As Ipe pricing continues to climb and availability fluctuates seasonally, one of the top contenders as a premium decking species is Jatoba. If you like Ipe and want to know how Jatoba compares, we hope to arm you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about your choice of decking lumber.
How Hard Is It?
The Janka test, which indicates how much force is required to embed half the diameter of a ½-inch-diameter steel ball into the face grain of a board, is measured in pounds-force, or lbf. While Ipe proves to be exceptionally hard at 3684 lbf, Jatoba also rates highly at 2690. While Ipe is nearly 30% harder than Jatoba, the real question is about whether the disparity will make a difference for your deck. When we compare Jatoba to other decking species, such as Pressure-Treated Pine (690) or Western Red Cedar (330), we discover that Jatoba is still significantly harder than most species, as in 3 to 8 times harder.
Sure, Ipe is harder than Jatoba, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll notice an issue with Jatoba. It would be kind of like asking if you’d benefit from using a cutting board that can stand up to cuts from knives five times as hard and sharp as the only ones you have or will ever use. Even if there’s a cutting board out there that will withstand ten times the knife pressure, the one that’s suited to five times the pressure is really more than sufficient.
How Stiff Is It?
When it comes to measuring the stiffness of lumber, the Modus of Elasticity (or MOE) is measured in pounds per square inch, and it quantifies the amount of flexion a board will offer between joists. These numbers help builders determine the spacing of support structures. Ipe comes out with an MOE of 3129, while Jatoba comes in with an MOE of 2745. Since Ipe decking could easily and safely be built on 24” centers with no chance of bounce, professional builders agree that most decks and boardwalks are overbuilt, simply to accommodate industry standard spacing of 12-16.”
Even though Jatoba is about 15% more flexible than Ipe, Jatoba still won’t pose any problems. It’s almost like asking if it would be better to buy a chair that’s stable enough to hold two elephants instead of just one. Really, either one will do more than you need it to do — unless you’re planning to invite a herd of elephants to your next party!
In Part 2, we’ll consider weight and stability, as we continue to check out the differences between Jatoba and Ipe. Hopefully this knowledge helps you understand more about these two species so you can make informed choices about your next project or help your customers decide what makes the most sense for them.