Ironwood vs. Ipe Decking

There are so many problems that many deck owners fear when choosing wood for their decking. These disadvantages include fire damage, weather, and insect and rot damage. It is essential to pick the best wood for your decking project.

Ironwood (OlneyaTesota), also known as Desert Ironwood, is a perennial flowering tree that belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is known for being one of the heaviest wood in the world. They are native to Central Australia and can live for 150 years.

Ipe wood (Handroanthus), commonly known in Latin America as Poui or Ipê, is a genus of flowering plants that belong to the family Bignoniaceae. They are native to Northern Brazil, Central America, and South America. It is one of the hardest and densest woods in the world.

Ironwood and Ipe wood are two solid kinds of wood, but one thing that makes them different is that Ipe wood is stronger than Ironwood, while Ironwood has a higher density than Ipe wood.

Ironwood vs Ipe Decking


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DescriptionIronwoodIpe Wood
Wood typeIronwood is a hardwood.Ipe wood is a hardwood.
ColorDesert Ironwood is known to darken over time. The heartwood color ranges from yellowish-orange to dark brown with black hues. The sapwood color is yellow.The heartwood color ranges from a rich reddish-brown to a darker blackish-brown with yellow and green hues. The sapwood color is yellowish-white.
GrainIronwood has a comprehensive and gnarly grain because of its small size, fine texture, and even natural luster.Ipe wood grain is sometimes straight, interlocked, or irregular. It comes with a fine texture and a moderate natural luster.
Allergies/toxicityThere are some reports that the sawdust of Desert Ironwood causes skin and respiratory irritation, so one must take the necessary precautions when working with this wood.Ipe wood is reported to cause several problems such as skin, respiratory, and eye irritation. It can also affect one’s vision and cause asthma-like symptoms. Precautions are also required.
OdorWhen working on Desert Ironwood, there is always a definite and unpleasant smell.Ipe wood has a light scent when it is being worked on.
WorkabilityDesert Ironwood can be very difficult to work with due to its high-density level. It has a high cutting resistance,and its hardness makes processing difficult. It polishes and finishes nicely.Ipe wood is also tough to work on due to its strength and density. It has a high cutting resistance, and it isn’t easy to glue this wood as it does not take it properly.
SizeThe trees can grow up to 20-30 feet tall and have a 1-2 feet trunk diameter.The trees can grow up to 130 feet tall and have a 2-4 feet trunk diameter.
DensityIronwood has a density of 1,210 kg/m³.Ipe wood has a density of 1,100 kg/m³.

Ironwood Decking or Ipe Wood Decking

The primary aim of this article is to determine which of the two wood choices are perfect for decking, hence, the reason why some of their differences are treated above. When choosing wood for decks, you have to consider several factors such as durability, strength, density, etc.

There is little to no information about Desert Ironwood being used as a decking material, as it is more used to make knives. If we are to consider all of its durability properties, such as its high density and resistance to rot, decay, and water, it will be an excellent choice for decking.

On the other hand, Ipe wood is the standard wood for decking because of its high density, strength, and durability. An Ipe decking lasts for up to fifty years without replacement. It will not wear out or get damaged, but there is a probability of losing its color over the years. Lastly, an Ipe deck is resistant to water, mildew, and rot and has a class A fire rating.

Differences between Ironwood and Ipe Wood for Decking

Before choosing between Ironwood and Ipe wood for your decks, two significant differences are their durability and strength. Those two factors determine the longevity of your decking.


When choosing wood for your decking, especially outdoor decking, you must consider its durability. Is it resistant to water, rot, decay, or insect damage? How long is it going to last when used? Ipe wood is one of the best hardwoods for decking and can last for up to fifty years.

Desert Ironwood is one of the strongest and heaviest hardwoods you can find, but does that make it durable? One great advantage of this wood is its high resistance to rot and decay because of the high amount of toxic chemicals in its heartwood, making it non-biodegradable.

It is called Ironwood because it is highly dense and hardwood. It contains a lot of oil, which comes in handy as it makes it naturally resistant to water. Its durability properties show that it can indeed work for decking, but it is barely used in that aspect.

First, Ipe wood is considered one of the most durable hardwoods you can find. It contains a lot of natural oil, which does a great job preserving it, thereby making its applications (decking, fencing, siding) last for a long time. Its high level of strength and density also adds to its advantages.

This wood is highly resistant to decay, abrasion, insect damage, and weather. It is also fire-resistant as it shares the same fire rating with concrete and steel. Ipe wood being less resistant to scratches and turning grey over time might be its only disadvantage for durability.


Another significant factor to consider when choosing wood for decks is the wood’s strength. When strong woods are used for decking, they guarantee longevity and sturdiness. This is why choosing woods with great strength, such as Ipe wood, is always essential.

It is no surprise that Ipe wood is mainly used for decking as it is one of the strongest woods in the world. Even though both wood choices are strong, Ipe wood is much stronger. Although, Ironwood is denser than Ipe wood. Because of their strength, they are pretty challenging to work with, but it also increases their durability.

It is important to choose one with a Janka hardness rating of over 1,000 lbs when choosing wood for decking. Ironwood has a Janka hardness rating of 14,500 N (3,260 lbs) and a density of 1,210 kg/m³, while Ipe wood has a Janka hardness of 15,620 N (3,510 lbs), crushing strength of 93.8 MPa, and a density of 1,100 kg/m³.

Similarities between Ironwood and Ipe Wood

Wood Type

There is barely anything that Ironwood and Ipe wood have in common except that they are both hardwoods. Hardwood comes from angiosperm trees and consists of solid and heavy woods such as Oak, Maple, Mahogany, etc. They can also be called broadleaf trees.

Both kinds of wood are seen as a decking option as hardwoods are commonly used to make decks because of their stability, durability, and sturdiness. They are the perfect choices for long-term decking investment as they are resistant to fire, warping, rot, and splitting.


Regarding all that is written above, it is already apparent that Ipe wood is a much better option for indoor and outdoor decking. Due to its high durability, it is guaranteed to last a long time and give your money’s worth. Ironwood is also an excellent wood choice but is barely used for applications such as decking.

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