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Teak vs Cedar – Which Wood Is Best for Your Outdoor Deck?

When you’re designing plans for your brand-new high-end deck, one of the most important considerations to make involves the type of wood to use. Two of the more popular choices include teak and cedar due to their overall look and appeal. How do you know which one will work best for your plans? Both have been shown to be quality materials for outdoor deck building, but choosing between them depends upon several factors.

What Is Teak?

A dense and closed-grain wood, teak is sourced from the Tectona grandis tree, which is exclusively grown in south and southeast Asia on supervised teak plantations. The trees can live for up to 100 years and can reach more than 150 feet tall. It’s also one of the fastest-growing tropical hardwoods, growing at a rate of about half an inch per day. The trees take about 25 years to mature and become ready for harvest. Teak wood is gold in color and contains a smooth grain and finish.

Pros of Teak

Since it’s hardwood, teak is naturally denser and heavier than cedar. Renowned for its longevity and ability to survive exposure to the elements, teak is more durable than cedar and is an easily maintained wood. All you need to do is perform a general clean. There’s no need to apply a stain or sealant to maintain its luster. Teak naturally secretes oil that helps condition and protect itself from harsh weather conditions. If you properly maintain your teak deck, it could last between 50 to 70 years.

Although not entirely waterproof, teak has an abundance of naturally occurring protective oils. Because of this, teak is highly resistant to the detrimental effects that moisture can have on wood,  including warping. Teak decks are also non-skid and anti-slip, so no matter how much rainwater comes onto the deck, the deck should maintain its traction.

Cons of Teak

While both teak and cedar are solid choices for your deck, teak does cost a bit more because of its longevity and its availability. Cedar is easier to harvest, so the cost to obtain isn’t as high. Also, since teak has maintenance-free characteristics, it’s a more valuable wood, so it will be a little pricier than cedar. 

Teak decks must be coated within two weeks of construction because outdoor contaminants such as dirt, pollen, and moisture can cause the wood to discolor and give it a silvery-gray patina. While some people might like that color change, others find it a nuisance. To ensure it doesn’t happen, you either need to restore it yourself or have a professional apply a seal. Small cracks and splits, also called checks, can form due to changes in humidity and temperature. While these cracks don’t change the wood’s structural integrity, they may look unsightly. 

What Is Cedar?

Diagonal Portion of a Cedar Deck in Los Angeles, California

Diagonal portion of a Cedar Deck” licensed under “CC By 2.0” by A Yee

Cedar is a softwood that comes from domestic coniferous trees grown on both the East and West coast. People gravitate toward cedar wood due to its scent and aesthetic appeal. Most cedar wood has a pinkish-red color, although it can have some purple hues as well. When it loses its coloring, it turns more silver and gray. 

Compared to trees in the same family such as pine, cedar trees are relatively small, growing to about 115 feet tall. Although there are dozens of types of cedar that grow across the world, the two most commonly used for decks are Eastern and Western red cedar. Eastern red cedar is a significantly stronger and harder wood compared to the cedar grown on the other coast. These two are usually sustainably harvested and abundant. Yellow cedar, which is found in Alaska, and Spanish cedar, which is found in Central and South America, are often more difficult types to procure.

Pros of Cedar

Two of cedar’s defining characteristics are its coloring and aroma. Its dark-reddish tones and stained finish give off a striking appearance. The scent helps preserve the timber from exterior weather and insect damage. You can choose among several different textures, dimensions, and grades, so you can find a type of cedar that works best for your project. Cedar is also cheaper than teak, so if you’re planning a large deck, it might be more cost-effective to use cedar. Expect a properly maintained cedar deck to last 15 to 20 years.

Although not as strong as some other softwoods, such as Douglas fir, cedar can be milled to use in structural designs for posts on decks as well as for the main planks. This lightweight wood is easy to manipulate and is easy to use at high altitudes. Since it’s grown in the United States, cedar is readily available for your project. It’s also produced from sustainably managed forests, which means you’re not degrading national forests when you purchase cedar.

Cons of Cedar

Over time, all-natural wood changes due to chemical reactions between the wood and the environment. While cedar will also last for many years, this porous wood requires an annual coat of protective oil to retain its natural beauty. When used for ground-level decks, cedar tends to degrade more quickly. Some areas may also dry out faster, but re-sealing them can solve these problems. You can always hire a professional to restore your cedar deck if you find its color and texture begins to fade.

Because it’s a softwood, cedar is rather sensitive when it comes across other surfaces, causing it to get scratched more often. Be careful if you plan to use cedar for your decking and have dogs with sharp claws. When your furry friends run across the deck, their claws could make marks.

Contact Teak Master for Your Deck Restoration Project

Choosing between teak or cedar for your deck comes down to your personal preference, and you can’t go wrong with either option. Once you have chosen your wood and have your deck installed, you want to make sure your deck retains its natural beauty. For help with restoration of either type of deck, reach out to Teak Master. We offer free on-site evaluations to all of Southern California. Check out our Before and After Deck Restoration page for a in-depth look at our coveted work. 


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