The question whether to build a deck out of cedar or pressure treated is something that I (as a contractor) get asked about a lot.
To clarify you don't build a deck out of cedar, you build a deck out of pressure treated, its the top of the deck, the finishing that you have to decide if you should use cedar or continue using pressure treated.
Let's look at the pro's and con's of each one;
- is a nicer looking wood, it has waterproofing properties that allow it to survive longer.
- it has a nice smell when cut.
- there's no chemicals added to cedar.
- you can stain it to keep its colour.
- there are very few knots in cedar.
- the cedar that is used now is a younger growth cedar and doesn't last as long as it use too.
- if you don't stain cedar it will go silver.
- it is a lighter wood, not having the strength of other woods.
- it is expensive.
- new pressure treated has far less harmful chemicals in it then it use too, they removed them to make it safer for children's playgrounds.
- doesn't just come in green anymore, it also comes in brown that makes it look just like cedar. In some places you can also get it in white.
- you can stain it to keep some colour to it.
- it's the cheapest form of decking out there.
- it is basically treated spruce which is a stronger wood then cedar.
- it fades to a silver colour in the sun like all wood.
- has the same life expectancy it has always had which is about 10 to 15 years.
- has a tendency to split or check and crack.
- chemical smell when cut.
- must use a chemical end cut to help keep the waterproofing.
- has a tendency to shrink in the heat once it dry's after being installed.
When you compare the life expectancy of cedar and pressure treated you find that they both have about the same length of time before they start to fail. It use to be that cedar lasted 30 to 40 years, but that was old growth cedar, something that we don't harvest anymore. Young growth cedar doesn't seem to last as long. Your lucky to get 10 to 15 years out of cedar, which is the same length of time as pressure treated.
If you plan to take the time to stain your cedar deck every year to keep the colour then cedar is for you, it will then always look nicer, but if you let it go silver then there's almost no way to tell the difference between pressure treated and cedar.
If your deck is built properly, which means that it has air flow under and over the deck and is able to drive after getting wet then your deck will last longer then 10 to 15 years no matter which material you use.
If we look at ease of use, there is no difference for a carpenter, there both soft woods and are installed almost the same way.
Cedar vs pressure treated for me (a contractor) comes down to price, if you are going to let your deck go silver (which most people do) then opt for the pressure treated and save yourself some money that you can spend somewhere else on your outdoor projects. If you plan to keep it up every year as a show piece then opt for the cedar and spend that extra money.
Village Builders Inc.