Ipe vs. Trex Decking

Whether you are building a new deck or looking to replace an existing one, choosing between the Ipe and Trex decking can be difficult, especially when you don’t have all the details. Here we have provided everything you need to know to help with your decision.

If you choose the Ipe decking, you will have a deck made from one of the hardest woods in South America that is guaranteed to last up to 75 years, making it an ideal option for both interior and exterior decking.

While Trex is a popular brand of composite decking that consists of plastic wastes, wood fibers, and a small amount of bonding chemicals. It is also durable and almost always preferred when a colorful finish is required.

Their major difference is that IPE is a natural product while Trex is a manmade product. However, both products will make a solid deck, and visually speaking, you might not be able to differentiate between the two.

Ipe vs Trex Decking

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Comparison chart between the Ipe and Trex decking

FeaturesIpeTrex
TypeHardwoodComposite
OccurrenceNaturalManmade
OriginTabebuia tree, South AmericaPlastic wastes, wood fibers, bonding chemicals
Hardness3680 Janka ratingDoes not carry a Janka rating
ColorRich brown with red and amber highlightsMultiple colors
Bending Strength25,660 lbf/in23,280 lbf/in2
Life span75 years25 years
Insect resistanceYesYes
Fire resistanceClass AClass C
Color fadingWith oil, NOYes
CostExpensiveCheaper

 Differences between the Ipe and the Trex decking

The major difference between the Ipe and the Trex decking can be seen in their hardness, strength, durability, fire resistance, and cost.

Hardness

Hardness comparison for decking products is a must check if you want to build a deck that will serve its purpose. Janka scale is used when measuring the hardness of natural woods. This gives an idea of how resistant they are to impacts. 

Ipe has a Janka rating of 3510; this puts it ahead of the Trex, which does not have a Janka rating but its shorter lifespan is further proof. This does not mean that Trex deckings are not durable; they should be fine for residential areas like your backyard, where there is less traffic. But if you are looking to deck areas with high levels of traffic like in the Atlantic City boardwalks, landing stages, Disneyland, etc., Ipe stand a better chance at resisting shoe soles, tires, skateboards, etc.

Strength

Most people confuse hardness for strength, but these are two different features that are very important when it comes to decking. The strength of a deck will tell how it will perform under high tension. That is its ability to snap or bend when subjected to a heavy load. Ipe has a bending strength of 25, 660 psi, while Trex has a bending strength of 3,280 psi. Therefore, an Ipe decking will be more than 5 times stronger than a Trex decking.    

Durability

A well-treated Ipe can last up to 75 years or more. Even untreated Ipe will keep its dimension and fine texture for a very long time. However, its color changes to silver in about two to three years. Trex, on the other hand, can last up to 25 years before refurbishment is required.

 It is important to know that when you refurbish a Trex decking, it cannot be the same as new, so the solution is a new deck entirely. For instance, if there is damage or a significant fade in color on some parts of the deck and you want to replace them, bear in mind that the color of the new deck will not rhyme with the other parts of the old deck because the color of the old deck must have faded to an extent. 

Fire resistance

Ipe is the winner here. It has a class A rating in the ASTM “tunnel test,” which is the best classification for any material. This means it is less likely to catch or spread fire, making it the best for commercial use. On the contrary, Trex has a class C rating. It is highly flammable and therefore more suitable for residential use where fire outbreak is less likely to occur.

Cost

When comparing the cost of both decking, it is important to consider the upfront cost and the lifespan cost. The initial cost for an Ipe decking is more likely to be higher than that of Trex. The same goes for its lifespan cost because it requires more maintenance like oiling and sealing than the Trex. So overall, Trex decking is a more affordable option than the Ipe decking.

Similarities between Ipe and Trex Decking

Ipe and Trex decking have a few things in common, which can be found in their environmental impact, movement, and insect resistance.

Environmental impact

Both the Ipe and Trex decking are friendly to the environment. Ipe is a natural product. It has a long life span, so it is ethically harvested to prevent deforestation. It can also be reused and therefore does not contribute to environmental waste. Trex is a composite material that finds a new purpose for plastic wastes and wood fibers that would have been a problem to the environment.

Movement

The Ipe and Trex decking both undergo movement in response to environmental factors. Changes in humidity can cause the Ipe to shrink and expand, so ensure that your deck is spaced to allow airflow. Trex is resistant to moisture but will still expand and contract as temperature changes. 

Insect resistance

Ipe and Trex share the spoils when it comes to insect resistance. Ipe’s hardness, in addition to its natural insect-repellant oil, gives it an excellent insect resistance feature. Similarly, insects do not attack Trex because the plastic materials in it make it less appealing to them.

Conclusion

Finally, Ipe and Trex will make a good deck if used in the right environment and maintained in the right way. Ipe is more suitable for anyone who wants a rich, brown-toned deck that will be passed down to generations and does not mind the cost of maintaining it. But if you want a more colorful deck with low maintenance and easy installation, Trex hits more of the right notes.

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