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Treated Pine vs. Cedar which is better?

This answer is  based on 35 plus years of building wood fencing in Tennessee. I have no  reason other than experience to base my opinion. In Middle Tennessee  we seldom build cedar wood fencing. Here is the reason why.

The simple answer is treated pine over the long haul is a better product  than cedar {Western Red Cedar}. The only benefit to cedar is it {cedar}  doesn't warp as bad as treated pine. It is not the pickets that warp so much as it is the 2x4s. Most fence  companies will sell a cedar fence using treated pine framework {2x4  stringers and 4x4 posts}. Using cedar pickets doesn't really make a lot of difference in warping  {if a treated pine fence is built properly}. It is the 2x4s that make  the difference. I don't know of a fence that has been built using cedar 2x4s and treated posts and pickets. Over  a long period of time that would be the best combination if you want to  avoid warping.

 The big drawback to cedar is the cost and the fact it will not last as  long as treated pine. The pickets can cost twice as much and cedar 2x4s  can cost 2 1/2 as much as treated pine.  Cedar posts haven't been used in 20 years because they will rot in the  ground as soon as a year after installation. The only time I ever use  cedar pickets is when an HOA requires it {which is seldom}. Cedar pickets over time will rot, treated pickets will not. Cedar 2x4s  will not last as long as treated pine. These are facts gather from  experience. For the cost treated pine is the better product. Other than the warping treated pine lasts longer, costs less and if  maintained will look as good as cedar.

The Warping Factor
For 20 plus year treated pine contained Chromated Copper Arsenate which   in 2003 was determined to be hazardous to human health by the EPA.  Since 2004 the preservatives used in pressure treat pine wood has been  alkaline copper quat and copper azole. Outside the safety issue the  good news is this new treatment does seem to have a better warping  factor than the old Chromated Copper Arsenate. And when the wood is  stained it  does seem to hold as well as cedar when it comes to warping. Of course  applying a stain or protective covering does cost but the benefits are  better than cedar and the cost still remains less than cedar. My advice is to use treated pine materials for the best product at the  best price. Add a protective stain covering and you will have as good  wood fence as you can get over the long term

If you do want to build a cedar fence then it is important to use cedar  2x4s as well as cedar pickets. Of course you will have to use treated  pine posts since cedar posts will rot {usually at the ground line}. Cedar often develops a fungi over  time and the pickets will not last as long as treated pine. I suggest  you use a protective covering stain to get the best results from a cedar fence.

Another consideration when building a combination cedar / treated pine fence is the nails. Galvanized nails will leave streaks in the cedar pickets, so you must use stainless steel nails which are twice as expensive. Just another reason to go with a pure pressure treated pine fence.
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