Ipe vs teak

Ipe vs Teak: Comparing High-End Lumber

Teak and Ipe are durable, high-quality, and attractive woods that make superior-quality and long-lasting furniture pieces. These woods are highly prized for their durability and attractiveness in woodworking. Most people talk about teak, and very little is known about Ipe, a feasible substitute for teak. While the trading and harvesting of teak are restricted in many countries, Ipe remains a viable alternative for those who want teak wood. If you are looking for a high-end wood option and are considering Teak or Ipe for your project, this article will help you make an informed decision.

Teak Vs. Ipe

Tectona grandis or teak is a long-prized hardwood used to make outdoor and indoor furnishings. Teak has natural oils, which protect locations where the wood is exposed to pests and termites. Teak is still durable even when varnish, oil, or sealant is not applied on its surface. All these make teak ideal for making outdoor furniture and for boat making.

Ipe is an incredibly wonderful and dense exotic wood that features a beautiful dark walnut color. Because of its dense nature, working with Ipe is quite challenging. However, this wood can endure the elements better than other types of wood. It is highly resistant to rot, fire, and termites. Due to its density, it is four times the hardness of teak wood.


Teak has a beautiful yellow-brown color but is also available in a rich brown color. Thai and Burmese teak colors have a darker shade, while Indonesian teak tends to have a lighter shade. As it ages, teak acquires a nice uniform gray color when left untreated but needs maintenance to prevent this color change. Teak wood has a Janka hardness of 1,155 lbs. Since it is three times softer than Ipe, working with teak is much easier, and it can withstand the elements without a problem. The properties of teak, such as resin content, porosity, grease, oil, and talc, depend on its age and origin.

Ipe or Brazilian Walnut is an amazingly beautiful tropical hardwood with a dark walnut color. It is challenging to work with Ipe because of its dense nature. Brazilian Walnut grows abundantly in South America and Central America. It can also thrive in different ecosystems, including riverbanks, marshland, and high ridgelines. The Brazilian Walnut has a Janka hardness of 3,510 lbs. Because of its denseness, Ipe has almost four times the hardness of teak and sinks in water. Like teak, the quality of Ipe is appreciated because it is insect resistant, decay-resistant, and durable. With its superb qualities, Brazilian Walnut is perfect for outdoor applications such as outdoor furniture and decking projects. It has grain and coloring that gives it a fine quality and tone just like redwood.

Plantation Teak

Plantation teak is cultivated teak grown in sustainably managed plantations. The plantations provide optimal growing conditions that mimic those of Southeast Asia. As a result, forestry professionals can cultivate teak without irrigation or fertilizers. Therefore, teak for the lumber industry is produced within a short time since the trees can grow faster. Furthermore, harvesting of plantation teak is done for older growths of 25 to 50 years. Such trees produce lumber that has less sapwood and features tighter grains.

Plantation teak also possesses the superior performance and quality of old-growth teak. However, the only downside of plantation teak is that it is more prone to UV exposure, and its color changes over time.

Teak vs. Ipe: Appearance

Teak comes in a fabulous golden yellow color. However, it is also available in a rich brown color. Like most hardwoods, teak will acquire a uniform gray color as it ages. Nevertheless, you can easily prevent this color change with routine maintenance of your teak wood or furniture pieces. The grain in teak wood is straight with sporadic interlocking or waviness. It has a natural luster but with an uneven and coarse texture. Since teak secretes oil, it tends to have an oily surface when raw.

Ipe tends to have a yellowish to reddish-brown or chocolate-colored heartwood. However, it is also available in darker brown shades. The surface of its wood usually has contrasting dark stripes. Over time, sunlight will transform the color of Ipe into a stylish silver patina. The quality of Brazilian Walnut furniture will have the same fine look like teak wood. In some cases, the surface of Brazilian Walnut wood will have yellow, powdery deposits that can make it difficult to apply polish or finish. Brazilian Walnut has a fine texture with irregular or straight grain, a few interlocking instances, and moderate natural luster.

Teak vs. Ipe: Durability

Teak is an extremely popular material used for outdoor applications because of its durability. Furthermore, teak is resistant to decay, insects, and moisture making it ideal for extremely wet environments. Although teak can resist termites, it is susceptible to insects such as marine borers and powder post beetles. Because of its durability properties, teak is mainly used for making patios, deck chairs, yacht hardwood flooring, and other wooden objects that must endure inclement weather. If properly maintained, the teak’s lifespan can be 50 years and beyond. However, if left unmaintained and not oiled, it may last for 30 years or more based on the harshness of the climate.

Ipe wood also has similar durability characteristics to teak. It endures all types of climatic conditions. Since it secretes natural oils, Brazilian Walnut is resistant to rot, decay, and insects, making it ideal for use in wet areas. Ipe is an impressive hardwood that is four times harder than teak, and it is extremely dense and will sink in water. It is also resistant to surface scratches, perfect for outdoor applications. When well-maintained, Brazilian Walnut has been proven to last for 70 years or longer without chemicals. The longevity makes Brazilian Walnut ideal for building a pergola, deck, or outdoor projects that last a lifetime.

Teak vs. Ipe: Maintenance

If you are comfortable with the grayish patina teak that develops over time, teak needs virtually no maintenance. You can leave your teak furniture pieces on the patio without more than occasional dusting or annual cleaning to keep it in perfect condition. You can also wash using soapy water and apply oil. We also have specially formulated teak cleaners that clean and brighten teak wood.

During winter, you can take your teak indoors to protect it from the high moisture levels. If this is not possible, you can cover your teak furniture and ensure they are not sitting in puddles to prevent quick deterioration. You will also prevent mildew that will make your teak furniture turn black.

Ipe wood is also easy to maintain. Your Ipe furnishings do not require everyday cleaning. However, routine cleaning is important to keep off debris and dirt. You must ensure that rusting items, mud, or spills do not sit on your wood. You can also use a hose to clean your Brazilian Walnut furniture but be extremely cautious when using a power washer. A bleach solution can help you eliminate mold that may grow on your Brazilian Walnut furniture. If you want to preserve the color hues of your Ipe, ensure that you use a sealer after every one or two years.

Teak vs. Ipe: Workability and Uses

Teak wood has excellent workability, an important characteristic from a carpenter’s point of view. Teak works well with machines and hand tools. However, silica in the wood tends to be tough on cutting edges, and machine dust may also irritate. Teak can easily be hand-carved to form different artistic shapes making it ideal for furniture pieces that need good artistic designs and shapes. Because of the oily nature of teak, gluing is best done on freshly cut surfaces. Teak stains and finishes very well, but the natural oils may cause adhesion difficulties. Because of its extreme weather-resistant properties due to oil and silica content, teak wood is used for veneer furniture, boat building, exterior construction, turnings, carvings, and other small wood projects.

Ipe is difficult to work with since it is extremely dense and hard. In addition, it has cutting resistance when sawing and blunting effects on cutting edges or blades. Generally, the wood planes smoothly, but the grain tends to tear out in interlocked areas. Without surface preparation such as sanding, some sections of Brazilian Walnut may be difficult to glue together even when using fasteners. You should look out for powdery yellow deposits when working with Ipe. Brazilian Walnut wood is perfect for decking boards and outdoor furniture, fencing, and siding because of its 40 to 75 years long life. Ipe lasts 4 to 7 times longer than most pressure-treated woods.

Both Are Incredibly Versatile

Teak and Ipe are quite popular in outdoor projects such as decks. However, they can also be used in a variety of applications. Ipe can be used for indoor flooring projects, particularly in homes with smaller children, because Brazilian Walnut seldom splinters or splits. The durability of Brazilian Walnut means that the application will last for decades. Additionally, its consistent grain pattern and rich brown color make it a perfect addition to any home. Brazilian walnut is also great for those who want durable hardwood decking materials or a boardwalk.

Teak is mainly used for hardwood doors, flooring, and furniture projects owing to its golden brown appearance. Its superior mold and rot resistance makes it ideal for outdoor uses. Teak is used to make hardwood decking railings, but it may not be an economical choice due to its high price. Teak is used to make most outdoor wooden furniture and is a perfect choice if you are looking for outdoor furniture for your home. Indoors, teak is used for decorative purposes owing to its pricey nature. It can be used for woodwork features like shelving or millwork, cutting boards, countertops, and hardwood flooring.

Both Are Great For Outdoor Applications

Ipe and teak are popular worldwide because of their stability and durability. As a result, they are sought after for exterior applications. They are mainly used for making outdoor furniture, windows, doors, wood decking, gazebos, and many more.

Ipe is known for its incredible hardness and is extremely dense. It will only experience shrinkage and movement after installation. Similarly, teak is ideal for outdoor use because of its silica content. While growing, teak tends to absorb silica from sandy soil, and penetration of silica into its fibers makes teak extremely water-resistant.

Ipe Beats Out Teak For Decks

Ipe is perfect exotic wood for decking because of its unmatched density. It outshines other decking materials in almost all categories, including attractiveness, stability, and durability. Many experts believe that the abilities of Brazilian Walnut as FSC ipe decking material cannot even be matched by teak. Brazilian Walnut decks last for decades. However, you must ensure you use FSC certified Ipe wood for decking purposes. Because of its dense nature, untreated wood has a Class A fire rating and resists flames just like concrete or metal.

If you are looking for a lumber with a similar look to Ipe, consider Cumaru. Brazilian walnut and Cumaru are so similar that they are often confused for one another. Just like Brazilian walnut, Cumaru is a vibrant, rich wood that features reddish brown tones. Cumaru also weathers well and is extremely durable. Colloquially, Cumaru is referred to as Brazilian teak.

The Boating Industry

In the boating industry, teak is the most preferred wood. The natural water resistance and durability of teak make it ideal for water-related applications such as teak decking. Teak hardwood flooring helps to strengthen the lower part of the deck and offers excellent insulation in cold and hot environments.

Teak is an extremely popular material used for almost all aspects of the yacht building process. Teak is available in large and flexible sizes, making it the perfect lumber for the boating industry that needs wood in uncommon sizes. If you are looking for an alternative decking option with similar properties, you can go for Tigerwood or Garapa.

Teak Vs. Ipe: Price

Teak is currently an expensive tropical hardwood variety because of its attractive looks, high durability, and low availability. On the market, teak may be the most expensive large-sized wood from any importer. On the other hand, Ipe wood is extremely affordable and readily available. This makes it a fair competitor to teak when it comes to looks. Although the price of Brazilian Walnut may not be extremely cheap, its prices are not as restrictive as that of teak wood.

Ipe Vs. Teak Comparison Table

Item Ipe Teak
Botanical Name Handroanthus Spp Tectona Grandis 
Color Reddish To Olive-Brown Golden To Medium Brown
Smell Mild Scent While Working Leathery Smell
Durability Highly Durable Highly Durable
Hardness (Janka Scale) 3,510 lbf. 1,070 lbf.
Strength Extremely Strong Extremely Strong
Maintenance Easy To Maintain Easy To Maintain
Price Moderately Priced Expensive
Workability Difficult To Work With Easy To Work With
Availability Easily Available Limited Availability
Suitability For Outdoors Yes Yes
Suitability For Wood Carving No Yes

At Harbor Exports, we work with the nation’s best suppliers of high-quality exotic hardwoods to give your next project a stunning finish.  To learn how Harbor Exports can help you make your next project a success,  click here to contact us.

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