Introducing Red Balau: Old Species, New Availability, Part 1

red balau boards
As tropical decking continues to rise in popularity, we find many customers looking for cost-effective alternatives to Ipe (which is still, by far, our best-selling decking species). In addition to carefully planning your decking lumber purchases and considering short or odd-length boards, one way to save money on tropical decking is to consider less popular species. One such cost-effective species is Red Balau.

Red Balau Basics

Far from a new product in the decking world, Red Balau is a species in the Shorea genus, just like some other lumber species, such as Meranti and Philippine Mahogany. Used commonly for decks and boats, any of the species within the same genus are excellent choices for exterior applications. Red Balau is certainly no exception.

Red Balau is a tropical decking product that boasts excellent resistance to insects and rotting as well as superior hardness and durability. While those qualities are similar to other tropical decking species such as Cumaru, Ipe and Meranti, Red Balau has greater color consistency than any of those species.

The reason for Red Balau’s consistent coloring is its tight grain and small pores. (Many species exhibit striping due to raised grain.) The coloring of Red Balau, as you might expect, is a rich reddish brown. When the color is combined with a defect-free board, the result is high on beauty and low on waste.

Red Balau Availability

Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we typically carry ready-to-install Red Balau decking boards in a variety of lengths in these two sizes: 1×4 and 5/4×6. As decking boards, they are surfaced on all four sides and eased on all 4 edges (S4S, E4E). Upon request, we are glad to groove these boards for hidden fastening systems as well as supply you with any clips or screws and any oil or sealant you may need in order to install your new deck.

Red Balau Benefits

In addition to the basics cited above, Red Balau has a major benefit over other tropical decking species: It’s a fraction of the price of Ipe or Cumaru. Depending on market fluctuations, you may be able to save between 50% to 66% by going with Red Balau!

When compared to Meranti, Red Balau can be sourced in a way that ensures we receive only a particular species instead of a collection of species within the Shorea genus; this ability allows us to offer greater color and grain consistency with Red Balau than we can with Meranti.

In Part 2, we’ll look at the sourcing issues surrounding Red Balau as well as some suggestions we have regarding its installation. If you’re considering an alternative to Ipe but love the look and other benefits of tropical decking, Red Balau may be a great choice for your next deck.

J Gibson McIlvain lumberyard

J Gibson McIlvain lumberyard

J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company ( is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.

Share Your Thoughts