Is Cedar a Hardwood or a Softwood

Cedar is a kind of wood characterized by natural rot-resistant, making it well-known in the woodworking industry for several outdoor projects. It’s readily available and fairly easy to work with.

Cedarwood is ideal for many projects, but it may be inadvisable to use nails or any iron screws on it. As a great wood, several individuals often ask questions about its sturdiness to know if it is hardwood or softwood.

Cedar is categorized as softwood and not hardwood. Hardwood belongs to the category of trees called angiosperm (trees that produce seeds – encased and flowering). Since Cedar is not from angiosperm trees but gymnosperm trees (non-flowering trees), it is categorized by definition as softwood.

Is Cedar a Hardwood

The Strength of Cedar Wood

Cedar wood, by characteristics, may be considered softwood, yet it is completely that soft. It’s mainly referred to as hardwood because it’s from non-flowering trees. As far as strength is concerned, cedar wood is strong.

The best way to know the strength of wood is to measure its strength with other types of strength. The two basic types of strength include the compressive strength and the hardness of the wood.

Compressive strength shows the level of weight a wood type can withstand before cracking or breaking. The hardness of the wood shows how hard the wood is generally, which means how the surface of the wood is scratch- or dent-resistant.

Moreover, there are different cedar wood types with different compressive strengths and hardness. For instance, the compressive strength and hardness of Aromatic Red Cedar (a cedar variant with extreme strength) are 6,000 and 900, respectively. Others include Western Red Cedar, which has the compressive strength of 4,560 and 350 hardness, and the White Cedar features 320 hardness and 3,960 compressive strength. To cap it, most cedar wood types are quite strong.

Cedar Wood Properties

Cedarwood properties make it ideal in several ways. It is preferred for outdoor projects and other great purposes based on the following unique qualities:

  • Durable: Cedar wood such as red cedar is very durable. It is great for several small and big constructions with no integrity challenges.
  • Lightweight and User-friendly: Cedar wood is impressively lightweight, which makes numerous boat builders choose it for their woodwork projects. Besides, because it is light, people find it easy to work with. It’s easy to cut and sand with machines or by hand.
  • Easy-to-stain: Cedar wood is one of the types of wood that can easily be stained.
  • Rot/decay-resistant: That cedar wood is resistant to rot and decay naturally happens to be the most common property of the wood. In fact, research shows that wood is rot-resistant and immune to rot. Although it will definitely end up decayed, the time for that will take much longer than normal.

The Janka Scale of Cedar Wood

The wood products industry came up with the Janka scale to measure and evaluates hardwood. To know how wood can be used, the hardness must be clearly defined. For instance, hardwood will be ideal for flooring.

Red maple, with a Janka rating of 950, is commonly used for butcher blocks and gym floors. Western red cedar is rated 320, but it does not imply that it’s not strong. It only indicates that the wood is susceptible to dent when exposed to some impacts, particularly high foot traffic.

Check below the Janka numbers for some woods–the higher the number, the harder the wood is:

WoodJanka Number
Oak, northernred1290
Birch, yellow1260
Walnut, black1010
Cherry, black950
Cedar, PortOrford720
Cedar, Alaskan580
Cedar, incense470
Pine, ponderosa460
Basswood, American410

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are several questions that people frequently ask about cedarwood. Check below to see some of them with their succinct answers.

Is red cedar a hardwood?

No, red cedar is not hardwood. It is durable and strong softwood that is easy to work with. It is also a lightweight species with incredible stability and is less likely to warp or crack than even treated lumber. Besides, red cedar is ideal for projects where an attractive appearance and weather resistance is needed.

Is cedar a strong wood?

Yes, Cedar is a strong wood. It is a wood that features natural weather-resistant properties, making it a perfect choice for greenhouses, decking, shingles, fences, arbors, and siding.

Is white cedar a softwood?

Yes, white cedar is softwood. In fact, it is referred to as one of the lightest softwoods that are most stable. As a lightweight and decay-resistant wood, it is used for products that come into contact with soil and water. White cedar is commercially used for cabin logs, rustic fencing, shingles, and poles. In addition, it can be used for boat-making and paneling.

Is cedar a Spanish softwood?

There are different types of cedar in woodworking, including eastern red cedar, western red cedar, eastern white cedar, Spanish cedar, and Alaskan yellow cedar.

Spanish cedar is native to South and Central America and the Caribbean. It is reddish-brown and light pink. It is rot-resistant and easy to work with. Besides, it’s softer than other cedar species.

Are cedar trees considered hardwood?

No, cedar trees are not hardwood. They are attractive and versatile trees considered softwood. They belong to the category of plants called gymnosperm. All gymnosperms are commonly termed softwoods.

How strong is yellow cedar?

Compared to most commercial softwoods, yellow cedar is seen to be harder, making it obviously strong. It is characterized by distinctive working properties and can easily be worked with (machining and finishing).

Conclusion

In a nutshell, cedar is softwood and not hardwood. It may tend towards the lower end of the hardness scale, but it’s well-known for its great looks, usability, and lightweight. Cedar is a good choice for decking, shingles, siding, fences, arbors, and greenhouses based on its natural weather-resistant properties. It is remarkably durable and fairly rot-resistant. However, it is prone to insect attacks and may not do well when it’s in contact with the ground directly. Finally, it is advisable to maintain the wood regularly to help protect it.

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