A Guide to Selecting Wood for Your Outdoor Project

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Wood has been used for centuries to make structures that are exposed to the elements. Today, wood experts agree that American softwoods are ideal for outdoor wood projects. There are three types of different American softwoods that are widely available and not treated with chemical preservatives. Read on to learn more about these softwoods and to find out which of these specialty woods is right for your outdoor project.

Western Red Cedar

This type of American softwood is usually found in the Midwest. Western red cedar is straight-grained, resistant to decay, and dimensionally stable. When prepped beforehand, western red cedar accepts all wood stains and clear finishes. One of the drawbacks of western red cedar is that it can split when driving fasteners. It also bleeds tannins, which makes using paint and fasteners difficult.


Redwood is very similar to western red cedar in that it is straight-grained, stable, decay resistant, and prone to excreting tannins. But it is different in a number of ways. For starters, redwood is more widely available in the western United States than western red cedar. Redwood also has a deep reddish-brown color, while cedar is closer to yellowish brown. Redwood also has a tighter grain pattern and fewer knots when compared with cedar.


Cypress often grows is swamps in the southern and southeast United States. It has a conical base and roots that appear to stand out of the water. Cypress has ash-like grain patterns, white sapwood, and heartwood colors that can be light yellow brown, reddish brown, or dark brown. When cypress grows inland it has lighter heartwood colors.

At Southern Lumber, we carry a wide range of specialty woods that are great for any woodworking project—indoors or out. Pressure-treated pine, white oak, teak, and mahogany are other types of outdoor woods that may be suitable for your project. Learn more about the specialty woods we offer by visiting our website. And if you have any questions, please call us at (408) 297-9663.

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