Is Cedar a Hardwood or Softwood? + Characteristics & Properties

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Many carpenters gravitate towards cedar for its adaptability in numerous construction endeavors. Yet, despite cedar’s inherent sturdiness and distinct aroma, there’s some ambiguity surrounding its classification.

So is cedar a hardwood or softwood? Allow me explain this in detail!

What is Cedar Wood?

Cedar is the name given to any one of four species of evergreen tree ornamental and timber conifers belonging to the genus Cedrus in the family Pinaceae. 

Even when it comes into touch with soil or water, cedarwood maintains its lightweight, pliable, resinous, and long-lasting qualities. It is hardly often used outside its native regions, even though it is a valuable construction timber. 

Cedar Wood Types

Lebanon Cedar

The most popular uses for Lebanese Cedar are veneer, cabinetry, boxes, and turned objects. 

Lebanon Cedar

The same tree is featured prominently on the country’s flag Lebanon, and the Cedar species gets its name from the vast forest that used to cover Mount Lebanon in the past.

Atlas Cedar

Atlantica yields as one of the aromatic woods. They are long-lasting wood that is used in furniture. 

Atlas cedar trees also produce cedarwood oil, an essential oil sold and operated in fragrances and used medicinally.

Alaskan Yellow Cedar

It is possible to use Alaskan Yellow Cedar for practically any project. The Alaskan Yellow Cedar can be used for indoor or outdoor decks. 

Cedar wood blocks

Also, the Yellow Cedar is durable and can withstand harsh conditions. If you want to have long-lasting furniture for your home, consider an Alaskan Yellow Cedar.

Spanish Cedar

Spanish Cedar is suitable for racing boats, furniture, cabinetry, doors and windows, interior trim, and garment chests. It was shipped to Europe, Central, and South America to be used in the manufacture of cigar boxes. The Native Americans would use the trunks to construct dugout boats.

White Cedar

The primary applications of northern white Cedar in the commercial world are for constructing rustic fencing and posts. 

Also, other significant items from this Cedar species include cabin logs, timber, poles, and wood shingles. 

Western Red Cedar

One of the best types of Cedar is Western Red Cedar wood. This wood is suitable for decking, temporary buildings, poles, posts, fences, and ship and boat construction. 

Red Cedar lumber

Other typical applications include roofing shingles, external siding, and cladding, which are very sturdy and durable.  

Eastern Red Cedar

Another type of Cedar species is Eastern Red Cedar. One of the practical uses for Eastern Red Cedar is the construction of shelterbelts and habitats for wildlife. 

Also, the Eastern red Cedar provides a dense, fragrant, and long-lasting wood.

Is it a Hard or Softwood? How Strong is Cedar?

Cedar is a type of softwood, which means that it comes from coniferous trees that typically have needles instead of leaves. Despite being a softwood, cedar is relatively strong and durable.

For a deeper dive into Cedar and its strength and unique properties, consider the notable points below:

Compressive Strength

In general, Cedar, like Eastern Red Cedar, is a durable wood. A compressive strength of 6,000 and a hardness of 900 are characteristics of aromatic red Cedar. 

Cedar wood bench

Bending Strength

The compressive strength of Cedarwood is 4,560 psi [1], and its flexural strength is 3,300 psi; both of these values are very high and make it an excellent material for use in bench construction.


The stiffness of an Aromatic Red Cedar is 0.88 (Mpsi), Eastern Red Cedar is 0.9 (Mpsi), and the stiffness of an Eastern White Cedar is 0.80 (Mpsi). 

Janka Hardness

The Janka hardness of an Eastern Red Cedar is 900 (lb), Red Cedar is 350 (lb), and the Janka hardness of a White Cedar is 320 (lb).


In oven-dry conditions, the weight of Red Cedar is around 21 pounds per cubic foot, and it has a relative density (specific gravity) of 0.32. This makes it one of the lightest commercial softwoods. 

Cedar wood grain pattern

The low density of Cedar contributes to its high insulating value and makes it a simple wood to move and work with.

Cedar's Properties & Characteristics


Cedar has a lifespan of decades, if not centuries, thanks to the fact that it is one of North America’s most resilient types of wood. 

Because of its inherent resistance to decay, Western Red Cedar has long been considered the material of choice for use inside or outside residential structures.


Western Red Cedar stands out among other softwoods due to its wide, open-cell structure, resulting in a significantly lower density. Thus, this characteristic makes it easy to transport and maneuver between different work areas with ease.

Finishing & Workability

Since it has a straight grain and a consistent feel throughout, Western Red Cedar is one of the easiest timbers to deal with. 

wood stain

It sands and planes without leaving any residue, and the low density of the wood means that sawing or working with it requires minimal effort. 

Decay or Rot Resistance

The heartwood of Western Red Cedar is recognized for having a natural resistance to decay. The presence of extractives is what gives this natural durability its enduring quality.

Sweet Scent

The American Red Cedar has a distinctively pleasant aroma reminiscent of crisp pine and fir trees. If you put it in your shoes, it may be used effectively as a natural deodorizer.

Where to Use Cedar Wood

Because of its good looks, Cedar can be used for fencing, decking, siding, and trim. Some types of Cedar can also be used to make dressers and other clothing storage because it smells good and naturally keeps bugs away.

Maintaining Your Cedar Wood Pieces and Furniture

Painting with an Opaque or Solid Shade

A solid color or opaque shade can help protect the wood from moisture damage by sealing off cracks or holes in the surface of the wood. 

white paint

In addition, opaque shades will hide any brush marks from the paint. I recommend these shades for a polished and refined appearance upon drying. But is it ideal to paint cedar white? Find out next. 

Applying Semi-Transparent Stains

Most Cedar pieces are finished with a semi-transparent stain. This helps maintain the wood’s color and seal out moisture. 

Applying semi-transparent stains to Cedar involves several steps, including cleaning the surface of the wood and applying a sealer before you use your paint.

Using Transparent Preservatives & Oils

Transparent preservatives are made from natural oils such as linseed or tung oil. 

They penetrate deep into the wood fibers to protect them from damage by water and other chemicals that may be present in the environment. 

Alternative Wood Types vs Cedar Hardness

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir and Cedar are two very common types of wood used to make wood products. They both have a natural resistance to rot, insects, and decay, making them excellent choices for outdoor use. 

Douglas Fir wood

Yellow Birch

Yellow birch is light, durable, and can be sanded smoothly. Cedar wood is also a very durable type of wood, and it is often used in construction projects. 

White Birch

Both types of wood are suitable for outdoor use because they are resistant to moisture damage from rain or snow, which makes them perfect for patio furniture such as picnic tables and chairs.

See Also: Is Birch a Hardwood or Softwood?

Red Oak

Red oak can be stained or finished in various shades and is easy to work with. Cedar wood is a popular choice for outdoor furniture because it’s naturally durable and will not quickly rot.

Red Alder

Red Alder and Western Red Cedar are two of the most popular softwood trees used for woodworking. They are both great woods for building decks and cedar furniture because they are lightweight and easy to work with.


Redwood and Cedar trees are both renowned in the woodworking arena. Specifically, Redwood shines when it comes to sizeable outdoor undertakings such as decks, gazebos, and patios.

Interesting Read: Best Redwood Sealers for Fences and Decks 


On the other hand, Cedar is more commonly used indoors like furniture or paneling. 


What is cedar wood good for?

Because of its appealing appearance, Cedar is a good choice for many different types of construction, including decking, siding, fencing, and trim.

What are the disadvantages of cedar wood?

The disadvantage of using cedar wood is it requires regular maintenance, and its color loses vibrancy as a result of a chemical reaction. (You might want to know how cedar wood differs from pressure-treated wood next.)

Is Cedar an expensive wood?

Although it is commonly available, Cedar is more expensive than other equivalent woods. You should pay approximately thirty percent more for regular-grade Cedar than pine paneling.

Is cedarwood waterproof?

Cedar is inherently resistant to the elements and drives away most insects. However, if it is not refinished at regular intervals, it will develop a fuzzy surface texture and minor cracking over the years.


So, is Cedar a hardwood or softwood? As I explained in this guide, it is a soft wood that is well-known all over the world for its attractiveness, adaptability, and pungent odor. 

Cedar belongs to the class of plants known as “gymnosperms,” including the vast majority of coniferous trees, such as pine and fir. The word “softwoods” is used to refer to gymnosperm trees in general.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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