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.

Ipe vs. Black Locust

Posted June 14th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Black locust is rising as a potential substitute for ipe in commercial applications. This is a pretty big deal, since ipe has long enjoyed the title of “world’s best decking material”. It stands to reason that black locust must have some impressive specs if it’s being considered for major city boardwalks. Let’s take a look.

Black locust has a janka hardness rating of 1700. Not too shabby, but that’s still less than half of ipe’s rating. In fact, if you judge based purely on which wood boasts the highest numbers, ipe’s going to win every time.

So what?does black locust have going for it? The big thing is that it’s a domestic hardwood, so it doesn’t have to be imported. This not only saves resources involved in transporting the lumber, it also helps to preserve tropical forests (or so environmentalist groups would have you believe–more on that in a later post). A domestic source is also cheaper for consumers than an exotic one, although the exact price can vary based on region.

Thus far, as long as you don’t mind sacrificing some structural performance, black locust seems like an acceptable alternative to ipe. However, the facts don’t stop there. Let’s take a look at availability. Black locust trees themselves are plentiful enough, but not all of them are suitable for making deck boards. Small trees produce narrow boards full of knots, and larger trees have been reported to have hollows inside them.

Finally, you have to look at how the material performs in the real world. Black locust doesn’t have the greatest track record. Proponents will tell you to be very careful when drying or?acclimating the wood. In practice, this means that black locust is extremely susceptible to warping and checking.

Think about it. Black locust is being pushed as a replacement for ipe on major public works projects like boardwalks. Literally millions of people will walk, run, work, and play on these surfaces–do you really want to use anything weaker than the most proven material in the world?

Garapa Decking Review

Posted June 16th, 2012 by Decking Materials

Garapa is one of a handful of legendary hardwoods that are regarded as the cream of the crop when it comes to decking. ?What makes Garapa stand out from its fellow South American wood species is its bright yellow color.

Here are some of the outstanding benefits to a Garapa deck:

1. Durability. ?Garapa is stronger than most domestic woods. 2x harder than cedar and 1.7x stronger.

2. ?Safety. ?Garapa boasts natural fire resistance. ?It also resists splintering, making it perfect for pool decks or other areas where you can expect bare feet.

3. ?Color. ?No other species of wood can match Garapa’s brilliant golden color.

4. ?Price. ?One of the cheapest of the South American hardwoods, Garapa is a great value. ?It is both cheaper and more durable than composite decking.

If you’ve had a Garapa deck installed, let us know how it’s worked out for you in the comments.

Cumaru Decking Review

Posted May 17th, 2012 by Decking Materials

Cumaru is a South American hardwood commonly used as decking. ?It is recognizable by a blend of red, yellow, and brown tones, and is often chosen as a cheaper alternative to the world-renowned Ipe.

Pros

1. ?Durability. ?Cumaru features a Janka score of 3540 lbs, a bending strength of 14,793 psi, and natural resistance to mold, mildew, and insect attack. ?These come together to give Cumaru decking a lifespan of several decades.

2. ?Maintenance. ?It is highly recommended that you apply a protective coat of oil to a Cumaru deck after installation, but beyond that there is very little that needs to be done.

3. ?Color. ?This comes down largely to personal preference, but there is no denying that Cumaru features a vibrant color pallet.

4. ?Price. ?This is relative, but if you’re looking at higher-end decking materials, Cumaru may be the cheaper option.

Cons

1. ?Price. ?While cheaper than some high-end decking materials, it isn’t as cheap as pressure treated lumber or common domestic hardwoods.

2. ?Color. ?Again, a matter of personal opinion. ?Cumaru’s color pallet is varied. ?One board could be red while another in the same deck will have more of a yellow hue.

Conclusion

The pros of Cumaru decking clearly outweigh the cons, unless you’re on a very tight budget. ?Keep in mind, however, that Cumaru also comes without the maintenance costs that plague cheaper materials. ?This fact may outweigh the drawback in initial purchasing cost.

What are your experiences with Cumaru decking? ?If you have anything to add, sound off in the comments.

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?

Shiplap Siding with Ipe Tropical Lumber

Posted February 22nd, 2010 by ipemadeira

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Shiplap siding has been used for many years as a protection and a decorative addition to the exterior and interior of buildings and homes. Wood siding comes in many types and installing it can be labor intensive so for this reason you want to pick a hardwood with longevity and durability. This will give you ease of mind as you won?t have to replace in 5-10 years and will increase the value of your home besides the obvious aesthetic beauty that is present in a natural wood product.

Ipe is growing in demand as a beautiful and dense hardwood for decks and siding. This tropical lumber has a Janka Hardness rating of 3680 and has 8 times the strength of the California Redwood. Not only does Ipe have a natural resistance to insects, mold and fungus but is also fire rated the same as steel and concrete. How is that for reassurance? Ipe wood has beautiful warm reds and browns with natural variations that allow for a unique and rich statement. This species of wood has a lifespan of over 40 years with no treatments and over 100 years with one application of UV protection. This alone has a price savings over other species that have to be changed in as little as 7-10 years.

When considering the materials you will use for your next project, remember to compare the many variables as well as the lifetime of the product. No one likes to have to replace something they installed 7 years previously. Other factors should be if and how the wood has been treated and if it can stand up to the extreme weather changes that can come our way. Ipe shiplap siding has been used in commercial applications such as the Eco-Park in Houston Texas and in residential applications as well. Many builders and contractors are familiar with this tropical lumber and have used it as a decking material and or siding and can tell you why it is the preferred material by the most discriminating people.

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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.

Deck Boards What to Look For

Posted February 2nd, 2010 by ipemadeira
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Most of us at some point in our lives will invest in a deck or outdoor area. There are so many different types of deck boards available that it can become overwhelming. This is an important part of the?purchasing ?process for several reasons. The boards you select will determine how long the deck will last, whether you will have to treat the deck for insects, mold or fungus, if it will need to be built away from direct sun exposure, the aesthetics and strength of the deck. Let?s examine the different materials and what to look for.

The most common deck board is the pressure treated wood boards. This is also the least expensive but the lifespan for this material is only 5-10 years depending upon the environment. Pressure treated lumber also emit some nasty outgases of chemicals to living creatures and its surroundings. The likelihood of replacement in 10 years is high so in the long run the cost factor does go up as labor and materials will have to be replaced, creating more work and materials at a future date.

A growing industry is the composite decking and PVC decking industry. The composite decking industry is a fairly new industry and is a mix of plastic and wood dust or wood particles and a type of glue. The problem with this is the durability and strength deteriorates over time and is not great to begin with. That is the reason the joists can not be made of composite. The increase in lawsuits and bankruptcy of different composite companies is a telltale sign of problems to come. PVC decking has similar problems coupled with the fact that it is made from PVC. 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. Neurological damage, birth defects, impaired child development, endocrine disruption, endometriosis, immune system damage, reproductive damage and cancer are some of those problems. There is a lot of good information out there on the hazards to you and your environment.

Tropical wood decking is also a growing industry and one that is sustainable. This industry has gotten a lot of bad rap in the last few years for forest destruction but in reality can be an asset to forests as it creates a demand for trees. If you research the actual cause of forest depletion than you will find that cattle grazing and agricultural cash cropping are 90% of the cause. These uses destroy the soil for future tree growth where trees being logged can be replaced and if managed properly can help surrounding trees to grow faster with access to sunlight and room for growth. This recent stir of accountability has increased associations such as FSC, Green Peace and Smartwood to form and grow as well as government agencies to take a stance such as IBAMA in Brazil and our own govt. to utilize processes such as the Lacey Act regulating where the lumber comes from and verifying it is from a managed forest not illegally harvested. Now if you look at species such as Ipe, Cumaru, Tigerwood and Garapa than you will realize you can have the best of both worlds. These species are absolutely beautiful and the density of these deck boards is very high. They are naturally repellant to insects, mold, fungus and rot. No insect repellant sprays are needed and no replacements in your lifetime. This is a no brainer and the alternatives we create are not better nor are they as eco-friendly as supporting your well managed forests.

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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.