Ipe vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

Ipe vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

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If you want to build something around the home, then solid wood is always a good option to consider. With that being said, you do have many different choices to go with. Two popular choices are ipe and redwood.

However, these two materials are quite different from each other, and this is what we are here to discuss today. Let’s figure out what makes ipe and redwood different from each other, so you can choose the best one for your next big project.

What Is Ipe?

First, we have ipe, which is a deciduous and tropical hardwood tree that can be found in South America and in many parts of the tropical Americas. This wood is also known as Brazilian walnut, and as you can probably assume, it is commonly found in Brazil.

Many people love ipe wood because it has a very beautiful appearance. It features an extremely fine texture with a straight grain, although the grain may at times be interlocked or irregular. There is a good deal of variation from one tree to the next.

As for the color, this wood tends to be very reddish brown, although it may also sometimes have an olive-brown or yellowish-brown color. Ipe wood also contains many natural resins and oils, which therefore allows it to be very resistant to moisture, pests, fungus, and more.

Many people also like this wood because it is extremely dense, hard, and durable. This material is very resistant to many different times of physical damage. Ipe wood is also some of the strongest and most durable wood out there at this time, which makes it ideal for both outdoor and indoor use. This material is often used for decking, siding, fencing, furniture, and more.

What Is Redwood?

We then have the redwood, which is also known as the giant sequoia, which is one of the largest trees in the world, as it can reach heights of over 250,’ with trunks as wide as 30’. This tree is native to California, Washington, Oregon, and other areas of the USA.

This is a coniferous softwood tree, so it does not lose its needles during the cooler seasons. Redwood is certainly not the hardest wood around, so it does scratch and dent fairly easily, although it is very resistant to moisture, pests, fungus, and decay. It is also quite lightweight, which makes it a popular choice for workability.

As for appearance, redwood generally has a reddish brown heartwood with creamy-colored sapwood. This wood features a fine texture with a straight grain, although it may at times contain some knots, voids, and imperfections. Redwood is often used for a number of building applications, as it works really well for outdoor applications due to its high level of moisture resistance.

Ipe vs Redwood: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both ipe and redwood are, let’s figure out what makes them different from each other.


One huge difference here is that ipe is much harder than redwood. On the Janka hardness scale, redwood comes in at just 420 lbf, whereas ipe comes in at over 3,500 lbf. This means that ipe is many times harder than redwood, and is therefore much more resistant to many forms of physical damage, especially scratching.

There is simply no contest between the two in terms of hardness.


Not only is ipe much harder than redwood, but also much denser and heavier. Redwood comes in at just 28 lbs per cubic foot, whereas ipe comes in at roughly 68 lbs per cubic foot. This means that ipe is nearly three times heavier and denser than redwood. This also leads to it being much more durable, but also much heavier and therefore harder to work with. Many people like redwood due to its lightweight nature, as it is very easy to work with.

Moisture and Pest Resistance

Now, one of the biggest advantages that you get with redwood is that it is extremely resistant to pests, moisture, and fungus. It is an ideal choice for outdoor use. With that being said, ipe is so hard, dense, and filled with natural oils and resins, that it also makes a great choice for outdoor purposes. However, redwood is probably the slightly better option when it comes to outdoor purposes, especially as far as moisture resistance is concerned.

Overall Strength and Durability

Although redwood is the far better option as far as moisture resistance, in terms of overall durability, hardness, crushing strength, and more, ipe is always going to be the much stronger and more durable of these two materials.


Because redwood is so soft and lightweight, it is also quite easy to work with. It takes on paint and stain quite well, it won’t really cause your saw blades to dull, and it’s pretty easy to cut straight as well. On the other hand, because ipe is so heavy and hard, it can be hard to maneuver, and it takes quite a toll on sawblades as well.

Appearance – Color and Grain

If you like wood that is somewhat reddish-brown, with a very natural and rustic appearance, then redwood is a great way to go. This wood does have a straight grain that can be slightly coarse. Ipe, although it sometimes may have a straight grain, may also have an interlocked or irregular grain. Ipe also tends to be a bit darker in color, as it is also reddish-brown, although it may also sometimes be olive-brown.


What is surprising is that ipe costs anywhere between $4 and $12 per board foot, although usually never more than $15 per board foot. redwood on the other hand, due to its beautiful appearance and moisture resistance, may cost you $30 per board foot or more.

When to Use Ipe?

If you are planning on building something that needs to last for years to come, needs to be able to withstand a lot of punishment, and looks nice too, then ipe is always a good option to consider. What it really comes down to is that ipe is structurally sound, hard, dense, and durable, and all for quite a reasonable price.

When to Use Redwood?

If you need wood that is extremely resistant to the elements, and it has a very nice reddish-brown color, and you don’t mind spending a bit of extra money, then redwood is always a good option to consider.

Alternatives to Ipe and Redwood

If you are looking for some of the most durable types of wood out there that can serve as a great alternative to ipe or redwood, we recommend going for ebony or ironwood, both of which are nearly as hard as rocks.


Now that you know what makes ipe and redwood different, you can choose the one that works best for you.