Cedar lumber is a popular building material for fences for many reasons, including its natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, its strength, and its resistance to warping and swelling. In addition, cedar is very aromatic, which keeps away termites and other insects. There are, however, several disadvantages to using cedar in comparison to using other fencing materials.
According to Albany Fence Designs, if you do not treat a cedar fence, its original colour will eventually fade to a greyish silver colour due to exposure to the elements. While the discolouration is uniform and gradual and many people find the resulting colour appealing, others may miss the natural, warm tones of the cedar. This is especially relevant with western red cedar, as the wood has a distinctive reddish hue.
In order to preserve the original colour of a cedar fence, you will need to perform certain maintenance work. According to Patios et Clotures, for optimal results, you must apply stain to a cedar fence every three to five years. This type of maintenance can be avoided with other types of fencing, such as pre-coloured PVC fencing.
While the natural properties of cedar make it resistant to warping and other physical disruptions, the wood is not resistant to the effects of checking. According to APA, checking refers to the appearance of checks, or small openings, which form parallel to the cedar’s natural grain. Occurring most commonly in cedar fence posts, the checks are the result of moisture within the cedar. During periods of warmth, outer fibres of the wood lose moisture and begin to shrink, while the inner fibres stay relatively waterlogged. The pressure of the outer fibres collapsing down on the inner fibres produces cracks—or checks—at the cedar’s surface. Other non-porous fence types, such as wrought iron and aluminium, do not suffer from this kind of disturbance.
If installed correctly, the structural stability of cedar fences is usually strong. However, cedar fences can be prone to sinking. Sinking occurs when the posts of cedar fences compact loose soil below them and sink in slightly deeper. This occurs most often in areas that have moist soils due to recent rains or in regions close to bodies of water.
Another disadvantage of cedar is its price. When it comes to building a wood fence, cedar is one of the more expensive options. Pressure-treated woods, such as spruce, fir and pine, are cheaper alternatives.