Tropical hardwood decking lumber is, hands-down, our best-selling collection of products around here. And among the various species, Ipe is definitely the most popular. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only option — or even the ideal one for your particular decking project. Especially as its price continues to climb, many builders are looking for alternative species and trying to find out how they compare. To help you navigate the forest of tropical hardwood decking options available, we’ll start out by telling you about our top two sellers: Ipe and Cumaru.
Tropical Hardwood Decking Species Focus: Ipe
About as close to being the magical unicorn of the decking world as you can get, Ipe truly has it all. Strong and stable in even the most volatile climates and applications, this exterior species offers the added benefit of not needing additional drying time after arriving in the US. As a result, its turn-around time can be far less than significant than most other tropical hardwood species. When Ipe arrives from South America, it’s already stable enough for outdoor use from being air dried to a moisture content between 12 and 18%.
This high-performing species is truly ideal for applications ranging from high-end residential decks to public boardwalks. Promising superior durability, Ipe is certainly in high demand. Because of its extreme hardness and density, it can provide challenges to those unaccustomed to working with this species; as long as these potential pitfalls are anticipated, though, they can be avoided. The biggest downside of Ipe is that as its demand continues to climb, so does its price point.
Tropical Hardwood Decking Species Focus: Cumaru
Only slightly softer than Ipe (which means still not soft at all), Cumaru is another tropical hardwood decking species currently in high demand. Also referred to as “Brazilian Teak,” Cumaru comes in two variants: Red Cumaru and Yellow Cumaru. The former is more commonly used for decking applications. To avoid potential issues with stability and shrinkage, Cumaru needs to be kiln dried in order to be suitable for decking. Because of being kiln dried, Cumaru may not be the best choice for use in especially dry climates or settings. Because the reddish brown coloring of Cumaru looks so similar to that of Ipe, many customers are glad to opt for Cumaru, due to its lower price point.
While no other tropical hardwood decking species comes close to rivaling Ipe and Cumaru when it comes to hardness and density, there are many alternatives we can highly recommend. For residential uses in particular, Ipe or Cumaru may be overkill; you can certainly opt for a less expensive option without losing out on beauty or durability.
You might be delighted to learn more about these less common yet highly recommended tropical hardwood decking species: Garapa, Jatoba, Massaranduba, Red Balau, and Tigerwood. Learn about these in our next post.