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February 14, 2023

Let’s Change The Narrative About Garapa

International Wood Magazine & Buyers Guide 2022 

When it comes to tropical hardwood decking and siding, Ipe has long been a go-to selection for architects and builders, renowned for its strength, durability, stability, appearance, and overall quality. However, in this time of supply chain instability and market tumult, there are some excellent alternate wood species to Ipe that deserve consideration. For example, Garapa (Apuleia leiocarpa) has been a favorite of importers and suppliers for years that is often overlooked by designers. This is possibly because Garapa has been promoted as a lesser priced alternative to Ipe, rather than a true high-performance option for exterior applications such as decking, siding, cladding, and more. Garapa, sometimes known as Brazilian Ash, is a high-density hardwood species native to Brazil. Like Ipe, Garapa decking is extraordinarily resistant to shrinking, splintering, cupping, twisting, checking, and warping. A tough, dense wood with a soft looking, satiny grain, Garapa exhibits lots of character striping and color variation, and turns a soft silver color when left untreated. Garapa’s beautiful honey gold tone offers a lighter colored decking material option. In fact, Garapa is one of the few commercial hardwoods available that’s light colored and also decay-resistant. 

“Of course, if a project calls for a deep dark color when prefinished, our old friend Ipe is readily available,” said Wes Robichaud of Coastal Forest Products. “But pre-finishing in this category is rare. Most often, Ipe decking and siding is installed raw, allowed to weather to a natural silver patina. This saves on cost, maintenance, and provides a salty seaside look. In fact, when Garapa is left to weather naturally, it turns the same silver sheen as Ipe but does so in one-third of the time.” From a durability standpoint, Garapa is extremely hard and comparatively dense, so it withstands punishment and continues to look great for years. The species has high decay resistance and is classified as “highly durable” as an exterior wood. Its high density and natural oils make it more resistant to termite and other insect attacks than such woods as cedar or pine. And it’s worth noting that Garapa is subject to the same regulatory scrutiny and legal parameters as other higher volume species. Despite its density, Garapa is fairly easy to work. Its grain is usually straight but can also be interlocked. The wood is iridescent and appears to shift from dark to light coloring in different lighting angles. It glues and finishes well. Garapa, together with other high-density exotic hardwoods are among the best decking material options available. Consumers looking for the beauty of a naturally durable tropical hardwood that requires minimal maintenance, lasts a lifetime, and turns to a beautiful silver patina, shouldn’t consider Garapa as merely an alternative to Ipe. “It’s time to stop thinking about Garapa as the red-headed stepsister to Ipe and respect the species for its merits, attributes, and beauty,” said Robichaud. “Its lower cost is a bonus—and a pleasant one at that.” 

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