Choosing the right material for your decking project is an important decision. You want to select something that will last for years and hopefully decades to come. Keeping this goal in mind, it makes sense to invest in a material that’s known to be extremely durable. If you can’t afford the top-notch option of Ipe or the second most popular choice of Cumaru (see Part 1), there are still plenty of great alternatives to choose from. We already discussed the merits of Jatoba and Red Balau (see Part 2). In this article, we’ll turn our attention to Tigerwood as well as some of the lesser-known tropical hardwoods on the market.
Tigerwood: A Versatile, Exotic-Looking Option
Tigerwood, or Goncalo Alves, has a very distinctive and exotic appearance. Its background is an orange-brown mixture covered with darker stripes. Hence the name “Tigerwood.” After installation and upon exposure to the elements and sunlight, the hue will darken into a reddish-brown color. Kiln-drying is necessary for Tigerwood to achieve an acceptable level of stability. Once it is properly kiln-dried, you can expect it to perform well in a variety of different climates.
This popular tropical hardwood appears in a lot of interiors as well as exterior applications. One of the best things about Tigerwood is that it’s relatively easy to find at lumber retailers in various locations throughout the United States. On the downside, there may be a safety concern if you use Tigerwood for a deck where people may walk with bare feet. It tends to lack traction and could pose a slip and fall hazard. As far as appearance goes, Tigerwood’s stripes also tend to be inconsistent, so it’s hard to predict the overall consistency in the look of your finished decking project. If a uniform look is important to you, you may want to steer clear of Tigerwood. The stripes tend to be sporadic in their occurrence, leaving some boards covered with stripes while others have hardly any stripes at all.
Garapa: A Bright Yellow, Dense Tropical Hardwood
Garapa is another possibility if you’re looking for a tropical hardwood decking material other than Ipe and Cumaru. This unique species, which bears the nickname of “Brazilian Oak,” has plenty of positive qualities, such as impressive hardness and density. Though it’s harder than many of the commonly used domestic wood species, it’s not as hard as Ipe, which is 40% harder than Garapa. If you prefer a bright, lemon yellow color to the reddish-brown hues that you find in so many other species, Garapa may be just the right material for you.
Garapa is also known for its stability. It earns a class A fire rating, which is comparable to other species from this region of the world. If you like the price point and other positive qualities of Garapa but aren’t sold on the unusual color of this tropical species, you could always choose to tone it down with some dye or stain.
In our final article in this series we’ll look at one more alternative you may want to consider, one that many people inquire about that is now largely unavailable, and then we’ll conclude with some general observations about the various tropical hardwood decking options.