The Durability of Cedar Wood

Mark Morris

You have probable seen a cedar-lined blanket or hope chest, or cedar closet lining. This wood is used in areas that store perishable items, such as clothing and keepsakes, because of its superior durability and resistance. In addition, cedar is highly prized for its grain and aroma.

Cedar wood is prized for durability and its rich red color.


The Western Red Cedar has one of the lowest densities of any commonly used soft wood. You will recognize its lighter weight, when compared to most other lumber, because of its density. Wood density is a measurement of how closely packed the grain is. Many hardwoods are prized for their heavy density. The low density of cedar allows it to maintain a constant moisture content and to repel water, keeping it dry which is a major factor in woods durability.

Moisture Content

The moisture content of cedar is 10 to 50 percent less than the average soft wood. Cedar rates at 18 to 23 percent moisture content, compared to the average softwood, which has 25 to 30 percent moisture content. The moisture in wood is a major conductor of decay. Wood with a higher moisture content will absorb water more readily and hold it longer, breaking down the fibers and promoting rot. Cedar does not easily absorb moisture and dries out faster than most other woods.

Resistance to Decay

The chemical makeup of cedar contains several natural antimicrobial and anti fungal properties that prevent decay from occurring or progressing as readily in cedar as in other woods. These same chemicals also make it impervious to normal wood pests, such as bores and termites. This gives cedar a natural preservative factor that acts to keep the wood intact. When exposed to the elements, cedar will outlast other untreated soft woods by years.

Dimensional Stability

The low density and moisture content allow cedar to maintain its dimensional stability better than many other woods. This means that swelling and shrinkage are minimized and warping is almost unheard of. Cedar will not split or crack as quickly and fasteners will stay tight longer, making cedar an ideal wood for outdoor construction in any climate. Since cedar is not effected by the elements as easily, it is more durable than most other soft woods.