Ipe Decking vs. Composite Decking

Ipe decking and composite decking have been the newest rage in decking materials for different reasons. Ipe wood is now less expensive and less labor intensive with new technology and machinery. This hardwood is so dense and strong that previous to the advancement of some milling machinery, it was not cost effective to use Ipe. In the last 20 years, Ipe has come a long way and is now available as a permanent fixture on your backyard. Composite decking has also evolved due to demand for decks and companies that want to seize the opportunity for a market share and to make some money. Composites are a combination of two or more materials, usually sawdust or wood fibers and plastic. Some big companies decided to put waste sawdust and recycled plastics together to create a product. The use of recycled products is great. We are all looking to be green but for outdoor exposure where plastic and sawdust will have direct contact with moisture, UV rays, freeze and thaw environment as well as standard wear and tear, the combination is most definitely not green nor is it durable. This in the long run will cause more products to be used (due to replacement), an unsatisfied consumer and more products in the landfills (not environmentally friendly).

Ipe decking has been used in several large commercial projects and for good reason. Ipeaka Brazilian Walnut has a Janka hardness of 3640.What is Janka hardness? The Wikipedia definition states: The Janka hardness test measures the hardness of wood. It involves measuring the force required to embed a 11.28 millimeter (0.444 inch) steel ball into wood to half its diameter. This method was chosen so that the result would leave an indention 100 square millimeters in size. It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear. Ipe is also rated same as steel and concrete for flammability testing. This hardwood is so dense that it is resistant to mold, fungus even insects. No chemicals are required and no treatments are needed unless you want to keep the warm brown tones of the wood. If no treatment is used it will patina a silverish grey tone, otherwise use a UV oil inhibitor. The lifespan for Ipe decking is over 40 years old without treatment and over 100 years with treatment. This decking will be there for your grandchildren to enjoy. Ipe is also available FSC certified with select approved companies. This certification guarantees the hardwood is harvested from a responsibly managed forest. Ipe is truly a renewable, recyclable, durable, biodegradable, energy efficient and versatile product and its beauty can not be duplicated.

Composite decking has also grown in demand. This product is heavily marketed by big corporations. Numerous lawsuits have ensued as consumers in as little as a few months have come to realize their dream decking has delaminated, warped and/or become discolored. The application for this material may have a market where extreme temperatures and direct exposure are not present. The products that have delaminated have exposed saw dust or wood fibers and deteriorate rather quickly without the outer protection. Some composite decks may take 3-4 years before they begin to delaminate or have issues. The warranty on many if not all of these companies will not cover labor for removal and re-installation. People who are reassured with a 20-50 year warranty and name of a big corporation should take a careful look at the stipulations and replacement policies. Many warrantees won’t cover discolorations and they no longer state maintenance or sealer free. Labor is not free and who wants to replace a deck in their lifetime. Ironically, composite deck manufacturers push the green envelope to the limit. They claim environmental reasons for their products but the fact remains, recycled plastic that is not chemically designed to withstand exterior exposure for extended time and sawdust are cheap alternatives. What isn’t cheap is replacing the deck when it delaminates or warps and has to be discarded and where would that be discarded???

One Response so far.

  1. Curt D'Onofrio says:

    We are replacing our wood deck soon. Thank you for the short, but very informative article

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