The Pros and Cons of Cedar Decking

Note: If you’re from Colorado then there is no contest here–you should use kiln-dried cedar lumber instead of pressure treated pine. Our dry climate will suck the moisture out of pressure treated lumber and warp it like crazy. That’s why we kiln-dry all of our cedar. 

In past articles, we’ve compared the different types of decking materials such as a hardwood to composite or a softwood to composite. However, we have yet to look at the different types of natural lumber that we offer.

For this article we’ll look at cedar decking pros and cons compared to pressure treated. Hopefully, this will make your life easier  when you’re in the market for a new deck.

The Low Down On Cedar Decking

We built our name on cedar decking and fencing. It’s one of the most popular and highly demanded products in Colorado because it is a timeless  and affordable wood species. It’s the Colorado standard.What you should know…

The Pros:

  • Due to the nature of the wood’s sap, Cedar is naturally rot resistant and does not readily absorb moisture.
  • Cedar doesn’t absorb moisture easily, making it less likely to warp or split over time. It lays flat and true!
  • A cedar deck can last from 15 to 20+ years depending on maintenance and environmental conditions.
  • Cedar decking is affordable. We carry various grades of S4S 2×6 cedar deck boards at prices comparable to Home Depot. Check them out on our cedar decking page and give us a call to get current pricing.

The Cons:

  • As a softwood, Cedar decking is more susceptible to scratches from things like furniture or pet claws.
  • Cedar maintenance. Takes a little TLC to keep cedar decks and fences well-stained or sealed. If you don’t care about the stain then you can let it turn a rustic silver-grey, but you still have to seal it every couple of years. It’ll cost you about half a day’s work.
  • Deterioration will occur much faster if the lumber is used for ground-level decks and shaded decks will slowly dry out.

Pro Tip: Use transparent sealer without added stain if you want the weathered cabin look.

All said and done, if the price looks good and you’re not scared of a half day’s work then cedar is a great choice.

What about pressure-treated?

Pressure treated wood, usually pine, has gone through processes that force chemical preservatives into the wood. These chemicals are aimed at preventing termite attacks or fungal decay. So while Cedar lumber is naturally resistant to those kinds of variables, pressure treated lumber is manipulated to do so. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, we have to cover the pros and cons of pressure treated decking and fencing:

  • Pressure treated is budget friendly, as well as having a long lifespan.
  • Pressure treated lumber is stainable and can resist abuse and normal wear and tear. Some brands even carry a lifetime warranty.
  • Can cost less than natural Cedar.

However….

  • While it’s less expensive than Cedar, inexpensive treated wood can be full of moisture causing it to shrink unevenly and even twist when it dries.
  • Due to the chemical infusion process, this type of wood is not considered environmentally friendly nor is it easy to dispose of.
  • Pressure treated lumber doesn’t accept stains readily because the wood is already impregnated by the pressure treatment. The stain will remain on the surface and turn into a sticky black mess over the years.

Pro Tip: Never burn pressure-treated lumber. 

So which will you choose?

After reading some of the pros and cons of these materials, what side are you leaning towards when asked: cedar decking vs pressure treated?

Obviously, we prefer the applications and potential of Cedar. We love the weathered look and smell of cedar and think it represents Colorado. Just stroll through any Denver neighborhood and you’ll spot countless cedar decks and fences!

But, there are also economic benefits, and less maintenance, involved if you go the pressure-treated route. It really depends on what you value and what functionality you want out of wood.

Give us a call if you have any further questions or want to talk about your next project.

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