Often times we are asked, “What is the best wood to use outdoors?”  There are several options available.  Some woods are naturally resistant to the weather and others are treated to hold up to the weather.

For starters, the most common wood used outdoors in our area is treated yellow pine.  This is primarily due to treated yellow pine being an economical option.   Yellow Pine doesn’t hold up outdoors without a treatment.  Gone are the days of pine being treated with CCA (copper, chromium and arsenate) treatment.  Since the early 1990’s when CCA treatment became unavailable, other treatments began to come onto the market.  We prefer selling Durapine® by Cox lumber which is treated with Wolman® copper azole.  This treatment is odorless, clean to the touch and has no arsenic, a restricted pesticide by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  The treatment instead uses Copper and Azole as its preservative ingredients.  This treatment also helps protect against termite and fungal decay.  We are often asked if boards can be cut and still be protected where it has been cut.  The pressure treatment process should allow the chemicals to reach all the way through the yellow pine board to protect even when the boards are cut.

Our treated yellow pine decking and most dimensional treated yellow pine boards on our yard are treated to above-ground treatment, intended to be used 18” or more above the ground.  Only the 2×12 dimensional boards (often used for stair stringers), and all timbers including 4×4’s, 4×6’s, 6×6’s and 8×8’s are treated with a heavier treatment and considered at-ground contact.  The ground contact treatment is needed on these boards and timbers to hold up better to an environment directly in contact with the ground.

Where Pine is the best exterior softwood for the money, Redwood and Cedar are better exterior softwoods for stability.  Both of these species are naturally resistant to rot and decay, along with being termite and insect resistant.  Both woods have a pinkish appearance, with Heart Redwood being a darker pink than Western Red Cedar.  Another beneficial characteristic of Redwood and Western Red Cedar is its ability to resist warping and twisting.  When used in an outdoor application, Cedar and Redwood stay straighter, making them an ideal wood to use for fences, decks, and arbors.  Our rough #2 grade Western Red Cedar is a popular wood for garden beds as it is more economical here on the east coast than Redwood and since it is naturally resistant to rot and decay, has no chemicals added to the wood.  Redwood is ideal for all outdoor projects as it also resists against checking or cracking.  Building with Redwood and Western Red Cedar is a very environmentally friendly way to go as redwood and cedar forests are excellent at reducing greenhouse gases in the environment.  Both species contain very little resin and take stain beautifully.  We have a full stock of Redwood and Cedar in many sizes and grades.

Both Redwood and Western Red Cedar are ideal for above ground applications.  Both species can still be used at ground level, but may not have as long of a life as ground contact treated yellow pine.  To improve the life of Redwood and Western Red Cedar at ground level, there is an after-market treatment that can be applied to any untreated raw wood.  Rust-Oleum® Wolman™ makes a below-ground treatment that includes an EPA-registered, insecticidal preservative that prohibits termite damage, rot and decay.  Choose from either ™ WOODLIFE® COPPERCOAT™ or WOODLIFE® CREOCOAT®.  Both are sold in 1 gallon containers.

Rust-Oleum® Wolman™  also makes a clear version for above-ground treatments to any untreated wood to provide a longer life.  This WOODLIFE® CLASSIC formula, available in quart and gallon, is 100% clear and is designed to be applied to the raw wood before you paint or stain.  This treatment is a water repellent to protect against warping and checking along with protecting against rot, decay and surface mold and mildew.  This would be an ideal treatment for screen or storm doors, porch flooring, wood house trim, moulding and outdoor furniture made of untreated wood.

Eastern White Cypress is another softwood that holds up well to the weather in the eastern U.S.  This lumber is naturally resistant to rot and decay.  Its appearance is a lighter wood, more similar to pine.  We are now carrying several sizes of Cypress in a select clear grade.

There are also quite a few dense hardwoods with a closed cellular structure that hold up well to exterior elements.  Exotic woods like Teak, Jatoba (Brazilian Cherry), Cumaru, Purple Heart and Ipe to domestic species like White Oak, to name a few, are all resistant to rot and decay.  For centuries, people made whiskey barrels and ships out of White Oak due to its tight grain being water and rot resistant.  Teak is exceptionally durable and is resistant to wet climates, which is why it is often used in boat building. Teak has natural botanical oils that make it extremely water resistant as well as termite and insect resistant.  Teak is stable and doesn’t check or crack out in the weather as much as other woods.  But all woods, including the hardwoods listed above, will fade to a weathered gray in the suns UV rays when left natural.   We presently have Ipe, Jatoba and Cumaru in a 5/4×6 decking material.  You can find Teak, Jatoba, Purple Heart and White Oak in the Hardwood building in several thicknesses surfaced on the faces and left rough on the edges, S2S.


Cox Wood Industries
California Redwood Association
Western Red Lumber Association
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Article written for the customers of:


4216 Beryl Road
Raleigh, NC 27606

Written by: Edie Morse