Is Bamboo Decking a Viable Option?

Posted June 24th, 2013 by ipemadeira

Although not terribly common, bamboo has emerged as an alternative to traditional wood decking. You may already be familiar with bamboo as a flooring option, and the process for turning it into a decking material is similar. In essence, thin bamboo planks are glued together to form a board.

Bamboo flooring has received mixed reviews, with some homeowners experiencing serious problems. That’s something you should be aware of when considering bamboo decking, because any issues encountered indoors will only be amplified when the material is used outdoors.

For example: moisture. Most complaints about bamboo flooring stem from moisture issues. You can imagine how that would be an even bigger problem for a deck exposed to rain. The glue that holds the boards together can fail, causing the bamboo to, in the words of one contractor, “fall apart like shredded wheat”.

P1010386 (Large)

So how would yo prevent this from happening? Diligent maintenance, and lots of it. Perhaps there’s a reason bamboo decking isn’t very common.

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.

Black Locust Warping

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.


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.


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.


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.