With the current shortage of Ipe, Jatoba is one of the species rising to the forefront as an alternative decking species. We’ll look at this excellent alternative, comparing it side-by-side with Ipe so you can determine which species best suits your taste and project needs. As we examine these two species, we’ll consider the four basic specifications that really matter, when it comes to tropical decking products: hardness, stiffness, weight, and stability.
I don’t think I really need to explain why hardness is an important characteristic in decking lumber that will have to endure plenty of foot traffic, let alone punishment by pets, and depending on your area’s climate, perhaps a steel-edged snow shovel. The industry-standard scale for measuring hardness is the Janka test, which measures the force (pounds-force, in the US) required to embed a ½” steel ball approximately ½” into the face grain of the board. On the Janka scale, Ipe comes out at 3684, while Jatoba is 2690.
While Ipe is significantly harder, Jatoba is still head-and-shoulders above other common decking species, such as Pressure-Treated Pine (690) or Western Red Cedar (330). Obviously, those species stand up to plenty of foot traffic and do just fine. So while Ipe might be the better choice for a deck on which you plan to host elephant rides, Jatoba will do just fine with more typical deck traffic.
While this may not be a prize characteristic in a dancing partner or pet snake, it’s really ideal for a decking species. Also referred to as MOE, or Modus of Elasticity, stiffness is typically measured in pounds per square inch. The issue is how much boards flex under a person’s weight between the joists; as a result, it has great bearing on determining spacing for the supporting structure. Of course, the stiffer the board, the better. Ipe has an MOE of 3129, while Jatoba comes in at 2745. While less significant a difference than with hardness, Ipe still comes out 15% better than Jatoba.
What does this really mean, practically? You could install Ipe on 24” centers with no apparent bounce, while you should plan for 16” with Jatoba. In reality, though, 16” joist spacing has become standard, so Jatoba wouldn’t really require anymore wood or labor than an Ipe deck would — and you still wouldn’t have an issue with bounce. Really, a 16” spacing with Ipe is overkill, and some builders are even going with 12” joists, just to be safe. The moral of the story: You’ll do just fine with Jatoba at 16”.
In Part 2, we’ll see how Jatoba compares with Ipe when it comes to weight and stability. Basically, Ipe wins on paper, but Jatoba is just as good when it comes to practical use.
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.
As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.
Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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