Why choose white cedar for a fence

Diana Sawyer

August 31, 2022

Why should you choose White Cedar for your new fence? White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is a very attractive wood to use as a fence material. It is also one of the more environmentally friendly and cost-effective choices on hand for contractors building wood fences.

White Cedar is a softwood that contains natural oils which protect it from mold, warping, and insects. It also doesn’t need any additional chemical treatments.

When shopping you will see white cedar referred to as Eastern White Cedar or Northern White Cedar. These two species are not closely related but have nearly identical properties. Either makes a great choice for fencing.

White Cedar is a moisture-resistant wood that does not need to be kiln-dried, making it completely carbon neutral.

Because there are no treatments your new fence will be 100% biodegradable. Other fence materials end up in landfills after removal. Due to whole tree utilization there is less landfill waste from the production of cedar lumber.

Historically these two species were used for cooperage (building barrels), boat building, fences, and tableware. Northern White Cedar is still used for log cabin building. Eastern White Cedar is also used for furniture. 

People have relied on this hardy softwood for centuries to build things that must withstand harsh weather conditions for many years. You can still find cabins and barns built of Northern White Cedar. White cedar is well equipped to stand up to wet weather.

Does White Cedar resist rot?

White cedar resists rot. It has natural oils that are part of the wood that creates a protective shield as well as a waterproof seal. This also means that it is important to use pressure-treated lumber for contact with the ground.

How long does a white cedar fence last?

In general, white cedar fencing has a lifespan of 10 years or more.

In order to get the most life from a White Cedar fence it will need to be treated with a quality stain or sealer. Regular applications of stain will prevent UV damage from the sun and water damage. Stain also prevents White Cedar from turning gray from exposure to the elements.

Does white cedar need to be sealed?

As stated above, yes White Cedar needs to be sealed to obtain maximum life for a fence. Northern White Cedar takes paints and stains very easily. Using a clear sealer, stain or paint will prevent white cedar from turning gray.

Some people prefer natural gray patina the wood develops after exposure to moisture and sunlight. Just understand that leaving white cedar unfinished will shorten the life of a fence.

Why choose white cedar over red cedar?

This decision will be driven by the desired look. Red Cedar gets its name from its red color, while White Cedar is lighter with a slight yellow color.

Red cedar is slightly stronger and has fewer knots. The knots in White Cedar will be smaller. The natural oils found in White Cedar are stronger than Red Cedar.

Both red cedar and white cedar make good choices for fencing just be sure to understand their differences.


When it comes to choosing wood for your fence, you should consider White Cedar. It is an attractive choice with many benefits. The natural oils of White Cedar protect against mold, warping, insects, and UV damage from sunlight. This means there are no chemicals necessary so it’s environmentally friendly as well as cost-effective.

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