The Truth About Composite Decking & Ipe Wood – Fact Vs Fiction

There is a ton of misinformation about ipe wood. For the most part, many people would have you believe that purchasing ipe hardwood is a sin against the earth. To be frank, this is just not the case. Likewise, many people would also have you believe that composite decking is an eco-friendly product that makes a great alternative to other exotic hardwoods. Again, this is not the case. Here’s why.

Composite decking is made from plastic and recycled wood fibers. Many people think that because the plastic is recycled they are buying an eco-friendly product. Is this true? Let’s dig a little deeper. Where does the plastic come from? The plastic from most of the most popular and cheap brands of composite decking come from petroleum based plastic products like PVC.

This petroleum comes from oil. Think about that for a second. Is oil eco-friendly? Are the countries that sell us oil…are they eco-friendly? Heck, are they even friendly?! What about transporting the oil? Did you ever hear of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill? How about the process to drill for oil? Is that eco-friendly? Clearly, the answers to these questions are usually “no.” So, is composite decking eco-friendly? I think it’s safe to conclude that it isn’t.

Unfortunately, there is more to consider. Let’s say you’re still not convinced and think that composite decking is eco-friendly. Have you considered the maintenance issues and the need for constant treatments? Simply put, because composite decking materials are made from wood fibers and plastic, they also tend to absorb water easily. Because composite decking is so porous, mold, mildew, fungus, rot and decay, not to mention, insect infestation are highly probable. Now, ask yourself this question.

With all these composite decking problems, how do you treat and prevent composite decking from breaking down? The answer? You have to constantly clean and then DRY your deck. That’s right, if you check out some composite decking manufactures, they will actually advise that you dry your deck after you clean it. Even then, they can’t guarantee that there won’t be mildew. The most that they can do is tell you how to inhibit its growth and even then you have to be extraordinarily diligent in making sure that your deck remains very dry.

It’s not surprising to find these same companies tell you that even if your deck doesn’t look like it has mildew you should still clean composite decking because the fungus and mildew take some time to actually manifest itself. Now, ask yourself, how much time do you have to dry your deck each and every time it rains? If you have a family and are extremely busy with work, wouldn’t you rather spend time on your deck and not have to worry about mold, mildew, fungus and constant composite decking maintenance?

Yes, there’s more to consider. Taking all of these factors into consideration, what’s the likelihood that you’ll have to replace your composite deck? The odds are pretty high, right? How environmentally responsible are you if you have to buy MORE plastic decking? I think you already know the answer to that.

Ok, so now that it’s clear that composite decking is NOT eco-friendly. Let’s take a look at one alternative: Ipe. People who are environmentally responsible and also responsible consumers do their research. Here are the facts and the truth about ipe. Ipe is more eco-friendly than composite decking. I know you need proof, so here it is.

Unlike oil, ipe is a renewable resource. Thanks to increased awareness of irresponsible logging, more and more lumber companies are choosing to use environmentally responsible and sustainable forestry practices. Think about it. Can you GROW more oil? No. But, you can certainly make sure that whatever trees are cut down are replaced with new trees. In addition, you also can consider the fact that, because the demand for eco-friendly wood is growing, more and more lumber companies are now both adapting and adopting these sustainable forestry practices and are even joining groups like the United States Green Building Council and the Forest Stewardship Council.

Simply put, the more awareness that is put out there about irresponsible logging, the companies are forced to move away from those practices. That is better for the environment. Unfortunately, oil companies won’t and can’t just start creating oil on their own, so they will continue to use up all the earth’s oil.

Ok, now what about chemicals? Ipe decking needs very little treatment over its lifetime. In fact, most people treat it with ipe oil for first and second year. Then, depending on the overall yearly climate, they could treat ipe every other year. Composite decking needs a lot more than that, for sure! Here’s the fact, ipe decking is so dense and has its own natural oils that it is extremely resistant to mold, mildew, fungus, rot and decay.

Oh, and those pesky insects? They’d rather go down the block and eat a composite deck. Again, because ipe is so dense, insects actually avoid attacking it. If you do some research you will find that the United States Naval Laboratory actually tested the resilience of ipe wood and found that a single piece of ipe could be left untreated for decades before it would start to show signs of decay and infestation. That’s quite a testament to ipe hardwood’s durability. Is it any wonder why this Brazilian walnut is also called ironwood?

Let’s dig deeper now. If ipe decking needs less treatments and will naturally last longer than composite decking, which product is more eco-friendly? One more thing to consider; if composite decking breaks down, how do you think most people dispose of it? That’s right; they send it to a landfill where plastic takes decades to decompose. However, ipe decking is 100% biodegradable.

Clearly, ipe is a better green-living product to buy. And, guess what? Because of the volatile price of oil, ipe hardwood is now cheaper than most composite decking materials! Companies that sell composite plastics justify their high prices because they have an eco-friendly product sticker on it. Given all that you’ve learned in this article, it’s easy to conclude that they are gouging the consumer just because they put an eco-friendly label on an inferior and non-eco-friendly product.

Now that you know the difference between ipe wood and composite deck materials, you can shop with confidence and build the deck of your dreams!