Does Cedar Rot When Wet? How Can You Prevent This?

Cedar is famous for its exceptional durability and resilience. It’s thus no surprise you chose it for your project. However, there are certain facts that people won’t tell you about cedar. While it’s true that it resists moisture and rot well, it’s not completely immune to them. Eventually, the time will take leave its mark on cedar. Luckily, there are many tricks that can help you prevent this.

We prepared this article to answer the following questions:

  • Does cedar rot when wet?
  • Is new cedarwood resistant to rot?
  • How can you protect your cedarwood from rotting?

Does Cedar Rot When Wet? What ‘resistant’ means

Many people praise cedar wood for its stellar resistance. These praises are justified, considering that cedar lasts far longer than most types of wood. Given proper care, it can withstand up to 20 years easily, sometimes even more.

But what gives cedar wood its stellar resilience? The answer lies in the composition of the wood. The veins inside the wood are infused with resins and natural oils that repel water. As a result, cedar wood resists high humidity and even rain exceptionally well.

Moreover, these natural resins act as insect repellents. They’re poison to many pests, which makes cedar even more durable. The presence of pests would otherwise contribute to its decay.

Thus, cedar wood possesses exceptional durability when it comes to mold and rot resistance. However, many people understand the word ‘resistant’ poorly – they seem to think it means immune. This isn’t the case. While cedar wood may handle adverse conditions better than other wood species, it’s not immune to them.

As a result, you must care for cedar properly – it will rot just like any other type of wood if you don’t.

Is newly grown cedar wood also resistant to rot?

When researching cedar wood, you may stumble upon sources claiming that new cedar wood is less resistant than older trees. According to these sources, newer trees don’t have the same content of resins that give cedar its stellar resistance. However, this isn’t true.

While older trees contain more oils, it doesn’t affect the durability of the cedar much. Old cedar will rot anyway if you don’t care for it properly. Thus, maintenance plays a much more important role than age.

Still, the quality of your cedar wood can help make your project more durable.

How to protect cedar wood from rotting – 6 solutions

While cedar wood might be exceptionally resistant, it’s not immune to moisture. It’s especially vulnerable when exposed to constant rain. It absorbs the moisture, which eventually causes it to rot and break down. But that’s not the only reason why you must look out for cedar wood. Even though it may not rot, it can still warp or lose its natural finish.

Luckily, you can prevent this from happening by following these 6 principles:

1) Use a wood sealer

Although cedar wood can last for several decades, even without a sealer, we recommend using one. The sealer is a clear coat that preserves the natural look of the wood while protecting it from various elements, such as the weather.

The only downside to using a sealer is the luster it creates. It can give the wood a glossy look which doesn’t work well with all types of projects.

Still, it will make your cedar wood last much longer. We recommend using it, especially if you’re dealing with porous cedar – the moisture is much more likely to penetrate deep inside it.

2) Apply a second clear coat as well

Many people apply only one layer of clear stain on their cedar wood. While this offers some mechanical protection, it doesn’t keep away moisture. We recommend applying a second layer as well. This will make the cedar wood even more resistant to moisture, making that much more durable.

The application process is simple – just make sure you apply it after the first one dries. Make sure you work in a dry environment – otherwise, the moisture might become trapped between layers, resulting in blotchy patches.

3) Buy quality cedarwood

Although all cedar is naturally resistant, the best-quality pieces are treated with special preservatives. These are usually made of cresol and other organic oils. Their presence makes cedar even more resilient.

Avoid buying low-quality cedar. While it may not rot or crack, it is still subject to weathering. This happens over time. When raw wood stays exposed to the air and moisture for too long, it will eventually lose its shine. Cedar is no different. It will eventually turn gray. This dark color becomes more and more pronounced as the wood ages. Thus, make sure you always buy treated wood.

4) Protect it from moisture

Cedarwood is exceptionally resistant to moisture, more so than other wood types. It contains many natural oils that repel water. However, these oils don’t stay inside dead wood forever. Thus, water will eventually enter its pores.

You should thus avoid using cedarwood for projects that will have to withstand a lot of rain and humidity. This relates to not only the climate but also the placement in your house. Avoid placing cedar planks inside a damp cellar as they rot much faster.

Sealing and waxing help a lot with this issue. But keep in mind that it merely buys you a few more years – the moisture will find its way in eventually. The best prevention here is to simply avoid placing it in such locations in the first place.

Keep in mind that humidity isn’t just about cedar rotting. In many cases, it may simply cause it to blotch or even splint. While this doesn’t affect the wood’s integrity, it doesn’t look very appealing.

5) Fill any opening with caulk or putty

This tip applies to all types of wood, not just cedar. All wood is porous. However, this can become an issue if the piece of wood is filled with countless holes across its surface. These holes not only open it up to termites but also increases its surface area. And the bigger the surface area, the fast the wood roots.

Moreover, these holes interfere with sealants and stains. Neither product holds well near these areas, making them less effective as means of protection. Always make sure you fix any imperfections with caulk and putty before you move on to sealing.

6) Clean the cedar wood regularly

Using the above steps won’t amount to anything without proper maintenance. Cedar deteriorates with time just like any other material does, especially if you don’t take care of it.

While it’s unlikely to rot until years later, you can still run into issues such as blotchy and warped patches. As dirt settles on the surface of cedar, it provides the perfect breeding ground for pests and bacteria. In severe cases, it might also lead to mold or mildew formation.

Thus, we recommend cleaning cedar surface at least once a month. The maintenance is pretty straightforward, and you can use any wood-cleaning product you have at home. You should ideally use products compatible with wood to prevent damaging it.

If you’ve already noticed traces of mildew, you might have to use a stronger solution. One way to test for the presence of mildew is by using bleach. Bleach quickly kills the fungus and gets rid of the patches. If it’s mildew, you can use this substance across the entire surface. If bleach doesn’t change anything, the issue likely lies elsewhere.

Our final thoughts on protecting cedarwood from rotting

Cedar is one of the popular wood types on the market. Many people buy it despite its high costs. They do so because of their exceptional durability and resilience to physical elements such as humidity.

The reason why cedarwood doesn’t rot as quickly as other wood types is because of the natural oils it contains. These oils and resins are hydrophobic, meaning that they repel water. Moreover, some of the oils emit pungent fumes that are toxic to insects and other pests. As a result, cedarwood can last for several decades, even untreated.

However, this is a best-case scenario description. Cedarwood may take a long to deteriorate, but it eventually will. This is especially true for untreated cedarwood, which becomes weather over time.

The best way you can prolong the lifespan of your cedarwood is by applying stain. This clear coat preserves the wood’s natural look while providing a moisture barrier.

Still, some people choose to leave their cedarwood untreated. However, we don’t recommend this. While weathered wood can look nice in some settings, it ages far too quickly. Even if it doesn’t rot, it will still likely become blotched and warped.

Factors such as the quality of your cedarwood and the relative humidity also play a part. But perhaps the most important part is maintenance. Most cases of rotten cedarwood happen because of dirt. When dirt accumulates on the surface, it promotes bacterial growth. As a result, it rots much faster. We recommend cleaning the surface with a specialized product at least once a month to prevent this.