Cedar vs. Ipe: Which One to Use?

Cedar vs. Ipe: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on doing some building, whether a patio, a deck, some siding for your house, tool handles, or furniture, there is really nothing better than solid wood. Two very popular types of wood you can choose from include cedar and Ipe, with Ipe being a prime choice for many reasons.

Let’s figure out what both cedar and Ipe are, what makes them different, and which one is best used in specific circumstances.

What Is Cedar?

First, we have cedar, which is a type of softwood, as well as an evergreen or coniferous tree, so it never loses its needles all year long. Cedar is found predominantly in the pacific northwest of the USA and Canada, as well as in the western Himalayas and in the Mediterranean.

Cedar trees are quite large and can have trunks as wide as 13’, often reaching heights in excess of 200. There are two main types that we know in North America, which are the eastern and western red cedar, with the western red cedar being the more common.

This type of wood is quite good looking, as it has a straight grain with a relatively coarse texture, along with few knots and irregularities, as well as a moderate reddish-brown color. It is also known for being fairly moisture-resistant and lightweight. It’s a good option to consider for exterior decking, patios, siding, and exterior furniture.

What Is Ipe?

We then have the Ipe tree, also known as the Brazilian walnut, a hardwood tree native to South America and Central America, as it grows in fairly tropical climates. These trees can grow up to 130’ in height and have trunk diameters of up to 4’.

This is one of the hardest trees out there, with a hardness rating in excess of 3,500 lbf, plus it’s also one of the densest and heaviest woods out there, along with extreme moisture and pest resistance.

Many people also like the appearance of it, as it has a relatively fine texture with either straight, interlocked, or irregular grains. It features a yellowish-olive color, sometimes being a much darker blackish-brown. This is a very popular type of wood to use for a number of applications including flooring, decking, exterior furniture, veneer, siding, and for other such purposes.

Cedar vs. Ipe: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what cedar and Ipe wood are, let’s take a closer look at what makes them different from each other.

Appearance and Grain

Cedar has a straight grain with a relatively rough texture, combined with a light to moderate reddish-brown color. It looks fairly nice, but does need to be finished well. Ipe, on the other hand, tends to be a darker brownish-red, sometimes even brownish-black, and although it may have a straight grain, the grain may also be irregular, plus it tends to be much smoother than cedar.

Hardness and Overall Durability

In terms of hardness, cedar comes in at just 350 lbf, which makes it quite soft, very soft when compared to Ipe wood, which has a Janka hardness rating between 3,500 and 3,800 lbf. In other words, Ipe is one of the hardest woods around, and this does make it extremely durable, impact resistant, and scratch resistant.

Density and Weight

Ipe wood is also much heavier than cedar. Cedar comes in at between 400 and 500 kg per cubic meter (depending on the exact type), whereas Ipe wood can weight between 1,000 and 1,100 kg per cubic foot. This density does make a big difference in terms of some of the other points below.


Cedar is much easier to work with than Ipe. Cedar has a straight grain, it’s lightweight, and not overly dense or hard. This makes it easy to lift, to nail, and it is easy to cut as well. Ipe on the other hand, due to its extreme weight and hardness, and because it may have some knots or resin channels, is much harder to work with. Ipe wreaks having on cutting tools.

Moisture and Pest Resistance

Because Ipe wood is so hard and dense, and because it contains many natural oils, many more than cedar, it is also much more resistant to pests and weather. In fact, even if left untreated, Ipe wood is nearly 100% weatherproof, something that certainly can’t be said for cedar.

Flexibility and Bending

Cedar is a decent option to consider if you need to bend your wood into shape. However, Ipe wood is simply too hard and inflexible for bending.

Sustainability and Availability

Ipe wood is very rare, with trees often growing at great distances from one another. Although some Ipe wood is farmed, in the grand scheme of things, it is far less sustainable and readily available than cedar.

Overall Cost

Ipe is also far more expensive than cedar, coming in at up to $20 per square foot (with installations costs), whereas cedar is going to cost you about half as much.

Fire Resistance

Due to its density and other properties, Ipe wood is also far more fire resistant than cedar wood.

When to Use Cedar Wood?

If you want some wood that looks nice, is lightweight, fairly durable, has some moisture resistance, and you don’t want to pay too much for it, then cedar is a good way to go, and this is true whether we are talking about siding, decking, veneer, or outdoor furniture.

When to Use Ipe Wood?

Generally speaking, whatever cedar can do, Ipe can do better. Unless you need to bend it, Ipe is the better option for all exterior purposes, as it is far more durable, dense, moisture resistant, and long-lasting.

Alternatives to Cedar and Ipe Wood

If you are looking for lightweight and low-cost wood, particularly for interior furniture, then pine is a good option. If you want something hard and durable, but without having to pay as much as for Ipe, then oak and walnut make for good options too. When it comes to maximum moisture resistance, cypress is a good one to consider as well.

For more information, read our articles about cedar alternatives and ipe alternatives.


As you can see, although cedar and Ipe are both fine options to go with, if you want maximum weather and pest resistance, durability, and aesthetic appeal, then investing some extra cash into Ipe wood is certainly recommended.