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Pressure Treated vs Cedar

The good, the bad, and the ugly of each

Most people, after just a little bit of research, find that there are typically two types of wood fences available, Pressure Treated or Cedar. But unfortunately, there is not a lot of information to help customers figure out what the key differences are and why they may feel the need to choose one over the other.


Pressure Treated


Pressure-treated wood is a popular choice as it is typically cheaper to build with, more available, and can be stained or painted to match any desired look. 


Where does it come from?

Pressure-treated wood is typically made using a process that treats the lumber allowing it to be more durable, less susceptible to decay, insects, water damage, and mold. Pressure-treated wood, however, due to its treatment process, is still wet when purchased and requires a dry time that can take up to weeks or even months depending on the climate it is in. During this time, pressure-treated wood is known to cup and “crack” as the wood dries at various levels depending on the location of the wood. Many times you will see milled lumber splitting over time on pickets with the ends painted. This allows the wood to dry more evenly as the moisture is naturally pulled away from the wood.


Does this process affect the wood negatively?

Although pressure-treated wood has the tendency to warp as it dries, this is not to be assumed that all wood will curl, crack, or split. Many fences are built every day, dry out over the weeks it normally takes, and still keep their desired form and shape. 

Pressure-treated wood also typically has a “green” or sometimes “blue” tint to it from the chemicals used in the process. This color will fade as the wood cures and dries. Many feel this will affect the ability to stain and paint the wood. Rest assured that when this wood is allowed to dry to the appropriate moisture level, it is more than capable of being stained or painted. 


Cedar Wood

Cedarwood is a highly desirable wood due to its natural insect and weather resistance, as well as its natural red shade of color. 


Where does it come from?

Cedarwood is a natural wood derived from the Cedar tree. Most cedar wood is derived from the Western and Eastern Red Cedar. There are other types of Cedar as well. 


Is Cedar treated in the same way as Pressure Treated?

These wood species allow for natural resistance to weather and insect damage and can even be found to give off a pleasant scent. The natural color of these cedar woods also allows for easier care and maintenance. 

Due to this natural ability to handle these challenges, Cedar is not treated with chemicals in the same manner as pressure treated. This then allows for a more stable wood that doesn’t require the same maintenance and finishing touches. Cedar is beautiful just as it’s found, and is typically why it is sought after to begin with.


Which is better?

Each of these options has its pros and cons. Pressure-treated is generally less expensive and can withstand higher levels of moisture than Cedar. Therefore, this type of wood is ideal for applications where there will be ground contact such as fence posts. However, this wood is more susceptible to changes in shape and structure as it continues to dry from its original treatment process. 

Cedarwood is a more natural option but is not as fast-growing as pine (a popular source for pressure-treated wood) causing it to have a higher initial cost. Cedar also does not perform as well when in contact with the ground directly. Therefore, cedar is chosen a lot for the actual “face” of the fence. Cedar can be used for applications such as a structural fence post that has been placed into the ground but typically requires an additional treatment to assist in protecting the wood from the added moisture. 

Cedar has a natural beauty and a sense of elegance. Pressure-treated is more reasonably priced and can withstand certain conditions better than cedar. Each has its benefits and drawbacks. The choice really comes down to the customer’s preference and budget. 


*** Also keep in mind that with the supply shortages experienced recently, cedar is in a much shorter supply than pressure-treated which may lead to longer delays in installation.

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