There’s no doubt about it — Ipe is an amazing decking lumber species. But it can also be quite pricey, and sometimes availability can be a problem. If you’d love to build your next deck out of Ipe but find it cost prohibitive or have trouble sourcing it this season, we have great news for you. Along with Cumaru — which has become a popular stand in for Ipe — Jatoba offers another great option. Although less commonly known, we think Jatoba deserves some attention as a decking option. Available in a variety of lengths in the common decking size of 5/4 by 6, Jatoba might be the right choice for your next deck or for your next decking customer.
When it comes to comparing any decking species, 4 numbers will tell you a lot about them: hardness, stability, stiffness, and weight. So we’ll start by looking at how Jatoba compares to Ipe in those categories.
The standard way to measure the hardness of a wood species is by using the Janka hardness test in which the number you see reflects the amount of force in Newtons required to embed a steel ball (that’s approximately ½ inch in diameter – 0.444 inches, to be more precise) half way into the face of a board of that species.
On the Janka scale, Ipe is a whopping 3684. Jatoba comes in significantly lower at 2690. But keep in mind that even though Jatoba is 25% softer than Ipe, since Ipe is amazingly hard, Jatoba is still a lot harder than many species used for decking. Western Red Cedar, for instance, is 330 on the Janka scale, and Jatoba is many times harder than that!
Why is hardness important for a decking species? If you have pets with claws or live somewhere that requires snow removal, you know the way that boards can take punishment. The harder the decking boards are, the better the boards will be able to withstand that kind of wear and tear. With a score of 2690, Jatoba will be plenty hard enough to withstand the kind of traffic and maintenance which your deck will need to be able to handle.
All wood moves, and there’s not a whole lot we can do besides predict and allow for that movement. As an anisotropic material, wood moves differently in various directions. The kind of movement that occurs parallel to the growth rings is referred to as tangential movement, while the more significant movement that occurs perpendicular to those structures is referred to as radial movement. The closer the degree of tangential movement is to that of radial movement, the more naturally stable a given wood species will be.
We’ll continue to look at how Jatoba compares with Ipe when it comes to stability in our next post.