Poplar vs Cedar – Which Wood Reigns Supreme?

As a passionate woodworker, choosing the perfect wood for your project can be as crucial as your craftsmanship skills. Which one will elevate your work to unparalleled heights?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dissect the unique characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of Poplar and Cedar, empowering you with the knowledge to select the ideal wood for your next woodworking masterpiece. Whether you’re crafting elegant furniture or constructing a durable deck, we’ve got your back.

Poplar Wood: A Closer Look

Origins and distribution: Hailing from North America and Europe, Poplar wood is a fast-growing hardwood widely available.

Physical appearance: With its creamy white to light brown color and straight grain, Poplar wood is easy on the eyes and versatile for various applications.

Popular uses: This affordable wood is a go-to choice for furniture, cabinetry, and interior trim.

Advantages of Poplar Wood

Affordability: Who doesn’t love a good deal? Poplar wood’s low price point makes it an attractive option for budget-conscious woodworkers.

Workability: As smooth as butter, Poplar wood is easy to cut, shape, and sand, making it a dream to work with.

Versatility: Whether you’re crafting furniture or adding some elegant trim, Poplar’s adaptability is a definite plus.

Disadvantages of Poplar Wood

Poor outdoor durability: Alas, not all that glitters is gold. Poplar wood’s susceptibility to decay and insects means it’s not the best choice for outdoor applications.

Tendency to warp and twist: Poplar wood’s relatively low stability can cause it to warp or twist over time, which could lead to structural issues.

Weakness compared to other hardwoods: While Poplar is a hardwood, it’s on the softer spectrum, making it less suitable for heavy-duty applications.

Poplar Wood Applications

Furniture and cabinetry: From dressers to kitchen cabinets, Poplar wood’s affordability and workability make it a popular choice for these projects.

Interior trim and molding: Poplar’s smooth surface and versatility lend themselves well to creating elegant accents in your home.

Veneer and plywood: Poplar wood is often used to create veneers and plywood, providing a cost-effective option for various applications.

Cedar Wood: An In-Depth Look

Origins and distribution: Native to North America and the Middle East, Cedar wood is a softwood used for centuries in various applications.

Physical appearance: Cedar’s reddish-brown hue and straight, uniform grain give it a warm and inviting look.

Popular uses: Cedar wood shines in outdoor applications, such as decking, fencing, and garden structures.

Advantages of Cedar Wood

Natural resistance to decay and insects: Cedar’s natural oils and tannins make it a formidable foe against rot and pesky insects, ensuring its longevity in outdoor projects.

Aromatic qualities: One whiff of Cedar’s distinctive scent, and you’ll be instantly transported to a cozy cabin in the woods.

Stability and low shrinkage: Cedar wood’s high stability and low shrinkage make it less prone to warping or twisting, ensuring your projects stand the test of time.

Disadvantages of Cedar Wood

Softness and vulnerability to dents and scratches: Cedar’s soft nature makes it more susceptible to damage, so treat it carefully and handle it gently during your woodworking adventures.

Higher cost compared to Poplar: While Cedar offers numerous benefits, its higher price point may be a deal-breaker for those on a tight budget.

Limited availability: Depending on your location, Cedar wood may be more challenging to source, impacting your project timeline.

Cedar Wood Applications

Outdoor furniture and structures: Cedar’s natural resistance to decay makes it an excellent choice for outdoor projects like patio furniture, gazebos, and pergolas.

Fencing and decking: Cedar’s durability and stability ensure your fences and decks stand strong for years.

Aromatic chests and closets: Cedar’s delightful scent creates a pleasant aroma and helps repel insects, making it perfect for clothing storage.

Poplar vs Cedar: A Detailed Comparison

Strength and Durability

Comparison of their Janka hardness ratings: Cedar wood, with its Janka hardness rating of around 900, falls short compared to Poplar, which boasts a rating of around 1,400. However, both woods have their unique strengths and applications.

Suitability for indoor and outdoor use: Poplar’s poor outdoor durability makes it better suited for indoor projects. In contrast, Cedar’s natural resistance to decay and insects makes it a champ for outdoor applications.

Workability and Ease of Use

How both woods respond to cutting, shaping, and sanding: Poplar’s smooth texture makes it a breeze to work with, while Cedar’s softness requires a bit more finesse to avoid damage.

Their compatibility with various finishes: Both Poplar and Cedar take well to stains, paints, and sealers, allowing you to achieve the desired look for your projects.

Cost and Availability

Price comparison: Poplar wood generally comes with a lower price tag, making it an attractive option for budget-conscious woodworkers. On the other hand, Cedar’s higher cost reflects its unique characteristics and advantages.

Availability in different regions: Poplar wood is widely available in North America and Europe, while Cedar’s availability may be more limited, depending on your location.

Environmental Impact

Sustainability and responsible sourcing: Both Poplar and Cedar can be sustainably sourced, ensuring you make environmentally responsible choices for your woodworking projects.

Carbon sequestration: As trees, both Poplar and Cedar play a role in carbon sequestration, helping to combat climate change.

Cedar and Poplar in Fencing

Comparing their performance in fencing applications: Cedar’s durability and resistance to decay make it a clear winner for fencing projects. However, if you’re on a budget and plan to paint or seal the wood, Poplar can be an affordable option.

Factors to consider when choosing between them: When deciding between Poplar and Cedar for fencing, consider factors like budget, desired appearance, durability, and maintenance requirements.


So, which wood takes the crown in the Poplar vs Cedar showdown? The answer, my friend, depends on your specific needs and preferences. Poplar’s affordability and workability make it a versatile choice for indoor projects, while Cedar’s durability and natural resistance to decay shine in outdoor applications.

By understanding the unique strengths and weaknesses of each wood species, you can confidently choose the right wood for your next woodworking masterpiece.

Frequently Asked Questions