Over 25,000 Satisfied Customers
Onsite and Offsite Service

Ipe Decking vs Composite Decking: Pros & Cons

Selecting the right decking material is crucial for any construction project. You should choose a product that delivers outstanding functionality, satisfying longevity, and appealing aesthetics. Both ipe and composite are top contenders with a lot to offer.

Why Choose Ipe or Composite Decking?

Ipe and composite boards are both popular options for decking. Ipe is the forerunner for durability and longevity, while composite is a low-maintenance alternative with a vast array of hues to match nearly any color palette. These two outstanding options present several pros and cons to consider.

What Is Ipe Decking?

Ipe, also known as Brazilian walnut, is an exotic hardwood hailing from South and Central America. It is exceedingly dense and resilient, with a Janka hardness rating of 3,510 pounds. To put this in perspective, white oak has a Janka rating of 1,350 pounds. This makes ipe 2.6 times harder than white oak.

Ipe ranges in color from a yellow-tinged olive brown to a bold reddish brown to a deep black-brown. Left untreated, ipe weathers to a silvery patina, which some homeowners prefer.

Ipe is an entirely natural product, meaning these decking boards will biodegrade in about 10 years if discarded. However, this also means that harvesting ipe has an environmental impact. Historically, ipe has been susceptible to clear-cutting and destructive logging practices. Thankfully, most Latin American countries have since banned these practices and mandated reduced-impact logging techniques that sustainably source ipe and continuously replenish the forests.

What Is Composite Decking?

Manufacturers create composite decking boards using wood flour and plastic components. These boards are formed either through extrusion or compression molding. Extrusion is the process of pushing the mixed wood and plastic substance through an opening that defines the size and shape of the board. Compression molding involves pouring molten wood and plastic into a mold and condensing it under extreme pressure to create a solid composite board.

The resulting composite decking boards are designed to mimic the appearance of wood and are available in a wide range of colors. Since the color is mixed into the board itself, scratches are rarely noticed on composite boards, proving them to be a low-maintenance option for your deck.

Depending on the manufacturer, composite wood decking may have many different “recipes.” Some products are made with recycled plastic or wood waste, such as sawdust. Composite decking is often lauded as an eco-friendly option because it uses reclaimed materials. However, these materials typically result from manufacturing processes that are not environmentally friendly. While composite decking gives these byproducts a second life, their usefulness ends there, as composite decking is not biodegradable.

Pros and Cons of Ipe Decking

Ipe is the natural choice if you want a genuine wood deck with all the inherent variation and eye-catching luster it provides.

Pros of Ipe Decking

  • Strength: Ipe is 10 times harder than composite decking, making it extremely resistant to scratches and dents.
  • Longevity: Ipe wood decking can last for over 100 years.
  • Fire resistance: Ipe wood has a Class A fire rating, meaning it’s highly resistant to fire.
  • Dimensional stability: Ipe does not expand or contract significantly in hot or cold temperatures, so you can trust it to keep its shape.

Cons of Ipe Decking

  • Sourcing concerns: While many companies source ipe wood sustainably, some still use less honorable methods. It may take extra time and diligence to find responsibly sourced ipe.
  • Price: Ipe is one of the more expensive decking options.
  • Maintenance: To maintain its gorgeous appearance and natural luster, ipe requires regular maintenance. You should clean it regularly and sand out scratches or dents as needed. An oil-based UV protectant is required if you don’t want the ipe to silver.
  • Variation: Since each ipe board is unique, you won’t get an exact match from one to the next. However, some homeowners appreciate this look.

Pros and Cons of Composite Decking

Composite decking is a solid choice if you prefer a manufactured plastic product that’s simple to care for without some of the disadvantages of wood.

Pros of Composite Decking

  • Variety: Composite decking comes in a wide range of hues and grain patterns.
  • Durability: Composite decking doesn’t crack or splinter like authentic wood sometimes does, making it very low maintenance.
  • Water-resistant: Composite decking is generally designed to resist mold, mildew, and water damage. Since it’s not made from real wood, it does not rot like wood planks occasionally do.
  • Maintenance: Composite decking is a low-maintenance choice, as these boards do not require sanding, staining, or painting.

Cons of Composite Decking

  • Expansion and contraction: Composite decking is extremely sensitive to surrounding temperatures. It can expand and contract significantly, causing the boards to warp and bend.
  • Heat retention: Composite deck boards absorb and retain heat, which can make walking on them uncomfortable during a sunny day.
  • Longevity: Composite decking may only last for five to seven years if you choose cheaper products. Even high-end composite decking is only guaranteed to last 25 years.
  • Fire resistance: Composite decking usually has very low fire resistance.

Making the Right Choice for Your Home

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to comparing ipe and composite decking. It’s important to consider your personal preferences and the style of your home. Composite decking may suit a modern house, while ipe will look more fitting in a natural setting with rustic architectural features. The more company you entertain, the more durability and strength will factor in. Ipe can support high traffic better than composite.

Climate is a critical factor as well. The hot sun can leave composite decks scorching; however, a damp environment with shady areas may be more conducive to mold or mildew growth on real wood.

Consult a Decking Expert for Your Next Project

The right choice for your decking depends on your budget, preferences, and individual needs. Consulting with an expert can help you select the best option. Our team at Teak Master can answer all your questions about decking. Contact us to learn more.

Bring Life Back to Your Wood Investment