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Sustainability

Ipe Decking vs. TimberTech Composite Decking

February 04 2020
composite decking
Ipe Decking TimberTech Azek Vintage Mahogany feature image.jpg

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 Decking vs. Vintage

Swipe within the table below to compare
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Ipe Decking TimberTech Composite Decking
Rich Wood Color That Fades Fast

Here’s the deal – Ipe looks pretty sweet at first but it doesn’t take long for the boards to lose their handsome hues and gorgeous grains. Keeping Ipe in tip-top shape requires regular upkeep including costly staining and time-consuming cleanings.

To show you what we mean, here’s an experiment: One of the images below is a control sample of Ipe; the other is a sample after being exposed to outdoor weathering for just six months. Not tough to tell the two apart, right?

Rich Wood Color That Endures

Unlike Ipe, TimberTech capped polymer (and capped composite decking, but that’s another post) can weather pretty much any storm you throw at it. We’re so confident in the protection provided by our caps; we back our TimberTech AZEK line with a 50-Year Fade & Stain Warranty.

So, what happens when you put TimberTech decking through that same six-month weathering test? Well, as you can see from the image below, not a whole heck of a lot.

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Ipe control on the left and test sample on the right after six months of weathering outside.

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TimberTech AZEK control on the left and test sample on the right after six months of weathering outside.

Susceptible to Mold & Mildew

Even though Ipe hardwood ranks high on the Janka hardness scale and is more resistant to fungal growth than other woods due to its tight grain pattern, it’s still more susceptible to weathering, mold, and mildew than composite decking. That means, if you go with Ipe decking, visible signs of weathering plus wear and tear will be unavoidable.

Protected from Mold & Mildew

TimberTech composite decking boasts protective polymer caps for superior resistance to mold, mildew, and moisture. Our Alloy Armor Technology® provides advanced resistance to fading and weathering from the elements, and our cores are defined by proprietary polymer blends developed to hold up to even moisture-rich climates, so mold and mildew can’t grow.

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Ipe control on the left and test sample on the right after contact test. 

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TimberTech AZEK control on the left and test sample on the right after contact test.

Will Show Scratches & Offers No Slip Resistance

No matter how “hard” a wood is rated, being made of organic material, it eventually will scratch, chip, crack, and warp. As an organic hardwood, Ipe also offers no slip resistance, so buildups of mud or precipitation on the deck boards can lead to falls.

Scratches Don't Show & More Traction Means Fewer Falls

Our innovative composite decking stays resistant to scratches, warps, and splinters, and the wood grain texture on our TimberTech boards is specifically engineered to prevent slips. In fact, TimberTech AZEK decking offers up to 40% better slip resistance than the competition.

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Ipe will weather and fade over time, showing scratches and offering no slip resistance.

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The TimberTech AZEK line stays vibrant, resists scratches, and increases traction for fewer slips.

At the Mercy of Environmental Whims

Ipe has to acclimate to its environment. Lumber moved too quickly or to an environment that’s significantly different from the climate where the Ipe inventory was stored can cause the wood to crack, tear, buckle, or cup. Then, even once acclimated, Ipe is still sensitive to all the drawbacks that afflict traditional wood — so in addition to the mold and mildew growth mentioned above, Ipe decking can easily cup or buckle.

Ready to Weather the Storm

TimberTech composite decking uses premium-performance polymer caps that banish moisture and mold. UV rays, precipitation, debris, and other weathering agents won’t cause TimberTech decking to warp, buckle, cup, or show other signs of weathering. From day one, your TimberTech deck will look gorgeous and deliver durability for decades. Period.

Cost: Ipe Decking vs. Vintage

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Ipe Decking TimberTech Composite Decking
Ipe Means Budget- & Back-Breaking Maintenance

The associated upfront costs for Ipe decking are actually about the same as those for capped polymer decking. However, the associated durability of Ipe is much less than that of TimberTech composite decking. What’s more, even if you or your contractor follow best practices, Ipe can still split at the fastener site or buckle when increased moisture content causes the boards to butt up against each other. In terms of maintenance, Ipe will need regular washing, staining, and oiling. All of that means expensive line items on your annual budget.

TimberTech Promises Enduring Beauty With Almost No Maintenance

Unlike traditional hardwood decks like Ipe, TimberTech decking doesn’t require staining, sealing, or power-washing. A simple rinse with a hose, a light sweeping — or, if you’d like, a gentle wash with TimberTech® DeckCleaner™ and an appropriate brush — is all you need.

At TimberTech, we believe your deck should be enjoyed, not maintained.

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Ipe deck board shown splitting with face fastening.

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TimberTech AZEK deck board shown with face fastening.

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

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs. EDGE Prime Boards

Upfront Costs Pressure-Treated Lumber vs EDGE Prime Boards-01202020-v3.jpg

The estimated average cost of composite deck boards and pressure-treated lumber decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.

Cost Over 10 Years

Pressure-Treated Lumber vs. EDGE Prime Boards

Cost Over 10 Years Pressure-Treated Lumber Vs. EDGE Prime Boards-01202020-v2.jpg

The estimated average cost of composite deck boards and pressure-treated lumber decking costs are based on the national average for a 16’ x 20’ deck. Meant for visual representation only. Actual costs may vary.

Sustainability: Ipe Decking vs. Vintage

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Ipe Decking TimberTech Composite Decking
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. According to Landscape Architecture Magazine, the approximately 20 species of South American tree that collectively are grouped as “Ipe” are highly desirable, but sparsely populated. Many of the species have characteristically slow growth rates, meaning a long regeneration period. These elements make Ipe deforestation all the more likely, especially as time goes on.

The Sustainable Choice

Our TimberTech AZEK line is made of up to 54% recycled material and no trees are harvested to make our capped polymer decking. Additionally, we’re committed to continuing to develop new ways to minimize environmental impact. Here are some of the ways we’re committed to living out our core value, “Always Do the Right Thing”:

  • 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
  • Since 2015, we’ve saved 1 million trees

Do Decking Differently™

See and feel the TimberTech difference: protective capping, realistic woodgrain finish, and enduring hues. Ipe can’t say that.