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Wood Adirondack Chair Comparison Between Southern Cypress and Cedar

Ahhh – a sunny afternoon, an absorbing novel and a cool drink. This is certainly an attractive proposition, made all the more delightful by the addition of a wood Adirondack chair. Wood Adirondack chairs are beloved for their elegance, comfort and sturdiness. Below, we compare and contrast two of the most common materials for building wood Adirondack chairs: cedar timber and southern cypress timber.


Cedar Wood

Cedar trees have a unique biological advantage in that their cells are structured to discourage moisture. Biologists call this type of wood hydroscopic – a fancy word to describe the fact that cedar releases moisture to maintain equilibrium with the humidity in its surrounding environment. Hydroscopic timbers such as cedar are excellent for outdoor applications, including wood Adirondack chairs.

Cedar Adirondack chairs are therefore especially popular in drizzly locales such as the Pacific Northwest. To achieve the same moisture resistance as is naturally present in cedar timber, wood manufacturers must stew their wood in a chemical mixture containing chromium, copper and even arsenic. The result, pressure-treated wood, is noxious enough to warrant a cautionary label for those who handle it regularly.

Cedar trees have a few more characteristics that protect them from decay and rot. First, they naturally produce a fungicidal compound called thujaplic. This protects the tree (and your outdoor furniture) from the fungi that cause wood rot. Additionally, cedar oil is repellant to most insect species, including mosquitoes, termites and moths. For all of these reasons, a cedar Adirondack chair will last a long time – especially if it receives an annual application of stain and sealant.

Carpenters love that cedar is extremely strong – nearly as strong as oak – and yet lighter than many other woods. Contractors love that cedar Adirondack chairs and other cedar-based products will not warp or splinter; cedar is renowned for its dimensional stability despite shifting environmental conditions. And designers love that cedar wood is a beautiful red hue.


Southern Cypress Wood

As you can see, there are many reasons to love a cedar Adirondack chair. But the southern cypress shares many of cedar’s most beneficial traits. Southern cypress timber is also resistant to rot and insect decay thanks to cypressene, a special oil that protects the tree’s heartwood from decay. In other words, a cypress wood Adirondack chair will last.

Like cedar, cypress timber is dimensionally stable, so it resists warping and splitting. And just as cedar wood is beautiful in its own right, cypress has an attractive honey hue. (Both cypress and cedar timbers accept stain and paint well, in case you have a different color scheme in mind.)

Traveling up and down the American coasts, one spots dozens of weathered cedar and cypress wood Adirondack chairs, patiently waiting for their owners to rest a spell. Both cedar and cypress timbers weather to a silvery gray color that many find charming when placed in a coastal décor. One does tend to find more cedar Adirondack chairs along the western coast of the United States and more cypress chairs along the East Coast. This pattern stems from the species’ respective growth regions. The cypress – aka southern cypress or bald cypress – is native to the coasts and inlands of the southeastern section of America; cedar trees thrive in the mountains running along the Pacific coast. (The bald cypress is so called because unlike most coniferous species, it loses its needles, giving it a bald look in the winter months.)

Like cedar, cypress is extraordinarily strong – indeed, the original doors to St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, which were rumored to have lasted for a millennium, were constructed of cypress wood. Some even say Noah’s arc was constructed of cypress logs. Both legends give voice to the fact that a wood Adirondack chair built from cypress timber will last a long time.

In the end, cedar and cypress timbers would probably tie in a contest for "Best Wood Adirondack Chair Material." However, consumers will likely notice a major difference between these trees, namely that cypress wood is often much less expensive. Then again, the price of each timber varies according to one’s location. Homeowners in Portland, Ore., will probably find that cedar is the less expensive choice, since cedar grows in their backyard. On the other side of the country – in, say, Miami – a cypress wood Adirondack chair would probably be the thriftier option.