Is Cedar Good For Outdoor Use?

The word “outdoor” immediately conjures images of harsh weather conditions, moisture, and the unforgiving test of time.

Any material brave enough to venture into this realm must be robust and enduring, capable of standing tall against these odds.

In the world of wood, few materials fit this description and cedar. Yet, the question lingers: Is cedar good for outdoor use? Let’s delve into this topic and find out.

Understanding Cedar Wood

Cedarwood, a common choice for various woodworking and construction projects, is known for its distinct characteristics and versatile applications.

Traditionally, it’s been the go-to material for everything from furniture and cabinetry to decks and fences.

The outdoor applications are particularly noteworthy, but why is that? What makes cedar such a reliable choice for outdoor furniture and structures?

Cedar Wood Characteristics

You’d know it’s unlike any other, one look, one whiff of cedar wood. With its warm, reddish hue and a scent that’s as pleasant as it is distinctive, cedar wood is a sensory delight. But it’s not all about the aesthetics or the olfactory appeal. The real magic lies in its natural properties.

Cedar, particularly the Eastern Red Cedar, is naturally resistant to rot, thanks to the presence of natural oils that deter insects and slow down decay. These oils make cedar highly durable, allowing it to withstand the elements and make it an excellent choice for outdoor use.

Benefits of Using Cedar for Outdoor Purposes

The natural durability and weather resistance of cedar make it a fantastic contender for outdoor use. But there’s more to this story. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits.

Natural Durability of Cedar Wood

The question of, “How long does cedar last outside?” is common, and the answer is quite impressive. Even untreated, cedar can last 15-20 years, extending to several decades with proper care.

Its natural resistance to decay and rot is a significant factor behind its longevity, making cedar an outstanding material for outdoor use.

Cedar’s Weather Resistance

Does cedar weather well outdoors? The simple answer is yes. Cedar has an inherent ability to withstand both moisture and UV radiation. It doesn’t warp or crack as easily as other woods, making it an excellent choice for regions with fluctuating weather conditions.

Its cellular structure acts as a natural insulator, keeping your outdoor spaces cooler in summer and warmer in winter.

Cedar and Water: A Resilient Relationship

Does cedar last in water? Does cedar rot when wet?

These are crucial questions when considering outdoor applications; fortunately, cedar has your desired answers. Thanks to the natural oils in cedar, it has remarkable water resistance.

These oils prevent moisture absorption, reducing the risk of decay and rot. So, cedar can brave the water and stand tall and robust.

Drawbacks of Cedar for Outdoor Use

Despite its many virtues, cedar isn’t without its share of drawbacks. Like any other material, it has a few aspects that might make you pause and reconsider. Let’s look at some of these considerations.

Disadvantages of Cedar Wood

First up is the cost. Cedar is typically more expensive than many other types of wood, which could be a deterrent for those on a tight budget.

Moreover, its maintenance requirements can also add to the overall cost over time. Cedar needs to be properly cared for to maintain its beauty and longevity.

This includes regular cleaning, treating, and sealing – tasks that not everyone may have the time or inclination for.

Cedar and Ground Contact

Does cedar rot in the ground? While cedar boasts impressive rot resistance, ground contact can challenge even the best materials.

When cedar is in direct contact with the soil, it’s exposed to constant moisture and many microorganisms – conditions ripe for decay.

Over time, even the mighty cedar can give in to such relentless exposure, leading to rot and a reduced lifespan.

Maintenance and Preservation of Outdoor Cedar

Despite the challenges, your outdoor cedar structures can continue to shine year after year with the right care and maintenance. Let’s delve into some of these preservation techniques.

Treating Cedar for Outdoor Use

Does cedar need to be treated for outdoor use? While cedar is naturally rot-resistant, treating it can enhance its durability and extend its lifespan. This is particularly important for cedar structures in contact with the ground or exposed to harsh weather conditions.

So, how to treat cedar wood for outdoor use? Using a penetrating oil finish is a popular method. These finishes seep into the wood fibers and protect them from the inside out, repelling water and reducing the risk of decay.

They also help to maintain cedar’s natural color and prevent it from turning gray due to UV exposure.

Protecting Cedar from Rot

How do you keep cedar from rotting? How do you preserve cedar wood outside? There are several ways to achieve this. First, ensure good design and installation. Avoid ground contact as much as possible, and provide ample ventilation to allow the wood to dry out after rain or snow.

Second, regular maintenance is key. This includes cleaning the wood with a mild detergent and a soft brush to remove dirt and mold. Inspect the wood regularly for any signs of decay or insect damage, and address these issues promptly to prevent them from spreading.

Cedar Sealing Techniques

Is sealing cedar necessary? Yes, it’s integral to safeguarding cedar from harsh outdoor elements.

The sealing process creates a barrier that repels water and inhibits the wood from absorbing moisture, lowering the chance of decay and rot.

Typically, sealing is done post-cleaning and treating the wood. While various sealers exist, clear or lightly tinted sealers are frequently preferred for cedar. They augment the natural beauty of the wood and deliver excellent protection.

As you navigate sealing cedar, learning how to seal wood for outdoor use is valuable, thus enhancing your overall wood care skill set.

Best Exterior Finish for Cedar

What is the best exterior finish for cedar? This depends on your specific needs and aesthetic preferences.

If you love the natural color of cedar and want to keep it from graying, a UV-blocking clear finish or penetrating oil would be your best bet.

These finishes protect the wood while allowing its natural beauty to shine through.

On the other hand, if you want to add a splash of color or change the look of the wood, a semi-transparent or solid stain might be the way to go. These finishes offer a wide range of colors, allowing you to customize your cedar structures to match your outdoor décor.

Regardless of the type of finish, remember to prepare the wood properly before applying it. This means cleaning the wood, sanding it if necessary, and ensuring it’s

FAQs on Cedar Wood for Outdoor Use

Regarding cedar wood, there are always a few more questions that eager minds want to ask. Here, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked queries about cedar’s outdoor prowess.

How Long Does It Take for Cedar to Decompose?

The answer is a bit complex because it depends on the conditions. In a moist environment with plenty of decay-causing organisms, untreated cedar can start to decompose within a few years.

However, cedar can last decades without significant decay in a dry, well-ventilated setting. Of course, these timelines can be extended with proper maintenance and treatment.

What Happens When Cedar Wood Gets Wet?

When cedar gets wet, it soaks up the water, causing it to swell slightly. But thanks to its natural oils and dense cellular structure, cedar doesn’t absorb as much water as many other types of wood. This helps it resist warping, cracking, and other water-related damage. When the wood dries, it shrinks back to its original size.


Cedar wood is exceptional for outdoor use, courtesy of its natural durability, weather resistance, and stunning aesthetics. However, it has its pitfalls, such as its higher cost and maintenance requirements and its susceptibility to rot in continuous ground contact.

To make an informed decision about using cedar for your next outdoor project, it is important to choose the right material and understand how to make the most of its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses.

To learn more about cedar wood, check out our other articles on cedar wood care and maintenance, cedar wood projects for inspiration, or our recommended list of cedar wood products.