The Ipe Wood Decking & Siding Dilemma
Ipe wood decking, with its unique beauty, has steadily risen as a favorite in architecture and design circles. But there’s a darker side to this popular choice, casting a shadow over its durability and strength. Harvesting Ipe wood for decking or other projects contributes to tropical deforestation. Mature Ipe trees only occur once every 7 to 25 acres. To get to these mature trees, large portions of rainforest trees are cleared for roads, harvesting equipment, and the area around each tree, resulting in critical habitat loss and timber waste. The cleared trees have little to no commercial value and go unused.
Given that Ipe trees are so sought after, it comes as no surprise that they are often illegally harvested. However, the problem is particularly pervasive with Ipe due to its tendency to fetch high prices in the market. To make matters worse, Brazilian loggers often work with corrupt officials to cut down more Ipe trees than are legal.
This raises the question: What should architects and designers do when they need durable, attractive decking? Obviously, acquiring tropical woods like Ipe demands not just consideration, but ethical responsibility. Should people consider Ipe wood at all for decking and siding, or look to alternatives that are more sustainable?
The Current State of Ipe Trees (And What to Do About It)
It’s important to spread the knowledge about how Ipe wood is sourced so that other professionals can make informed decisions. Thankfully, water-reclaimed Ipe trees are a fantastic solution.
Years ago, vast ancient forests in Central and South America were inundated, creating reservoirs for water storage and power generation. Beneath these artificial lakes lay perfectly-preserved tropical hardwood treasures. TerraMai, collaborating with local communities, resurrects these submerged giants, turning them into exquisite decking materials.
This water reclamation process not only salvages rare and valuable woods but also stands as a testament to TerraMai’s commitment to sustainability — no living trees are felled, and deforestation is staunchly avoided. Currently, TerraMai’s portfolio of water-reclaimed hardwoods includes both Ipe and Angelique. When choosing TerraMai’s decking, look for the distinctive Water Reclaimed badge, a mark of unparalleled sustainability.
Click below to see our beautiful selection of water-reclaimed Ipe wood:
Ipe Wood Decking & Siding Sustainable Alternatives
While water-reclaimed Ipe is a sustainable decking & siding solution, TerraMai provides an array of reclaimed tropical hardwood choices including Teak and Angelique.
Reclaimed Teak Decking: A Strong and Beautiful Alternative
Reclaimed Teak is a hardy wood that’s great for decking, flooring, or other applications that require resiliency
In particular, old-growth Teak from Southeast Asia is globally renowned as the best teak in the world. It’s extremely robust and looks fantastic. Due to the decline in wild teak forests, teak is often classified as endangered or illegal to purchase. Purchasing reclaimed teak is one ethical method of obtaining old growth teak and its one of the best alternatives to ipe decking. At TerraMai, we reclaim teak from vintage buildings in Southeast Asia, and we work to ensure that the wood is milled locally when possible. Our reclaimed teak decking is also FSC Certified Recycled.
Using reclaimed teak helps preserve standing teak forests and gives these amazing woods another lifetime of use and appreciation. It’s an ideal option for architects and designers seeking a sustainable, durable wood. Another teak source is new, fast growing plantation teak but it does not compare in either looks or durability. Above all, reclaimed teak stands head and shoulders above ipe with regard to sustainability.
Reclaimed Teak Decking at Imagination Playground in New York City
As far as functionality goes, teak can withstand a wide range of environments; it’s been used everywhere from the summery tropics to the arctic tundra. According to the Wood Database, teak is the gold standard for decay resistance. Teak also weathers extremely well and develops a grey patina as it ages. In terms of appearance, it often bears gold, copper, or tan hues with brown or silver grain highlights. The right teak can even visually resemble Ipe wood if that’s something you desire.
The wellness center at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok features teak decking
Angelique Decking & Siding: Another Sustainable Ipe Alternative
Water-Reclaimed Angelique Siding
If going for a similar look to Ipe wood, consider Angelique. Like Ipe wood, Angelique is a gorgeous rich, vibrant wood with reddish brown tones. Angelique is also durable and weathers well. Its high density and longevity make it one of the best woods to choose for decking, siding, or other intensive structural purposes. It ages similarly to Teak or Ipe, gaining a grey patina over time if left unfinished. Or, you can use a color-protecting finish that preserves the wood so it doesn’t grey.
Angelique, like Ipe, grows in Central and South American regions but can be sustainably sourced. TerraMai’s Angelique is also water reclaimed from the many lakes that were flooded decades ago for power generation, submerging vast amounts of tropical wood under water. TerraMai salvages the submerged wood, preventing the unnecessary harvesting of living trees and making use of otherwise forgotten timber.
Crafting the Future of Tropical Wood Decking
With the water-reclaimed woods of Ipe and Angelique and reclaimed Teak, the good news is that there are sustainable alternatives. By championing reclaimed woods, architects and designers not only elevate their projects but also stand as guardians of our planet’s precious resources.
With TerraMai’s ever-evolving sustainable offerings, the future of decking looks not just beautiful but also profoundly green.