Cedar vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

Cedar vs. Pine: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on doing some woodworking, particularly for exterior construction or outdoor furniture, then going with solid wood or real lumber is always a good choice. Solid lumber is durable and good looking too, although there are many different options to choose from.

Today, we want to take a closer look at two popular types of lumber, cedar and pine. We want to determine what both cedar and pine are, what makes them different, and which is best used for specific applications.

What Is Cedar?

First, we have cedar, which is a type of evergreen or coniferous tree. It features long blueish-green needles combined with seed-bearing cones that stay on the tree all year round.  Cedar is also a type of softwood. These trees can reach trunk diameters of 13’ and reach heights of 200’.

Cedar trees can be found all throughout the pacific northwest, in Canada and the USA, as well as in some parts of the western Himalayas and in the Mediterranean too. There are two main types of cedar that you may be familiar with, including the eastern and the western red cedar.

The more common of the two is the western red cedar, which has a Janka hardness rating of just 350 lbf, therefore making it quite soft. Cedar is a popular option to consider for outdoor furniture, decking, siding, and other such applications, as it has a good bit of moisture and pest resistance and is decently durable too, and it is a good candidate for bending, as it is not overly stiff.

Many people like using cedar as it has a relatively straight grain with a coarse texture, combined with very few or no knots, and few or no sap channels, therefore making it quite pleasant to work with. The heartwood also has a very nice reddish-brown color that people seem to love.

What Is Pine?

We then have pine, which is another type of softwood tree, and yes, it is coniferous too, which means that it has needles that it does not lose during the winter. Pine trees are very common throughout the world, and they grow primarily in the cooler parts of North America, as well as in southeast Asia, China, Europe, and many parts of Russia. Pine trees can grow up to 250’ in height, with a typical diameter of around 4’.

There are a few different types of pine trees, with eastern white pine, southern yellow pine, and ponderosa pine being the most common. One of the most commonly used types of pine for construction today is the eastern white pine, a very soft type of lumber with a Janka hardness rating of 380 lbf. That said, pine is quite stiff, so it’s not the best option for bending.

In terms of appearance, pine is usually always a creamy yellow color as far as the sapwood is concerned, combined with brown heartwood. Pine may have quite a few knots in it, as well as some brown sap channels too.

Due to these features, pine can be somewhat hard to work with, especially as far as cutting tools are concerned. Due to its lightweight and low-density nature, it’s a popular option for furniture. Keep in mind that pine is not very moisture resistant, so using untreated pine for outdoor applications is not recommended.

Cedar vs. Pine: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both cedar and pine are, let’s take a closer look at the main differences between the two.

Grain and Appearance

If we are talking about cedar, this is a type of wood that usually has a fairly straight and even grain, albeit with a fairly rough and coarse texture. It usually doesn’t have many or any knots or sap channels, so it does look quite nice, plus people tend to love the reddish-brown color of it too.

Pine, on the other hand, has a light brown color as far as the heartwood is concerned, and a light yellow or white sapwood, complete with a straight and even grain and a medium to coarse texture. Pine does usually have quite a few sap or resin canals, combined with many knots.


What needs to be said about pine wood is that it is not the easiest to work with. Now, because it’s soft, you don’t really have to worry about it cracking when nailing. However, because it has many knots, along with plenty of resin and sap, it is not the easiest to cut. That sap and resin tends to get all over cutting tools and can cause things to get clogged up and sticky.

Cedar, on the other hand, is softer than pine, plus it also has far fewer knots, combined with no or nearly no resin canals. This makes it much easier for cutting tools to get through without being covered in sticky tree sap.


Based on the most commonly available varieties, let’s compare how hard these two trees are, the western red cedar and eastern white pine. Cedar generally has a hardness rating of about 350 lbf, thus making it quite soft. Pine usually has a hardness rating of around 380 lbf, therefore making it just slightly harder than western red cedar. However, remember that southern yellow pine has a 690 lbf rating, whereas eastern red cedar has a Janka hardness rating of 900 lbf.

Density and Durability

In terms of density, cedar usually comes in at around 500 kg per cubic meter, whereas pine usually comes in at around 350 kg per cubic meter. This means that cedar is the denser and heavier of the two kinds of wood, and yes, this, combined with other properties, does usually make pine the more durable of the two. Pine is much lighter in weight, however, which is a feature that many people do like.

Moisture and Pest Resistance

Cedar does have a good amount of oils inside of it, which means that it is somewhat pest and moisture-resistant, although not overly so. That said, untreated pine is even less moisture and pest-resistant, which is why you would usually never use untreated pine for exterior purposes.


If we are talking about pine, expect to pay around $2.33 per foot (board), with western red cedar coming in at $14 per foot, and eastern red cedar at roughly $6.30 per foot.

When to Use Cedar Wood?

If you are looking for durable wood that is insect, mold, and pest resistant, is easy to bend, easy to work with, and looks very nice too, then cedar is a good way to go, particularly if you don’t mind paying for it. Cedar is great for a variety of outdoor applications.

When to Use Pine Wood?

Pine, on the other hand, is generally best used for indoor furniture and for lightweight applications. Unless it has been specially treated, using it for outdoor applications is not particularly recommended. Making lightweight travel furniture is generally what pine wood is used for.

Alternatives to Cedar and Pine Wood

In case both cedar and pine are too soft for you or aren’t moisture-resistant enough, there are some really good alternatives to consider. One such alternative is cypress, particularly for anything to do with moisture, as cypress has a lot of oil in it and is very resistant to both moisture and pests.

If you want some very hard wood that is super dense and durable, ones such as maple, walnut, and oak are all good options to consider. However, if what you are going for is cost-effectiveness, especially as far as hardwood is concerned, then poplar and alder also make for good options.

Before making a decision, you might also want to read my comparisons of cedar with cypress, Douglas fir, mahogany, and redwood.


Now that you know what the biggest differences between pine and cedar wood are, you can make an informed decision between the two.