While the top-selling hardwood decking species are described in our first and second posts in this series, sometimes you really want to think outside the box of what’s popular. Or maybe you’re simply curious about decking lumber species you’ve only heard about but never actually used or seen. Either way, this final installment of tropical hardwood decking species posts is definitely about lesser-known species—two of which are both viable and available upon request. As Ipe prices continue to climb, we expect these alternatives to rise in popularity and availability.
Recommended Decking Species: Massaranduba
A very dense, hard lumber species, Massaranduba is also known as Bullet Wood or Brazilian Redwood. This large tree yields many straight boards with consistent grain, making it ideal for use as decking. The deep red coloring typically mellows out to more of a brown when exposed to the sun. While approximately 80% the hardness of Ipe, this lumber species still offers significant hardness and durability. One downside is that splits and checks are unfortunately very common during the drying process. Because of this issue, Massarnaduba is only recommended in wetter climates; in dry climates, it can actually begin to break apart. Its price is similar to that of Cumaru.
Recommended Decking Species: Garapa
Even lesser known than Massaranduba, Garapa also goes by the name Brazilian Oak, which gives you a clue as to its characteristics. This extremely dense and hard lumber species has an unusual appearance, though; its lemon yellow coloring makes it a tough sell for many. However, its color can be easily changed with the application of stains or dyes, allowing it to appear more similar to Ipe and other tropical decking species. It is undeniably stable, though, and with a hardness of about 60% that of Ipe, it is still significantly harder than many domestic species. In fact, it has the same Class A fire rating as many other South American hardwood decking lumber options.
Non-Recommended Decking Species: Cambara
Considered a Mahogany variant, Cambara showcases some of the same coveted properties of that long-time favorite species: with rich reddish brown coloring and open grain, it’s easy to see why many customers have loved Cambara. However, it is not currently available from Brazil on a consistent basis nor is its grading consistent. Why mention this species if it isn’t currently viable? Just a few years ago, it was a viable option. Many customers think it still is, so we wanted to let you know the situation and why we don’t currently carry it.
While we are glad to recommend several tropical hardwood decking species that are alternatives to Ipe, Ipe still continues to come out on top. Whether you choose this top-performing lumber species or one of the alternatives we’ve discussed, we’ll be glad to discuss recommendations with you, based on your unique job site and project details.