Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (2022)

Douglas fir and cedar are some of the most common building materials available in North America. They can be found in various sizes, shapes, and finishes in home improvement stores everywhere. But when it comes to your individual project, which one is best for you? Is cedar or Douglas fir better? What are the main differences between these two common types of wood?

We are going to answer these questions and more in this comprehensive breakdown.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (1)Overview of Douglas Fir:

Douglas fir is a softwood that hails from the Pacific Northwest. The tree looks like a pine tree, and it produces tight-grained, light-colored wood that is great for a variety of building applications. The trees are very common, and the wood is easy to work with, which makes Douglas fir a common and well-liked building material.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (2)

Appearance

Douglas fir is a white wood with a tight-knit grain pattern. It has a very clean and uniform look to it. In most cases, Douglas fir comes in smoothed on four sides (S4S) as opposed to rough cut or rough sawn. Douglas fir is available in boards, two-bys, and beams. However, Douglas fir is most commonly purchased in two-bys and beams.

Strength

Douglas fir has excellent structural strength. Douglas fir is commonly used in structural applications. Despite being a softwood, Douglas fir has a reputation for being extremely strong. Douglas fir’s strength is one of its best features, and the wood has been used in everything from fencing, decking, structural joists, and even boats and aircraft. Douglas fir is better than cedar in terms of structural strength. Douglas fir is often ranked as one of the strongest softwoods after Southern Yellow Pine.

Benefits

Douglas fir has some great benefits. It is lightweight, extremely strong, and has a uniform appearance that is easy to work with. Douglas fir makes great wood for a variety of different products and is extremely versatile. Douglas fir is also available in many places in sizes ranging from simple 2x4x8s all the way up to 4x12x16-inch beams.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (3)

Cost

According to Wood Vendors, the price of a 1×4 Douglas fir board is $7.65 per linear foot. That is slightly cheaper than cedar but in a similar price tier. Douglas fir has gone up in price in recent years due to an ongoing trade dispute with Canada. Most of the Douglas fir sold in the United States is imported from Canadian forestry companies, and those companies were forced to pay high duties and tariffs on their exports. That has driven the cost of both Douglas fir and cedar up far above where it was a decade ago.

Douglas fir’s cost really stands out compared to domestic southern yellow pine, which is stronger than Douglas fir and is grown in the United States. That means for purely structural purposes, Douglas fir is cost-prohibitive compared to pine. Douglas fir is going to do better as a wood used for its looks combined with its strength due to the cost.

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Overview of Cedar:

Cedar is another softwood that is extremely popular among builders and craftsmen. The most common species of cedar used in North America is western red cedar. Western red cedar is primarily grown in the Pacific Northwest like Douglas fir. It is grown in large redwood forests that stretch from Oregon up through British Columbia. Cedar is prized for its color, its natural resistance to rot as well as its smell.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (4)

Appearance

Cedar is known for its rich red and brown color. The color of cedar is very distinctive and sticks out compared to the almost bone-white appearance of Douglas fir. Cedar often comes rough sawn as compared to S4S, though cedar can also be purchased in a smooth finish. The rugged, rustic look of cedar lends itself to the rough sawn look. Cedar is available in boards, two-bys, and beams ranging in size from 1x2s up to 4x12s.

Strength

Cedar’s biggest downside is that it is not a very strong wood. It does not have the structural strength of Douglas fir, so it is not often used as joists or structural beams of any kind. Cedar’s strength lies in its durability and longevity. Cedar is naturally resistant to both rot and bugs which means it can last outdoors for years, and sometimes even decades, with very little upkeep. That means that cedar makes great material for garden beds, siding, roofing, and fencing. Cedar also makes for great non-structural buildings like pergolas and benches.

However, cedar also has a very soft face. Cedar is not recommended to be used as flooring or decking because it is likely to scratch during active use. That is a big contrast to Douglas fir, which is prized decking material in some parts of the country.

Benefits

Cedar has extremely low upkeep requirements. Once cedar is installed properly, it can be left outdoors for years without worrying about bugs, sun, water, or general wear and tear. Sometimes cedar can even be left in the raw with no sealants or paints required. Cedar’s softness also makes it easy to work with. It is easy to cut and shape for specific projects. It is also extremely lightweight compared to other similar woods, which makes it easy to handle.

Cedar also has a distinctive smell that many people love. The smell of cedar is a favorite among the woodworking community and some people even put cedar in their homes just for the scent. That is called aromatic cedar. The pleasing smell comes from the oils in the wood that repels insects and keeps the wood from rotting or being eaten. These characteristics have even made cedar a favorite material for building saunas.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (5)

Cost

According to Wood Vendors, the cost of a 1×4 cedar board is $8.20, which is $0.55 higher than Douglas fir. Cedar is not cheap, especially compared to other wood like pine or spruce. Western red cedar is suffering from the same tariff costs as the Douglas fir as a large amount of western red cedar is imported from Canada. Cedar is not the cheapest wood on the market, but it is one of the most versatile and durable available.

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Pros

  • Naturally resistant to rot
  • Naturally resistant to bugs
  • Smells great
  • Versatile

When To Use Cedar vs. Douglas Fir

Choosing between Douglas fir and cedar is going to depend on the project. Douglas fir should be used in projects that require a lot of structural stability and strength. Cedar should be used in projects that are going to be exposed to the elements and left outside. Cedar should not be used in many structural projects, and Douglas fir will need some extra care if it is going to be left completely exposed to the elements.

Appearance can also factor in. Many people love the rich color of cedar and the rustic look of the boards. Others like the white color of Douglas fir and the sharp, clean lines that it provides to builders.

CedarDouglas Fir
Exterior sidingDecking
Window trimStructural beams
Raised bedsInterior furniture
PergolasFlooring
FencingBoats

Can Douglas Fir Be Used Outdoors?

Yes. Douglas fir can be used outdoors. It is moderately rot-resistant, but it is not as bug resistant as cedar. In many cases, Douglas fir will not be left outdoors unprotected. It will need to be stained, sealed, or covered. Exposed Douglas fir will eventually degrade and rot if left unprotected, but it can still be used outside.

Is Cedar Good For Indoor Use?

Yes. Despite having a lot of benefits as an outdoor wood cedar can be used inside. Some people like to use cedar as trim, closet lining, or furniture. Cedar gives any space a rustic look that is very popular in some places. The smell of cedar is also a nice addition to an indoor space where the airflow keeps the smell trapped for longer compared to outside.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (6)

Which is Better: Douglas Fir or Cedar?

The answer to whether Douglas fir or cedar is better overall is going to depend on who you ask and what the purpose of the wood is. There is no clear winner between these two kinds of wood. In fact, they are very similar. They come from the same region of the world, they are both softwoods, they are at a similar price, and they offer excellent benefits for outdoor and indoor use. Douglas fir is stronger and more uniform. Cedar is more resistant, lightweight, and has a deep red color. The choice between the two can vary by project or by person.

Douglas Fir vs Cedar: What’s Best For My Project? | House Grail (7)Conclusion

It is hard to go wrong with either cedar or Douglas fir. They are both extremely popular for a reason. They are strong, durable, and look great. In many cases, either Douglas fir or cedar will be a perfect choice for your project. It all depends on what your vision and end goals are. Anything made from these two top-notch softwoods is likely to turn out great.

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Featured Image Credit: (L) TasfotoNL, Shutterstock | (R) Jon Spalding, Shutterstock

Contents

  • 1 Overview of Douglas Fir:
    • 1.1 Appearance
    • 1.2 Strength
    • 1.3 Benefits
    • 1.4 Cost
  • 2 Overview of Cedar:
    • 2.1 Appearance
    • 2.2 Strength
    • 2.3 Benefits
    • 2.4 Cost
  • 3 When To Use Cedar vs. Douglas Fir
  • 4 Can Douglas Fir Be Used Outdoors?
  • 5 Is Cedar Good For Indoor Use?
  • 6 Which is Better: Douglas Fir or Cedar?
  • 7 Conclusion

FAQs

Is Douglas fir good for exterior use? ›

Turns out Douglas fir is more than just a good-looking wood. Its durability and resistance to rot and insects make it a favorite choice for outdoor projects like porch decking as well. In fact, vertical-grain Douglas fir has been a traditional choice for porches on historic homes for more than 100 years.

Is FIR the same as cedar? ›

Both cedars and firs are softwood trees, with hardnesses ranging between 320 pounds-force on the Janka hardness scale and 490 pounds-force. On average, cedars are slightly softer. However, cedar significantly outperforms fir in its resistance to decay and wet conditions.

What is the best grade of Douglas fir? ›

1 – #1 and Better – A great grade for applications where appeareance and strength are both important.

Is Redwood the same as Douglas fir? ›

Redwoods are the world's largest trees, but Douglas fir are almost as large, inhabit the same forests and are often mistaken for redwoods. Despite the similarity of appearance, however, the two species are dissimilar, and produce wood with different characteristics.

Is cedar better than Douglas fir? ›

While Cedar is easier to work with and more rot resistant being of the Type II durability class, Doug Fir is stronger and of Type III durability.

What is cheaper Douglas Fir or cedar? ›

Cedar vs Douglas Fir: Advantages and disadvantages. Cedar and Douglas fir are both popular choices when it comes to siding. Though they have similar attributes, cedar tends to be more expensive than douglas fir but much stronger as well.

Is Douglas Fir more expensive than cedar? ›

Douglas Fir Wood Decking is slightly more expensive than Cedar Wood Decking. Douglas Fir is found in Western America, from Alaska to California, and as far east as British Columbia.

Why is Douglas Fir used in construction? ›

Considered one of the most resilient softwoods available, Douglas Fir is frequently used in building projects across the globe because of its universally recognized strength, durability, and capacity to handle even the harshest weather conditions. Not only is this wood tough, but also versatile.

What is the best grade of wood? ›

Hardwood grades are: FAS (First and Second) is the highest grade of hardwood lumber. It's usually 6-inches x 8-inches and is 83 percent defect-free on its best side. Select is 4-inches x 6-inches and 83 percent defect free on its best side.

Are there different grades of Douglas Fir? ›

Douglas fir Boards usually come in three main grades; Clear Vertical Grain (CVG), D & Better Clear and Select Deck. Clear Vertical Grain is the top quality grade available and is used when you want a top quality appearance. D & Better is also an appearance grade used for paneling applications.

What type of wood is used for framing walls? ›

The two most common engineered wood products used in modern framing are LVL beams and I-joists. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is just what it sounds like: wood veneers (typically poplar, pine, or fir) laminated together under heat and pressure with a moisture-resistant resin.

Is Douglas fir pine or cedar? ›

The Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is an evergreen conifer species in the pine family, Pinaceae. It is native to western North America and is also known as Douglas-fir, Douglas spruce, Oregon pine, and Columbian pine.

Does Douglas fir turn gray? ›

Since it will be covered it won't rot away but it will turn gray.

How long does a Douglas fir deck last? ›

It's also naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects. According to research done by the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, completely untreated Douglas fir will last 10-15 years in outdoor uses.

Is Douglas fir heavier than cedar? ›

A simple comparison of the lb/ft3 of cedar and any other species will tell you what you can expect in added weight. In the following chart (chart 1) you will note that cedar weights 23 lbs/ft3.
...
Wood Density Chart.
SolidDensity
(103 kg/m3)(lb/ft3)
Dogwood0.7547
Douglas Fir0.5333
Ebony1.1 – 1.369 – 83
100 more rows

How do you make Douglas fir look like cedar? ›

How to Stain Pine to Match Cedar
  1. Sand the Wood. Sand the pine item with 100-grit sandpaper to smooth the wood, instructs Popular Woodworking. ...
  2. Apply the Pine Sealer. ...
  3. Add a Second Coat. ...
  4. Lay Out a Few Drop Cloths. ...
  5. Apply the Stain From Top to Bottom. ...
  6. Wait for the Stain to Set. ...
  7. Wipe Down the Wood. ...
  8. Dry Your Rags.

What wood lasts the longest outdoors? ›

Cedar wood projects typically last more than 20 years without splitting, rotting, or warping. White oak and teak are also long lasting woods that are resistant to decay, twisting, cracking, or warping.

What lasts longer cedar or pressure treated wood? ›

When it comes to comparing treated wood vs. cedar, pressure-treated wood is the sturdier and more weather-proof of the two. It's highly resistant to insect attack and rot, and special versions rated for “ground contact” can be buried in soil and will continue to shrug off decay for decades.

How long does cedar last outdoors? ›

It's a durable wood that is naturally resistant to rot, decay and insect attacks, and resists moisture absorption, so it tends to last longer, needs less maintenance, and doesn't warp or split as easily. A cedar deck can last for 15-20 years or more, depending on maintenance and environment.

How do I choose the right wood? ›

If you're working on an exterior project, you'll want to choose a wood that's resistant to the sun and to weathering. Certain woods can help protect against insects and water damage, while other types may be best used indoors. You'll also want to look for types of wood that are known for their durability and strength.

Is Douglas Fir lumber rot resistance? ›

Durability. Douglas fir is the highest-rated North American softwood in strength-to-weight ratio and stiffness, making it an ideal building material for both interiors and exteriors. It is also durable, with the heartwood being particularly rot-resistant.

Is Douglas Fir a type of cedar? ›

Neither species is technically a fir, though; instead, Douglas Firs are commonly considered hemlocks. The straight grain combines yellow earlywood and reddish latewood for a generally orange appearance. These gigantic trees grow along North America's western coast.

What is the price of cedar per board foot? ›

$7.99 /Board Feet
1-99$7.99 /Bd. Ft.
100+$5.99 /Bd. Ft. (25% off)

How do you treat outdoor Douglas fir? ›

The best way to treat Douglas fir for outdoor use is by either painting it or applying a water sealer. Exterior paint is a great choice when building a Douglas fir fence, and using water sealers are perfect for douglas fir decks.

Can you pressure treated Douglas fir? ›

This lumber is pressure treated in order to protect it from termites, fungal decay, and rot. Ideal for a variety of applications, including decks, landscaping, stair support, walkways and other outdoor projects where lumber is exposed to the elements. This lumber can be painted or stained.

What are the disadvantages of fir wood? ›

Cons. Like all softwoods, one issue that can be a negative is that the Douglas Fir wood is, as the softwood name implies, softer than hardwoods. This can mean that the wood can be more easily damaged, so care must be taken in milling, handling, and transporting the lumber.

Is Douglas Fir waterproof? ›

The length of the wood remains intact. Fir is a type of species among softwoods that stays dimensionally stable without requiring any drying or another remedy. In a way, this highly valuable atmospheric moisture management property makes this lumber waterproof, although it is capable of holding water.

Does Douglas Fir take paint well? ›

If you do plan to paint, Douglas fir is an ideal lumber choice. Though it's possible to paint all types of wood, because you're covering up the wood grain anyway, you are free to select a more economical wood.

Does Douglas fir weather well? ›

Weather Resistance

Fir is a type of species among softwoods that stays dimensionally stable without requiring any drying or another remedy. In a way, this highly valuable atmospheric moisture management property makes this lumber waterproof, although it is capable of holding water.

Is Douglas fir naturally rot resistant? ›

Durability. Douglas fir is the highest-rated North American softwood in strength-to-weight ratio and stiffness, making it an ideal building material for both interiors and exteriors. It is also durable, with the heartwood being particularly rot-resistant.

How long does Douglas fir last? ›

Douglas Fir.

You can expect it to last about four weeks.

How does fir wood hold up outside? ›

Fir wood is simply an excellent choice for outdoor furniture items such as picnic tables, ottomans, and chairs. This is a typical wood that is not affected by weather and moisture. When the weather becomes damp or wet, it doesn't dry or warp out of its shape. It also retains the original size and doesn't split.

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