Ipe vs. Other Outdoor Furniture Woods
This page provides information about Ipe and other woods that are commonly used in outdoor furniture.
South American hardwoods are collectively the superior woods available in the world today, and even among these woods, Ipe stands out as exceptional. The physical properties of Ipe surpass any other wood commercially available. In addition to unsurpassed hardness and density, Ipe weathers exceptionally well and has a beautiful feel and appearance. These qualities make Ipe the ideal wood for use in outdoor furniture.
Ipe is already very popular in the outdoor decking market, where it is the top choice for premium quality decking. Many municipal boardwalks on the East Coast are constructed of Ipe, and the famous Atlantic City boardwalk has used Ipe wood for decades. This is because Ipe wood has significantly lower maintenance and replacement costs over time compared to any other material.
Ipe wood is remarkably heavy. Our furniture pieces are much heavier than comparable pieces made from Teak or any other wood. This quality alone would recommend Ipe strongly. Yet Ipe wood offers much more than density and heaviness. It is extremely durable, making it a good investment. It is very resistant to pests, decay and wood rot. Unweathered Ipe is a beautiful dark color, and if fully exposed to sun, it weathers to a consistent and attractive gray patina. Just as thousands of Ipe wood decks and boardwalks have proved, Ipe wood furniture will stand strong for years under full weather and heavy use.
Perhaps best of all, our Ipe outdoor furniture is reasonably priced. Advanced manufacturing techniques have made it easier to work with this extremely hard wood. This allows our Ipe wood outdoor furniture to be manufactured in a cost effective way not previously possible. We are focused on achieving the highest possible product quality rather than on spending large amounts of money on advertising (and of course passing those costs on to our customers). This allows us to keep our prices low on this exciting wood garden furniture. We are confident that in the next few years, Ipe wood will become prized as an outdoor furniture material. ipefurniture.com is committed to offering top quality Ipe wood garden furniture at low prices.
A Look at Other Outdoor Furniture Woods:
Teak is probably the most familiar wood used for outdoor furniture. Teak has a long history of use in outdoor furniture, starting when it made the transition from being a wood used for sailing ships to being used in traditional English garden furniture. This historical reputation was based primarily on Burmese, or old growth, Teak. Today, most Teak wood comes from Indonesian plantations and most Teak furniture is made in Indonesia, an Islamic Southeast Asian country.
There are wide variations in the quality of Teak outdoor furniture available on the market. The hardness and density of Teak are average, as seen in charts on the What is Ipe page. Good quality Teak does have physical properties, in particular a high oil content, that make it a durable and attractive wood for outdoor use. However, high quality Teak furniture is very expensive. You get what you pay for with Teak outdoor furniture.
Shorea / Balau
Shorea, also known as Balau, is a Southeast Asian wood that has appeared on the market as a cheaper alternative to Teak for outdoor furniture. This is primarily because there is currently a more abundant supply of Shorea than there is of Teak. Shorea has physical properties of hardness and density that compare well to Teak; its hardness is 1,480 – 1640 on the Janka scale and density is 53 lbs. per cubic foot. However, Shorea is widely considered to be an inexpensive substitute for Teak outdoor furniture, lacking Teak’s finer appearance and weathering characteristics. Shorea is typically used in Southeast Asia for plywood, structural framing, and other non-valuable applications. As a general rule, inexpensive furniture is a combination of inexpensive materials and an inexpensive manufacturing approach.
Regarding the durability of Shorea / Balau, the U.S. Forest Service publication Tropical Timbers of the World says, “Heartwood durability very variable and should be classified as nondurable. Sapwood is very susceptible to attack by powder-post beetle.”
This wood is the least desirable of the Southeast Asian woods being used to make outdoor furniture. It is typically the cheapest alternative available, and again, you get what you pay for. It has a hardness of 840 – 1,195 on the Janka scale, and a density of 38 – 45 lbs. per cubic foot. While these measurements are similar to Teak, Nyatoh is a far inferior wood in terms of appearance, feel, and weathering properties.
Regarding the durability of Nyatoh, the U.S. Forest Service publication Tropical Timbers of the World says, “Generally rated as nondurable and has low resistance to termite attack. Sapwood liable to powder-post beetle attack.”
Familiar and abundant in the U.S., Cedar is a softwood that is widely used for fencing, shingles, and other outdoor applications because it has natural oils that inhibit its decay. In terms of physical properties, Cedar is inferior to premium hardwoods, as seen on the hardness and density charts on the What is Ipe page. Cedar is appropriate for outdoor furniture made in a rustic hand-hewn style, providing a feel of classic Americana that will weather well.