Guide to Ipe Alternatives: Jatoba

Jatoba siding

Jatoba siding

With the shortages of Ipe in recent years (along with the limited buying season, which leads to market concerns and major pricing fluctuations), decking buyers are scouting for workable alternatives. Among the many Ipe alternatives, including Tigerwood and Teak, Jatoba decking is coming up more and more as an excellent option. We frequently sell Jatoba decking in a wide variety of lengths in the 5/4×6 size. We’ll compare Jatoba to Ipe and take a look at how it measures up. Or doesn’t. You be the judge.

We’ll look at two of the four most-significant aspects of any lumber species: hardness, stiffness, weight, and stability.


It’s probably pretty obvious, but there are two major reasons that hardness is a significant characteristic of any decking species. First, decks have to hold up to plenty of foot traffic, often from humans as well as pets. Depending on where you live, your deck may also have to put up with scraping from a steel-tipped snow shovel during the winter months. It needs to be able to withstand that kind of punishment.

Hardness is measured by the Janka hardness test, which measures how much force is required to push a ½-inch diameter steel ball 1/2 inch into the face grain of a board.

Jatoba (left) vs Ipe (right)

Jatoba (left) vs Ipe (right)

The Janka rating for Ipe is 3684, whereas that of Jatoba is 2690. If you do some quick math, you’ll realize that Jatoba is about 25% softer than Ipe. Before you determine that those numbers indicate that Ipe is better suited than Jatoba to decking, consider this: Ipe is definitely one of the hardest species of wood out there, but that doesn’t mean other species have inferior hardness. If you compare Jatoba to Western Red Cedar (Janka 330) or Pressure-Treated Pine (690), both species commonly used for decking, Jatoba comes out far ahead — far, as in 4 to 8 times as hard! Really, Jatoba is harder than you’d ever need your decking wood to be.


The technical term for stiffness is “Modus of Elasticity,” or MOE, and it’s measured in pounds per square inch. What’s measured is the amount that the boards flex under foot between joints. As you can imagine, MOE is strongly considered when it comes to determining the optimal spacing for the structure under a deck or board walk. No one wants to feel bounce when they walk across a deck, so stiff boards are required. Ipe has an MOE rating of 3129, making it stiffer than Jatoba, which comes out at 2745. Like the hardness issue, though, it really doesn’t make much of a difference, except to mean that while you can install Ipe on 24” centers in order to eliminate bounce, you’ll need to install Jatoba on 16” centers.

Typically, Ipe boardwalks are overbuilt anyway, using the 16-inch standard spacing. Some are even going to a 12-inch spacing in order to ensure that there’s no bounce. While softwood decks can develop bounce over time, especially with tighter joint spacing, you won’t notice any bounce with either Ipe or Jatoba.

An excellent Jatoba vs Ipe comparison can be found here.

African Mahogany Species Overview

African Mahogany finished

In our ongoing tour of the Mahogany species, we are heading across the Atlantic to Africa.  African Mahogany is a tough wood to get a handle on because it is conglomerate product.  Many different species are labeled and sold as “African Mahogany.”  The problem is that each one of these species has a different density, […] Read more »

Lumber Grades Explained

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How many times have you visited the lumber yard not knowing exactly what pieces you will find and hoping that you can get lucky and get the pieces you need to build your project?  Walk into any lumber yard or look at a price list and you will see many terms like FAS, SAB, Select, […] Read more »

Sapele Species Overview

Sapele Quartersawn Sapele

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Before You Build a Deck, Wait

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All winter long you have been dreaming of your new deck.  Now with summer BBQs fast approaching it is time to make that dream a reality.  You have your plans, stainless steel screws, extra batteries for the impact driver, and a big stack of Ipe.  Ready to build a deck?  Ready, set, WAIT!  Have you […] Read more »

Mahogany Species Run Down: Genuine Mahogany

Genuine Wide Mahogany

These days when you go in search of Mahogany lumber it is hard to say what you will get.  Product marketeers have slapped the Mahogany name on just about any reddish-brown species around the world and it seems that all one need do is add a regional adjective to suddenly have a legitimate Mahogany product.  […] Read more »

Safely Moving and Storing Lumber

Woodworker's Safety Week

Woodworker’s Safety Week  is always full of great information about working with sharp tools and awareness about dust from working the lumber.  I want to take a few step back to the lumber yard and talk about safety when it comes to moving rough lumber around. Most lumber yards sell 8-12 foot boards and these […] Read more »

Tips for Buying Lumber for Your Next Project

Get Woodworking

It’s Get Woodworking week this week. This is an effort, nay, a movement inspired by Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench to introduce the craft of woodworking to the huddled masses longing to cut tenons. All this week, woodworking bloggers are writing articles and producing video designed to get newcomers excited about woodworking and to get […] Read more »

Wood Species Spotlight: American Black Cherry

Cherry Sapwood

In what I hope will be a regular series of posts, I am highlighting a single wood species and giving advice on selecting, buying, and working it.  This time it is one of my favorite woods to build with: Cherry. Prunus serotina The Cherry tree has a wide range and there are many species under […] Read more »

One Man’s Trash is Another Woodworker’s Project

When I started working in the lumber industry I was shocked by just how much waste was produced.  What’s more, these lumber importers were throwing away, literally throwing away as in burning, boards that I would love to have in my own workshop.  I very quickly came to realize that “high quality” is a relative […] Read more »