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IPE Hardwood & 5 Amazing Design Ideas

Ipe what? Not everybody is familiar with this amazing hardwood. Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) is also called Lapacho or Brazilian Walnut. This wood has long been considered a top performing building material for both indoor and outdoor projects. It’s an extremely high-density hardwood specie native to much of Central America and northern parts of Southern America.

Ipe is so resistant to fungal decay and termites that it has become the benchmark material for all exterior hardwoods; This hardwood is also strong and durable, making it a highly popular wood used for decking, railroad ties, flooring, boardwalks, docks and other challenging outdoor projects.

Ipe Hardwood

Ipe Color

As an architect or designer, you might be looking for consistency and

predictability. Most will be shocked if we tell them that Ipe’s colors can vary greatly in the beginning. Now as with most natural wood, it’s normal to see some differences in its appearances. But with Ipe, this is brought to the next level. When freshly cut Ipe wood can vary from reddish brown to a more yellowish olive brown or even green. But don’t worry, the color will even out eventually by itself. Adding an oil finish will also unify the color. We will discuss more about wood color and changing over time in future articles.

Ipe Hardwood Advantages

Ipe is a type of tropical wood that comes with some natural benefits that aficionados won't find easily with other types of hardwood. Ipe is similar to Teak in that it naturally releases a type of oil that repels bugs.

The wood is also resistant to several other problems, including damage caused by moisture. Other types of hardwood will absorb water when not properly sealed, which causes the wood to warp and swell. Water absorption can also lead to mildew and mold, but Ipe is resistant to those common wood problems. Ipe is also very durable, and experts believe that it can last for 40 years or longer, though most say its life expectancy is closer to 25 years.

When talking to architects and designers about using wood in their projects, they’re always a concern about fire hazard. Although this exotic wood is combustible, it’s actually fire resistant. If you have every build a deck of Ipe or are considering an Ipe deck, you need to know that Ipe has a fire spread rating that is same as concrete. What does this mean? Unlike some woods that spread fire rapidly, fire tends to remain isolated around its point of origin. This way, the damage that the fire has made is contained in a much smaller region on your deck. Of course, calling the proper authorities and attempting to put out the fire right away is critical and recommended.

Things You Need to Know Before Working With Ipe Wood

Despite the many benefits of Ipe, there are some things you should be aware of before working with this hardwood. The biggest challenge with working with this exotic wood is that it’s a naturally hard and durable type of wood. It's difficult to drill screws directly in the wood. That is why most builders will pre-drill holes before securing Lapacho in place.

The fact that Ipe wood is water resistant is also a blessing in disguise for some wood professionals. If you’re planning to glue Ipe, you might run into some difficulties. Like most tropical hardwoods, Ipe is quite oily, which gives its waterproof character. Because of this trait the wood is also hard to penetrate for conventional wood glues. So, to allow it glue properly the surface needs to be pre-treated.

Like most forms of hardwood, Ipe comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It is durable enough for use in areas with a lot of rainfall and in areas where the wood is exposed to saltwater. Though it does cost a little more than other types of hardwood, many people find that the benefits and look of Ipe outweigh any potential problems.

5 Innovative And Amazing Ideas For Ipe Hardwood

Ipe Sidings
Green-Roofed Shipping Containers; Ipe sidings \ Source

Located in the heart of Old Montreal, Quebec Canada, the famous Bota Bota spa is docked at the Port of the Saint-Lawrence River, an area rich with history and character. The densely vegetated dockside location and surrounding railway posed a challenge to construction because the site was inaccessible to trucks. Thus, MU Architecture re-purposed shipping containers, brought in by barges, into pavilions. The architects clad the pavilions in strips of Ipe wood and topped them with large cantilevered green roofs to create an oasis-like feel. The roofs are partly clad in white painted steel panels to evoke an industrial vibe and feature square cut-outs that generate an animated play of light and shadow.

Ipe Screen
Sonoma Residence; Ipe Screen \ Source

This residence designed by Cooper Joseph Studio, faces north taking advantage of the view, breezes and indirect light. Ipe is used as a screen and framing device. This material brings warmth to the cool California light, creating a more intimate setting and focusing views on the surrounding landscape. Ipe was chosen specifically for its strength and ability to span the entire depth of the porch without intermediate support. It will weather naturally over time, resulting in a more artistic patina against the dark background.

Ipe Deck
Rosewood Park; Ipe Decking \ Source

Woodhouse Tinucci Architects used Ipe hardwood for the 1500ft long boardwalk, that allows visitors to have panoramic view on the ocean side during the stroll. The designers allowed the exotic wood to weather gracefully in to a silver patina stage. In order to keep the silver patina look, the maintenance for the board walk is minimal.

Ipe Flooring

Nobu Ryokan Hotel; Ipe Flooring \ Source

Designed by Montalba Architects, Studio PCH and TAL studio, Nobu Ryokan is a renovation of a 1950’s era motel in Malibu, CA. The resulting project includes rich wood craftsmanship, all reflective of traditional Japanese design. Interior and exterior spaces have blurred transitions leaving guests feeling connected to the natural environment. The material palette of Nobu Ryokan is Ipe (flooring), Teak (ceiling), poured in place concrete, oil rubbed bronze and limestone.

Ipe Cabana
Ipe Cabana \ Source

Chicagogardens was initially approached to develop furniture recommendations for this 40th-story pool deck where extremes of wind and sun pose real problems. The challenge was unusual and extreme: this very exposed and windy deck could only support built loads of 60PSF (pounds-per-square foot, an engineering term), which meant designing a heavy structure to resist wind but not so heavy that it would exceed the weight limitation and potentially damage the substructure. The company eventually we settled on Ipe for its durability and good looks. The built-in benches provide a storage solution; framed, removable black bamboo panels overhead provide a shade solution; more bamboo on the sides creates a solution to the blustery winds. Planter boxes on each side add color and softness; and custom cushions and night lighting add a luxurious touch.

Ipe hardwood is truly one of the hardest woods out there and is a great product for any long-lasting outdoor projects. Its resistance against fungus and insects, superb durability and strength makes this wood a favourite amongst architects and designers. Do you have some projects you are working on and would like to explore the use of Ipe or perhaps other woods? Wood is a versatile material and we tailor our wood to your design. Contact us now and find out how we can help you.

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