As a decking material, the hardness and appearance of Ipe both contribute to making it second-to-none among tropical hardwood decking species. Since boards are S4S (surfaced on all 4 sides) and E4E (eased on all 4 edges), you don’t have to worry about sharp edges or splintering. You can also purchase boards with grooves for clip fasteners already routed. But the surfacing, easing, and routing are all the typical supplier will do before shipping your Ipe to your job site.
Before Ipe is milled in South America and shipped out, though, it’s typically air dried to approximately 18% moisture content. The gentle drying and relatively high moisture level is ideal for stability for decking boards that will be subjected to rain, sun, and sometimes drastic temperature variation. For exterior applications, air drying is almost always best, and since decking is, by far, the most common use of Ipe, air-dried Ipe is the most popular type.
At the same time, rough-sawn, kiln-dried Ipe is available; however, its targeted end use is for interior applications. Suppliers typically kiln dry this variety to between 6 and 8% moisture content and sell it either as rough sawn Ipe or mill it to customer specifications.
You really don’t want this kiln-dried Ipe for your decking project, and you don’t want the air-dried decking boards for your interior application. However, there is a third choice that’s basically a combination of those two options, and it’s the ideal solution for decking intended to be installed in a notoriously dry environment. This hybrid product is kiln-dried Ipe decking, and it has a moisture content between 10 and 18%. For desert climates or high-altitude locales, this middle-of-the-road moisture level is just right.
In addition to mountainous and desert regions, some job sites that may benefit from kiln-dried Ipe decking are those that will receive considerable amounts of direct sunlight throughout the day. The heat that results from direct sunlight can suck up moisture from the boards and cause warping; when the boards are drier at the outset, you reduce the amount of change in moisture content, making warping is less likely.
Over time, any decking will be conditioned to its environment, and its moisture levels will fluctuate with seasonal changes. That very process is why air-dried decking is the most popular; it’s naturally closest to the equilibrium for the majority of climates. However, for those in unusually dry areas or with unshaded decks with southern exposure decks, kiln-dried Ipe decking may be the best solution.
The decking lumber professionals at McIlvain Lumber would be happy to discuss your specific decking scenario and help you arrive at the best product possible. We carry only high quality lumber, and Ipe is no exception to that rule.
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.
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.