Cedar vs Redwood Wood – Comparing Lumber

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Finding wood for a proper application is always a challenge. Wood is a preferred material because of its good looks and durability. But with hundreds of wood species to choose from, it is not easy to decide on a particular wood for a specific application. To complicate matters further, some of the best wood comes under the endangered species list today. It means that even if you have the financial resources to buy the best wood available, it may be illegal to buy it.

If you are looking for robust wood that you can use both indoors and outdoors, then two species come to mind – cedar and redwood. Both these varieties are known for their durability and good looks. They both have resistance to pests, but how they stand to the weather and their longevity characteristics differ.

It is essential to know about the physical characteristics of these two kinds of wood. You need to be aware of the appearance, strength, grain structure, shrinkage properties, and weather resistance of each wood type. Once you familiarize yourself with these characteristics, you can use each type appropriately in your woodworking projects.

Cedar vs. Redwood

We value cedar and redwood for similar attributes that make them suitable for building projects. Many of the features also make both these types of wood the right choice for indoor applications, although they play a prominent role in construction projects and making fences and posts.

Both these wood species create natural oils that render them resistant to insects. However, a few other characteristics distinguish one from the other. We will study these differences here to have a better idea about these two types of wood.


Image: wikimedia.org 

Redwood’s natural resistance to rot and pests comes from the compounds it produces. It makes redwood highly resistant to any deterioration, even if left outdoors and exposed to the elements. It is the heart of the redwood log that is most weather resistant. While the heartwood has a reddish hue, the outer wood, known as the sapwood, has white and red shades. Hence, if you want wood that will weather well, you need to purchase the heartwood. Or else, you can use the sapwood if you want wood that is more decorative.


Cedar wood
Cedarwood (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

This wood is similar to redwood and produces natural compounds that make the wood resistant to pests and rot. Most varieties of cedar, except perhaps aspens, show weather-resistant properties like redwood. The difference between both kinds of wood is that while weathering, cedar quickly fades to a dull grey while redwood doesn’t lose its color as quickly as cedar while exposed to the elements.

Cedar vs. Redwood: Color

Although it is difficult to differentiate which one is better in terms of color, there is a distinct difference between these two types of wood. With cedar, particularly western red cedar, it will have a yellowish hue if you don’t stain it. Redwood, true to its name, takes on a reddish-brown coloration.

Hence, if you think of applying a stain to your outdoor woodwork, cedar would be the right choice because it will stain well. If you would like the natural color of the wood to come out, of course, you could do better with redwood.

Cedar vs. Redwood: Grain Patterns

There is a wild variation in the different types of grain patterns you can get from cedar and redwood. Specifically, redwood has 30 grades, and cedar has 10. Redwood comes from older trees. Hence you are likely to come across fewer knots than you may get with cedar. You can also get “clear” grades in redwood, which is wood devoid of knots.

In terms of smoothness, redwood is slightly better than cedar. But then, with all the equipment available for smoothening wood surfaces, even cedar can be made super-smooth. Ultimately, you will decide on the type of wood, depending on your project requirements and the wood’s availability.

Cedar vs. Redwood: Longevity and Value

In terms of hardness, redwood is harder than cedar. A Janka hardness test revealed that redwood is 23% harder than cedar. Being a harder wood, redwood is likely to last longer. It contains a higher concentration of natural chemicals than cedar, which protects the wood from weather, insect attack, and rot. Hence, when we compare the price of redwood to that of cedar, redwood is more expensive of the two.

Cedar vs. Redwood: Sustainability

When we talk about sustainability, it refers to the capacity of trees to regenerate. For wood to be sustainable, the trees that are cut have to be replaced periodically. If replanting wasn’t done, then all the trees in the world would soon get depleted if we continue to cut them at the current rate.

Both cedar and redwood have similar environmental certifications. But the question is, can we grow the trees as fast as we are cutting them if not faster? Both kinds of wood have done well in this regard.

There was a period when redwood forests were endangered due to over-logging, but today that issue is now under control. In this respect, it is nice to note that Humbolt redwood is being harvested less than the annual growth rate. It means that more trees are growing than are being harvested annually. It is quite an achievement considering that cedar or redwood trees have to grow for more than 50 years to become mature enough for harvesting.

Cedar vs. Redwood: Maintenance

Both types of wood call for similar procedures to finish, clean, and restore them. You can clean both cedar and redwood with warm water and soap. If there is mildew present, you can add a few drops of liquid bleach. If you need to restore the color due to rust stains or extractive bleeding, you can use a product that contains oxalic acid.

The chemical that redwood produces is tannin, which also gives the wood its characteristic color. Tannin keeps insects at bay. Hence, redwood, particularly the varieties containing a higher tannin concentration, could be more resistant to rot.


We have gone over several characteristics of cedar and redwood. As you have seen in this post, the two types of wood are similar in many ways. But if you consider the subtle differences, you will realize that you can take advantage of these different properties to use one wood over the other for a particular project depending on the requirements. We hope that we could make your perception of these two types of wood clearer and that you will be able to select the right one for your next woodworking project.

Happy Woodworking!