Composite decking is one of the more popular options for homeowners considering building a new deck on their property. While many companies have turned towards using recycled content in their products, it’s not a replacement for natural wood. Of those natural alternatives, cedarwood has long been at the top of most homeowners' shopping lists, and in this guide, we’re going to discuss the factors that affect cedar decking cost.
The Pros and Cons of Cedar Decking
Cedar is one of a handful of woods that are known to be naturally resistant to insects. Termites and rot won’t be an issue with cedar decking, and it’s an excellent all-around choice to withstand Mother Nature.
In its natural unstained state, cedar wood brings a distinct but natural look to your home. It doesn’t need to be treated and will require less maintenance over the years when compared to other types of wood decking. This fragrant wood is environmentally friendly as well, considering Western Red Cedar is grown domestically and doesn’t contain any additives like pressure-treated lumber.
Unfortunately, there are a few considerable drawbacks to using cedar wood for decking, and the biggest roadblock for most consumers would be the cost. We will go more in-depth with that in the cost section of this guide, but you can expect cedar wood decking cost to be at least twice the price of a pressure treated deck.
While maintenance is low for cedar decking, aside from sealing, it’s a bit more delicate than other types of lumber. Western Red Cedar has a rating of around 320 on the Janka scale, which is well below Red Oak at 1290 or even Southern Yellow Pine, which ranks 870. It’s not used for residential flooring because of that but is still an excellent choice for decks due to its weather resistance.
Cedar Decking Pros
- Resistant to rot, moisture, and decay
- Environmentally friendly building material
- Less prone to warping due to their hygroscopic nature
- Easy to maintain compared to other types of wood decking
- Unique color and style
Cedar Decking Cons
- It’s costly compared to similar alternatives
- More susceptible to damage as it’s a softer wood
Cedar Decking vs. Pressure Treated Wood
Now that the pros and cons of cedar decking are clear, it’s time to compare it to its closest competitor – pressure treated wood. It’s the most cost-effective form of natural decking that can withstand the elements, but its resistance comes at a cost as well.
As we discussed in our pressure treated wood guide, this building material is treated with preservatives. The chemicals are pressurized deep into the core of the wood, which makes it resistant to rain, rot, and decay. The process may give it a degree of protection against the weather, but it doesn’t provide the same style of a natural cedar plank.
Pressure-treated lumber is cheaper, however, and often the best choice for a deck frame, even if it isn’t used for the surface. It’s also more durable than cedar. While the Janka rating will vary depending on the species, Pine is the most common, and it’s considerably harder than cedar.
When it comes to longevity, cedar decking as an edge, although it’s not uncommon to see pressure treated lumber hold up for more than 20 years when properly maintained. By comparison, cedar decking can last more than 40 years if you seal the deck as needed and keep up a regular routine of yearly maintenance.
Cedar Decking Cost Factors
The most significant factor when considering the cedar decking cost is the price of the deck boards. There are a number of elements that can raise or lower the cost of this natural building material; however, including its dimensions, your location, and even environmental issues like the weather.
Depending on where you reside, you can expect to pay between $4 to $9 per linear foot for a cedar deck board. Western Red is the most expensive, although Eastern Red is not far behind in terms of pricing. Northern White Cedar is actually the cheapest; it’s just not quite as durable or distinct as red cedar decking.
It’s also important to consider availability. You aren’t likely to find cedar decking at your local Home Depot or Lowes, which means you’ll have to contact a deck store or specialty dealer in your area. Delivery charges and other fees could apply or be built into the price of your deck installation.
Cedar Decking Installation Cost
If you’re wondering how much does it cost to build a cedar deck, it’s time to start thinking about your budget and whether you plan to install the decking yourself or hire a professional. The main cost of cedar decking, aside from the material itself, is the cost of installation. There’s far more to building a deck than simply picking up a few bundles of boards – especially if you plan to do it yourself.
DIY Deck Building
If you plan to build a cedar deck yourself, the good news is that wood is easier to work with than composite materials or PVC decking. Because of the price of cedar, you will want to measure twice and cut once; considering mistakes with this type of timber can be costly.
Other materials you need to acquire to build your deck include lumber for the frame and railing. There are a number of ways you can handle handrails and spindles, but it is an additional cost many homeowners overlook. Will your deck have stairs? You’ll need to take those into account as well, along with things like lattice, if you want to keep animals and children out from beneath a raised cedar deck.
Deck Building Tools
If you’re handy around the house, there’s a good chance you’ll have many of the tools needed to complete your project. Homeowners that aren’t comfortable using power tools or don’t want to spend money on additional supplies will want to skip ahead to our next section.
A circular saw will be the most expensive tool you need to purchase, although they can be rented as well. Miter saws are also an option, especially if you have a lot of angled cuts to make. A jigsaw or oscillating multitool can be handy as well in hard to reach areas or tight spaces.
All of those tools will help you cut cedar deck boards, but they won’t help you fasten them to the frame. If you plan on using nails, a hammer is the most cost-effective choice but can wear your arm out on a large deck. Nailers that work off a compressor or air cartridge are much faster, while cordless drills are slightly slower but more affordable and easier to handle.
Some essential tools you’ll need to pick up include a tape measure, chalk line, speed square, and framing square. All are relatively inexpensive and required to properly plan out a cedar deck. Two optional but useful tools include an orbital sander or router.
Professional Cedar Deck Installation
Homeowners that prefer a professional deck installation won’t have to buy tools or even break a sweat. It can be quite expensive, however, once you factor in the cost of labor, cleanup, and site preparation, depending on the area where your deck will be placed.
You also need to consider the cost of building permits in your area along with taxes or haul-off fees if any demolition or heavy landscaping is involved. Complex decks will require more time to complete, so they’ll cost more, and the same goes for finishing or sealing the deck once it has been built. If you’d like to get a better idea of what a professional would charge to build a cedar deck, check out our quote tool.
Cedar Deck FAQ
Q: How bad will the sun cause cedar decking to fade if it isn’t treated?
A: Over time, sunlight and exposure to the elements will cause cedar wood to turn grey. This can be prevented through seasonal maintenance and using a finish with excellent UV protection on your deck.
Q: How often should I seal a cedar deck?
A: Most professionals recommend sealing or staining your deck to protect it from the elements every one to three years.
Q: Can a cedar deck really last for 30 to 40 years?
A: If properly maintained, yes. While we’ve seen estimated vary from between 20 to 40 years, a natural cedar deck will outlast everything except aluminum as long as you treat it well and perform maintenance as needed.
Q: Is it possible to paint a deck constructed from cedar deck boards?
A: Yes. There are special paints designed for use outdoors, but most homeowners prefer to enjoy the natural beauty of cedar through a light stain or a clear finish.
Q: Will a cedar deck raise the value of my home?
A: Adding any major improvement outdoors like a pool or deck can raise the property value of your home. That’s especially true for cedar decking, which is considered a premium building material, although the size of the deck plays a part in the equation as well.