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)

85 Comments

  1. Patty Swanholm October 18, 2018 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    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 most deck co are not familiar with this type of wood. Thank you,

  2. Ole Anderson September 9, 2018 at 12:22 am - Reply

    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!

  3. Subodhsahay September 3, 2018 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    I installed open 12 yrs and lasted well

  4. kenny crockett August 29, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

    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 September 10, 2018 at 12:16 am - Reply

      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.

  5. Rusell July 12, 2018 at 7:33 am - Reply

    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?

  6. Larry Smith June 22, 2018 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    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?

    • Eric July 9, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Not necessarily, especially if the moisture content was below the standard 12%, which would be plausible if the relative humidity was low.

  7. Denisse March 9, 2018 at 7:39 am - Reply

    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 March 16, 2018 at 10:38 am - Reply

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

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