As a handyman, you want to create the best work possible. It’s an obsessive trait that we all have. Quality is always top of mind and the most important consideration. While learning our craft, we come up with new ways to create beautiful projects consistently. At least that’s the goal. We also want to ensure we are always creating our projects with the best materials for that specific job. That’s what led me to my most recent question. Is cedar a good wood for furniture? After some research and speaking with other DIYers, here is what I’ve learned.
So, is cedar a good wood for furniture? Cedar is considered a soft wood. For indoor furniture, this makes cedar wood, not the best option. For outdoor furniture, cedar wood is a fantastic option. It’s weather resistant and if you seal cedar wood it can maintain beauty for long durations.
Let’s break down applications where cedar wood can be used and explain in more detail why it may not be the best choice for your indoor furniture.
Understanding All Wood Options for Furniture
Cedarwood doesn’t necessarily have to be considered a “bad wood” for indoor applications. It depends heavily on what you intend to use it for. One of the biggest complaints is the softness of cedar wood. For applications such as dining room tables, coffee tables, and nightstands, the wood will be too soft to hold up over time without showing major signs of wear and tear including scratches, indentations and other issues that can cause the wood to lose its physical beauty.
Cedarwood will lose its form faster and easier with pressure related used when used for furniture. Assuming, you did decide to use cedar for dining room table, an object such as a fork, or other silverware could leave wear marks or indentations in the wood. In these applications, you would be much more suited using wood choices such as the following.
Maple- High Durability and Harder Wood
Oak- High Durability and Harder Wood
Pine- High Durability and Harder Wood
Walnut- High Durability and Harder Wood
Some Further Considerations About Cedar Wood and Indoor Furniture
We don’t necessarily want to rule cedar wood out of the picture completely for certain indoor furniture or projects. However, understanding the various forms of cedar wood can be very helpful when trying to make the best decision. Also, keep in mind that not all forms of cedar wood are readily available in every location.
Simply meaning, based on your geographical location, some of these woods may be harder to come by than others and the prices can vary. Let’s break down these woods and see which ones to consider for certain furniture projects.
Western Red Cedar Wood
Western Red cedar is your cedar wood always displaying a reddish-brown color tone. It’s often known for displaying knots in the wood and for having low density. The low density makes this wood not great for indoor furniture but still a perfectly viable option for outdoor furniture applications.
Northern White Cedar Wood
Northern White cedar is another example of a “softer” cedar wood and often has knots present in the wood grain. It can make for great outdoor projects such as fence posting and deck construction as well as outdoor furniture. However, this is another example of cedar wood that would not be the most ideal to use for indoor furniture.
Eastern Red Cedar Wood
Eastern Red cedar is used primarily to line indoor closets and build hope chest. For everyday use and heavy traffic applications with indoor furniture, it wouldn’t be a top consideration. For outdoor furniture, this wood could still be a fantastic option.
Yellow Cedar Wood
Yellow cedar is primarily used for lightweight applications such as musical instruments and canoe paddles. Yellow cedar is still a great pick for outdoor use but not advised for indoor furniture use. It will show the wear and tear easily like the other cedar woods we have already mentioned.
Spanish Cedar Wood
Spanish cedar is grown in Central and South America. Uses for Spanish cedar range from furniture to cabinetry. In the United States, cedar wood is tough to come by which makes it harder to use for furniture projects.
However, if you did happen to get your hands on come Spanish cedar, this would help eliminate the softness issue discussed previously. In this example, Spanish cedar would be a great pick for indoor furniture as well as outdoor furniture. This makes the availability of Spanish cedar frustrating. It’s the one cedar wood that can serve all purposes without much worry.
Summing Up the Various Forms of Cedar Wood
After looking at the various options of cedar wood you would have, it comes down to a few key points and considerations. First, all cedar wood is fantastic for outdoor use including outdoor furniture. As stated before it’s going to hold up strong against weather elements and hang tough through moisture. When cedar wood is used outdoors, it’s also famously known for being a natural bug repellent.
However, after reading through the options it should be clear that the only form of cedar wood that would make a great option for indoor furniture would be your Spanish cedar wood. Keep in mind as stated previously, this may not be readily available everywhere in the US. If it is, chances are it will be costly.
Additionally, if you plan on creating indoor furniture that won’t consistently take a beating or experience high traffic, it’s likely you could use any of the forms of cedar listed above. Don’t be shocked however if you choose a softer cedar wood and physically see the wear and tear taking place over time. Especially in those high traffic high use applications.
Is Cedar A Good Wood to Build With?
Yes, this is where making indoor or outdoor furniture out of cedar wood can be a dream come true. Cedarwood will be very low density and lightweight. Combining these two traits together makes cedar wood very easy to cut and shape using hand tools or power tools. This also eliminates some of the skill needed to work with cedar wood.
When constructing outdoor furniture with cedar wood, you shouldn’t have much of a problem with cutting or shaping. However, you should consider using proper safety equipment due to the properties of cedar wood. The sawdust cedarwood creates has been known to trigger certain allergy outbreaks and other health concerns.
A proper respirator will help eliminate this issue.
What Furniture Would You Consider Making with Cedar Wood- Indoors and Outdoors
To tie this all together, you should limit indoor furniture to pieces that will see the least amount of traffic. A chest, a spare bedroom dresser or even end tables that won’t see much traffic are still options for indoor furniture where cedar would be perfectly fine to use.
On the flip side, using cedar wood for items such as coffee tables, entryway tables/runners and dining room tables would not be the best idea unless using the Spanish Cedar Wood discussed previously. These furniture items will see high traffic and heavy use and the visual wear and tear will begin appearing quickly with a softwood such as cedar.
For outdoor use, with a proper coat of sealant, cedar wood can be used for all furniture. It’s perhaps the best wood for outdoor applications and you should have no complaints about the finished project. For some examples of a couple of fun and easy outdoor projects, you can create using cedar wood, be sure to visit our other posts on the topic that you can see here.
A Final Word- Cedar Can Be A Fantastic Choice for Furniture but With Limitations
To sum it up, cedar wood has been being used for centuries for various projects and applications. It’s a beautiful wood with some very unique traits and properties. It’s always wise to consider the application and furniture piece you intend on creating carefully and to make sure it’s a good wood for the job. As stated previously, sealing cedar wood and using cedar in outdoor applications makes cedar wood one of a kind and could last decades for you with proper care and maintenance.
What’s your experience using cedar wood to craft furniture for indoor and outdoor uses? What’s been your key to creating the perfect furniture? Leave a comment below.
Is the Smell of Cedar Harmful?
For those considering cedar wood for indoor applications, you may be wondering if the smell of cedar wood is harmful? Although it does smell great, cedar wood does contain some properties that can be dangerous to animals and humans. Cedarwood has been known to cause what’s known as cedar asthma, animal toxicity and dermatitis for those who make direct contact with cedar to the skin and have previous skin issues.