Cedar vs. Mahogany: Which One to Use?

Cedar vs. Mahogany: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning to build a deck, fence, gazebo, furniture, or anything in between, there is rarely anything better than real and solid lumber. That said, there are of course many different types of lumber to choose from. Two very popular options include cedar and mahogany.

While both are popular types of lumber to use, they are quite different from one another, so let’s figure out which one is best for specific circumstances.

What Is Cedar?

First is cedar, a type of softwood tree that can be found all throughout Canada and the USA, specifically in the pacific Northwest. There are then also some types of cedar that grow in various parts of the western Himalayas and in the Mediterranean.

This is a coniferous tree, otherwise known as an evergreen, which means that it never loses its needles or leaves during the colder seasons. The interesting thing to take note of here is that what we know as cedar wood is technically part of the cypress tree family.

Cedar trees can grow up to 13’ in diameter, reaching as high as 200’ tall. Cedar is a popular wood as it is known for being quite fragrant and beautiful, complete with few knots, great stability, a beautiful looking grain, great rot resistance, and a nice reddish-brown color.

This type of wood is most often used for exterior applications, such as outdoor trim, siding, outdoor furniture, decking, and small outdoor structures.

What Is Mahogany?

We then have mahogany, which is a type of tropical hardwood tree, another evergreen or coniferous tree that keeps its leaves through all seasons. The mahogany tree is native to the Americas, particularly to the more tropical regions.

This tree is commonly found in Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Columbia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Peru. However, this tree can also commonly be found growing in the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, West Africa, East Africa, and the Gold Coast, which is specifically African Mahogany. Mahogany is quite a rare tree and it can be hard to find, which does lead to it usually being fairly expensive.

The mahogany tree will usually top out at around 6’ in diameter, although some have been known to grow up to twice as wide, with some reaching heights of up to 150’. These trees often have very long and clean trunks with no leaves or branches up to 60’ or 80’ up the trunk.

Lumber made out of mahogany features a reddish-brown color with a strain grain, complete with a smooth surface, very few knots, a high hardness rating, low maintenance requirements, and great pest, moisture, and rot resistance. For this reason, genuine mahogany is often the lumber of choice for a wide variety of outdoor projects, particularly for durable and aesthetically pleasing decking, siding, furniture, and small structures.

Cedar vs. Mahogany: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both cedar and mahogany are, let’s take a closer look at all of the differences between them.

1. Type of Wood

One of the primary differences here is that cedar and mahogany are fundamentally different types of wood. As mentioned above, cedar is a type of softwood tree that grows primarily in the pacific northwest, the Mediterranean, and the western Himalayas.

Mahogany wood, on the other hand, is a hardwood tree that is most commonly found in the more tropical areas of the Americas, as well as in Africa. The biggest factor that will lead to most of the other differences is that one is a softwood and the other a hardwood.

2. Density and Hardness

Because mahogany is a hardwood, it is much denser and harder than cedar, which is a softwood. In terms of the Janka hardness rating, cedar comes in at just 350, which isn’t too hard, whereas mahogany comes in at 800, so more than twice as hard as cedar. Mahogany is therefore much stronger, able to bear more weight, and is also much more structurally sound than cedar.

3. Pest and Moisture Resistance

Another big difference here, also related to the softwood vs hardwood factor, is that mahogany tends to have far better moisture and pest resistance than cedar. Because mahogany is denser than cedar, there is much less space between the fibers or grains, which means that water and pests have a harder time penetrating it. Mahogany also comes loaded with natural oils that make it more water resistant than cedar. Cedar is water and pest-resistant, but nothing like mahogany.

4. Longevity and Maintenance

Due to the fact that mahogany is much harder, denser, and more pest and moisture-resistant than cedar, it also lasts much longer while also requiring less maintenance. Even with regular maintenance, outdoor cedar furniture and decking will last for about 15 years. On the other hand, with just a bit of maintenance, mahogany should last for 25 years or longer.

5. Appearance and Grain

While both cedar and mahogany have a relatively straight grain, mahogany is much smoother than cedar, which can be quite coarse, and it also has far fewer knots.

6. Weight

Cedar is much lighter than mahogany, coming in at up to 577 kg per cubic meter, while mahogany comes in at up to 849 kg per cubic meter.

7. Cost

Expect to spend up to 30% more on mahogany than on cedar.

When to Use Cedar Wood?

If you are looking to build some decking, siding, or nice outdoor furniture with a great appearance, all while using fairly lightweight wood that doesn’t cost a fortune, then cedar is a great way to go.

When to Use Mahogany Wood?

If you are building outdoor furniture, decking, siding, a gazebo, or anything else for outdoor use, and you want a dense and heavyweight wood with excellent weather resistance and durability, and you are willing to spend a good bit of money, then mahogany is the lumber of choice.

Alternatives to Cedar and Mahogany Wood

If you are looking for fairly low-cost and lightweight softwood, particularly for interior use, then softwood options like pine, fir, and spruce are all good options to consider. However, if you are looking for a hardwood that is dense, durable, moisture resistant, and ideal for exterior use, then woods such as walnut, oak, maple, and cherrywood are good options to consider.

Before making a decision, you might also want to read my detailed articles about alternatives to cedar and alternatives to mahogany.


As you can see, both cedar and mahogany are fine choices to go with. Mahogany is far more expensive, but tends to be worth it in the long run, as it is far stronger, denser, more durable, and more moisture and pest resistant.