Introducing Red Balau: Old Species, New Availability, Part 2

red balau lumber
In Part 1 we discussed the basics, availability, and benefits of Red Balau, especially for consideration as an alternative to Ipe and other tropical decking species. Now we’ll look at some specific details regarding our particular sourcing of Red Balau as well as our expert recommendations regarding the installation of your Red Balau deck.

Red Balau Sourcing

J. Gibson McIlvain works carefully to make sure our Red Balau is sustainably sourced and FSC certified. As the direct importer of record, we receive our Red Balau directly from Indonesia, where we’ve personally visited, inspected and researched the mills, lumber, and forestry practices – all a part of our ongoing quality control process.

We can vouch for the fact that our Red Balau decking comes from permanent, sustainable forests and has FSC certification — and provide the documentation to back it (especially if you’re looking to qualify for LEED points on your build).

We’re concerned with more than legality and LEEDS points, though: we truly want to know that the mills we select practice sustainable, responsible forestry throughout every step. We also make sure that those mills can supply us with a steady influx of premium Red Balau that has consistently high quality and color, shipment after shipment. Until recently, we couldn’t find such a source, so that’s why we’ve only recently begun to carry Red Balau.

red balau deck

Red Balau Installation

When you receive your Red Balau decking boards, you’ll want to keep them in a dry, shaded area for a few days to allow them to acclimate to the surrounding area. You’ll then want to seal the end grain of any boards you cut. (We can provide end sealer along with your order, upon request.)

If you’re accustomed to working with Ipe or Cumaru, you know that pre-drilling screw holes is ideal. Even though Red Balau is much less dense than those other tropical decking species, we still recommend pre-drilling holes. In order to prevent splitting, we also suggest you keep pilot holes at least 3/4” from the ends of boards and that you use high quality deck screws with star or square drive heads. (Otherwise, tropical decking may snap low quality screws.)

Ground level decks should have at least 12-18” clearance under the deck, to allow for proper air flow and reduce the chances of buckling, cracking, or cupping. We also recommend carefully considering the gaps between decking boards according to your local environment and the time of year. Basically, we suggest assuming a ¼” gap between boards and going from there.

Like any lumber species, Red Balau will weather and turn a silvery gray color if left unfinished. We highly recommend applying deck oil to all 4 sides in order to slow moisture exchange and promote stability, as well as to preserve the original reddish brown color.

Loading lumber at J Gibson McIlvain lumberyard

Loading lumber at 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.

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