Ipe, also known by its botanical name Tabebuia serratifolia (Bignoniaceae), is a beautiful, dense South American timber that is popularly used for decking and cladding. It has a fine to medium texture, with the grain varying from straight to irregular and/or interlocked. The heartwood of Ipe can range from a red-brown, yellow-olive brown, or even a dark blackish brown, sometimes with darker brown/black stripes. In certain species, there are powdery yellow deposits within the wood. Ipe can be difficult to differentiate visually from Cumaru, another dense South American timber, though Ipe tends to be darker in colour. When machining Ipe, it is important to take the necessary precautions as the dust can be potentially harmful to humans. However, when handled correctly, Ipe is a great, durable and attractive wood that is sure to last for years.
Amapa Prieta, Bethabara, Bastard Lignum Vitue, Ipe Tabaco, Ebano Verde, Wassiba, Ironwood, Surinam Greenheart, Lapacho
Ipe is among the most durable timbers in the world, with exceptional resistance to decay, rot, and insect attack.
Overall, Ipe is a challenging wood to work, being extremely hard and dense, with high cutting resistance during sawing. Ipe also has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. The wood generally planes smoothly but the grain can lift in interlocked areas.
Flooring, decking, exterior lumber, veneer, tool handles, and other turned objects.
Possible Health Risks:
The yellow dust can cause skin and eye irritation. May also cause shortness of breath, headache and visual disturbance.
Wood Worker's Thoughts:
Hazardous to health whilst machining, oily and finishes smooth. Often used for cladding - attractive and durable.
Ipe was reportedly used for the boardwalk along the beach of New York City's Coney Island. It lasted 25 years before it needed to be replaced; an amazing lifespan with the amount of traffic and environmental stresses that this timber would have been under.
Commonly asked questions about Ipe Wood
Is Ipe a hardwood or a softwood? Ipe is a hardwood. It is the same for; is Ipe hardwood or softwood? - Ipe is a hardwood.
Most groups/families of species share the same characteristics but this normally relates to their life as plants. Individual species do not always share the same characteristics as their relatives, in terms of the wood. Many factors influence how we use the wood and what we use it for, including where it grows, how it is forested, how it seasons/dries, etc. The answers to the following common questions, therefore relate to this particular species/wood and not the Ipe family as a whole. Even more specific – our answers relate to the wood (as we know it) in its form as a useable resource.
What colour is Ipe? Ipe can be described as light brown, yellow/brown
Is Ipe good for outdoor use? or is Ipe good for exterior use? Ipe is most suited for exterior/external use. Ipe can be used as an exterior/external timber (without treatment).
Whether the wood is naturally durable or not we would still recommend that it is decorated and/or coated with a suitable product to provide protection and/or maintain its appearance. This even applies when using the wood internally as, even subtle, changes in temperature or humidity will affect the wood. This will depend on the application/purpose of the wood and the user’s desired appearance. We also recommend that a recoating, care and maintenance programme is adhered to, for the life of an exterior wood. Wood cannot rot if it is kept dry – coatings and decoration can provide this protection. All of that said there are many durable timbers that are often left to weather naturally and will last for many years untreated/coated – movement and visual changes will occur but this is sometimes the desired effect. All wood is hygroscopic (it 'wants' to be in tune with its environment) it will therefore take on water from moisture in the air (or when directly exposed to or submerged in water) and ‘release it’ when dry or exposed to heat. This, inevitably, results in movement and dimensional change. For more about moisture in wood please click here - Moisture in wood