it allows new trees to grow that would otherwise have died.

Once a tree is selected for harvesting, it isn’t just hacked down, either. Meticulous planning ensures that when the tree is cut, it won’t fall and damage smaller trees in the area. Additionally, several new trees are planted to replace the one that was harvested, in a ratio of 5 to 1.

If you take these facts together–removing cancerous wolf trees and replacing them with several seed-producing trees–it’s easy to see how proper forest management can lead to both a thriving rainforest and a thriving lumber industry.

But responsible forestry doesn’t stop there. Obviously, some heavy machinery is needed to move harvested trees out of the forest. Special paths are designated for this purpose, and each path is only used a few times before being abandoned. Sounds wasteful at first, but this practice actually prevents permanent damage and allows quick regrowth. In fact, these “skidding paths” disappear after just 3-6 months, reclaimed by fresh growth.

So, are the benefits of sustainable decking materials a myth? Not at all! From August 2008 to July 2009, the Brazilian Amazon saw a 46% decrease in deforestation–the greatest decline in 20 years.

Tigerwood Why it’s The Best Decking Choice

Posted May 6th, 2010 by ipemadeira

Tigerwood also known as Goncalo Alves, Muiracatiara and Brazilian Koa, is rapidly becoming a popular deck choice for many homeowners and contractors. This wood decking species is found mainly in South America and offers a beautiful and totally look. With a remarkable array of rusty orange, amber, and reddish brown hues and dark streaks a deck made of Tigerwood is a real sight to see. Designers and high end consumers rave over the distinguished look and unique coloring and streaks that lend an exotic and striking feel to what might otherwise be the same old look. When you add the many wonderful properties that come with this exotic wood and you have the perfect combination.

Tigerwood lumber has been used for many years domestically in the countries it is found in. It is a recent discovery for the US market that has many contractors and builders excited. With a Janka Hardness rating of 1850, it is over 4 times stronger than California Redwood. This exotic wood is sustainably harvested and available in FSC certified and non FSC certified timber. While all FSC certified wood is more expensive, you can rest assured that with the Lacey Act in place, you are guaranteed a responsibly harvested deck that supports the local environment and assures positive forest practices. There are also custom rails and posts available in this hardwood for a unique and custom application. The finished look of this deck material is surprisingly tropical in feel and creates the atmosphere of your own private oasis.

Tigerwood has many benefits that make it great for outdoor garden decking. It is naturally slip resistant and, thanks to its high density, repels insects. These factors are huge because no pesticides or chemicals have to be added. You also can have peace of mind and no concerns about chemical exposure to your children or family members. Tigerwood decking is also naturally mold and fungus resistant so you don’t have to worry when the black spots will appear as plastic decking. The longevity of this wood is well over 25 years without preservatives and can be extended with deck oil finishes. This lifespan exceeds the time that most people will ever stay in their home. It also means that you won’t have to remove and replace your deck in 5-7 years. When you compare the cost of ipe and composite to Tigerwood you will find that it is also one of the least expensive tropical wood decking species for your money.

For you contractors and deck builders out there, this material doesn’t require pre-drilling and is very easy to work with. If you have installed other hardwoods, then you know what I am talking about. You won’t get a call back about the deck peeling like you can with composite decks and you don’t have to worry about environmental concerns as this wood is completely biodegradable. You will have customers that refer you to their friends and family and praise your name because they have a beautiful project no matter what size. Ultimately, when you offer genuine material that will not cause you a headache later and is priced well below other similar deck boards, you can proceed to your deck building project with confidence. With these facts in mind, you can see that Tigerwood decking really is the perfect choice for your home or commercial project.

 

Wood Decking- What Composite & PVC Companies Don’t Want You to Know

Posted March 16th, 2010 by ipemadeira

The decking industry has grown exponentially over the last two decades. There are many companies that have come and gone over that time. Many people are familiar with the terms composite decking and PVC decking. The idea of such a product has merit. No maintenance, durable, consistent, warranted and several colors to choose from, sounds too good to be true. The green movement has prompted many people to look for an eco-friendly deck to help the environment. What’s not to like? Let’s take a look at the facts.

Composite decking is made of wood particles mainly sawdust and resin (some recycled). The idea is simple enough but what happens when you take plastic (which by the way comes from petroleum) and mix it with saw dust? The lawsuits and complaints found all say the same things. Warping, discoloration, de-lamination, injuries, molding, fungus, blistering, rotting and splintering are just a few of the problems that have been reported. Warranties have not been honored, businesses have gone bankrupt trying to resolve issues and lawsuits and customers have been left to figure it out on their own. What I don’t get is how any company that makes composite decking can state it is a green product. The resin even when recycled is made of plastic, a petroleum product and one of the two top carbon emitting products produced. Recycled resin has been tested and is not as resilient and durable as the original plastic composition. The lifetime of the deck must be considered and also where does the deck go at the end of its lifetime?

Polyvinyl chloride commonly referred to as PVC is a manufactured plastic with toxic byproducts. Dioxin (potent carcinogen), ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride are made in the production of PVC and causes health problems. Some of the problems are neurological damage, birth defects, impaired child development, endocrine disruption, endometriosis, immune system damage, reproductive damage and cancer. This is the material used in PVC decking. In 1998 there were attempts to recycle this product that were considered a failure by the Association of Post Consumer Plastics Recyclers. The dioxin in PVC is a persistent toxin that does not break down rapidly and migrates in the air via wind and in the water transporting itself in the fatty tissues of sea life. It has been discovered in dangerous concentrations in the tissues of whales, polar bears, fish and Inuit mother’s breast milk. The lethal additives such as lead, cadmium and organotins used in PVC used to keep it from breaking down is known to cause cancer, lead poisoning and asthma. Does this sound like the type of product you want your children, pets, environment and yourself exposed to?

Now let’s take a look at natural wood decking. Yes the original materials used to make homes and structures from the beginning of time. A hardwood such as ipe will have a lifetime of 40 years without any treatment and over 100 years with one application of UV inhibitor. Ipe is a tropical wood that has grown in popularity for its beauty, density, resistance to mold and insects and longevity. This hardwood is used in commercial projects such as the Miami Beach Boardwalk for good reason. The Lacey Act, GFTN (Global Forest & Trade Network), IBAMA and other organizations have helped to keep illegal logs from coming into the country. You can now get FSC certified decking for LEED projects or for your own peace of mind. Rest assured this product will break completely down without harming the environment, is completely recyclable and sustainable. What we have been looking for has been around all along. What’s not to like?

Hardwood Timber for Decks, Patios & Porches

Posted February 5th, 2010 by ipemadeira
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Why is timber the choice for many people when they consider decks, patios and porches? Timber has been a much needed resource for our ancestors for thousands of years. Trees provided wood to make fire for heat making winters bearable and for foods that would otherwise be hard to eat. Timber also was used for building homes. This natural resource is biodegradable, recyclable, energy efficient, durable, salvageable and beautiful. Timber uses less energy to process than steel, concrete, plastic and aluminum.

What timber is most recommended for durability and longevity? The tropical hardwood Ipe from South America is known for its? strength, durability, beauty and resistance to insects, rot and mold/fungus. This hardwood has a Janka rating of over 3600. Ipe wood is 8 x?s harder than the California redwood with a fire rating class A same as concrete and steel and slip resistance rated above the coefficient of friction for commercial applications. The hardwood is so dense it is resistant to mold and fungus. No worries about chemicals, Ipe is also insect and rot resistant. Ipe has been used in several commercial applications due to its strength and natural beauty.

Ipe has a life expectancy of 40 plus years with no maintenance and is highly recommended for marinas, docks and piers. Slip resistant and dense, this hardwood is used in commercial applications such as the Boardwalk in Miami and numerous hotels and restaurants for good reason. This timber has just recently become popular as previously it was hard to cut and get to. Now with new technology and better transportation methods it has become economically available and with new government regulations and private organizations such as FSC, it is being responsibly harvested. This makes a big difference especially just in the last 10 years.

When you take in to consideration the longevity, aesthetics, durability and strength of the various deck boards on the market, you will agree that Ipe has the best qualities for the money. You get a long lasting, low maintenance, absolutely stunning and environmentally friendly deck. FSC certified deck boards are now available and with the Lacey Act in affect you can rest assured that the Ipe being supplied to the US is coming from responsibly harvested forests. Timber is and has always been the material of choice for decks, patios and porches for many reasons. The natural beauty of timber and the feel of wood under your feet are just two reasons for the popularity. You can have your cake and eat it too with an Ipe hardwood deck.

Ipe Suppliers Practice Sustainable Forest Management?

Posted January 12th, 2010 by ipemadeira

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We like to believe what we hear and read but to see it is a totally different experience. I recently got the opportunity to go to one of our supplier’s forest and watch them in action. The trip was a short 3 hours on a single engine plane across the northwest area of Brazil with a dirt landing, after that we drove in a pickup truck about 1.5 hours into the forest. We arrived at the camp around 2 pm and the humidity was thick but not terrible. We ate lunch at the camp which consisted of some wonderful authentic beans, rice, potatoe salad, baked chicken, green salad and fresh squeezed lemonade.

Our mission? To?experience first hand the processes involved in obtaining and manufacturing lumber before it arrived to the port to be shipped off to us. I imagined a truck full of labor ready employees with no real organization chopping down the first available tree in site and moving on to the next. This of course was not the case, as the day’s events had to be planned out in advance so that the crew would know where to go and how to get there as well as what specie and tree to extract. I forget this is a forest with many species of trees at various stages of life. There is no real trail to get to some of these trees and careful planning is essential to the actual extraction. This I would learn as I would also learn that you can’t just take your truck or equipment in and out of any given area as many times as you like. The paths that are created in the forest may only be used 4-5 times and than no further as the soil is than difficult to use for reharvesting. The age of the tree is also taken into consideration and the width of the trunk helps to determine whether or not a tree is ready to be cut. We passed an Ipe tree that was still to small to cut and would not be ready anytime in the next 5 years.

We met the crew at the camp jumped into the truck and headed in the direction of their map. After about 30 minutes we parked at a designated area that was marked and posted with their company information as well as the government permit. The?supervisor had a map of the area with the directions to the specific tree we would be extracting. The tag # and the specie along with the surrounding trees for reference.?The 3 members of the crew grabbed their machete and chainsaw and we headed into the thick of the forest.

I had to jog to keep up with the crew as they walked in a fast pace toward their destination. There were other landmarks on the way to our tree that were tagged with numbers but at the pace we were going I only got a glimpse. We arrived about 15-20 minutes later and the crew began to cut into the tree with the machete. The rest of the process seemed rather simple though I know it must not have been. We got to see the tree fall which was an experience. They re-tagged the trunk and tagged the log for removal. Once complete we began the track back to the vehicles and the supervisor documented his work.

On the way back we stopped at the cleared location that the logs were gathered at for removal and got to see the different species tagged and ready for cutting. The supervisor mentioned that only specific trees are tagged for removal and the rest are left with the newly harvested trees . The government monitors their extractions as the majority of the land is?government owned and?there is a fee for the removal of the trees (based on the species) as well as a fee?for leasing the land. Radar is used to from the air to keep tabs on the forests and check for illegal cutting. Contrary to what most people think, the forest is not completely cleared for logging. Only specific trees are removed and only after they get a certain size and age, making room for the newly planted trees and allowing sunlight to reach them.

It was gratifying to?feel I had learned alot more actually getting to see the people at work and getting to talk with the locals. What is nice is that they take pride in their jobs and in their forests. There weren’t people here looking to rape their land for money but people who were conscious about their jobs and worked hard to make sure they were doing their job right. They take pride in their forests and respect it. Their livelihood is there so they don’t want it cleared, not for cattles or anything else for that matter. Supporting sustainable forests will ensure that their children have jobs in the forests they were raised in.

Decks Built to Last

Posted December 18th, 2009 by ipemadeira
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Decking is one of the most popular home improvements in the U.S. Many homes will at some point have a deck and this will increase the value of the home at time of sales. This type of home improvement adds living space and value. Many of us like to have a getaway. Somewhere to relax, take the edge off and maybe cool down. The outdoors is a great place to do just that and there are many ways to utilize a deck. Outdoor kitchens are growing popular, gardening exotic and otherwise, fire pits with seating, even around the pool area for sunbathing. Anyone investing in a deck will want one built to last and this requires an extensive examination of what deck boards to use.

Let?s look at what is involved. Once a design and space has been allotted you will want to examine types of materials available which will include availability, pricing, longevity, timeframe, strength, aesthetics, durability and maintenance. You also want to buy from a reputable distributor preferably an established company. If you are not installing yourself than you will need to find a reputable and insured installer. Check with your local county on required permits and any restrictions.

The many products available for decking can be broken down to basically three. Pressure treated pine decking, composite or PVC decking and exotic hardwood decking. If you have begun researching, you have come up with an extensive amount of information base for all the above. Let?s take a look at them individually.

Pressure treated deck boards will be the least expensive with easiest install. This wood is chemically treated for longevity and resistance to insects and mold. The longevity of this wood will greatly depend on the location as it will weather better in temperate weather. Splitting, splintering and deterioration can begin in as early as 2 years but with proper sealing can be 5-10 years. Regular sealing and cleaning is required.

Composite deck boards will be mid to high priced depending on company, color and size. This deck board can not be used for frame support. Heavily marketed, this product has become one of the fastest growing deck materials in the U.S. The many different companies that manufacture this product will have different colors and composition mixes. Problems associated can range from very hot surface to touch in hot climates, mold and fungus growth, flaking and deterioration in under one year time, staining and warping, warranty does not cover labor. It is difficult to gauge the actual lifetime as the products are relatively new in the market and some have been redesigned several times due to failure. The main selling points for this product, is no maintenance and consistency in color. Companies are now stating you must keep surfaces clean and some require sealing. There are now sealers specifically for composite decks. One company warranty that I found specifically stated you should clean and dry deck with clean cloth.

Exotic hardwood deck boards will be priced mid to high depending on the species and size. This group of hardwoods can include ipe, tigerwood, garapa, and cumaru to name a few. The positive aspects of this group are naturally resistant to insects, mold, mildew and rot, strength of ipe is over 3600 on janka rating 5x?s strength of California redwood, completely biodegradable and renewable, and lifespan can be up to 40 years without sealer (specifically Ipe decking). FSC certified material is now available for LEED points and for discriminating clients who want a paper trail to the responsibly harvested forest their wood came from. Purchasing from a reputable importer is paramount. This also insures responsible forest purchases.

Build a Green Deck Use Ipe

Posted December 18th, 2009 by ipemadeira

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What does “build green” mean? It is different for many people. There is no specific standardized term but I feel it embodies several different things. For one, is the product renewable? Does it come from a biodegradable or recyclable source? How much energy is needed to make the product and transport it to its final destination? What happens to it once it is worn out or broken? After reviewing those specific questions I have come to the conclusion that if you?re looking for a sustainable wood product for your home, the tropical hardwood Ipe is the best material for your outdoor decking and indoor flooring needs.

First this hardwood is renewable. There are many managed forests available and the number of forests obtaining the prestigious FSC certification is growing rapidly. The USGBC uses only FSC certified wood for their LEED program due to the stringent requirements to become certified as a forest and as a manufacturer and distributor. The Lacey Act is put in place by the Department of Interior, Commerce & Agriculture to ensure that only legal wood and confirmed suppliers are allowed entrance into the US. Logging may not sound desirable but compared to drilling oil or mixing toxic byproducts for man made decking, it is a much more attractive source. Forests are no longer allowed to clear cut their trees and have stricter rules for maintaining constant flow of fruit bearing trees.

Second, Ipe is a totally biodegradable product. It can be recycled and used for other sources or broken down completely back to the earth. This species of wood requires no treatments or chemicals as it is naturally rot, mold, fungus and insect resistant. Other artificial products are not so environmentally friendly. Both PVC decking and composite decks will eventually be transported to a landfill where it will contribute to the problem of ever-growing landfills. Many composite decks boast that they are made of recycled plastics but what they don?t tell you is that the decking will have ? the lifespan if that of Ipe. This coupled with the fact that most composite decks cannot be recycled because the wood fibers and plastics cannot be separated.

Third, the amount of energy needed to make the product and transport it is substantially less for natural wood than any man made product. If you consider the fact that wood does not require fossil fuel extraction and consumption then it?s easy to see why the difference is substantial. Fossil fuels, as we all know, have only increased in production and environmental costs over time. Contaminants in the air, water and land due to fossil fuel consumption will only increase with demand.

It seems we are always looking for new and alternative resources for improving what nature has provided for but it always comes down to the fact that we can’t improve on it. Natural wood flooring has been and will always be the best material for its purpose. There is no duplicating it and it is truly as green as it gets. If we all participate in buying from suppliers who use responsible forests than we contribute to a sustainable environment and reduce the use of fossil fuels that we have become so dependent on.

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Deforestation -What is the Main Culprit

Posted December 18th, 2009 by ipemadeira

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?Tropical forests cover only 7-13% of the earth?s land surface according to a Greenpeace case study written in 2008. The Amazon is the world?s largest tropical forest and deforestation is a concern for its inhabitants and the rest of the world. The misconception lies in what the majority of uninformed individuals view as the leading cause for this devastation. Illegal logging is commonly cited as the reason for this debilitating issue. Research shows that clearing land for soy farming and cattle grazing actually accounts for more than 80-90 % of deforestation.

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A quote from Dr. Pat Moore, founding member of Greenpeace, “If you want to save tropical rainforests, boycott tropical fruit and vegetables, and buy tropical woods instead, because than people will grow trees instead.” He suggests we put a value on the trees by purchasing products made from them thus creating a need to care for the forest. The good news is with the new systems in place like the Lacey Act developed by the Department of Agriculture, illegal logs will not enter the US. Sustainable forests will grow and we can make trees a valuable commodity so that land can be set aside for their growth not cleared for the above mentioned farming and cattle grazing.

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Brazil has become a major if not the biggest exporter of beef which results in cattle grazing and clearing of precious forest space. Soy bean demand has increased at an alarming rate as well which accounts for the agricultural cash cropping and devastation of rich soil and minerals. We choose to become indignant about the destruction of our forests but if we really want to look at the source we can blame the demand we all put on beef, soybeans, tropical fruits and tropical vegetables. China and Russia alone have a huge demand for cattle that is increasing at an alarming rate which Brazil attempts to fill. The cattle industry has a lot more sophisticated resources to keep this out of the media but the numbers don?t lie.

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So the next time you look at a wood deck or floor made from tropical lumber remember that it can actually be helping to keep the forest intact otherwise the land would be slowly being used for other money making resources. Tropical hardwoods have gotten a bad rap but with the education and help of everyone, it can actually be harvested and sustained for future use for us and the indigenous people it supports.