With its insulating and weather-resistant properties, cypress wood makes a good choice for siding. But as softwood, you can use it equally well as an attractive, interior trim or building material in place of comparable species. Bald cypress and Pond cypress, among the tree's many varieties, comprise the bulk of commonly milled cypress wood for use as building materials

Photography of annual rings of Japanese cypress, Close Up
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Cypress trees can grow up to 100 feet tall.

Cypress Character

On the Janka hardness scale, cypress ranks 510 compared to Southern yellow pine's 870, which is used for similar purposes. The innate softness of cypress doesn't mean that it's not tough. An oil found in the heartwood of the tree -- cypressene -- makes its wood naturally resistant to weather, rot and decay. In the South, cypress offers a staple wood for decking and fencing. But its resilient qualities attract builders throughout the country as a substitute for other weather-resistant wood species such as cedar, redwood and pressure-treated wood. Cypress, although moisture resistant, is not recommended for direct contact with the ground.

Cypress Appearance

Cypress wood ranges from pale yellow to salmon and brown. Mostly straight-grained, it may contain flame patterns similar to oak or ash. Medium to course in texture before sanding, it has an oily or greasy feel from the heartwood's cypressene oil disbursed throughout the wood. Scattered dark pockets or streaks, similar to cherry wood, lend the material character and complexity. When fresh cutting the wood, take the necessary precautions, as common reactions include mild respiratory irritation. Breathing protection is recommended when working with cypress.

Cypress Applications

As an all-purpose wood, you'll find it used universally to build decks, boats, docks and other exterior items, such as garden and landscaping elements and fencing. When used as siding, cover and store the wood in a dry area for at least 10 days to stabilize its moisture content before installation. Interior uses include domestic flooring, fine furniture, veneers and moldings. Structural uses include pallets, boxes, subflooring and framing materials. For longevity, apply a sealant, especially outdoors, with a regular maintenance schedule. Prices for cypress are mid-range for domestic woods. Clear, knot-free boards for woodworking demand higher prices.

Working With Cypress

Cypress can dull tools and cutting edges. Use sharp blades and tools when working with the wood to avoid chipping. Carbide-tipped blades minimize the effects of chipping and dulling. When routing cypress, several light passes create cleaner profiles and helps to prevent splintering. The wood emits an unmistakable sour odor during milling. It provides good glue adhesion, grips nails and screws adequately and has good finish and paint-holding properties.