Cedar vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

Cedar vs. Redwood: Which One to Use?

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If you are planning on building either exterior or interior furniture, a patio, decking, or outdoor projects, then there is really nothing better than solid wood or real lumber. However, there are of course many different types to choose from.

Two common types of lumber used for construction include cedar and redwood. Both have their advantages and uses, but they are also different from one another. Let’s determine what both cedar and redwood are, what makes them different, and which one you should use.

What Is Cedar?

First, we have cedar, which is a type of softwood, a tree that can be found mostly in the pacific northwest of the USA and Canada, as well as in the Mediterranean and the western Himalayas. This is an evergreen or coniferous tree, which means that it has needles as opposed to leaves, as well as seed-bearing cones, which stay on the tree all year long, unlike a deciduous tree which loses its leaves during the winter.

Cedar trees can grow quite large, up to 200’ in height and 13’ in diameter. One of the most commonly known and available types of cedar in North America is the western red cedar. This type of cedar has a Janka hardness rating of 350 lbf, which does make it quite soft.

Cedar is a popular type of lumber used for a variety of applications, for both indoor and outdoor use, but mostly outdoor use, such as for siding, decking, patios, and outdoor furniture.

The reason for this is that it has a straight grain with limited knots, combined with significant rot and pest resistance, as well as a very nice reddish-brown color. Although it’s not the hardest or densest wood around, it does look nice and lasts for quite some time too.

What Is Redwood?

We then have trees which are commonly known as redwoods, although they are also called sequoias. To be clear, sequoia is the most common type of redwood, one that is found on the west coast of the USA. There is also the Sequoiadendron that exists in California, and the Metasequoia from China.

Whichever way you look at it, the redwood is the largest tree in the world, growing in excess of 380’ in height, with trunks well over 15’ in diameter. Keep in mind that redwoods are soft, or in other words, they are softwood, and they are also coniferous or evergreen, which means that they don’t lose their needles during the winter.

Redwood has a very deep reddish-brown color, hence its name, combined with a relatively straight grain and a very smooth texture. That said, there are many different grain types available, although redwood is also available in many clear grades, meaning that it does not have any knots at all. Redwood is often used for making premium plywood, posts and decking, construction beams, trim, and exterior furniture.

Cedar vs. Redwood: What Are the Differences?

Now that we know what both cedar and redwood are, let’s take a look at their differences.

1. Appearance and Grain

One difference to take note of here is that cedar and redwood are different colors. Cedar is reddish-brown in color, although it tends to be much lighter than redwood, which tends to have a much deeper color. Many people do prefer the appearance of redwood for this reason.

In terms of grain and texture, yes, both of these trees do have straight grains, but redwood tends to be much smoother than the coarser cedar. Also consider that while cedar usually doesn’t have many knots, redwood tends to have even fewer knots, often none at all, therefore making it very visually appealing.

2. Workability

One of the big advantages of redwood is that it is very easy to work with. Because it is fairly lightweight, smooth, and usually free of knots, as well as due to the fact that it doesn’t have too much resin, it is easy to cut with a variety of woodworking tools and saws. It’s just a joy to work with.

Moreover, because it is somewhat soft, the chances of it cracking or splitting when nailing or screwing are also fairly low. On average, redwood is a bit softer than cedar, plus it also has fewer knots and a much smoother grain. Therefore, although cedar is not really hard to work with at all, it’s still harder to saw, nail, or screw than redwood.

3. Hardness, Density, and Durability

Some of the most important factors to consider here are how dense and hard these types of wood are. First, we have cedar, which features a Janka hardness rating of just 350 lbf, which does make it quite soft. Arguably, this is one of cedar’s main disadvantages.

Redwood, on the other hand, has a Janka hardness rating of 450 lbf, therefore making it much harder than cedar. This is important because it makes redwood the better option in terms of overall durability and hardness. Because redwood is a bit harder, it is however not as easy to bend as cedar.

In terms of density, cedar comes in at roughly 500 kg per cubic meter, which is actually also the case for redwood. That said, there are some redwoods that can be slightly denser. Therefore, although both are fairly lightweight in the grand scheme of things, almost the same in fact, redwood is the harder of the two. It is of course surprising that it is much harder, yet not much heavier.

4. Moisture and Pest Resistance

Both cedar and redwood are fairly resistant to moisture, rot, and pests, with both having a good bit of natural oils that help on this front. That said, if we had to pick one to win this battle, it would have to be redwood. Redwood is a bit harder and has slightly more of those beneficial oils. In terms of weather resistance and outdoor use, redwood is the better of the two.

5. Longevity and Maintenance

Due to the fact that redwood is usually harder, denser, and more moisture and pest resistant than cedar, you can also expect it to last a bit longer. Cedar, when used outdoors, will last about 10 to 15 years, whereas redwood can easily last twice as long.

When to Use Cedar Wood?

If you are looking for a reasonably priced building material that is quite strong, durable, moisture resistant, and good-looking too, then cedar is a great option. Cedar is great for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications, whether for siding, decking, furniture, or anything in between.

When to Use Redwood Wood?

If you are willing to spend about 20% more when compared to the cost of cedar, you want something that is very visually appealing, easy to work with, and all-around durable and long-lasting, whether for furniture or more basic construction projects, redwood is the way to go.

Alternatives to Cedar and Redwood Wood

Seeing as neither redwood nor cedar is very hard or dense, you might want something a bit heavier duty. If this is the case, then several species of hardwood lumber are great to consider, such as walnut, oak, and maple. If what you are going for is weather resistance, then cypress, pine, Douglas fir, and chestnut all make for good options to keep in mind.

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


Now that you know what cedar and redwood are, what their advantages are, and what makes them different, you can choose the best one for your next construction project.