As wonderful as Ipe is, there are plenty of reasons to consider alternative hardwood decking species. When Ipe shortages and climbing prices become issues, it’s always helpful to have alternative species to recommend to your customers. Jatoba may not be the most well-known alternative to Ipe, but it is definitely a viable one. As we continue to compare its characteristics to those of Ipe (see Part 1), we think you’ll agree that it can be a great stand in for what’s still the most amazing decking species of all time.
Wood movement may be a frustration to many, but it is a fact and one that we can’t change. As long as you purchase properly dried decking lumber, allow for a proper acclimation period prior to installation, and plan for the right board spacing according to your climate, there’s no reason to worry. Still, some lumber species are more stable than others. The anisotropic movement of wood determines that its movement is not the same in all directions; any species will move more significantly tangentially (or parallel to the growth rings) than it will radially (or perpendicular to the rings).
A huge factor that affects wood movement is species. Jatoba experiences 7.1% tangential movement and 3.8% radial movement, giving it a ratio of 1.9. Ipe, on the other hand, typically experiences 8% tangential movement and 7% radial movement, giving it a 1.1 ratio. Since Ipe is nearly isotropic, moving equally in all directions, it is remarkably stable.
Even more significant than the numbers relating to stability, though, is how that stability affects cupping. One relevant factor is moisture content on the face of a board. Regardless of species, cupping can occur when there’s a significant variation in moisture from one face to another. When a deck is installed, this can come up when one face is wet with rain while the other remains dry or when one bakes in the sun while the other is shaded.
Although slightly less stable than Ipe, Jatoba has greater elasticity due to its lower density. So even though the numbers seem to be in favor of Ipe, practically, Jatoba doesn’t end up cupping more often than Ipe. In fact, it’s actually less prone to do so. As long as the deck is properly installed with the right spacing between boards and proper ventilation, neither species will pose a problem.
All in all, if cost and availability were no issue, Ipe and Jatoba would be pretty much neck and neck. Ipe’s amazing reputation as a premium decking species might make it the frontrunner. But if cost is a factor for you or your customer, then Jatoba is certainly worth considering.