Ipe (Tabebuia spp.)
Ipe (Handroanthus spp.)

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Common Name(s): Ipe, Brazilian Walnut, Lapacho

Scientific Name: Handroanthus spp. (formerly placed in the Tabebuia genus)

Distribution: Tropical Americas (Central and South America); also farmed commercially

Tree Size: 100-130 ft (30-40 m) tall, 2-4 ft (.6-1.2 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 69 lbs/ft3 (1,100 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .91, 1.10

Janka Hardness: 3,510 lbf (15,620 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 25,660 lbf/in2 (177.0 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 3,200,000 lbf/in2 (22.07 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 13,600 lbf/in2 (93.8 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 5.9%, Tangential: 7.2%, Volumetric: 12.4%, T/R Ratio: 1.2

Color/Appearance: Heartwood can vary in color from reddish brown, to a more yellowish olive brown or darker blackish brown; sometimes with contrasting darker brown/black stripes. In certain species, there are powdery yellow deposits within the wood. Ipe can be difficult to distinguish visually from Cumaru, another dense South American timber, though Ipe tends to be darker, and lacks the subtle yet characteristic vanilla/cinnamon scent while being worked.

Grain/Texture: Has a fine to medium texture, with the grain varying from straight to irregular or interlocked. Moderate natural luster.

Endgrain: Diffuse-porous; solitary and radial multiples; medium to large pores in no specific arrangement, moderately numerous to numerous; tyloses and mineral/gum deposits occasionally present; parenchyma unilateral, winged, and marginal; narrow rays, spacing normal; ripple marks present.

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable; excellent insect resistance, though some species are susceptible to marine borers. Superb weathering characteristics. (Ipe was used for the boardwalk along the beach of New York City’s Coney Island, and was said to have lasted 25 years before it needed to be replaced: an amazing lifespan given the amount of traffic and environmental stresses put upon the wood.)

Workability: Overall, Ipe is a difficult wood to work, being extremely hard and dense, with high cutting resistance during sawing. Ipe also has a pronounced blunting effect on cutting edges. The wood generally planes smoothly, but the grain can tearout on interlocked areas. Also, Ipe can be difficult to glue properly, and surface preparation prior to gluing is recommended. Straight-grained wood turns well, though the natural powdery yellow deposits can sometimes interfere with polishing or finishing the wood.

Odor: Ipe has a mild scent while being worked.

Allergies/Toxicity: Although severe reactions are quite uncommon, Ipe has been reported to cause skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, as well as other effects such as headaches, asthma-like symptoms, and/or disturbance of vision. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Primarily sold as decking or flooring, boards for furniture or general use are sometimes availabe as well. Prices are moderate for an imported tropical species.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, Ipe species grow in very low densities, with mature trees only occurring once per 300,000 to 1,000,000 square feet (3 to 10 hectares) of forest area. This necessitates the clearing of large sections of rainforest trees (most of which are of little commercial value). Though uncommon, certified sources of Ipe are available.

Common Uses: Flooring, decking, exterior lumber, veneer, tool handles, and other turned objects.

Comments: Ipe is a wood of extremes: extremely dense and durable, as well as extremely difficult to work. Its incredible hardness and strength make it well suited for flooring applications, though it is referred to as “Brazilian Walnut” among flooring dealers—though it is not related to true Walnut in the Juglans genus.

Formerly placed in the Tabebuia genus, species of Ipe (H. guayacan, H. impetiginosus, H. serratifolius) were moved to the Handroanthus genus in 2007 based on genetic studies

Related Species:

None available.

Related Articles:

Scans/Pictures:

Ipe (sanded)
Ipe (sanded)

Ipe (sealed)
Ipe (sealed)

Ipe (endgrain)
Ipe (endgrain)

Ipe (endgrain 10x)
Ipe (endgrain 10x)
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Jeffrey C Jackson

How do you pronounce Ipe?

Chris

Like Ebay but with a “p”. Epay – at least that’s how I pronounce it.

Bruce Cosbey

Client wanting to use it IN an 8′ x 8′ spa to create a non floating shallow “Kiddy Pool” Is this a toxic/bleeding condition, and same question if using teak with it as well for final product?

Bruce Cosbey

Mahalo Eric… that’s why the Ipe is part of structure to keep it from floating. Know there might be organic issues conflicting w/ pool chemicals and possible stain of tile? Wish a scientist could weigh in as most concerned about adverse effects for little kids if any, as both dusts are BAD for us, and if it could off gassed ??? into water? Thank you for your reply, mate

Samuel Matthews

I have a client looking for us to heat their IPE deck (not yet installed) for snow melting. Is IPE rated at the same ‘R’ rating as other walnuts?

Aarhan Sharma

I have a client looking for us to heat their IPE deck (not yet installed) for snow melting. Is IPE rated at the same ‘R’ rating as other walnuts?

Umbria

Watch out with Bolivian IPE for decks…nowhere as trouble free as Brazilian variety. MUST BE SANDED each year to remove checking and then two costs of Tung oil. Wood also moves a lot so expect gaps here and there.

Rick McCoy

I make segmented bowls, among other things. I have a request from a customer for a salad bowl made from IPE. From reading the comments and specs, it looks like a waste of time. Any suggestions?

Rick McCoy

I don’t have carbide turning tools, and it sounds like HSS dulls very quickly, so lots of sharpening after very little turning. I’m also concerned about glue joints holding. In a segmented bowl, there are lots of end-grain glue joints.

Rick McCoy

Thanks Eric. I’ll give it a shot.

Watty

have you thought about using epoxy ? I use it with great success with hard to glue woods

Carla Kelly, luthier

Wipe it down with acetone where you’re putting glue. The acetone cuts the surface enough to allow a good glue joint. This is a handy treatment for any hard-to-glue joints.

Marco

Has anyone experienced an allergic reaction to an IPE wood deck?

Christine

This wood is not sustainably harvested. I would like to use it on my new deck but will not do so. https://www.terramai.com/blog/ipe-environmental-sourcing-issues/

Umbria

Bolivian is sustainable, Brazilian is not. It is very popular and takes a longtime to regrow.

Joel C

looking for recommendations for the best finish to put on exterior ipa. It is protected well from weather & sun. I will have some furniture on it. It does go into the entry of the house

Vaughan Iverson Hollingsworth

Penofin oil. This wood is high maintenance if exposed to weather or sun.

schoe

I had been a long-time user of Penofin for hardwood (about 800sq ft of ipe deck/fence 4-17+ years old), but recently learned it tends to darken the wood especially if it’s exposed to full sun. After some research, I’ve now switched to Armstrong Clark for hardwood. Much easier application than Penofin as you can apply in full sun/heat and, if applied correctly, you don’t have to go back and wipe it all down. This was a big deal for me as there were no more oily rags to deal with! My deck was dry to the touch within a couple… Read more »

Rick Turner

When the CITES rosewood ban went into effect a couple of years ago (since somewhat lifted…) we switched from Indian, Madagascar, and other rosewoods to ipe for guitar fingerboards. It’s fantastic in this application, and our customers accepted it instantly. It’s certainly as dense as ebony or the denser rosewoods, and it looks just fine.

Carla Kelly, luthier

I make dundun drumsticks out of it. After four years of work to find a wood that wouldn’t break up when slammed against the iron rings on dundun drums, I found ipe. It’s sensationally hard but not brittle. GREAT wood for durability. I buy cutoffs from deck makers, so there is no waste. I’ve heard that Brazilian ipe never needs any kind of finish when used in decks. Because it doesn’t splinter, it’s great for decks–so you can walk on it barefooted.

Last edited 1 month ago by Carla Kelly, luthier
Ed Goldfluss

We have recently installed an ipe deck. It is really beautiful. We would like to keep it that way. We understand that placing items on the ipe may discolor the wood. We would like to set some planters on the deck. How would you protect the ipe. If we use risers what material would be best rubber, cork, terra cotta, nylon? If anyone has experience with this your help would be appreciated.
Thanks

Mortimer

I built two decks out of ipe 15 years ago. If you don’t stain the ipe with a uv-blocking stain, it will eventually turn grey. I suppose the areas under your items wouldn’t bleach out as fast as the areas exposed to the sun, but I haven’t had any discoloring of my decking. I applied semi-transparent stain to the ipe to keep it looking great. I have a grill on rollers, two tables, 8 chairs, and a few planters on the decks. I reapply the stain about every 5 years or so on the horizontal parts, making sure to apply… Read more »

Umbria

Is your IPE Brazilian? If so it weathers beautifully with no finush at all. I’ve been using Brazilian IPE since 2003. Those decks continue to look marvelous. But Bolivian IPE is another story. Must be sanded yearly and oiled. If you want the grey look you must use an ooil with that pigment added otherwise you will have reddish brown.

helin

Hello! I am doing research about wood types that are durable at moist and humid atmosphere and also maybe some water splashes. Any recomandatitions?

Dream Calendars

I have a client looking for us to heat their IPE deck (not yet installed) for snow melting. Is IPE rated at the same ‘R’ rating as other walnuts?

John Doak

Watch out for those supposed “black dots”. IF they are somewhat grouped up to inches apart or less, tben they are Powderpost Beetles. Heat treating the wood will kill the larvae, but watch OUT- they can spread to other woods easily. These beetle’s larvae do the damage, the final stage of which is to bore out the exit hole in the wood, fly around for 1-2 weeks, mate. and then the cycle starts over- new critters back into the wood- for another 10 YEARS bfore re-emerging !!

Malcolm Brennan

Is ipe water permeable?

Don Vanco

Figured pieces of lopacho can be gorgeous!

Don Baldwin

How do you prepare small pieces for gluing?

Jeff H

I’ve started wiping ipe pieces with acetone to remove sawdust and surface oils. It seems to be improving the glue hold.

Steve wallis

Supposedly it is used to line the Panama canal…..
Termites hate it cause it’s so dense, thus wearing out saw blades!

Nicolas

Mild? This wood is one of the most odourous I ever worked with.

Still, is like some tea, but not mild at all.

Pete Hernandez

I totally agree! I seem to notice it a day or 2 after sanding. I don’t know if it is the dust that is left behind. but to me it smell almost musty, like a wet towel that’s been balled up.

William Meyerson

I was a landscaper for a decade in Louisiana. In 1991, I co-founded a landscape contracting company; plus design, installation and maintenance for over 25 years working exclusively in Manhattan, NY. I lived there (and a few years in Queens) most of the time as well. We sub-contracted the work for decking, lattice, pergolas, etc. I found ipe to be stunningly strong and rot resistant. Ipe really wears out blades. It is almost incomparable regarding strength, hardness, and the length of time it can last. When worked with properly, it can be quite attractive, depending on what is called for,… Read more »

EF Slaman

Yep, it’s like machining metal, pilot holes must match the fastener for diameter and depth, screws have to be fastened at a specific torque setting or they’ll snap. The dust is definitely an irritant.

Patty Swanholm

We just bought a house with a 1200 sq ft deck made of IPE. Unfortunately the previous owner stained or painted it. It needs to be refinished now as stained is coming off in areas n also moldy. We would like to return it to original color w a light transparent stain to bring out original color. Having tried a test piece it looks to be dark brown to reddish in color. Is this going to be possible and/or very difficult or impossible? Deck Co is talking about power washing it and sanding it. Any input would be helpful as… Read more »

Mortimer

Ipe is naturally dark reddish in color. I built two decks on my house 15 years ago and sealed them with Sikkens. Mold and mildew grew under the Sikkens after a few years, so I tried to remove it with a very powerful commercial pressure washer with no success. I ended up power sanding everything back to raw ipe, then sealing with semi-transparent Cabot Australian Timber Oil. That was 10 years ago and everything is fine. I just needed to reapply the timber oil to the horizontal pieces after 5 years. If you sand Ipe, I highly recommend wearing a… Read more »

Steve Cook

Try power washing it first . Ipe has a very tight dense grain structure , when it it left to weather it develops a surface with suede like texture . There are oil finishes available for Ipe that will enhance the natural colour .The best maintenance is to keep it clean and wash it with a biodegradable deck wash has some hydrogen peroxide in it , and re oil as req’d. How often you have to do this will depend on your local climate of course .

Ole Anderson

Guayacan comes from lignum vitae trees. It is a reddis color with hints of yellow in a very tight grain. You will know it because your saw blades will wear out faster than you have ever seen!

Subodhsahay

I installed open 12 yrs and lasted well

kenny crockett

I live in south Louisiana with high humidity environment and I want to use this on second story deck. It will get direct sunlight pretty much all day. Deck is large (16′ x 33′). I tried yella wood 1 x 6 treated deck boards and they lasted less than 7 years. I’m thinking about using 2 x 6 (or 2 x 8). How hard is this to screw down compared to normal deck boards?
Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.

Pat

Ipe is very hard, and pilot holes will be needed.

I made a patio table of Ipe and Tigerwood, that needed 1/4″ lag bolts in the endgrain. It cracked, even with an almost-too-large pilot hole. I had to make a ‘tap’ from a lag screw to tap threads into the wood.

Some decking lumber companies sell Ipe with slots milled in the edges, and stainless clips that fit the slots. Drilling the deck is not required.

Rusell

I have a client looking for us to heat their IPE deck (not yet installed) for snow melting. Is IPE rated at the same ‘R’ rating as other walnuts?

Rick Liebespach

I am not sure if it is accurate, but I heard it has the same fire rating as concrete… I can believe it.

Larry Schweitzer

Ipe is not related to walnut. In about every characteristic it is about as far away from Walnut as you can get. Calling Ipe “Brazilian walnut” is a marketing tool.

Larry Smith

When we bought our patio furniture we were told it was ipe. However when one of the chairs fell into the pool it floated, just barely, but it floated. Did we get ripped off?

Rick Liebespach

YES!!! Ipe sinks like a stone!!!

Denisse

Hi, somebody sold me this wood like Guayacán, but it doesnt look like Guayacán because it is much clear And when I see it closer it has like little black dots. So I began to think he fool me. Please can you help me with your opinion.
Sorry for the English, I’m from Bolivia

Denisse

It wasnt Ipe, it was Caranda (Proposis) :(

Jerry Giesler

Its Prosopis…