For many Calgary residents, nothing beats the traditional appeal of wood for fencing and deck projects. As well to its attractive appearance, it’s affordable, versatile, sturdy, lasting many years.
But your decisions don’t end there if you’ve opted for a wooden fence. You’ll need to select between pressure-treated lumber and cedar as both are commonly used for fences and decks in the Calgary area.
These types of lumber don’t just look different. They also have many properties that might affect your decision —their advantages and disadvantages.
To help you familiarize yourself with the differences between pressure-treated and cedar lumber, we compare the materials below…
What is pressure-treated lumber?
Pressure-treated wood is softwood lumber (usually plentiful woods like pine, spruce and fir) treated with preservatives to make it more durable for Calgary’s harsh climate.
Pine and fir trees grow quickly and have cell structures well-suited to pressure treatment. During the pressure treatment process, the wood is made harder and more durable using a simple, environmentally friendly procedure.
Lumber refineries dry the wood in a kiln, bundle it together, and place it in a huge pressure tank filled with wood preservatives. The wood is put under immense pressure, forcing the preservative into it. The most common preservatives are a mix of water and micronized copper and are usually termed CCA or ACA.
Pressure-treated wood is a popular choice for fencing and decking in Calgary because it has many advantages over other materials.
Advantages of pressure-treated wood
- Affordability: pressure-treated wood is lower in price (up to 35 percent cheaper) than cedar.
- Durability: well-maintained pressure-treated fences and decks will last 10 to 20 years or more.
- Availability: pressure-treated wood is freely available in Calgary DIY stores, including fence panels, deck boards and dimensional lumber.
- Insect resistance: the copper-based preservatives used in the pressure treatment process ensure that no bugs attack your fence or deck.
- Toughness: pressure-treated lumber is harder than cedar lumber and will resist wear and tear over time if you look after it.
Disadvantages of pressure-treated wood
Pressure-treated lumber is not perfect. Some people point towards the following disadvantages with it:
- High maintenance: you need to maintain a pressure-treated lumber deck or fence to keep it in good condition. It takes time and money to regularly apply wood stains.
- Hazardous: pressure-treated lumber contains ammonia and copper compounds, meaning you should wear gloves, a mask, and protective eyewear when working with it.
Corrosive: because of the preservative in pressure-treated wood, flashing will cause it to corrode. Specific green or brown coated deck screws are necessary because galvanized or zinc-coated screws will corrode.
What is cedar lumber?
Cedar is a naturally beautiful wood with a distinctive colour and a straight, evenly spaced grain pattern that makes it instantly recognizable. It needs no pressure treatment to increase its resistance to insects, cracking or splitting.
Western red cedar is by far the most common type used in Alberta, and it is a popular choice for fencing and decking in homes and commercial properties. The wood has a muted red tone, whereas the white cedar found further east is paler in colour (and less decay-resistant and insect-resistant).
Western red cedar lumber has significant advantages over other fencing and decking materials used in the Calgary area…
Advantages of cedar wood
- Naturally decay/rot-resistant: the acids (phenols) and oils within the cedar tree make it naturally rot/decay-resistant, even when exposed to moisture.
- Warp/split-resistant: Its low density and straight grain pattern won’t warp in moist environments, and its malleability helps resist cracking and splitting.
- Temperature-resistant: its low density also means it performs well in cold and hot environments as it can expand and contract without splitting.
- Insect-resistant: the acids in the wood deter insects as well as rot.
- Low maintenance: cedar remains in good condition for years with minimal maintenance, only requiring an annual clean with soap and water.
Disadvantages of cedar wood
- Price: cedar takes longer to grow than pine and generally costs 25 and 35 percent more than pressure-treated lumber.
- It fades: the initial red hue of western red cedar fades over time to a silver-grey, which is generally considered less attractive by homeowners.
- It’s a soft wood: its low density has benefits, but it makes cedar a relatively soft wood making it prone to unsightly dents and dings, especially when used for decking.