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Cedar vs Treated Wood Fence: Which is Better?


When it comes to choosing materials for your new fence, you basically have two options – cedar or treated wood. Both have their advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cost, appearance, durability, and maintenance. So how do you decide which is the best picket fence material for your needs? Let’s compare these two popular fencing lumber choices.

The Look – Cedar Wins for Visual Appeal

There’s no doubt about it, natural cedar fencing looks fantastic. With its warm reddish-brown tones and grain patterns, a cedar fence can add great curb appeal and a stylish backdrop to any landscape. The wood has natural oils that give it water resistance, allowing the rich color to mellow into a silvery gray patina over time. Many homeowners prefer this aged look to the brighter reddish cedar hues.

On the other hand, treated wood has an unnatural greenish tint from the chemical preservatives used to make it weather-resistant. It simply doesn’t have the same visual warmth and character as cedar. While treated wood takes paint fairly well, you’ll still see a difference up close between it and stained or natural cedar in terms of appearance.

Find Out: How to Calculate Fence Post Hole Depth

Longevity – It Depends on the Grade

When comparing the rot and insect resistance of cedar vs treated wood, there are a lot of factors at play. With good quality wood and proper installation, both fence materials can potentially last over a decade.

  • Cedar – The natural oils make cedar naturally resistant to moisture, decay, and insects like termites. However, continual moisture exposure can lead to cracking, cupping, and discoloration over time. How long a cedar fence will last depends mainly on the wood grade/cut and climate. Vertical grain Heartwood boards offer better resistance than lower grades.
  • Treated Wood – The chemical treatment makes this a solid choice for wet climates and ground contact use. Though not considered decay-proof, the preservatives do protect well against rot, fungal damage, and termites. Longevity varies based on the retention level of treatment chemicals. Above-ground-rated wood won’t last as long as ground contact rated.

So if you choose high-quality, vertical grain Heartwood cedar boards, install them properly with adequate airflow, and provide periodic maintenance, a cedar fence can last 15-30 years. With ground contact rated treated wood, you may get 10-15+ years of service life.

The Cost Comparison

Cedar fencing does cost more upfront than basic treated wood – sometimes 2-3 times more. But given its appealing looks and longevity, the material expense is worthwhile for many homeowners.

Here’s a breakdown of typical pricing:

  • Cedar fence boards – $3-$7 per linear foot
  • Treated pine fence boards – $0.50-$2 per linear foot

Keep in mind that you’ll also have costs for fence posts, nails, caps, gates and any labor if not installing the fence yourself. Cedar requires more frequent staining or sealant to maintain its condition compared to treated wood as well. So factor ongoing maintenance costs into your decision.

Installation and Maintenance Needs

Installing both types of wooden fences takes some work. But cedar and treated lumber do have slightly different requirements when it comes to things like:

  • Handling – Cedar is more prone to cracking and splintering if roughly handled, so more care should be taken when transporting and erecting the boards.
  • Fastening – Stainless steel nails and screws are ideal for cedar to prevent potential discoloration from metal leaching. Hot-dipped galvanized fasteners can be used if cost is a concern.
  • Sealing – Though not mandatory, applying finish helps retain moisture resistance and color for cedar. Treated wood sealant is mainly for aesthetics.
  • Maintenance – Plan to re-coat cedar every 2-5 years depending on climate. Treated wood just needs occasional cleaning.

Also Read: Privacy vs Semi-Privacy Fences

Cedar vs Treated Wood Fence: Making the Best Choice for Your Needs

When choosing wood fence materials, think about your budget, design preferences, climate and how much maintenance you’re willing to do. Cedar has outstanding visual appeal and durability, but doesn’t come cheap. Treated wood lacks the beauty of cedar but is an affordable, low-maintenance option.

Hopefully this breakdown gives you a better idea of cedar vs treated wood’s pros and cons. Making an informed lumber decision will help ensure you get the right fence to fulfill your needs for years to come!

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