There are a few different types of cedar out there, a good type of softwood tree that is well-known in the construction and woodworking industries.
It’s a perfectly fine type of wood to use, and depending on the exact type, such as Eastern Red Cedar, it can actually be quite hard and durable, not to mention that it has great water resistance for outdoor use as well. However, maybe you don’t like that most kinds of cedar are relatively soft, maybe you want something better suited for indoor use, or maybe you just don’t like the look of it.
For these reasons, and more, let’s take a look at some popular alternatives to cedar.
What Makes for a Good Cedar Substitute?
Although there are some types of cedar wood that are relatively hard, such as Eastern Red Cedar which can have a Janka hardness rating of 900 lbf, most other types are significantly softer. Therefore, one of the things that we are going to look for today is a cedar alternative that is much harder and more durable. In terms of compressive strength and overall durability, cedar is fairly low on the list.
Moreover, cedar is also extremely weather-resistant, particularly as far as pests and moisture are concerned. Maybe you don’t like the look of cedar, but want something that is equally water-resistant, or even more so, which is another thing we will look out for when determining what the best cedar alternatives are.
Finally, cedar is also known for having a good deal of gaps, voids, knots, and other irregularities, which you may not be a fan of, whether due to aesthetic or functional purposes. So, we’ll also try to keep an eye out for cedar alternatives that have fewer of these physical or visual imperfections.
8 Cedar Alternatives
Let’s now take a look at some of the best alternatives to cedar wood and what makes them good alternatives.
If you are looking for a type of wood that is much harder than most kinds of cedar, and therefore far more durable and resistant to physical damage, then walnut wood makes for a good option.
With a Janka hardness rating of 1,010 lbf, it is certainly quite hard, while also not being overly heavy.
People also tend to love walnut wood as it has a very deep brown color, as opposed to cedar which is much lighter.
Furthermore, this wood also has far fewer knots and imperfections than cedar, which can make it more structurally sound, visually appealing, and easier to work with.
The only thing that needs to be said here is that walnut isn’t quite as weather-resistant as cedar is.
If you are looking for a type of wood that looks absolutely stunning, then mahogany is always a good alternative to cedar. This wood is known for having virtually no knots, voids, or gaps, and it also has a very smooth texture.
Mahogany also has a beautiful deep reddish-brown color that usually gets darker over time, and is often regarded as being one of the most beautiful types of wood that you could possibly use.
Moreover, this wood is also extremely durable in terms of weather resistance. It has excellent resistance to moisture and rotting, as well as fungus and pests. Yes, mahogany is much more expensive than cedar, although it does also tend to be much stronger.
Mahogany features a Janka hardness rating of 900 lbf, which is much stronger than most types of cedar, except for eastern red cedar, which it is relatively on par with.
If you are looking for a type of wood that is extremely hard and durable, then Birch is always a good option to consider.
This wood features a Janka hardness rating of 1,260 lbf, therefore making it significantly harder than any type of cedar out there. It is much more resistant to physical damage.
Another interesting fact here is that birch is a bit more flexible than cedar, therefore making it easier to work with.
In terms of appearance, especially in terms of knots and gaps, birch may have slightly fewer knots and gaps than cedar, although it does still have some.
What does, however, need to be said is that birch is not very resilient in terms of the elements, and it is not very resistant to pests, fungus, moisture, and decay. This wood is certainly not a good option for outdoor use, whereas cedar is.
However, many people do like the nearly white sapwood that birch features, as it does tend to look quite good.
The cherry tree, which produces cherry wood, is another great alternative to cedar. One thing to consider here is that cherry wood is fairly hard, as it features a Janka hardness rating of 950 lbf, therefore making it slightly harder than eastern red cedar and much harder than any other type of cedar.
What is also important to note is that cherry and cedar both have fairly similar densities.
Although both of these types of wood may have a similar amount of knots and imperfections, if you’d like wood that has a very deep and red luster, then cherry definitely makes for a good alternative. That said, cherry wood may be a bit coarser than cedar.
Another important fact to note here is that cherry wood contains a whole lot of natural oils and resins, which makes it very resistant to the elements.
As far as outdoor use goes, especially in high moisture areas, cherry is perhaps one of the very best alternatives to cedar that you could consider.
If you are looking for a good hardwood alternative to cedar, then whitewood is always something to consider, which is technically the type of lumber that comes from the tulip tree.
One of the major differences here, as you can probably tell by the name, is the color. This wood tends to be very creamy-white in color, whereas cedar is a moderate brown in color.
What does need to be said however is that whereas cedar is very moisture-resistant, whitewood is not, so it is not really ideal for outdoor use.
What is interesting to note is that although whitewood is a hardwood, and cedar is a softwood, eastern red cedar is actually much harder than whitewood, almost 300 lbf harder, although whitewood is around 200 lbf harder than western red cedar, therefore sitting neatly in the middle.
One of the types of wood that is perhaps the most similar to cedar is Douglas fir. Both types of wood may have a good deal of knots and imperfections, although the color is a little bit different, with Douglas fir being just a bit lighter in color.
Another similarity shared by both cedar and Douglas fir is that they are both very moisture-resistant.
In fact, Douglas fir is perhaps even more moisture-resistant than cedar, which is why it is often used for marine-related applications, such as boat building.
Depending on the type of cedar we are talking about, Douglas fir also has a similar hardness rating, more than western red cedar but less than eastern red cedar.
Both of these types of wood also tend to be quite easy to work with, flexible, and fairly affordable too.
If you want a good softwood alternative to cedar, then spruce is always a good option to consider.
One thing that does need to be said here is that although spruce is a little moisture-resistant in the short term, it’s not overly moisture-resistant over the long run, at least not unless it is sealed. Therefore, if you plan on using spruce outdoors, make sure that it is sealed properly.
Both spruce and cedar have a good deal of knots and imperfections, although spruce is much lighter in color, sometimes almost white.
Furthermore, both types of wood have similar hardness ratings, with spruce being somewhere in between eastern and western red cedar.
Both spruce and cedar are also somewhat flexible, plus they have similar weights and densities as well.
In terms of appearance, hickory and cedar can be somewhat similar, although hickory is usually a bit lighter.
Both tend to have a fairly tight and straight grain, although cedar does have slightly more imperfections.
The really big difference here is that cedar is much softer than hickory, with hickory coming in at 1,900 lbf on the Janka hardness scale, therefore making it much more durable and resistant to physical damage.
What also needs to be said is that hickory is much heavier and denser than cedar. Just keep in mind that hickory really is not ideal for outdoor use.
What Type of Wood Is the Most Similar to Cedar?
As far as our list today goes, if you are looking for the most similar alternatives to cedar in terms of cost, hardness, appearance, and other features, such as moisture resistance, then Douglas fir is probably your best bet, followed by spruce.
Now that you know what all of the best alternatives to cedar are, you can start diversifying the types of wood that you use for your various woodworking projects.