Douglas Fir vs. Cedar for Pergola: Which One is Best?

Wondering if you should get douglas fir or cedar wood for your pergola? This will depend on what you are looking for. Generally, Cedar will last longer, as it will be better at resisting pests and rot. But it will be more expensive. On the other hand, Douglas Fir is stronger. But it will be more difficult to maintain.

You must choose the right material for your pergola. In this area, Douglas Fir and Cedar are two of the most popular options. But which one should you choose?

There are several pros and cons to consider before you make your decision. Keep reading to learn more about each of these wood choices and how to find the right one for you.

dougla fir and cedar logs stacked in log yard

Related Reading: What Are the Best Sizes of Beams For Pergola?

Pros and Cons of Using Cedar for Pergola

Let’s start by looking at each of these materials and the benefits and disadvantages of using them.

Pros

The best place to begin is by looking at some of the positives of using this material. These include:

  • Long-lasting. Cedar has natural oils in the wood. This will stop insects from eating it. Furthermore, these oils will offer protection from rot. As a result, a pergola made from cedar should be able to last for many years.
  • Many colors. There are a wider variety of Cedars to choose from. This ensures that you will be able to get a color that will suit your style. All you need to do is apply a few coats of varnish to preserve these natural colors for a long time.
  • Works well in damp environments. If you are building in a high-humidity area, you might want to consider using Cedar. It will be resistant to environmental elements. It won’t swell or shrink.
  • Aroma. Cedar has natural oils, which is what causes its iconic aroma. This will last for years.

Cons

Of course, no matter is perfect. Here are some of the drawbacks you can expect if you make your pergola out of cedar:

  • Higher cost. When compared to Douglas Fir, Cedar will be significantly more expensive. It is environmentally destructive, as a Cedar will take 50 years to mature.
  • Checking. As mentioned, Cedar won’t expand when faced with high humidity. But that doesn’t mean that the weather has no effect. Over time, the wood will start to check. This means that small cracks will start to appear, running parallel to the grain.
  • The color can fade. You will need to make sure that are treating the wood properly. If you don’t the colors will fade over time, turning it silver-gray.

Pros and Cons of Using Douglas Fir for Pergola

Now that we know what to expect from the Cedar, we can turn our attention to the Douglas Fir.

Pros

Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons why you might want to choose this type of wood. Here are some of the biggest advantages:

  • Strong. Douglas Fir is about to cope with a lot of weight. This is why it is frequently used to reinforce structures. Like the Cedar, it will also be able to withstand harsh outdoor conditions.
  • Abundant. Douglas Fir is relatively easy to find in North America. This is important for a few reasons. First, you will be reducing your environmental impact. It also means that this type of wood is fairly economical. It will be significantly less expensive than a Cedar.
  • Color. Like Cedar, Douglas Fir is known for its beauty. It will be relatively easy to preserve. All you need to do is apply a little stain.
  • Grips nails well. Nails and screws will penetrate deeply into the Douglas Fir. Because of this, it will be easy to work with during the construction process.

Cons

If you are thinking about getting Douglas Fir, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind. These include:

  • More susceptible to insects. When compared to Cedar, Douglas Fir will often be less resilient. It doesn’t have any of the oils that are designed to protect it from insects.
  • More maintenance. Because of the risks of rotting, you will need to spend a little more time with Douglas Fir. For example, you might need to get used to sanding and applying protective varnish.

Which One Should You Choose?

Both of these are good options to use on your pergola. Which one you decide to use will depend on what you are looking for. Generally, Cedar will be the best species. It will be able to cope well with the outdoor conditions and you won’t need to worry about the wood rotting.

However, if you are on a budget, it might be better to choose Douglas Fir. While it won’t have the natural oils to protect itself from insects, it will be strong and able to cope with a heavy load. Plus, it will be relatively affordable.

It’s also a good idea to think about the area that you are planning on installing the pergola in. If the area is vulnerable to events like earthquakes or hurricanes, it might be best to opt for the strength of the Douglas Fir.

If you are on the fence and unsure about which one to get, it’s a good idea to talk to your builder. They will be able to talk you through your options and point you in the right direction.

Friend's pergola in backyard next to pool

What Else to Look For When Choosing Your Wood

Once you’ve settled on what species you are going to use, there are a few other things you should look for. First, it’s a good idea to get untreated wood. This ensures that no harmful chemicals have been used.

It’s also worth thinking about the design of the pergola. Choose a color that grabs your eye. Both the Douglas Fir and Cedar will have a range of colors that you can pick. Or you might decide to avoid this problem entirely by opting to use paint.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of things to consider when deciding what type of wood to use for your pergola. The good news is that both Cedar and Douglas Fir are going to do an excellent job. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one you want to choose.