Is Cedar Good For Outdoor Use? All You Need To Know!

is cedar good for outdoor use

Cedar is one of the most popular woods in the woodworking world. it can use pretty much for any woodworking project including decking, siding, trimming, and flooring.

But if you’re looking to use cedar for outdoor furniture to live under harsh conditions, you may have probably wondered, Is cedar good for outdoor use? 

I decided to check it out and here’s what I’ve found:

Yes, Cedar is an excellent wood for outdoor use. Cedar is rot and decay-resistant. It repels bugs and insects. Working with cedar wood is easy. With proper finishing cedar furniture and woodworks are great for outdoor use. Cedar is an ideal wood for humid climates.

But that isn’t exactly a yes or no question.

So, in this article, we’ll explore is cedar good for outdoor use, the advantages and disadvantages of using cedar for outdoor use, and how to finish cedar for exterior use as well.

Furthermore, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions as well.

Let’s jump in!

Can You Use Cedar for Exterior?

Yes, you can use cedar for exterior furniture, fences, flooring, benches, and wood carving without any issue.

It has natural resistance against environmental elements such as moisture. Therefore, cedar wood is rot-resistant, decay-resistant, and able to place in humid environments.

Cedar has natural resistance against bugs and insects.

The wood itself releases a chemical called Thujone which acts as a neurotoxic chemical to insects and bugs. It causes nerve damage to bugs and insects.

Thujone is known as a strong antimicrobial chemical that contains in white cedar.

Not only that, but Cedar also has a strong aromatic smell that repels bugs and insects. Because of those reasons bugs hate cedar wood and furniture made from cedar.

Cedar is a tight-grained, weather-resistant, and beautiful wood with excellent working and finishing properties. It is easy to cut, saw, nail, and drill, and cedar takes stain so well.

Because of the excellent properties of cedar, it can use for outdoor projects without any hesitations.

Cedar is not needed to be treated, stained, or painted, but lasts for years without any damage.

But I highly recommend you treat and finish cedar woodworks especially before placing them outside because if you leave it untreated, it can weather to a grey, ash color over time.

Plus, even though cedar is so good to use outdoor, it is not hard and strong as hardwoods.

Cedar is a softwood. Therefore, cedar doesn’t live long as hardwoods. To increase its durability, proper maintenance is a must.

So, let’s have a look at some major pros and cons of cedar for outdoor use.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cedar Wood for Outdoor Use

Withstand against high temperaturesNeed regular maintenance
High workabilitySensitive wood
High durabilityColor will fade away over time unless it is treated
Repel bugs and insectsWeaker than hardwoods
LightweightHighly sensitive wood
Rot and decay-resistantDevelop fuzzy surface over time unless it is treated
Aesthetic beautiful appearanceDarken over time under direct sunlight
High resistance against outdoor elements 

As you can see, the advantages of cedar wood are so many because of its excellent properties.

Most of the disadvantages can be skipped with the proper finishing method. With proper finishing, cedar furniture and woodworks will last for decades.

When we look at the internal structure of cedar, it has a pores structure with air-filled inside.

Those air-filled pockets are useful to protect the wood from extremely high and low-temperature levels.

This is why cedar benches are comfy even during the hottest months of summer.

Even though cedar is considered a softwood, it has high compressive and bending strength than some hardwoods as well.

The compressive and bending strengths of cedar are as follows compared to a well-known hardwood Aspen,

Wood TypeCompressive StrengthBending Strength
Red Cedar (Softwood)4,560 psi7,500 psi
Aspen (Hardwood)4,250 psi8,400 psi

As you can see, this is why cedar is so good to use for outdoor use, it has some excellent features. Generally, cedar wood is cheaper than teak wood but lighter than Oak wood.

So, let’s discuss how to finish cedar wood for exterior use to eliminate or minimize attacks from environmental elements and increase its durability.

How To Finish Cedar for Outdoor Use?

Cedar takes stain, paint, and sealer so well. By finishing cedar wood properly, the wood will get extra protection against environmental elements such as moisture, UV rays, climate changes, and many more.

Plus, it’ll get a nice aesthetic look that adds a unique appearance to your outdoor environment.

By applying stain, you’ll get the natural look of cedar and stain will help the cedar wood to minimize moisture absorption from outside and stop the decaying process.

If you have applied the stain correctly, you’ll be able to get a nice and smooth finish while keeping your loving cedar wood furniture or woodwork for exterior use without any issue.

So, let’s find out how to finish cedar wood using stain for outdoor use.

Suppliers You Will Need To Finish Cedar Wood

  • Wood stain
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner
  • Paintbrush for stains
  • Clean rags or old clothes
  • 220 grit sandpaper

Here’re the steps you need to follow when finishing cedar wood for outdoor use.

  1. Clean and sand the wood surface.
  2. Apply pre-stain wood conditioner.
  3. Let the wood sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Apply the stain.
  5. Let the wood dry completely.
  6. Apply the second coat of stain and let it dry completely.

So, let’s explore each of the above steps to finish cedar for exterior use.

This is how you can get a Yes, answer to the burning question, is cedar good for outdoor use?

1. Clean and Sand the Wood

Cleaning is the most essential thing to do before any kind of wood finishing project.

First of all, take a rag or old cloth and wipe down the surface to eliminate dust, debris, and other residues before sanding the wood.

After cleaning the wood, sand the entire surface with 220-grit sandpaper uniformly without missing any spots.

Sand along the direction of the wood grain to avoid wood from scratching and for the better acceptance of wood stain.

Cleaning and sanding helps to eliminate unnecessary stuff on wood and make it super smooth to take on stain evenly all over the wood.

220 grit sandpaper is well enough to work with cedar because it is a softwood and higher-grade sandpapers may kill the natural aesthetic appearance of the cedar wood.

Higher grade sandpapers ruin the wood grain and never help the wood to take stains well. Therefore, always select fine-grade sandpaper to work with cedar for better finishing.

After you’re done with sanding, clean the entire surface with a clean rag or old cloth to remove sawdust.

Make sure not to leave dust, debris, and sawdust because that may cause a lot of trouble if they stick with wood stains. Therefore, the cleaning part is a must after sanding.

After you’re done with sanding and cleaning let the wood dry completely for about 24 hours before moving on to the next step.

2. Apply Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

Applying a pre-stain wood conditioner is not an essential step when finishing cedar. But pre-stain wood conditioner helps the wood to take stain evenly throughout the surface preventing surface blotchiness.

Pre-stain wood conditioner helps cedar wood to accept wood stain evenly without making most of the wood stain mistakes such as getting bubbles, streaks, and blotches when applying the stain.

Cedar is a porous softwood. Therefore, it absorbs a lot of stains if the stain is directly applied on cedar wood without applying a pre-stain wood conditioner.

Applying wood conditioner, will limit the absorption of wood stain to the cedar wood and save wasting unnecessary amount of wood stain by making a thin layer of stain.

A thin layer of stain is efficient in drying and causes fewer troubles.

Even though applying a pre-stain wood conditioner is an optional step, I highly recommend you use a pre-stain wood conditioner before applying wood stain to get promising results.

After applying a pre-stain wood conditioner all over the wood, let the wood sit for about 30 minutes for the absorption process, and wipe off the excess with a damp cloth.

3. Apply The Stain

Now you are good to apply wood stain to cedar wood as a finisher for outdoor use.  There’re so many different color options you can go with. Select the one that perfectly goes with your cedar woodwork.

Dip the tip of the paintbrush into the stain and apply a thin layer of stain all over the wood.

Make sure not to dip the paintbrush too much on the stain because the paintbrush itself absorb lots of stains and the tendency of splashing over is less.

Apply wood stain uniformly throughout the cedar wood surface without missing any spots along the direction of the wood grain.

This will prevent stains from crossing with each other because of brush strokes. Apply even pressure on the paint brush to avoid randomness.

After applying the stain for about 1-2 minutes, immediately wipe off the excess stain with a rag before the excess stain settle on the surface.

Focus more on hard spots because stains tend to sit on top of the hard spots than soft spots.

Wiping off excess stains will prevent from happening lots of wood stain mistakes.

Make sure to apply stain in a well-ventilated area for good air circulation to avoid contact with harsh chemicals in wood stain.


Better to apply a stain or sealer that protects wood from moisture and UV rays. Some ingredients in the wood sealer or wood stain contain UV protectant chemicals that protect outdoor cedar furniture and make them last for years.

4. Let The Wood Dry Completely

After applying the first coat of stain, let it dry for about 24 hours. But this depends on the weather conditions. However, don’t go for the second coat of stain until the first coat of stain is fully dry.

Usually, the average drying time of wood stain is 24 hours. Applying the next coat of stain before the first coat is completely dry, may cause surface blotchiness.

Surface blotchiness is a huge mistake in wood finishing and to fix that, you’ll have to scrape the wood stain and start over from the beginning which is so frustrating to do.

So, drying is so much important when finishing cedar for outdoor use.

To protect cedar furniture and woodworks cover them up during the off-season.

Even though cedar has good resistance against environmental elements such as moisture and temperatures, exposure too much to extreme environmental changes like snow and rain could decrease the lifetime of cedar wood.

Therefore, better if you can move outside cedar furniture to a covered area or cover them up during the off-season for better protection.

That’s it, folks! Now you know all about is cedar good for outdoor use carving and woodworking and how to finish cedar for exterior use with a step-by-step guideline process.

The process we have discussed above is the most simple and accurate method of staining cedar wood.

I highly advise you to stain scrap cedar wood pieces before moving on to the main project to get good results especially if you’re a beginner in woodworking.

After staining cedar wood, better to apply proper oil finishes like Tung oil or Linseed oil on cedar wood to get the maximum protection from the outside world.

So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about using cedar for outdoor applications.

Is Cedar Naturally Rot Resistant?

Yes, Cedar is naturally rot-resistant because it repels bugs and insects, has natural moisture resistance, and decay resistance, and doesn’t need to be treated, painted, or stained.

It already has good resistance against environmental elements.

Cedar oil and chemicals that release from the wood are called Thujone to protect the wood from insects and bug attacks.

Plus, it has air-filled pore structures that help the wood protect against extreme high and low-temperature levels.

Cedar has a strong odor that is harmful to bugs and insects but pleasing for humans.

This will prevent bacteria and fungal growth inside cedar wood furniture and woodworks and stop wood from rotting.

Outdoor Application of Cedar

Here’re some common popular outdoor applications of cedar,

  • Pergolas
  • Benches
  • Porch swings
  • Outdoor storage houses
  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Gazebos
  • Fences
  • Decks
  • Shingles

As you can see with regular maintenance and proper finishing you can use cedar wood pretty much for any outdoor application.

How Long Will Cedar Last Outside?

With proper finishing and regular maintenance, cedar will last outside 20 years or longer.

Cedar outdoor uses that contact with the ground such as fences last outside 10 to 20 years or longer. Cedar lasts outside untreated for about 10 years.

Here’s some average lifetime of cedar outdoor furniture and woodworks.

Cedar Outdoor UseAverage Lifetime
Pergolas20 years
Benches15 years
Porch swings20 years or longer
Outdoor storage houses10 years or longer
Tables15 years
Chairs20 years
Gazebos10 years
Fences10 – 20 years
Decks20 years
Shingles15 years


The above values are only for the cedar furniture that finish and maintain regularly. With proper care, all the cedar wood furniture and woodworks will last for decades.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Is Cedar Good for Outdoor Use?

In this article, we have deeply discussed is cedar good for outdoor use with the pros and cons of cedar to use for outdoor applications and we have explored, how to finish cedar for exterior use with a highly explained step-by-step process.

Cedar is extremely good to use for outdoor use. It has natural resistance against, moisture, high temperature, bugs and insects, and natural weather resistance. Cedar furniture can keep outside untreated for so long because of its high durability and resistance to environmental elements.

Furthermore, I have answered some frequently asked questions about is cedar good for outdoor uses as well.

Hope you have gained good knowledge about using cedar as outdoor furniture and woodwork.

So, let’s make your next woodworking project with cedar and try to finish it as we discussed throughout this article to make it lasts long over decades.

Have fun in woodworking!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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