Many people love the look and feel of real wood in an outdoor living space. If you’re looking for wooden decking with exceptional beauty, durability, and uniqueness, then exotic hardwoods may be the perfect choice for you. Exotic hardwoods — such as Ipe or Teak — range in color from reds and oranges to golden and deep browns. They are also functional as well as good-looking. For example, Ipe has the same fire rating as steel, and Teak’s water resistance makes it ideal for yachts. Although exotic hardwoods are typically more expensive than other types of decking, there are a growing number of cost-effective options available as well.
What are Exotic Hardwoods?
Generally, hardwoods are trees with seeds that have some sort of covering, like fruit or acorns. They tend to lose their leaves annually but maybe more evergreen in a tropical environment. Hardwoods are slow-growing, which makes them denser than other types of wood. Exotic hardwoods refer to species found outside of North America, usually in more tropical areas, such as Brazil, Africa, or Australia. Domestic hardwoods refer to species found in North America, such as Oak, Birch, and Maple.
Sustainability has been an issue with some exotic hardwoods in the past. Today more farms are using sustainable practices and having their wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
What are the Benefits of Exotic Hardwood Decking?
- Beauty. Exotic hardwoods are simply stunning. They offer a range of rich, warm tones and each board is unique in its variations and veining. They are often considered to have a more striking or contemporary appearance than domestic hardwoods, which can look more traditional.
- Durability. As the name indicates, most types of hardwood are very strong. In comparison to each other, exotic hardwoods tend to have a more durable surface than domestic varieties. A deck or porch with exotic hardwoods will easily withstand the heavy traffic of an active family for many years. In fact, exotic hardwoods are a popular choice for boardwalks because they can withstand lots of pedestrian traffic, skateboards, carts, etc.
- Resistance. Exotic hardwoods are strongly resistant to many of the natural elements. They are not easily affected by moisture and therefore are often used in structures near the water. Exotic hardwoods are also naturally resistant to rot and insects and won’t decay easily. They are considered fire-resistant as well.
- Lower maintenance. Many exotic hardwoods require relatively little maintenance compared to pressure-treated wood, such as pine. Some varieties should be sealed or treated regularly with deck oil to keep their original rich tones. Overall, the lifespan of an exotic hardwood deck is significantly longer than that of pressure-treated wood.
The More Expensive Exotic Hardwoods
Ipe (also called Brazilian Walnut) is the exotic hardwood named most often as a material for building decks. Ipe is pronounced ee-pay, and its nickname is “Ironwood” because of its strength. It has a Class A fire rating, equal to that of concrete and steel. Ipe is recommended for use near water and is a popular building material for docks. Its color varies from dark brown to olive-brown and can be almost black.
Tigerwood is one of the most handsome exotic hardwoods. It has red and orange tones with streaks of brown and needs to be treated with a deck oil. It is recommended for use near water.
Teak is the most expensive exotic hardwood. It never requires sealing because of its abundance of natural oils. Teak is often used on yachts.
The More Cost-Effective Exotic Hardwoods
Garapa (also known as Brazilian Ash) has a golden yellow-to-brown color. It’s one of the more fire-resistant exotic hardwoods. Because it’s less expensive, it is often considered a good alternative to Ipe or Teak.
Cumaru (also known as Brazilian Teak or Golden Teak), like Garapa, is considered a more cost-effective alternative to Ipe. It has a warm, golden-brown color and is about as dense as Ipe.
Massaranduba (also known as Brazilian Redwood) is one of the hardest of the hardwoods. Its color is reddish-brown. Like Garapa and Cumaru, Massaranduba is considered a less expensive alternative to Ipe.
If you’re interested in building a custom deck or porch with exotic hardwoods, consider Archadeck of Raleigh-Durham your local expert. Should you have more questions about hardwoods or if you are ready to start the design process, give us a call: (919) 446-5585. We look forward to working with you!