Cedar vs. Pine – What’s the Difference?

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cedar vs pine

There is no doubt that the pine tree has a very special place in the history of American culture and heritage. But there is also no doubt that cedar is one of the best woods in terms of quality. It lasts longer and is easier to maintain when used both indoors and outdoors.

But what’s the difference between cedar and pine? First of all, the two trees and their wood look very different. Durability and lifespan differ too. Cedar is a more eco-friendly option and it lasts a lot longer than pine does. Which one you choose will depend on what you want to use it for.  We are going to focus on outdoor and garden use. 

Cedar vs Pine: What’s the difference

Pine and cedar trees both belong to the same Pinaceae family and are evergreen coniferous trees. But cedar trees fall under the Cedrus genus and pines under Pinus. 

Lumber from both cedar and pine trees are softwoods. They grow considerably more quickly than hardwoods, and so can be regrown after felling. 

Like other softwoods, including Douglas fir and spruce, cedar and pine are used extensively in residential and commercial construction. 

Both types of softwood are also used for sidings, fencing, decking, as well as making furniture. 

Cedar

There are only four cedar species:

  1. Atlas Cedar, Cedrus Atlantica
  2. Cyprian Cedar, Cedrus brevifolia
  3. Cedar of Lebanon, Cedrus libani
  4. Deodar Cedar, Cedrus Deodara

But there are also many so-called false cedars that aren’t in the Cedrus genus. These include the Alaskan Yellow Cedar, Cupressus nootkatensis (a type of cypress), Eastern Red Cedar, Juniperus virginiana and Bermuda Cedar, Juniperus bermudiana (which are both juniper trees), Incense Cedar, Calocedrus decurrens, and the Northern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis.

The Siberian cedar Pine, Pinus sibirica, is often called Siberian cedar. But it is a type of white pine that produces bundles of needles. 

Typically, cedar trees grow to between 95 and 130 feet, but some grow as tall as 200 feet with enormous trunks up to 8-10 feet in diameter. They grow quite fast and live for hundreds of years if not felled for the wood. 

Cedar trees let off a fragrant smell and produce an aromatic oil that pine trees don’t produce. This slows down the decay of cedar wood and protects it from natural predators from moths to squirrels. 

Pine

There is no doubt that pine is the most common type of conifer found worldwide. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew), there are about 187 species of pine. 

However, the Royal Horticultural and American Conifer Societies (ACS) accept only 121 species. The ACS recognizes 818 cultivars. 

Some well-known species include the Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus, and Japanese White Pine, Pinus parviflora. Also, the Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana (native to California), Jack Pine, Pinus banksiana (native to Canada and the northern U.S.), and Mugo Pine, Pinus mugo, a gorgeous dwarf tree or shrub from Europe. 

In general, pine trees will grow up to 150 feet tall, but some species stay as small as 4 feet. If left to carry on growing, they can live for thousands of years. 

Pine trees produce an aromatic scent, but it isn’t as strong as that produced by cedar trees. The pine wood tends to let off a strong smell when the tree is disturbed.

What to Consider between Cedar vs Pine: Comparison

difference between cedar vs pine

Before we consider the differences between using cedar wood and pine wood, we’re going to mention the mutual benefits of both. Pine cedar and other softwoods are a lot easier to work with than hardwoods like mahogany, oak, walnut, and maple. 

Softwoods, including pinewood and cedar wood, are lighter in weight and they have a smooth texture that is easier to cut. These woods also hold nails, screws, and other fasteners well.

They also absorb wood finishes well and can be painted with ease. 

Because of their speed of growth, softwoods are more sustainable than hardwoods. This makes them more affordable as well. 

Additionally, the two wood types have their own benefits. 

Benefits 

There are two standout benefits of cedar vs pine.

Cedar wood contains natural oils that prevent rot, warping, and shrinkage. They also naturally deter attacks from insects. 

The wood pine trees produce is generally ideal for pressure treatments. They don’t have the natural oils cedar trees have. But pressure-treated pine wood has similar protection against the elements and insects. 

The caveat is that there are different types of pressure treatments. Two basic types are used for above-ground and ground-contact wood. 

Generally, the ground-contact type has a higher chemical concentration. It stands to reason that this is because the wood comes into contact with moisture, soil, and vegetation and so rots and decays more quickly. 

Uses

Cedar is a good-looking wood that has visual appeal. This makes it popular for many outdoor structures.

These include wood fences, decking, and cedar siding. Cedar is also used for shingles, with white cedar shingles being a favorite. 

Because of its smell and insect-repellent benefits, some types of cedar wood are used for dressers, freestanding cupboards, and other units used for storing clothing. 

Pressure-treated pine is extremely popular for outdoor projects. Ground-contact lumber is commonly used for structural posts, garden boxes, raised beds, and so on. 

Above-ground lumber is used for any wood elements that are at least 6 inches off the ground. Uses include joists, beams, pine fence pickets, deck railings, and exposed porch flooring.

Pine wood is also commonly used for furniture as well as door and window frames. 

Cost

Cedar is more expensive than pine, but pricing will depend on local suppliers as well as the structure you are building.

If you compare the fence cost of cedar vs pine, you will find that the price per linear foot of cedar will be approximately double that of a pine fence.   

Maintenance

Cedar is naturally tougher and more resilient than pine. It also demands less maintenance. 

But its use will also be a factor. For instance, a cedar fence will last up to 30 years, but white cedar shingles should be replaced about every 20 years. 

Pressure-treated pine isn’t as tough and you will need to seal or repaint regularly. Pine fences need to be checked regularly and any broken or rotting pieces will need to be replaced. 

American International Forest Products (AiFP) points out that in addition to maintenance, the climate will also affect the longevity of pressure-treated wood. For instance, pressure-treated poles might last up to 40 years without any sign of decay or rot. Decks and flooring, on the other hand, may only last 10 years. 

They suggest cleaning off any mildew if it develops. Also, apply a water-repellent sealer every year.

Conclusion

Cedar and pine have a lot in common, but there are also differences. For example, cedar is more expensive, but pine doesn’t last as long. 

In this article, we’ve examined the basics of pine and cedar trees, as well as pine and cedar wood that we use in our outdoor areas. We have also mentioned the pros, cons, and some of the benefits of both. 

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