Ipe Wood: Properties, Origins, Uses, Advantages & Disadvantages

Ipe Wood tree and wood products

Ipê wood is undoubtedly one of the hardest hardwoods out there, and for this reason, it has garnered enough attention recently. It is very dense and would require you to predrill when nailing or screwing it. But what is Ipê wood, and why is it very hard?

Ipê wood came from a Brazilian rainforest tree resembling Mahogany. It features a warm and rich color that is beautiful to behold. If you are looking for wood suitable for outdoor applications like patio and decking furniture, you might as well consider using Ipê wood. 

Where Does Ipe Wood Come From?

Ipê is also called Brazilian Walnut or Lapacho. Its scientific name is Handroanthus spp. It gets distributed in tropical Americas, including South and Central America. This tree can grow up to 130 feet or 40 meters and has a maximum trunk diameter of 4 feet.

What is Ipe Wood?

Ipê wood is brown, and its color doesn’t have many variations. It may vary from dark brown to brown when used in construction, yet its texture and looks maintain harmonic colors. Its heartwood has a greenish-yellowish brown with a tinge of dark bands. Its sapwood, however, is yellowish-grey. 

Ipê wood has a very consistent and regular structure. It has refined, straight grains with occasional interlocking grains. Its color is somewhat similar to that of the Cumarú wood, though Cumarú wood is a bit lighter in color. Its medium-to-fine wood provides this wood with a beautiful appearance. Over time, Ipê wood ages beautifully, turning to a light grey-brown hue that you would indeed appreciate.

Advantages of Using Ipê Wood

If you intend to use Ipê wood for your woodworking projects, it is not enough to know its characteristics. It will also help if you are familiar with the following advantages of its use:

It Is Very Durable

Regarding durability, there is no doubt that Ipê wood belongs to the toughest wood types out there. Superlatives like extremely durable describe it. Additionally, it gets referred to as ironwood, because it is comparable to iron in hardness. 

Besides, it can survive up to fifty years or more even if exposed to harsh elements. It exhibits natural resistance to decay, termites, and mildew, making it an excellent choice for areas exposed to moisture and humidity. 

Regarding durability, it gets the highest rating among wood types. Ipê belongs to the hardest wood types out there. It has a Janka hardness rating of 3,680 lbf. 

It is Beautiful

Ipê doesn’t only exhibit sterling durability. It also showcases a natural beauty with its smooth and uniform texture. It has an excellent surface with wavy and straight grains. Besides, it doesn’t necessitate sealing and doesn’t require regular maintenance. 

You only need to clean and mop it occasionally and apply oil to its surface to help it stave off the effects of UV light. Besides, oil can help it keep its natural color. 

Scratch Resistance

Another remarkable characteristic of Ipê wood is its high resistance to scratches and dents. Since it is dense and very hard, it will not get scratched or damaged with ease. Thus, you don’t need to worry about your pets and small children damaging this wood. 

Resistant to Pest and Decay

Ipê wood is a worthy investment because it doesn’t damage with ease due to pest attacks and decay. It exhibits very tight fibers allowing it to resist moisture and water. Besides, termites and insects will indeed break their teeth if they have while gnawing on this wood. Moreover, mold and heat will have a hard time penetrating this wood. 

Slip Resistant

One characteristic you should look for in wood is its level of slip resistance. If you have a disabled person in your house or have children who run around frequently, you will surely want to have decks made of slip-resistant wood. Ipê wood gets rated high regarding its static coefficient, especially in wet environments. 

Disadvantages of Using Ipê Wood

Your assessment and knowledge of Ipê wood will never be complete if you only know the advantages of the use of Ipê wood. Thus, it will also help to familiarize yourself with the disadvantages of its use:


Ipê wood is heavy and dense. It is exceptionally dense and heavy. Because of its extremely dense and heavy features, this wood often gets installed in the deck areas. Besides, its weight will tire you more than the weight of other wood types.


The next disadvantage of using this kind of wood is its use is expensive. Since this wood is quite heavy and has sterling characteristics, it is also in high demand, making it difficult to access this wood. Thus, its price gets higher and higher. 

It Is a Challenge to Work with

The harder a wood, the more challenging it is to work with. Ipê is one of the hardest wood types out there. As such, it is challenging to work with and not recommended for use by beginners. For example, when nailing or screwing it, you need to predrill the holes. Besides, you will need special tools to install this wood. 

Quite Rare

There are various types of Ipê wood in the market. But to get the best Ipê wood, go for the premium Ipê wood. Besides, the premium wood has uniform color and doesn’t splinter. Nevertheless, it is not easy to find this high-quality wood. 

Applications and Uses of Ipê Wood

If you intend to use Ipê wood, it will be best to know its applications and uses to ensure that you use it appropriately. Below are the succinct applications of Ipê wood:


You can use Ipê wood for sidings. Its use, of course, can provide your home or a building with a natural element of beauty that harmonizes with modern architecture. Ipê wood will blend well even if you bedeck your house entirely with Ipe sidings. This wood is perfect for sidings because it is durable and long-lasting. 

Accent Walls

Well-dried Ipê wood is perfect as accent walls. It can provide a new and novel twist to your home’s interior, providing a warm accent. It can brighten and enliven a dull space. Besides, this wood is a decoration in itself. 

Outdoor Structures and Furniture

One of the difficulties when selecting wood for outdoor furniture lies in the inherent properties of most wood to be susceptible to decay and rot. Many wood types would succumb to rot and decay if not treated well. But Ipê is one hell of a choice for outdoor furniture. It can withstand the onslaught of harsh outdoor elements without succumbing to rot and decay. Thus, you can use it for outdoor structures and furniture like benches, tables, and many other outdoor applications. 

Hardwood Flooring

Ipê wood does not necessitate special treatment when used as flooring. It has natural oils as well as tannins. It will be best if you dry it properly before using it. Besides, you can also treat it to enhance its natural characteristics and properties further. Ipê wood is gorgeous when used for flooring. 

Ipe Wood Maintenance

Maintaining Ipê wood is not challenging. You can oil its planks periodically to enhance its natural colors. You can also simply let it be and let the natural aging process takes its course. You can clean it with water once annually to keep it clean.

You can also apply a finish to Ipê flooring to maintain its aesthetic appeal. It may turn grey over time if exposed to the natural elements. Hence, you need to apply oil occasionally to keep it from turning grey. 

You can also use oil finishes once or twice annually to preserve its natural tone. Besides, you can use a degreaser to clean and renew the surface of Ipê flooring or deck. It will be best to apply oil during spring before the onset of winter. Varnish and stain applicators are also quite effective for faster applications. You can also utilize a brush and clean cloth to wipe out excesses. 

Working with Ipe Wood

Frequently Asked Questions on Ipe Wood

After knowing the pros and cons of the use of Ipê wood and its applications, it will be best likewise to be cognizant of the following FAQs about this wood, for they may also be the questions playing on in your mind:

Which is better: Teak or Ipê Wood?

Ipê and Teak are both excellent wood types. Ipê, however, is much harder and denser than teak wood. If you drop Ipê wood in water, it will sink like an iron bar. Both wood, however, exhibits excellent decay resistance and they are both durable. Ipê, of course, is more difficult to work with than teak because it is denser and harder. 

Is Ipê Wood Sustainable?

Ipê trees nowadays get farmed, meaning the use of Ipê is quite sustainable. Yet, due to the increasing popularity of this wood and its high price, the old-growth trees are in danger of being overcut. 

Moreover, in the past, in the absence of policies that prohibit the inordinate cutting of this wood, Ipê trees have almost completely disappeared from the old forests. 

Thus, many countries in Latin America have enacted laws that prohibit and protect the Ipê tree. An excellent alternative to Ipê is Cumaru which is slightly less dense than Ipê.


Being a tough and very dense wood comes with its pros and cons. Ipê wood, for example, is perfect for outdoor and other applications requiring durability and high resistance to dents and decay. Nevertheless, you can’t use it for making cutting boards because it will dull your knives. 

Ipê wood, of course, is a perfect choice for flooring and many other applications. But it is expensive and getting access to this type of wood is not easy. As such, even if you are desirous of using Ipê but don’t have enough money, you will find it hard to avail of this wood.

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