In this ultimate wood showdown, we will compare whitewood and cedar, two popular types of wood commonly used in various woodworking and furniture projects.
Selecting the appropriate wood for your project can significantly impact the final result. Different wood types offer varying aesthetics, durability, and resistance to weather, insects, and rot. Additionally, price, availability, and environmental impact may influence your decision.
Let’s take a quick look at the basics of whitewood and cedar before delving into their specific properties and uses.
What is Whitewood?
Whitewood is a term that technically refers to wood from the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), the tallest eastern hardwood tree, reaching over 160 feet.
These trees grow rapidly, making them ideal for lumber and sustainability. Whitewood is characterized by its creamy white color, softness, and straight grain.
However, identifying genuine whitewood can be challenging because many lumberyards sell other types of softwood under this label, such as spruce, fir, pine, or coniferous woods.
Whitewood vs. Pine: Clearing the Confusion
It’s essential to differentiate between true whitewood and pine, as many lumberyards sell other softwoods like spruce, fir, or pine under the “whitewood” label.
Genuine whitewood typically has more knots than pine, is lighter, and is usually less expensive. To ensure you’re buying authentic whitewood, avoid products labeled “whitewood SYP,” which indicates southern yellow pine.
Whitewood vs Douglas Fir
When comparing whitewood and Douglas fir studs, some key differences include:
- Whitewood is generally softer than Douglas fir, making it easier to work with.
- Douglas fir is stronger and more resilient, making it a better choice for structural applications.
- Whitewood is often more affordable than Douglas fir.
Outdoor Uses and Care for Whitewood
Due to its natural termite resistance, whitewood is a viable option for outdoor furniture and garden elements.
To protect it from rotting, consider placing it on concrete pavers and applying a coat of sealer. However, whitewood is prone to water absorption, which can cause warping and damage. As a result, it’s crucial to keep your whitewood furniture out of the rain whenever possible.
Is Whitewood Good for Framing?
Whitewood can be used for framing, but there are some pros and cons to consider:
- It is generally more affordable than other types of wood.
- It is easy to work with due to its softness and straight grain.
- It can be easily shaped and cut.
- It is not as strong or resilient as other types of wood, such as Douglas fir.
- It may be susceptible to warping or twisting over time.
- Its softness may make it more prone to damage.
Whitewood can be used for fence construction, but it may not be the most durable or long-lasting option. It is more susceptible to weathering, rot, and insect damage than other types of wood, such as cedar.
Cedar Wood Characteristics
Cedar is a popular choice for various projects due to its natural resistance to weather, insects, and rot. It is also known for its attractive appearance, pleasant aroma, and lightweight properties.
Some common types of cedar include:
- Western red cedar
- Eastern white cedar
- Atlantic white cedar
Cedar is not the strongest type of wood, but its natural resistance to various factors makes it a durable and long-lasting option for many applications. Cedar may not have the same level of strength compared to other types of wood, but its ability to resist decay and insect damage compensates for this drawback.
Comparing Whitewood and Cedar
Let’s dive deeper into the differences between whitewood and cedar to help you decide on your project.
Whitewood has a creamy white color.
Cedar ranges from reddish-brown to light tan, depending on the specific type.
Whitewood typically has a straight grain.
Cedar has a straight or slightly wavy grain, with a uniform texture.
Whitewood is relatively soft and easy to work with.
Cedar is lightweight and somewhat soft, but not as soft as whitewood.
Whitewood is not as weather-resistant as cedar and may require treatment or sealing to withstand outdoor conditions.
Cedar is naturally weather-resistant and well-suited for outdoor projects.
Whitewood is more susceptible to insect damage than cedar.
Cedar’s natural oils make it resistant to insects, such as termites and carpenter ants.
Whitewood is more prone to rot and decay compared to cedar. Cedar’s natural resistance to moisture and decay makes it a superior choice for projects exposed to the elements.
Whitewood is generally more affordable than cedar. Cedar is considered a premium wood and tends to be more expensive.
Whitewood is widely available in various forms, but the specific type of wood labeled as “whitewood” may vary depending on location and supplier. Cedar is also widely available, with the specific type depending on regional factors.
Sustainability of Both Wood Types
Whitewood trees, such as the tulip tree, grow rapidly and can be harvested sustainably. Cedar is also a sustainable option, as long as it is sourced responsibly from well-managed forests.
Impact on the Ecosystem
Both whitewood and cedar can have minimal impact on the ecosystem if harvested and managed responsibly.
It is essential to verify that the wood you are purchasing comes from a sustainable source, certified by organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Which is Better: Whitewood or Pine?
As mentioned earlier, pine is often referred to as whitewood in some contexts. Comparing the two:
Both whitewood and pine are softwoods with similar characteristics. Pine is generally more resinous and has a more pronounced grain pattern than true whitewood. Pine may be more readily available and affordable than genuine whitewood.
Factors to Consider When Selecting Wood
- Aesthetic preferences, such as color, grain pattern, and texture
- Durability and resistance to weather, insects, and rot
- Cost and availability
- Environmental impact and sustainability
Tips for Making an Informed Decision
- Assess the specific needs and requirements of your project.
- Research the properties and characteristics of the wood types you are considering.
- Verify the sustainability and sourcing of the wood you plan to purchase.
Both whitewood and cedar have their unique advantages and drawbacks. Whitewood is generally more affordable and easy to work with, while cedar offers superior resistance to weather, insects, and rot.
Choosing whitewood and cedar will ultimately depend on your project’s requirements, aesthetic preferences, budget, and sustainability concerns.