As Ipe becomes less readily available, evaluating prospective alternatives is becoming more and more important. While Cumaru and other species are worth consideration, Jatoba, or Brazilian Cherry, is growing in popularity, and for good reason: It is truly an outstanding stand-in for Ipe decking. In Part 1, we compared Jatoba with Ipe by examining two of the most significant characteristics of decking lumber: hardness and stiffness. Now, we’ll look at two more important aspects: weight and stability.
This aspect of your tropical decking species choice isn’t really all that important once the deck has been installed — but it certainly makes a difference as you’re building the deck! Ipe weighs in at 62 pounds per foot, while Jatoba is only 57. While 5 pounds may not seem like much, imagine how significant that difference becomes when you’re building a deck that measures 1,000 square feet!
Depending on the accessibility of your job site, moving thousands of pounds of lumber by hand — or paying to have thousands of pounds shipped in to your job site — means that Jatoba’s lower number makes it preferable to Ipe, this time.
Sometimes, in our world of plastic and other manufactured materials, we forget that naturally occurring resources like wood aren’t quite as predictable as their man-made counterparts. While we can’t change the fact that wood moves, we can try to understand how it moves and build with those facts in mind.
One of the terms that describes how wood moves is “anisotropic,” which refers to the fact that it doesn’t move the same way in all directions. For instance, tangential movement (parallel to the growth rings) tends to be much more significant than radial movement (perpendicular to the rings). Ipe has 8% Tangential movement and 7% Radial movement, while Jatoba has 7.1% Tangential and 3.8% Radial. The slight difference between Ipe’s Tangential and Radial movement gives it a 1:1 ratio, making it extremely stable, almost isotropic (meaning it moves equally in all directions). Jatoba, by comparison, has a ratio of 1:9.
Stability isn’t just about the ratio of movement, though: It’s also dependent on varying moisture content on each face of the board. If one face is shaded or soaked, while another is drying in the sun, cupping can easily occur. So even though Ipe is technically a very stable wood, Jatoba’s slightly lower density gives it more empty space between cells, which translates into greater elasticity and less likelihood of cupping. Proper installation with spacing and ventilation beneath the deck will allow either species to perform well and remain quite stable.
Some other considerations when deciding between Jatoba and Ipe include price (Jatoba is typically 30% less), availability (again, Jatoba wins), and coordination with indoor flooring (Jatoba wins once more). On the down side, sizes of Jatoba decking boards are fairly limited (we currently carry only 5/4×6 boards). Chances are that as this species gains popularity, the selection of board sizes will increase.
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.