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Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil

This post shares all about protecting unfinished ipe using oil. Ipe is a strong wood, but using oil helps to repel water and keep it looking great for longer. I used ipe on a table top when finished pine couldn’t stand up to the sun our deck gets.

Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil

Hey all, popping in for a quick post today about protecting unfinished ipe using oil. I was just going to lump it in to my post about the table I’m using ipe on, but it ended up being really long, and I still haven’t gotten the entire table post together. So I decided to break it out and do this post first. 🙂

Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil

What is ipe exotic hardwood?

If your first question is “what is ipe?” you’re not alone! I have been doing quite a bit of research on exotic hardwoods to use for an outdoor table top, and ipe commonly came up in my searches. Alongside woods you’re probably familiar with like teak and cedar.

Ipe is also referred to as Brazilian walnut or Lapacho and is from the tropical Americas. Ipe is extremely hard, strong, and durable. Despite this, I didn’t find it particularly difficult to cut (though definitely much harder to cut through with a miter saw than pine. It was also surprisingly easy to cut out a hole using a hole saw for the umbrella pole. I expected it to be much harder based on the fact that it is over 5 times harder than pine (see a cool chart of janka ratings here).

It has a reddish-brown color typically, but can have a yellow tint or be darker brown. The pieces I got for my table vary from a reddish-brown to a brown with darker brown grain. The grain in mine is actually really pretty—even before treating it.

Drilling a hole for an umbrella in ipe
Ipe on the top of a table

Why choose ipe for outdoor furniture?

Ipe is an extremely hard and strong wood, and it stands up much better to harsh elements like sun and rain than its softer counterpart pine. Ipe is usually sold as decking or flooring because it is so durable.

We had a pine table top on our deck last summer, and even though it was fully sealed with spar urethane, it peeled and cracked after a year. I didn’t want to have to sand down and refinish the table every year…how exhausting does that sound? I also wanted something that looked really nice. After doing all of my research online, I settled on using either ipe or cedar for my outdoor table top.

I ventured to a local Frederick favorite, Exotic Lumber, to check out what they had in stock. Although I had researched buying Ipe online and found a few places that seemed really legit, shipping was expensive and slow. I wanted to check out what Exotic Lumber had in stock. I’ve shopped there before and know they have a totally fab (if totally expensive) selection of beautiful hardwoods. Seeing the wood in person before buying was also ideal. Here are the five beauties I came home with.

Brazilian Walnut pieces
Brazilian walnut pieces

How to use oil to keep ipe looking beautiful

Once I came home with my boards, I did exactly what the super knowledgable man at Exotic Lumber suggested: I gave it a light sand (I used 320-grit sandpaper), and then I wiped the boards down using a dry cloth. Then, using a fresh cloth, I gave each board a thorough coat of teak oil—front, back, sides, ends, all of it. Heads up. It smelled like fish. It was gross. But once it settled a bit outside, the smell dissipated. Just a heads up. My garage smelled like fish. Cool.

If you look at the pictures below, you can see the beautiful difference between the already beautiful unfinished piece on the left and the STUNNING pieces coated with teak oil on the right. Huge difference, right? I thought the pieces were already beautiful to begin with!

Sanding Brazilian Walnut
Teak oil for protecting ipe outdoors
Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil
Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil

I let these chill for a while in the garage. Then I moved them outside when I knew there was very little chance of rain. They got wet for the first time about three days after I’d coated them with teak oil (Ramona sprayed them when we gave her ultimate control of the hose), and I was so pleased at how well the boards repelled water! Check it out in the pics below.

To elongate the life of my ipe, I’m planning to re-oil it every year in the spring. The man at Exotic Lumber suggested pressure washing it every year before doing so, but I think I’ll wait to see how it does next spring. Maybe it will just need a sand and a re-oil. If you just leave un-oiled ipe age, it will turn a faded silverish-gray. I don’t want that to happen, because it’s so beautiful oiled!

Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil
Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil
Protecting Unfinished Ipe Using Oil

Share my tips about protecting unfinished ipe using oil on Pinterest!

For more outdoor furniture ideas, check out my outdoor coffee table builds plans and matching side table, my slatted HVAC unit screen, my modern trellis for a vining plant, my older chunky outdoor dining table, Ramona’s cute little kids table build, and my DIY water play table for kids!

collage that says protecting unfinished Brazilian walnut with pictures of wood

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