Let’s talk about Ipe — a Brazilian lumber that is one of the most sought-after materials for premium hardwood decks. But does premium hardwood actually translate to premium performance? We sought to find out by comparing Ipe decking to TimberTech® capped polymer and capped composite decking across categories such as weathering, cost, and sustainability.
What Is Ipe?
Ipe (pronounced “ee-pay”) is a Brazilian hardwood well-known for its beautiful brown and amber tones, as well as its impressive density. For these reasons, Ipe continues to be one of the most sought-after hardwoods for decking — and one of the priciest. Beneath the surface of positive-sounding claims — a purported 20-year life, a gorgeous look, and a natural resistance to fungus given the tight grain pattern — the reality of Ipe is more complicated.
To give you the full story of Ipe, we compared the hardwood against two of our lines with similar color and pattern options — TimberTech AZEK® Vintage Collection®.
There are three major categories we assessed for this comparison: weathering, cost, and sustainability. Below, we compare Ipe hardwood to the capped polymer deck boards in our Vintage line across all three.
Weathering: IPE vs. Vintage
Rich Wood Color That Fades Fast
Ipe decking looks attractive at first, but its rich color soon fades to a worn gray hue. Keeping the original color will mean costly staining and cleaning.
Just look at what only six months of weathering does to Ipe.
Susceptible to Mold & Mildew
Ipe decking may have a tight grain pattern that resists fungus compared to traditional wood, but it’s still susceptible to weathering, mold, and mildew.
Is Susceptible to Cracking & Splitting
As an organic hardwood, Ipe will eventually crack and warp.
At the Mercy of Environmental Whims
Ipe has to acclimate to its environment. Then, even once acclimated, Ipe is still sensitive to mold, mildew, buckling, and other performance issues.
Weathering soon turns Ipe decking to a dull gray and means costly maintenance.
Rich Wood Color That Endures
TimberTech AZEK decking looks the same after six months.
Protected from Mold & Mildew
Our Alloy Armor Technology® provides advanced resistance to fading and weathering from the elements, and mold and mildew from moisture.
TimberTech Performs So You Don’t Have to Worry About Cracking & Splitting
Our innovative composite decking stays resistant to cracking and warping, so you can enjoy your deck instead of maintain it.
Ready to Weather the Storm
UV rays, precipitation and environment won’t cause TimberTech decking to show signs of weathering. From day one, your TimberTech deck will look gorgeous and deliver durability for decades.
Cost: IPE vs. Vintage
Needs Budget- & Back-Breaking Maintenance
The associated upfront costs for Ipe decking are about the same as those for capped polymer decking. But over time, Ipe can’t hold up, cracking and fading. Expect regular and costly washing/staining.
Enduring Beauty With Almost No Maintenance
Unlike traditional hardwood decks like Ipe, TimberTech decking doesn’t require staining, sealing, or power-washing. At TimberTech, we believe your deck should be enjoyed, not maintained.
For a more in-depth breakdown of both the upfront and long-term costs associated with Ipe decking vs. TimberTech, see the graphs below, then read about the average cost of composite deck boards.
Upfront Cost to Build a Deck
Ipe Premium Hardwood vs. AZEK Vintage Boards
Costs Over 10 Years
Ipe Premium Hardwood vs. AZEK Vintage Boards
Sustainability: IPE vs. Vintage
Threatening the Amazon Rainforest
Ipe is harvested from South America’s Amazon Region, and because of its high demand globally, Ipe is especially prone to illegal logging practices. The demand for this hardwood makes Ipe deforestation all the more likely as time goes on.
The Sustainable Choice
Our sustainable TimberTech AZEK line is made of up to 54% recycled material.
What’s more, no trees are harvested to make our capped polymer decking — we’ve saved 1 million trees since 2015. What’s more:
- Up to 98% of our internal scrap is reused
- 290 million pounds of waste and scrap was diverted from landfills in 2019
- Our closed-loop water filtration system recycles up to 96% of water used annually.
The estimated average cost of capped polymer deck boards and Ipe hardwood decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.