The in-house millworks at J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber is certainly capable of all kinds of custom work, including creating knives for historic restoration projects, but this time of year, all hands (and tools!) are on deck for — you guessed it — grooving decking boards for hidden fastening systems. (Yes, we are in the groove.) Daily shipments of Ipe and other tropical hardwood decking species are leaving our lumber yard for job sites across the nation. While Ipe certainly isn’t the only decking species that we carry, it remains the most popular by a long shot. But as its price continues to rise and availability fluctuates, we’re glad that there are a few other tropical hardwood decking options which we can highly recommend.
First Place: Ipe
We’d be amiss if we didn’t start with Ipe. It really is an exceptional species, well worth the higher price tag. With superior stability and strength, this lumber species is ideal for residential decks, public boardwalks and docks, and other exterior applications. You can save money on Ipe by understanding the seasonal availability issues relating to this species and considering buying odd-length boards. Since Ipe requires no extra drying time, we can essentially groove it as soon as it arrives in our lumber yard and ship it to you right after that. This extremely durable species often lasts decades!
Close Second: Cumaru
With many similarities to Ipe, Cumaru is another great tropical hardwood decking species. Also called “Brazilian Teak,” Cumaru comes in both a yellow variant and a red variant; red Cumaru is more similar to Ipe. Without proper drying, Cumaru can fall prey to shrinkage and stability issues. Even after kiln drying, Cumaru would not be a good choice for an especially dry climate. With comparable appearance, hardness, density, and other prize characteristics that make it quite similar to Ipe, Cumaru is truly an excellent choice for your new deck! Many appreciate the lower price point of Cumaru, which is typically 2/3 that of Ipe.
Third Charmer: Red Balau
Still demonstrating exceptional durability and hardness (it’s still harder than Hard Maple), Red Balau is easier on tools than most other tropical hardwood decking species. As part of the Mahogany family, Red Balau boasts coloring, workability, and texture appreciated by many. With few defects and great color consistency, Red Balau is definitely a lesser-known species that deserves a little more attention. Because of its lack of popularity, this premium decking species can be difficult to source. At J. Gibson McIlvain, though, we have plenty of Red Balau decking in our inventory, ready to ship to your job site! At approximately half the cost of Ipe, it’s quite a bargain.
In addition to these 3 top sellers, J. Gibson McIlvain carries plenty of other quality tropical hardwood decking lumber.
Learn More About the Lumber Industry
• Teak Eccentricities: Expensive, Short Boards, Limited Supply
• Tropical Decking Boards Are Not Finished Lumber Products
J. Gibson McIlvain Company
Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has become one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods. As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world. Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.
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