by Lal Beral
When looking for wood furniture, most people commonly compare pine, teak and mahogany right off the bat. They look for style, sturdiness, color and price. They, however, are missing a major option to consider and that is an all-together different wood type: Ipe. Ipe is a next to perfect, high performance wood. It grows abundantly in South-Central America and has a natural resiliency like no other wood on the commercial market.
Also known as Ironwood, Brazilian Walnut or Lapacho, Ipe wood has a teak-like appearance, ranging from rich browns to light amber hues. It is remarkably hard and dense which makes for high dent resistance. Ipe wood can hold 3600 lbs compared to the 690 lbs of pressure treated pine and it is 368 % harder than teak. In simple terms, this means furniture made from Ipe is going to have considerable weight to it, be extremely durable and wear incredibly well. In a 22 year study, the US forest lab in Madison, Wisconsin found the life expectancy of Ipe wood to be greater than 30 years.
Commercial contractors have known about and preferred Ipe for years. It’s their top choice for decking material. Why would that be? Well, aside from the durability of this wood in high traffic areas, it also requires low to no maintenance. Regular stain treatments are completely unnecessary unlike other woods typically used in construction. In fact, Ipe is so naturally dense that it doesn’t take preservatives well. Also, even in an untreated state, Ipe wood is quite fire resistant. Ipe is naturally resistant to rot as well as insect and fungal infestations. Splintering, warping and shrinkage are rare problems even with untreated Ipe. Fasteners do not loosen, pull out or pop up. The factors that make Ipe a favorite in decking also make it a superior choice for wood furniture.
Aside from the physical characteristics as a product, choosing to use Ipe is a more environmentally friendly option. The Ipe tree is not an endangered species and it may grow up to 140 feet tall with a diameter of 6 feet. It is one of the tallest trees in the Amazon region and, therefore, results in more planks of wood compared other trees. Ipe trees also grow in numerous environments from marshes to ridge tops. The trees come from either sustainable forest management projects or agricultural conversion of forest land which is strictly regulated.
Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at Everlasting Hardwoods. He writes about Ipe Benches, Ipe Chairs and other industry specific topics.