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Everything You Need to Know About Ipe Decking Vs. Composite Decking

Ipe wood is one of the most sought-after woods for decking. It’s easy to see why. Ipe is a dense, premium hardwood that promises to last approximately 20 years. However, a lot of the harsh realities of choosing Ipe wood are swept under the rug. The most glaring fact: It’s expensive upfront and remains costly over time with maintenance expenses to keep Ipe beautiful and healthy.  
 
With the advancement of technology, TimberTech has engineered a capped polymer decking line (TimberTech AZEK) that contains no wood particles, making it majorly resistant to moisture damage. Plus, it doesn’t require costly and labor-intensive maintenance year after year and is backed by industry-leading warranties (a 50-Year Fade & Stain Warranty and Limited Lifetime Warranty).

Is Ipe Decking Worth the Money? 

To help make the decision between the premium hardwood decking (Ipe) and superior capped polymer decking (TimberTech AZEK), below is a comparison chart with facts you should consider before making an investment in your outdoor living space. Decide for yourself which decking is right for you.

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Premium Hardwood Decking
IPE Wood Decking

Capped Polymer (PVC) Decking
TimberTech AZEK Decking

Premium Hardwood Decking - IPE Wood Decking

Capped Polymer (PVC) Decking - TimberTech AZEK Decking
*TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Coastline color shown

Rich Wood Color That Fades


While beautiful initially, maintaining the color of Ipe decking is an arduous task that homeowners have to bankroll annually. The long and short of it is that Ipe decks require regular washings and oilings, a labor-intensive care routine, in order to preserve their beautiful, rich color. Otherwise, decks fade drastically to a sun-bleached gray quicker than most would expect, in addition to unsightly chipping, splintering, and cupping that can happen over time. Plus, an innocent spill of red wine or mis-directed spray of cooking oil can leave residue stains – even after trying to clean the board.


When making such an expensive investment, why leave the color up to the temperament of the wood, washings, and ever-changing environment?


Control on left and test sample on right after 6 months of weathering outside
(Control on left and test sample on right after 6 months of weathering outside)


Ipe deck shown with stains and discoloring
(Ipe deck shown with stains and discoloring)

Beautiful Color Options That Last


TimberTech AZEK Decking features 17 colors that look beautiful initially — and over time. That means, the color you selected on day one will be just as beautiful on day 18,250 (or 50 years later). Backed by a 50-Year Fade & Stain Warranty and Limited Lifetime Warranty for residential applications, TimberTech AZEK capped polymer decking allows you to choose the color that suits your style and your home’s aesthetic. The Ipe look-alike colors can be found throughout the 17 colors offered throughout the line, but we find most homeowners seeking an Ipe-alternative favor Cypress® or Mahogany. Those searching for the weathered Ipe look gravitate towards Coastline®.


Control on left and test sample on right after 6 months of weathering outside
(Control on left and test sample on right after 6 months of weathering outside)
*TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Mahogany color shown


TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Mahogany color shown in Mahogany, Cypress & Coastline
*TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Mahogany color shown in Mahogany, Cypress & Coastline.

Budget- and Back-Breaking Maintenance


It takes meticulous maintenance to prevent the beautiful hue from fading to an uninspiring gray shade. The truth is that, despite its density and strength, this Brazilian hardwood is not only susceptible to moisture damage but requires costly sanding, oiling, and sealing yearly beyond regular cleaning to keep its color and basic structural integrity intact. The cost of maintenance is an expensive line item on your annual budget. Plus, Ipe wood is more likely to crack, cup, chip, and splinter if not handled and treated properly from its first days in the lumber yard.


Ipe deck shown where a piece of furniture was moved out of the way after a year of being in one spot
(Ipe deck shown where a piece of furniture was moved out of the way after a year of being in one spot)


Ipe deck shown splitting with face fastening
Ipe deck shown splitting with face fastening

Almost No Maintenance


TimberTech AZEK Decking is guaranteed to never crack, splinter, or rot. To keep a capped polymer deck looking its best it requires simple, periodic washing. It’s really that easy.


TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Mahogany color shown
*TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection- Mahogany color shown


TimberTech AZEK deck shown with face fastening
TimberTech AZEK deck shown with face fastening

Susceptible to Scratches and Mold


Ipe wood in the scratching and marring #timbertechtest showed fatal flaws. When tested, Ipe underperforms compared to capped polymers. Plus, the dense, insect- and impurities-resistant nature of Ipe wood is still an organic material (a fancy way of saying wood) that is susceptible to mold, mildew, and moisture damage, which can affect your deck structurally in addition to aesthetically.


Ipe control(left) and sample(right) after water contact test
Ipe control(left) and sample(right) after water contact test.

Prevents Mold, Slips, and Scratches


The wood grain texture on each TimberTech board is specifically engineered to prevent slips. In fact, TimberTech AZEK Decking provides up to 40% stronger slip resistance than leading competitors. More traction means fewer falls. Plus, the cap material on TimberTech AZEK Decking contains Alloy Armour Technology™ and no wood particles meaning it’s resistant to moisture damage. Even if water did get past the cap, the core of the board is made from a proprietary polymer blend that simply leaves no chance for mold and mildew growth.


Plus, TimberTech AZEK Decking has been independently tested and proven to be up to 30 degrees cooler than leading competitors’ decking.


Ipe control(left) and sample(right) after water contact test
Ipe control(left) and sample(right) after water contact test.

Destroying the Amazon Regions’ Forests


The predatory logging practices in South America revolving around Ipe wood are shocking. Around 78% of the wood harvested is illegal, according to Green World Lumber. The destabilized Ipe populations have been ravished by illegal logging. In 2012, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that several logging enterprises had bullied or bribed landowners to produce legal forest management plans in order to cover illegal lumber exports. This scam is known as “heating” the wood, reports Landscape Architecture Magazine article “A Trail of Stumps”. Unfortunately, Ipe is unsustainable as it takes many, many decades, if not longer, to reach lumber-producing size. With no regrowth plan in sight, Ipe extinction is imminent.

Sustainable Decking Made from Recycled Materials


TimberTech capped polymer boards are comprised of all non-organic materials. That means no trees are cut down to make your deck. Plus, it’s made with up to 54% recycled polyvinyl chloride (PVC) content with a goal of increasing the amount of recycled materials in boards each year. PVC is one of the most widely used plastics globally and can be used safely for decades. In fact, TimberTech AZEK Decking’s backed by both Limited Lifetime Product Warranty and a 50-Year Fade & Stain Warranty. Homeowners searching for a sustainable, eco-friendly option can feel great about their investment.

After moving past the luxury “hype” that comes with Ipe decking, not a lot of positives are left. Ipe wood is unsustainable and its harvesting is hurting the Amazon rainforest. In return, homeowners get a high-end wood option that doesn’t keep its color and weathers significantly – (in addition to cracking, cupping, chipping, and splitting) if it’s not meticulous and pricey maintenance. 

Choose For Yourself

ipe-deck-boards-coastline.pngIpe deck boards shown with TimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection (Coastline Color) on top.

You deserve the best of the best decking. TimberTech AZEK Decking line is available in 17 colors and offers homeowners luxury capped polymer decking that repels mold, never cracks or rots, and doesn’t require any sanding or sealing ever. Plus, the Vintage Collection offers narrow (3.5”), standard (5.5”), and wide (7.25”) widths. All products in the TimberTech AZEK Decking line are backed by the industry’s best warranties.  

AZEK-Vintage-Coastline-Dark-Hickory-Premier0093_Final_CMYK@2x.jpgTimberTech AZEK Vintage Collection Decking shown in Coastline in narrow, standard and wide widths combined.
 

Order samples of the sustainable, capped polymer decking everyone is raving about.  

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