Compare Cedar vs Pressure-Treated Deck Costs
About Cedar Decks
Cedar is a beautiful and high-quality wood that is easily recognizable for its reddish-brown color. The wood contains natural preservatives, so, unlike pressure-treated wood, it does not require any type of chemical treatment.
Cedar is ideal for people who love the look of natural wood and prefer not to use a dark stain or paint. It is naturally moisture resistant and insect resistant, but it does require some regular maintenance to preserve the color. The average lifespan of cedar deck boards is about 15 to 20 years.
How Much Does a Cedar Deck Cost?
The price of cedar varies based on the size of the deck and the difficulty of installation. Generally, budget about $25 to $30 per square foot - slightly less than you’d pay for wood composite decking but significantly more than pressure-treated wood. Budget on the high end of that range (or more) if you’re opting for features such as benches and a railing.
Let’s say you’re planning to build a 16x20-foot deck: The total cost for cedar (based on the price range above) would be $8,000 to $9,600.
Cedar Deck Pros
- Look - Cedar has rich color and a beautiful grain pattern that is unmatched by pressure-treated woods. If you prefer the look of natural wood, cedar is the better choice.
- Durability - Cedar doesn’t absorb moisture, which leads to shrinking and twisting. The boards tend to stay flat and straight. Cedar is also resistant to insects and decay.
Cedar Deck Cons
- Maintenance - Cedar decks require significant maintenance. To preserve the deck’s natural color, you’ll have to clean and reseal it every two years. Even then, the color will fade over time.
- Price - Cedar can cost about twice as much as pressure-treated wood.
- Softness - Cedar is a soft wood. Over time, high traffic areas such as the stairs will wear down.
About Pressure-Treated Decks
Pressure-treated wood decks are affordable and long lasting. The vast majority of pressure-treated decks are made with Southern yellow pine, a relatively inexpensive wood. The wood is treated with chemical preservatives to prevent weather and insect damage, rotting and fungus.
Despite its long lifespan, pressure-treated wood is unlikely to look good as long as cedar. In other words, the deck might last 30 years, but it might look worn out for 25 of those years. Pressure-treated wood, especially the lower-grade variety, is also susceptible to moisture problems. If you opt for a pressure-treated deck, experts recommend going with a better grade such as “choice,” “premium” or “select.” These cost more, but they are much less likely to warp.
How Much Does a Pressure-Treated Deck Cost?
The price of a pressure-treated wood deck depends on the size of the deck, the quality of the material and the difficulty of installation. Generally, budget around $15 to $25 per square foot, including installation. Higher-quality grades fall on the higher end of that range, as do decks with features such as benches and rails.
For a 16x20-foot deck, that works out to a total project cost of $4,800 to $8,000. However, keep in mind that these price ranges are meant to be guidelines, not exact figures. Prices vary widely from one region to the next. For the most accurate pricing, seek several estimates from local contractors.
Pressure Treated Pros
- Price - In some cases, pressure-treated wood costs half as much as premium woods like cedar. It is the least expensive of all decking materials.
- Durability - Pressure-treated wood is strong enough to withstand decades of use and abuse. Some brands even offer a lifetime limited warranty. In many cases, pressure-treated wood will last significantly longer than cedar.
Pressure Treated Cons
- Look - Pressure-treated wood initially has a greenish tint that is caused by a reaction to the chemical preservatives. The tint will fade over time, but many people consider it unattractive. Pressure-treated wood also needs to be cleaned and sealed at least every other year to keep it looking OK.
- Prone to warping - Pressure-treated wood is more susceptible to warping and bending than cedar, particularly when it is exposed to moisture. Pressure-treated wood is also more likely to splinter and chip.
- Chemicals - The chemicals used to treat the wood are considered hazardous to human health and the environment. They contain arsenic, a known carcinogen. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies have revealed that children exposed to pressure-treated wood have an increased risk for cancer. The risk is not great, but it exists.