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Brazilian Walnut (Ipe)
Grades & Properties of Wood Flooring —
Other Common Names and Related Species:
- Flor Amarillo
- Guayacan Polvillo
- Lapacho Negro
- Madera Negra
- Pink Ipê
- Pink Lapacho
Brazil and throughout continental tropical America and parts of the Lesser Antilles.
Janka Hardness: 3684
Grades of Brazilian Walnut Flooring:
Clear grade Brazilian Walnut flooring is color-sorted for a rich consistent deep reddish brown color. Ipe is a dark-colored wood and is most popular in the Clear grade. Ipe gets its nickname (“Brazilian Walnut”) from its resemblance in color to true American Walnut, to which it is not related. Nor should it be confused with Imbuia, which is also sometimes referred to as “Brazilian Walnut.” Only the heartwood of the tree is used in the Clear grade. Ipe is more brown in color than Brazilian Cherry but darker than Brazilian Teak. With Select and Better Brazilian Walnut flooring, much color variation will be present from browns to green, red, and yellow. With Rustic grade Ipe flooring, color ranges dramatically. Lapacho is a color sort of Ipe and is green in color.
Brazilian Walnut Flooring Dimension Specifications:
Most Ipe flooring is milled in South America because it is more cost-effective to ship finished material than raw lumber. Lengths of the Brazilian Walnut flooring bundles are 7 feet so they can easily fit into 8-foot-wide steel shipping containers. All pre-milled products are tongue-&-groove and end-matched (tongue-&-grooved on the ends of the boards). Moisture content ranges from 6% to 8% for quick acclimation. The average length of the flooring pieces is usually about 3 feet and ranges from 1 to 7 feet. Almost all imported flooring that is found is in 7-foot bundles, with widths available from 2¼″ to 5″. If a long or wide plank floor is desired, raw lumber must be obtained and the flooring must be milled here in the United States. Typically, the lengths can develop up to 12 feet. However, the cost can be double that of the pre-milled stock because of waste and labor costs in the United States. Also, raw lumber is relatively expensive because it is taxed more heavily than finished products to support local economies in South America. In addition, wide Ipe lumber is very scarce because of the decking market, which consumes most of the larger material.
Brazilian Walnut is readily available prefinished or unfinished in solid for nail-down applications on a wood subfloor and in engineered form with a veneer top layer for application over concrete. Brazilian Walnut is a common species in comparison with Brazilian Cherry and Brazilian Teak. There is a large amount of Ipe in South America, and it is not endangered. However, less logging, stricter regulations, the decking market, and a slower American economy have limited commodities and caused slightly higher prices of this product in this country.
Finished Floor Appearance:
A Clear grade floor will have an even reddish brown appearance. Oil-based finishes allow Ipe to age to a deep brown color. Lacquer or de-waxed shellac should be first applied to help preserve the distinctive brownish red color of the wood and will help with drying time. Water-based finishes will preserve the natural color longer but may appear milky in appearance because of Ipe’s dark color. Select Ipe will have extreme color variations of deep red, brown, and yellow tones.
Flooring Durability and Stability:
Brazilian Walnut flooring is very durable and resists denting and traffic wear quite well. It is much harder than North American floors because of its density but can swell with moisture if not acclimated properly. Brazilian Walnut flooring is very heavy, weighing almost 4 pounds per square foot.
Workability of Brazilian Walnut Flooring:
Being extremely hard and tough, Ipe works with some difficulty with both hand and power tools. When installing the Ipe flooring, it is best to use a manual nailer. Staples and pneumatic nailers tend to split the wood. It holds screws well, and it glues, stains, and polishes to a very attractive finish. It can be somewhat difficult to sand with flooring equipment because of its hardness. Professional sanding and finishing is recommended. This wood is very resistant to decay and insects; these resistant properties may contribute to a possible allergic response to the dust. To avoid a possible allergic reaction to the material, wear a dust mask and long-sleeve shirt when working with Ipe.
Principal Uses of Brazilian Walnut Flooring:
Ipe flooring is used in medium- and high-end residential and commercial applications for a dramatically elegant floor. It is also used for color-contrasting borders and medallions.