In addition to hardness, stiffness, and weight (see Part 1), there are a few more categories useful in comparing Jatoba and Ipe. While both are excellent choices of tropical decking species, Ipe is, by far, the favored one. As Ipe becomes increasingly difficult to source, some builders and customers alike are finding Jatoba to be a suitable Ipe alternative. Others are even finding it preferable to the long-time favorite.
Building around the predictable, anisotropic movement of wood can go a long way toward alleviating the potential problems that can stem from this down side of utilizing natural building materials. Because wood fibers basically act like a bundle of straws that suck up moisture, the tangential movement (parallel to growth rings) is typically more significant than radial movement (perpendicular to growth rings).
Ipe’s tangential movement percentage is 8, while it’s radial movement is 7%; Jatoba’s percentage of tangential movement is 7.1, while it’s radial movement is only 3.8%. Since the ratio of Ipe’s tangential-to-radial movement is only 1.1, it’s nearly isotropic, meaning that it moves equally in all directions — the essence of stability. With a ratio of 1.9, Jatoba is certainly less stable than Ipe.
However, more significant than the movement ratios is the varying moisture contents on each face of a board: For instance, one face may be subject to rain and sun, while the opposite is continually shaded. This kind of inequality can cause cupping. Because of its lower density (and more empty space between cells), Jatoba actually tends to exhibit less cupping than Ipe. Either species will fare well, though, as long as installation is performed properly, allowing for adequate spacing between boards and ventilation beneath the deck.
Considering the relevant technical attributes of both species, we’ll call it a draw between Jatoba and Ipe. In an ideal world, things like availability and cost would be insignificant; however, we all know that this world is far from ideal. Jatoba usually costs only 2/3 as much as Ipe and is much more easily available than the long-time decking favorite. The shortage of Ipe promises to continue to escalate, making the prized species more and more difficult to secure.
Even though Jatoba is fairly new as a decking species, its popularity for interior flooring means that its supply pipelines are already in place. In addition, Jatoba offers the unique ability to blend inside and outside spaces with similar flooring. In Ipe’s favor, Jatoba is currently available in a small number of sizes, making building a deck in only that species an impossibility. (Currently, only 5/4×6 decking boards are available.)
At the end of the day, either Jatoba or Ipe is a great choice for your new deck. Whichever one you choose, we’re confident that you won’t be disappointed.
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 (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
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