We’ve already sung the praises of Jatoba for you, but maybe in the back of your head you’re wondering, “Can it really be that great? I mean, if it were, wouldn’t it be out-selling Ipe?” We can certainly understand such a sentiment, so this time around, we’ll look a little more closely at exactly how Jatoba compares to Ipe, and why you might want to consider foregoing the more famous Brazilian decking option for its lesser-known neighbor.
Hardness is clearly an important characteristic for indoor flooring and exterior decking lumber. From pets to steel-tipped snow shovels, decks definitely get a little more abuse. Lumber hardness is measured according to the Janka hardness test, with the numbers reflecting how much force is required to push a ½-inch-diameter steel ball about ½-inch into the face grain of a board. According to the test, Ipe rates at 3684, while Jatoba rates 2690. Clearly, Jatoba isn’t quite as hard as Ipe, but when compared to Pressure-Treated Pine (690) or Western Red Cedar (330), it’s still extremely hard and won’t have a problem standing up to anything your deck will encounter.
Also referred to as the MOE, or Modulus of Elasticity, lumber stiffness is measured in pounds per square inch. For decking, MOE translates into the amount of flex which boards can make between joists when subjected to foot traffic. MOE is what determines the spacing of your decking sub-structure. Ipe has an MOE of 3129, while Jatoba comes out at 2745. Similar to the comparison with hardness, Jatoba is still quite stiff. According to the numbers, Ipe could safely be installed on 24” centers without any bounce, but the industry standard spacing of 16” will make Jatoba just as bounce-free. (In fact, some builders are even playing it safer with 12” spacing.)
Lumber movement is an issue for even the most stable species, but the savvy builder learns how to work with each species’ unique movement. This is definitely an area where Ipe makes things a little easier than Jatoba does. With a ratio of tangential-to-radial movement of 1.1, Ipe is nearly isotropic. Jatoba, however, has a 1.9 ratio. Because of Jatoba’s lower density, it essentially demonstrates more elasticity when there’s a disparity between moisture levels of various faces. That elasticity allows Jatoba to exhibit less cupping when exposed to the elements. Considering all of that, it seems Jatoba actually wins out in this category. In the end, though, it’s proper installation that will make the greatest difference in a deck’s performance.
Jatoba Price & Availability
One added area of comparison is that Jatoba can be up to 30% less expensive than Ipe and is more consistently available than Ipe as well. However, due to the limited sizes available for Jatoba (as a result of currently low demand), building a deck solely out of Jatoba is nearly impossible, while Ipe (due to high demand) comes in a range of sizes from which everything from joists to balusters can be made. J. Gibson McIlvain currently carries 5/4×6” Jatoba decking in a variety of lengths. Contact us for specific size requirements for your project.