In our first installment of this series on Ipe wood, we took a look at some of the reasons why Ipe is so popular, especially as a decking material. These reasons included Ipe’s hardness, density, longevity, stability, uniform radial and tangential movement, fire and insect resistance, and availability in different sizes. In this article, we’ll focus on some of the logistics involved in choosing and installing Ipe boards for your next project.
Ipe & Wood Grading
One of the main factors customers and contractors typically take into consideration when it comes to purchasing decking materials is the grade of the wood. Though this type of system can be helpful when choosing among domestic wood species, tropical wood such as Ipe can prove to be a bit more tricky. That’s because as of right now there’s no official standardized system for grading Ipe wood on the international market. The reason is that demand is extremely high in markets across the globe, so the mills are doing their best to keep up by continuing to send whatever materials they can to market. The mills are also careful about wasting as little of the wood from tropical trees as possible. This means that when it comes to grading, the quality level for Ipe materials tends to be somewhat of a mixed bag.
In spite of the wide range in quality level and the lack of a clear-cut standardization of Ipe grading levels, North American customers who are supplied by reputable lumber dealers can rest assured that their Ipe boards should range from very good (grade B) to excellent (grade A) quality. In fact, nearly all of the Ipe that’s imported to North America tends to be quite high in quality level. That’s because North American lumber yards know the standard of quality their customers will actually buy, so they don’t settle for inferior quality wood that may end up going to some other international markets.
How to Distinguish Between Higher & Lower Grade Ipe
A scrupulous lumber dealer would expect top-notch, Grade A level Ipe to have at least three surfaces with no defects like borer holes, sapwood, or knots on them. Quartersawn Ipe lumber will tend to be held to a bit of a different standard as far as appearance than Flatsawn lumber. In Quartersawn Ipe boards you’ll notice raised areas that appear as ridges exposing the wood’s internal section. These can be smoothed out by thorough sanding and are not considered defective. These boards are actually desirable as they’re exceptionally strong and stable.
If you want to be sure of getting the best quality Ipe available from a lumber dealer, make certain to get very specific about what kind of appearance you expect the boards for your project to have before agreeing to purchase them. Also, if you have high expectations, be prepared to pay extra if you want boards that look uniform in color and include an extremely small amount of defects.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the Supreme Court, celebrity homes, the White House, Capitol building, and the Smithsonian museums. For more information on J. Gibson McIlvain’s lumber products & services, call Monday-Friday toll free (800) 638-9100 to speak with one of their representatives.