Ipe and Trex are two materials typically used for building outdoor decks. Ipe is a type of resilient and durable wood derived from Central or South American trees called the Tabebuia tree. Trex is a type of composite decking primarily made of recycled materials such as wood, sawdust, and reclaimed plastic waste. Both of these materials are popular options for decking, and each offers its own set of strengths and weaknesses.
The primary difference between the two being that one is a natural and the other is an artificial man-made product that can yield similar results. However, many cannot tell the difference at face value. In actuality, there are many differences between the two materials making one the better option for your home. Below you’ll find an extensive breakdown comparing the most important aspects, including cost, warranty, and durability.
Ipe Decking Overview
Ipe is one of the highest-grade wood decking materials available. As mentioned above, the material comes from the Tabebuia tree, and though abundant in certain geographical areas, each tree’s production maintains a unique look and feel. As for its appearance, Ipe is described as a finely grained material, typically brown but often accompanied by red and golden tones.
Though the physical characteristics may be unique, all Ipe is characterized by the tree’s extremely durable wood known for preventing rotting and decaying. This means most Ipe decking lasts for decades if properly cared for. Ipe has also been proven to be more durable than other decking wood types, including Redwood and Cedars. Many of the world’s greatest attractions, including boardwalks and wooden displays are comprised from Ipe, but perhaps the most common use is for home decks.
Trex Decking Overview
Trex decking is comprised of different recycled materials depending on the manufacturer’s specifications and capabilities. The overall draw of this composite material is that it will not age like natural wood does because it is somewhat resistant to wear and tear from the elements.
The brand Trex specifically claims that their decking will not rot, warp or splinter, it will not fade or stain, and it will not require much upkeep, meaning no need for repainting, sealing, and staining. Trex is often described as merging the best of both worlds, providing a wood-like material to give the allusion of traditional decking, but without all of the risks. The material comes in multiple colors and finishes, designed to work with your space, rather than against it.
Ipe vs Trex: Cost Comparison
When it comes to cost, the most basic Trex flooring option for a 12 foot by 12 foot deck space would cost around $2,200 USD. If you wanted to opt for the best Trex material available, it would run upwards of $3,038.40 USD for the same amount of space. This estimate is strictly for the materials and not for the cost to install or prepare the space for decking. The cost also figures the substructure is wood.
Ipe on the other hand would cover 200 square feet of deck for the same amount as the cheapest Trex option, at $2,198.00.
When considering a natural or composite material for decking, it’s important to compare the upfront cost of the decking to the lifespan’s cost as you keep up with required maintenance. While Ipe can be a cheaper material up front, it may be more expensive in the long run as you will need to pay for resurfacing, sealing, and other issues that arise even with the most durable of woods.
Ipe vs Trex: Warranty Comparison
Trex offers a 25-year limited residential warranty for customers. Should you run into any issues with your Trex decking either caused by manufacturing error or excessive wear and tear from foot traffic and weather, it may be covered under the Trex supplied warranty. Additionally, Trex offers clients a 25-year limited residential warranty for fade and stain. Trex will also cover the cost of labor to repair the defective decking if a TrexPro contractor was the one to initially install the decking
Because Ipe is a type of wood and not a company servicing like Trex, warranty will depend on the lumbers you’ve purchased the decking from. In general, Ipe warranties cover a twenty-year time span from the time of installation. The primary issue included in this limited warranty is rot and if it is apparent, the lumber may replace or refund the initial purchase amount.
In all situations, improper installation, neglect, or abuse negate the warranty and are not covered under the warranty policy and may void any problems that arise in the future.
Ipe vs. Trex Decking: Durability Comparison
Ipe is a natural material known for its durability, particularly when compared to other major wood sourcing like Redwoods. The main issue that compromises wood’s durability is proneness to rotting, warping, and insect infestations. Luckily, Ipe is one of the few natural materials that is not overtly susceptible to these issues.
While Trex is a durable material, it possess its own unique issues. Because it is not as thick, or weather resistant compared to Ipe, Trex is less durable than the alternative Ipe. At minimum Ipe is expected to last 25 years while Trex’s maximum is usually capped at that same amount of years before serious refurbishments are necessary. In reality, Ipe decking can last upwards of 50-75 years.
Ipe vs Trex Decking: Fire Rating Comparison
When it comes to safety, the likelihood of your decking material’s flammability is an important figure to understand. Underwriters Labradorites has rated materials across the country and below are the fire ratings for Ipe and Trex.
When it comes to residential use, Trex is generally considered to have a safe fire rating. All in all, Trex score a Class C or Class Three ranking for its fire rating.
Alternatively, Ipe scores a Class A or Class One, which is the safest and subsequently best fire rating classification. Despite being wood, Ipe uniquely develops an unmatched density and close-knit composition. All of these characteristics make Ipe less likely to ignite and more importantly, less likely to spread rapidly if a fire were to happen. This ranking deems Ipe for both residential and commercial use, hence its use in major institutions like city boardwalks and Disneyworld.
Ipe vs Trex: Final Showdown
Ipe is a naturally and abundant material found around the world, even right in our backyards. Most companies are committed to ethical harvesting practices meaning the cultivation of Ipe is not contributing to mass deforestation and disaster. On the other hand, Trex, or composite decking materials breathe new life into once cast aside materials effectively ridding the world of excess waste. Both can be environmentally positive, however, composite decking is favorable for reducing and repurposing waste.
If appearance is of the upmost importance to you, both of these materials provide a great finish. However, if you require flexibility or have a certain vision for your new deck, Trex materials offer more flexibility and may be more closely aligned with what you’re looking for.
So, Who is Ipe Best for?
Ipe is best for those that don’t mind investing time and money into upkeep as the years pass by. While Ipe lasts for a long time foundationally, adjustments will need to be made to keep it looking as fresh as the day of installation
Then Who is Trex Best for?
Trex is great for individuals who want to install their decking and invest minimal time into upkeep or rejuvenation. Trex is also great for those who require more flexibility than Ipe can provide with different colors and finishes.