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IPE Hardwood Floors

Ipe hardwood is an awesome wood for hardwood flooring... or is it?

Certainly the fact that it has a Janka rating of over 3600 making it one of the densest woods that is typically seen in the hardwood flooring market, suggests that it would be the perfect high traffic floor. In fact it has a long history of use in the industrial world as the ideal product for railway ties and heavy truck bedding for just this reason.

So the wear an ipe floor would get in your home is relatively insignificant. Most daily traffic would have a hard time leaving a scratch. It is ideal for homes with large dogs or rough kids.

So what is the "or is it?"

Finish:
Ipe hardwood is a somewhat difficult wood to finish. Its chemical makeup interferes with the drying, adhesion and absorption of wood stains and top coats. Thus I'd never suggest buying it unfinished and attempting to finish it in your home. Ipe's extreme density prevents most finishes from penetrating below the surface, thus it takes a bit of experience to gain the knowledge for effective coating.

Toxicity:
Aside from all this, in order to "house finish", you would first have to sand the ipe. Hardwood floors are then coated with some version of a polyurathane, but the sanding is the issue. IPE and its related family of Lapacho and the trade group of Brazilian Walnut hardwood flooring has been known to cause respiratory and contact dermatitis allergic reactions. Care should be taken when exposed to its dust. Best bet is to buy ipe hardwood flooring PRE-finished!

Dryness:
Ipe wood is also not so happy in dry climates. It is difficult to dry at the best of times and if it is installed in environments with seasonal low humidity (ie. under 35% relative humidity) it does have a tendency to crack. It is very difficult for Brazilian manufacturers to adequately kiln ipe wood to a relative humidity that works in areas like Northern Ontario, when the tropical rainfall is as high as it is! AND it is near to impossible to acclimatize such a dense wood effectively while in your home, to respond favourably to low hunidity levels.

Recommedations:

  • Don't buy this product if dryness is a feature of your home environment, remember where the IPE wood comes from.
  • Buy Prefinished floor only
  • research the "brand" to see if they have mastered the challenge of finishing Ipe Hardwood flooring

 

Further Information:
Hard Wood Flooring
Other Wood Species of Hardwood Flooring
IPE Hardwood
Janka Ratings For Hardwood Lumber

 

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