While the popularity of some lumber species seems to be highly motivated by changes in style, the widespread appreciation of Ipe is a bit more understandable. The characteristics of this lumber species make it extremely resilient to the elements and impeccable in its longevity. However, like all in-demand lumber species, Ipe is routinely plagued with shortages. So it’s always good to have a viable alternative to recommend to your customers who request Ipe decking. While Cumaru is one excellent Ipe alternative, there’s a lesser-known option we’d like to tell you about. Jatoba decking is available in a variety of lengths and is an excellent alternative to Ipe. We’ll look at how Jatoba compares to the decking favorite in a couple key areas.
While the number 2690 might not mean much to you on its own, that’s the number that reflects the hardness of Jatoba. It refers to the Janka hardness test, which measures the force required to push a ½-inch steel ball approximately a ½ inch into the face grain of a board. According to the same test, Ipe’s hardness rating is 3684. While Ipe is clearly the harder species by about 25%, the fact is that Jatoba is still extremely hard, which is apparent when compared with other commonly used decking species; for example, Pressure Treated Pine has a rating of 690, and Western Red Cedar has a rating of 330. So when it comes to holding up under even significant foot traffic which your deck will inevitably need to endure, the hardness of Jatoba will not be an issue.
In the lumber industry, MOE stands for Modulus of Elasticity and is a way of measuring stiffness. Measured in pounds per square inch, MOE tells us how much boards will flex between the joists when subjected to foot traffic. The MOE helps determine the spacing for the substructure. Jatoba has an MOE of 2745. Ipe’s is 3129. While Ipe again comes out on top, the difference isn’t quite as significant as it is with hardness. But since Ipe could actually resist any bounce even with only 24-inch centers, Jatoba will do just fine with 16-inch spacing.
Honestly, no one is daring to space joists 24 inches apart anyway; 16 inches is pretty standard. Sometimes deck builders even prefer 12-inch spacing (possibly because of the widespread popularity of softwood decking species that would otherwise experience bounce).
While the weight of a species needs to be considered in your deck design, it doesn’t otherwise make much of a difference once the boards have been installed. When it does matter is when your lumber is being shipped, and higher weight translates into higher shipping costs — and difficulty in moving decking boards to the job site, if the site is not accessible by truck. Jatoba weighs in at 57 pounds per cubic foot, while Ipe tips the scales at 62 pounds. In this case, the lower number is actually to your favor, making Jatoba preferable to Ipe.
Continue reading with Part 2.