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Ipe vs. Cedar: Which Is Better for Outdoor Furniture and Decking?

With home decking and outdoor furniture, Ipe and cedar are among the most popular options on the market. Both offer several benefits and a wonderful ambiance that enhances your outdoor living space. While Ipe is the stronger of the two with greater longevity, cedar is an excellent choice for affordability, beauty, and that signature cedar smell. If you’re struggling with this decision, read on for a thorough comparison of both options.

Appearance and Aroma

Cedar Deck Refinishing

Photo courtesy of Teak Master.

Both cedar and Ipe are attractive choices for decking that will silver with age. They’re available in various colors, so you can customize your selection to suit your home decor. However, there are a few notable differences in the grain and smell when comparing Ipe and cedar.

Cedar

Untreated cedar has a naturally reddish tone. The hue can range from a light pinkish color to deep reddish-brown. You can lighten or darken it using various stains to treat the wood. Regularly staining cedar is an integral part of the maintenance routine for this type of wood. You should plan to refinish your cedar often if you want it to retain its vibrant color and smooth grain.

Cedar has a straight grain that gives it a sleek and sophisticated appearance. Random streaks in the grain give this decking an air of originality with each installation. High-grade cedar has very few knots. However, low-grade cedar decking has many knots, giving it a far more rustic appearance suited to cabins or other laid-back retreats.

Cedar is incredibly aromatic. Its distinctive smell is one of its best-selling points, as it adds an undeniable ambiance to your space. You can appreciate cedar even with your eyes closed.

Ipe

Ipe ranges in color from light tan to nearly black and every shade in between. Shopping around diligently, you can find Ipe in olive-brown, amber, and even reddish hues. You can use Ipe wood to suit any decor by seeking the perfect variation.

Ipe has a fine to medium grain that may appear straight, irregular, or interlocked. This wood is virtually knot-free, so you’ll enjoy a smooth, even finish.

Ipe is a very mild-smelling wood. Though it has a slight scent while it’s being worked, you won’t typically notice the smell of Ipe once installed.

Durability

If durability is your primary concern, Ipe is the clear winner. It’s one of the strongest woods you can find for your decking and outdoor furniture needs. However, cedar is also a resilient option that can withstand many outdoor threats, like moisture and insects.

Cedar

Cedar is a softwood decking material that requires regular maintenance to withstand everyday wear and tear. Its Janka hardness rating of 1,560 puts it above woods like teak, oak, walnut, and maple. However, cedar is softer than hickory, mahogany, cherry, and Ipe. Though cedar is undoubtedly strong enough to make good decking, it may suffer from scratches and dings, particularly if you drag heavy furniture across it.

Cedar is naturally resistant to insects, so you won’t have to worry about wood burrowers like wasps and termites. This wood doesn’t absorb moisture either, providing outstanding resistance to decay and rot. Its moisture resistance also helps cedar stay flat and straight, meaning this wood won’t suffer from severe warping, splitting, or twisting. Cedar has a class B fire rating.

Ipe

Ipe is incredibly sturdy with a Janka hardness rating of 3,680. It’s five times harder than pressure-treated cedar and one of the toughest options you can find for your decking. Ipe is resistant to most insects, though it is susceptible to certain marine borers. Even when untreated, Ipe will resist decay, splintering, and fire. It has a class A fire rating.

Maintenance

For a maintenance-free deck, Ipe is the clear winner. It requires little to no care over time. However, this hands-off convenience comes with a higher price tag than what you’ll pay for cedar. Cedar’s costs are spread out over time through routine care.

Cedar

Cedar requires regular maintenance to stay attractive and in good condition. This is not a deck that you can install and ignore. You should stain the wood regularly, applying a new coat at least once every three years. Wash your cedar deck annually, particularly if you want it to retain its color and not silver significantly with age. Pressure washing can damage cedar, so it’s usually best to manually wash the deck.

Ipe

Ipe is a very low-maintenance deck material. You may opt to treat Ipe periodically, but this is by no means a requirement. Ipe will gracefully age to a silver patina over time if left on its own. If you don’t want your Ipe to turn silver, you must carefully care for it and regularly restore it to its original hue. Investing in regular deck restoration will help Ipe live up to its full potential in beauty and longevity.

Lifespan

For longevity, Ipe is at the top of the list. It will last for decades, even when neglected. Meanwhile, cedar requires more thoughtful care to deliver a mere decade or two.

Cedar

You can typically expect a cedar deck to last for 15 to 20 years. You must care for the decking regularly to achieve this lifespan. It won’t last as long if you neglect your cedar decking.

Ipe

Ipe can last for decades with no maintenance at all. Rot and UV damage won’t begin to take hold for around 20 to 30 years. However, this decking can last 40 years or more if regular maintenance is performed. When preserved well, your Ipe decking can survive 50 to 75 years.

Both cedar and Ipe are great options for your home. Understanding the pros and cons of each one will help you make the best choice for your lifestyle or project. Whether you’re interested in the rich hue, extraordinary aroma, and reasonable price tag of cedar, or you want the decades of low-maintenance wear that you’ll get with Ipe, there’s an option here that will meet your needs. Let Teak Master take the worry out of your next deck project.

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