What is the best lumber for outdoors?
Best Budget Lumber for Outdoors– Pressure Treated
When it comes to a deck frame or pergola posts that will be wrapped in PVC, hardwood, or red cedar you may be best to use pressure-treated pine– However, all pressure treated is not equal.
In Northern latitudes, the trees are smaller. It’s all about the weather. In Canada and the Northern States, most pressure-treated lumber contains the core of the tree and is prone to splitting and twisting.
The Southern States use Southern Yellow Pine, which are much larger trees. Since the trees are larger, you get far better cuts of wood. SYP is also stronger than White Pine and Spruce which make up the majority of the lumber in the Northern States.
Most deck frames are built using pressure treated, but, better deck builders use joist tape to extend the life decades.
Western Red Cedar Lumber
When it comes to lumber that is easy to work, long-lasting, stable grain, and holding stain, Western Red Cedar is hard to beat. Normally, Red Cedar is affordable and easy to find. Due to the supply chain issues of the past few years and pricing instability, it can be a challenge to find in many areas. Pricing is still fairly high, and, the floods in BC last year didn’t help.
Redwood Lumber is gorgeous, easy to work, long-lasting, and really cannot be beaten, but, that price. It’s painful. I’d love to work just in Redwood, but, there is so little available, and the price is so high. We would have to ship it in from California or Oregon and it just isn’t feasible. If you live near California, enjoy it!
Pine / Fir
It may be a more affordable option to build in Pine or Douglas Fir lumber, but, it simply won’t last. It lasts better than many other species, however, when compared with Cedar or Redwood, it just isn’t worthwhile.
Rough Cut Local Lumber
If you live in the Southern US, you may have access to rough-cut Cypress Lumber, in the Northeast, White Cedar, and in the central States, Southern Yellow Pine. I’ve seen some really impressive work done with these species in a more rustic style. Maybe rough-cut local lumber can be utilized in your designs.
If you have ever seen Ipe, Cumaru, or Tigerwood lumber with a finish, you can appreciate something truly beautiful. It is harder to work with than any softwood, and the price is high, but when it comes to “Wow Factor”, it really can be a show stopper. Just make sure your client has a healthy budget for the project before you suggest using it.
Budget Should Lead Design
There are literally hundreds of great lumber types for the outdoors, and many like Poplar should never be used outside. Your first consideration when choosing outdoor wood should be budget. How long do you want it to last? Should you pre-finish all the parts to get a bit of needed durability? Maybe just sealing the end grains during assembly will help them age more gracefully. Let me put it this way–There can be a 750% difference in cost between rough-cut local lumber and hardwood, with Cedar and Redwood coming in the middle. Lumber doesn’t seem to be getting cheaper any time soon. Use the best lumber you and your client can afford for long-lasting, gracefully aging projects to show off your skills for many years to come.
Learn more about red cedar lumber here.