Properties of cedar wood

Written by bryan cohen | 13/05/2017
Properties of cedar wood
Ancient cedar tree. (ancient cedar tree image by PHOTOFLY from

Cedar is a variety of wood that is often used in furniture, cabinetry, interior joinery, bridge and house construction, and outdoor furniture. While there are many different types of cedar, all types share some properties. One of the most frequently used cedars is Western Red Cedar due to its exceptional conductivity, durability, acoustic properties, density, and flame spreading ratio, which means it is resistant to fire.

Thermal conductivity

Of all available softwood species, cedar tends to be one of the best thermal insulators. This is due to its high proportion of air spaces and its low density. When a material has good thermal conductivity, it means that it can keep buildings warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Western Red Cedar especially is superior to steel, concrete, and brick in this respect.


One of the greatest testaments to cedar's durability is the old artefacts made of cedar that remain in good condition over hundreds of years of wear and tear. Native people of North America who lived on the Pacific coast used the cedar because of its long lasting qualities and used it in many of their buildings. When cedar is maintained and finished, the wood tends to last at least several decades. Cedar also tends to be about 80% as strong as the Oak tree with bacterial and fungal resistance as well. (It also keeps away moths.)

Acoustic properties

Cedar, like some other woods, has the ability to dampen sound vibrations. The cellular network of interlocking pores found in wood changes sound energy into heat, making it ideal for the floor, ceiling, and wall when attempting to insulate and absorb sound. Cedar can be used to reduce noise and confine it to particular areas if it is needed in your house.


Cedar is one of the lightest softwoods available commercially at around 352 kg per cubic metre (22 pounds per cubic foot) with a specific gravity of 0.35. In comparison, Douglas Fir has a density of 497 kg per cubic metre (31 pounds per cubic foot), Ponderosa Pine has 431 kg per cubic metre (27 pounds per per cubic foot), and Southern Pine has 543 kg per cubic metre (34 per cubic foot) of density. When wood has low density it is typically a good insulator as well. This also can lead to a reduction in the cost of cedar since it is easier to transport and handle.

Flame spreading ratio

When a building material has a lower flame spreading rating, it is more resistant to the spread of fire. Certain wood products are not allowed to be built into the interior for a house because it has too high a flame spreading rating. The Western Red Cedar and other cedars are well within the building code needs for their flame spreading ratio. Cedars also tend to cause less smoke in a fire.

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