Cedar wood is widely known for its wonderful aroma and insect-repelling quality. The oil inside the wood emits an earthy, woodsy and slightly sweet scent that has made it a favorite choice for hot tubs, saunas and even within the sensory palette of your favorite colognes.
However, there are a lot of other advantages to using cedar wood that aren't as well-known, and you'll definitely want to get accustomed to them. Stacked up, the benefits of using cedar wood in the home far outweigh any costs.
Where it Grows
Cedar grows prolifically in damp climates, putting it under conditions that enhance the wood with weather-resistance. Since this type of wood is specific to certain regions, the availability will depend on where you live. For example, white cedar has a more limited growth range, making it harder to find. On the other hand, Western red cedar flourishes along the west coast of the United States, making it the most widely available cedar for Americans.
While all types of cedar wood share similar benefits, the appearance, texture and other aesthetic attributes vary by type. The three most common cedar wood choices you'll find while exploring options are Western red cedar, Northern white cedar and aromatic closet cedar.
Western Red Cedar
You can recognize Western red cedar by its pink to reddish color, sometimes intermixed in broad bands of amber, cream and brown. Mostly straight-grained, the grain may occasionally wander with swirls of color. With such decidedly crisp and dynamic properties, there really is nothing else that compares to this natural beauty.
Within this category of cedar are different grades. Those of the construction-grade may have knots and defects that can be sorted out or used in decorative applications for features like windowsills or trim. Higher grades, like sanded cedar, exhibit a smooth, almost-polished surface.
As a softwood that ranks only 350 on the Janka hardness scale, Western red cedar is easy to cut with any woodworking tool. However, it's known to dent and scratch more easily because of its softness.
Northern White Cedar
Northern white cedar is softer than red cedar, ranking just 320 on the Janka hardness scale. The color of white cedar ranges from white to tan and brown, making it distinctively different from other cedars.
The grain is generally straight and consistent with small, intermittent tight knots—similar to birdseye maple. This type of cedar is easy to cut and work with, but the innate softness means that it has weaker screw and fastener-holding characteristics.
Aromatic Closet Cedar
This type of cedar greatly resemble red cedar in appearance, but couldn't be any more different in texture and feel. Ranking 900 on the Janka scale, it's almost three times harder than red cedar.
Its colors range from violet to brown, with streaks of yellow heartwood. Some might consider aromatic cedar to be the most attractive of the domestic species of cedar wood. It typically contains straighter grains with a finer texture than that of white or red cedar.
Rated for excellence in resistance to both decay and insect attack, aromatic cedar can be used in direct contact with the ground, with no treating of the wood required. It finishes well but is often left unfinished in interiors to preserve the sweet, natural smell. The crisp and clean scent makes it the perfect choice to line closets or chests.
Cedar Wood’s Top Qualities
Cedar wood doesn't shrink, swell or warp to the extent of comparable lumber, even under severe changes in humidity or temperature. Its large proportions of cell cavities, which are filled with air, give it high-thermal insulation.
Being able to withstand so many conditions, this type of wood is often favored for its decay resistance. It naturally resists rot over time, upwards of 40 years. This quality alone makes it a favored choice for exterior siding, despite its softness.
Cedar is also sound resistant – an often overlooked quality that makes it a great choice for fencing or exterior sound barriers. Other popular uses for cedar include decks, shingles, exterior and interior trim, blinds, shutters and exterior landscaping.
Cedar wood can be left without finish or paint, but the durability of cedar is enhanced by regular applications of sealer to retain its color and stability. Since cedar wood is also pitch and resin-free, it's easy to finish if you choose to do so, holding a wide range of colors.