Is Cedar Good for Outdoor Use? How Long Will It Last?

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Cedar wood is known as a great option to consider if you’re looking for the best wood for your decks and outdoor furniture. But is cedar good for outdoor use, or can it only last in the open shortly?

Choosing the ideal wood is crucial for outdoor furniture, so I’ve explored why cedar stands strong against harsh weather conditions, and I’d like to share those insights with you in this article.

Can You Use Cedar Wood Outdoors? Is It Good For Exterior Furniture?

Cedar is a durable and strong softwood because it is considered to have the most natural weather resistance for outdoor furniture that could be naturally resistant to decay-causing outdoor elements.

There are 15 species of cedar. They grow both on the East and West coasts of the United States, but only some species thrive in the forests of Central and South America.

These species have unique characteristics, such as generally resistant, natural color, and hardness.

Cedar wood grain pattern

Among the species of cedar, I recommend Western Red cedar for outdoor furniture because it is more robust and harder with 900 Janka hardness. I also used cedar as an alternative to Teak wood which is also considered ideal for outdoor uses.

Aside from its durability, most woodworkers rely on this wood as their excellent choice because of its appealing pinkish-to-red color, making it beautiful.

But if maintenance is disregarded, your cedar wood furniture turns to silver or gray color quickly. Some redwood comes in unique purple tones.

It has a straight grain pattern, and there are few parts with knots, making it the best option for many outdoor applications, such as the following:

Cedar Wood’s Lifespan

Cedar wood bench

Despite the harsh outdoor environments, you can rely on cedar wood for your woodworking project to last for more than a decade.

Cedar wood possesses polyphenols, which are natural oils or resins that emit the delightful scent associated with incense cedar. These polyphenols contribute to the exceptional properties of cedar, granting its high resistance against moisture, insects, and decay.

With its scent like incense cedar, you must also ensure that you provide an accurate finish to your wooden cedar furniture to achieve the following lifespan for your outdoor use.

Cedar Furniture

Average Lifespan Outdoors

Benches

15 years

Chairs

20 years

Coffee Tables

15 years

Decks

20 years

Fences

10 to 20 years

Gazebos

10 years

Porch Swings

More than 20 years

Storage Houses

More than 10 years

Shingles

15 years

Sliding 

40 years

How To Finish Cedar Wood for Outdoor Use: Staining Guide

For outdoor cedar furniture, I suggest using wood stain and polyurethane sealer as finishing products. Staining cedar is an excellent choice to enhance its natural color and protect it from harsh environmental elements. But does cedar take stain well? Let’s find out after this project. 

Supplies

Step #1: Clean the Wood Surface and Sand

furnitures using cedar wood

You have to clean the cedar furniture to remove the grease, dirt, and stain marks. If there is an old finish, use a de-glosser or the best paint stripper for wood. Then sand the entire surface using medium grit sandpaper.

Remove the sand dust using a vacuum or tack cloth to ensure no debris is left on the surface.

Step #2: Pre-stain with Wood Conditioner

Then pre-stain it using wood conditioner using a foam brush. Apply a thin coat of wood conditioner to penetrate the stain in the wood. Conditioning the wood makes it low maintenance.

Step #3: Leave it For 30 Minutes

After conditioning the wood, let the wood dry completely for at least 30 minutes before applying the stain.

While drying the pre-stained wood surface, put on your gloves, then prepare your stain. Mix the can of stain thoroughly using a stirring stick, including the bottom part.

cedar wood staining gray

Step #4: Apply the Stain

Get your bristle brush or rag to apply the stain on the surface. Ensure to follow the wood grain to prevent unnecessary streaks and smudges.

Step #5: Dry the Wood Completely

After applying the first coat, let the stain dry completely before wiping the excess stain using a clean, lint-free rag. Wait for at least 10 minutes before wiping the cedar surface. The stain serves as UV protectant chemical.

Step #6: Apply the Second Stain Layer and Dry it

I recommend applying a second coat to ensure you achieve your desired result. After the second coating, let it dry for at least 24 hours before sealing the stain.

Use a synthetic brush to apply the polyurethane sealer, then wait a couple of hours to dry before lightly sanding it to achieve a smooth finish.

Benefits of Cedar Wood

There are indeed numerous benefits to using cedar wood for making furniture. To highlight these advantages, here are the key benefits of crafting furniture with cedar.

varieties of cedar wood

Natural Properties and Resistance to Bugs, Decay, and Water

As mentioned, cedar has polyphenols, natural oils, or natural resins that make this wood naturally rot-resistant.

It’s decay-resistant, so you can use this wood for your garden furniture without the dilemma of pests, fungi, and moisture that cause the wood to decay. In short, its decay resistance make cedar wood repel bugs, contributing to its long life.

Graceful Aging

Although cedar has denser wood fiber, it does not warp or cup because of its natural resistance to water. I’ve seen cedar pieces outlast other types of wood, particularly when they’re properly treated.

Staining is best for cedar, especially Western Red cedar wood, to enhance its color.

Stable and Heavy-Duty

Although cedar is lightweight, it is considered a very stable wood and heavy-duty because it can withstand humid environments and other harsh environmental elements [1].

Cedar wood durability

I’ve used cedar in everything from outdoor decks to intricate wood carvings and it’s never let me down. Seriously, this wood can last more than 20 years when used for outdoor furniture.

Moreover, according to studies, cedar furniture is almost as strong as oak, making it ideal for floorings, deckings, or any solid outdoor furniture.

Insulation Ingrained

One of my favorite things about cedar is its built-in insulation. The wood contains these tiny air pockets that make it naturally good at adjusting to temperature changes.

For instance, the wooden surface is cooler when it is hot because air can pass through these air pockets. Therefore, wooden cedar benches are ideal for sitting on during summer.

Affordable & Low Maintenance

When it comes to affordability and minimal maintenance, cedar furniture is the winner, given that it is less expensive than teak wood, and it repels bugs naturally, and is highly resistant to fungi and molds.

cedar affordable and low maintenance

Drawbacks of Cedar Wood

When using cedar wood, I should forewarn you of the following disadvantages:

To give an insight into cedar’s compressive and bending strengths, here is its comparison with aspen wood, which has a tight grained.

Wood Type

Compressive Strength

Compressive Strength

Aspen

4,250 psi

8,400 psi

Red Cedar

6,020 psi

8,800 psi

Two Ways to Protect Cedar Furniture

Off-Season Storage

I recommend off-season storage or a covered area for your outdoor furniture, or you can also use an all-season covers for each piece. Any wood can be damaged if exposed to rain, snow, and humid climates extended over the years.

Apply Wood Sealer

applying wood sealer on cedar

Applying wood sealer is one of the best ways to protect wooden cedar furniture. Pre-sealed cedar outdoor furniture can extend its life and prevent wood deformation, unlike untreated cedar.

It also maintains the natural color of cedar and gives protection for at least two years.

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Conclusion

Indeed, I’ve found that cedar wood is excellent for outdoor use. However, I’d recommend following my guide on staining and sealing cedar to prolong its lifespan.

Furthermore, you can enjoy the benefits I’ve listed for using cedar outdoors. With this knowledge, you can confidently craft cedar furniture pieces and relish the outdoor seasons right at your doorstep.

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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.

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