first photo of white beautiful fence
by Cedar Rustic Fence Co.

How Long Does a Cedar Fence Last? The Definitive Guide

Cedar fences are a classic choice for homeowners seeking a beautiful and functional addition to their property. Their durability and natural appeal make them a worthwhile investment. But, a frequently asked question remains: just how long will a cedar fence last? Let's explore the factors that influence a cedar fence's lifespan and how to ensure yours stands the test of time.

The Lifespan of a Cedar Fence

A well-maintained cedar fence can easily last between 15-30 years. However, its longevity depends on several variables such as climate, moisture, bacteria, and how much sun it gets. By being aware of these factors and protecting your fence, you can significantly extend its lifespan and enjoy its timeless charm for many years.

Factors Affecting Cedar Fence Lifespan

Cedar vs. Other Wood Fencing: Why Cedar Stands Apart

When choosing the ideal wood for your fence, cedar consistently emerges as the winner due to its exceptional durability and resistance. Cedar possesses natural oils that other softwoods, like pine, lack. 

These oils become cedar's secret weapon – they fend off moisture, deter insects, and prevent decay. This built-in resilience makes cedar a smart choice for fencing that will endure the elements for years to come. In contrast, pressure-treated pine is necessary for outdoor use but still requires considerable upkeep.

Characteristic Cedar Pine
Natural Durability Contains natural oils that fight off rot, decay, and pesky insects Vulnerable to rot, decay, and insect damage
Lifespan (Untreated) Can last 15-30 years without any chemical treatments Lasts only 5-12 years if untreated*
Lifespan (Treated) Not typically pressure-treated as it’s not necessary Reaches up to 30-40 years when pressure-treated in a factory**
Dimensional Stability Dimensionally stable, with little to no warping issues as it dries Usually, all pressure treated* material tends to warp
Maintenance Requirements Regular maintenance can prevent appearance problems, but in general does not need any special care Needs pressure-treatment for outdoor use, and regular upkeep to prevent issues***

* The dimensional stability of cedar is a key advantage over pressure-treated pine, which can be prone to warping and twisting as it dries.

** While pressure-treated pine can reach up to 30-40 years of lifespan, this treatment process is not typically applied to cedar, as it already possesses exceptional natural durability.
*** Regular upkeep, such as sealing or staining, can help extend the lifespan of cedar, but is not as critical as it is for pressure-treated pine, which requires more maintenance to prevent issues.

To Treat or Not to Treat Your Cedar Fence: Pros, Cons, and Lifespan

Cedar is renowned for its inherent durability, but the question remains – should you treat your cedar fence? There’s no need! Cedar is not typically pressure-treated like pine, and stains are only applied to maintain color. In fact, cedar fences can last an impressive 15-30 years with little to no maintenance at all. Let's delve into the details.

Regular Cedar Fencing

Cedar fences can last between 15-30 years, depending on your local climate. Cedar's natural oils provide built-in resistance to rot, decay, and insects, giving it an advantage over many other wood types. However, without additional staining, the wood may weather more quickly and lose its original color.

Stained Cedar Fencing

Applying a stain to your cedar fence adds an extra layer of defense against harsh weather and UV rays that will bleach it grey. If you want to keep the color of your fence intact, you’ll need to stain it every 3-5 years.

Comparing Cedar to Other Fencing Materials

While cedar is an excellent fencing choice, it's essential to consider other options as well. Vinyl fencing is popular for its low maintenance and long lifespan but lacks the natural beauty of wood. Wrought iron is durable and secure but can be more costly and less private. Composite fencing combines the look of wood with the durability of plastic but may not have the same aesthetic appeal as genuine cedar.

Material Cost Durabillity Maintenance Appearance
Cedar Mid-High Excellent. Naturally fights rot, decay, and insects. 15-30+ year lifespan. Moderate. Can be left untreated, but periodic staining is recommended* to protect color. Warm, natural wood. Color changes subtly over time.
Vinyl (PVC) High Extremely durable. Resists weather, insects, rot, and warping. Will last 30+ years. Minimal. Requires occasional cleaning. Wide variety of colors and styles, some mimicking wood.
Aluminum High Very long-lasting, resists rust and corrosion. Practically maintenance-free Sleek and modern. Can be powder-coated for color variety*.
Wrought Iron Very High Extremely strong and long-lasting with proper care. Need to touch up nicks and scratches to prevent rust. Classic, ornate appearance.
Composite Very High Blend of wood fibers and plastic. Resists rot and insects. Low maintenance, but potential for fading over time. Can closely mimic wood in various styles.

*We at Cedar Rustic Co. don’t recommend our customers to stain their cedar fences

**Cedar Rustic Co. aluminum fences are powder-coated and come in three colors.

Tips to Maximize Your Cedar Fence's Lifespan

Want to get the absolute most out of your beautiful cedar fence? These maintenance tips will help you enjoy it for years and years to come:

Preventative Measures: Keep Debris and Vegetation Clear

Fallen leaves, branches, and overgrown vegetation might seem harmless, but they can spell trouble for your fence. Clearing debris away regularly and trimming back encroaching plants prevents moisture buildup and deters pests from making your fence their home. A little preventative maintenance goes a long way!

Make Repairs Promptly

If you notice any damage to your cedar fence, such as loose boards or posts, address the issue promptly. Small repairs can prevent more extensive and costly damage down the line, ultimately extending the life of your fence.

Consider Extra Protection for Posts

Fence posts are particularly vulnerable to moisture and rot. Consider adding a galvanized steel post to provide extra protection and stability for your fence posts.

Work with a Professional

Hiring an experienced fencing contractor can ensure your cedar fence is installed correctly and with the highest quality materials. A professional can also provide valuable maintenance advice to keep your fence looking and functioning its best.

Signs Your Cedar Fence Needs Replacing

Even the most well-cared-for cedar fence won't last forever. Be on the lookout for these signs that it's time for a replacement:

  • Widespread Rot or Pest Damage: If rot or insects have significantly damaged large portions of the fence, replacement is often the best course of action.
  • Too Many Broken or Missing Boards: Numerous missing or damaged boards can compromise the integrity and appearance of your fence.
  • Leaning or Sagging: When a fence leans dramatically or sags, it's often a sign of weakened posts or structural issues.
  • Loose or Cracked Posts: The posts are the foundation of your fence. If they're unstable, the whole fence could be at risk.

If you notice several of these problems, it might be more cost-effective to replace your entire fence rather than patching up individual issues.

Investing in Quality Cedar for Your Fence

When it's time for a new cedar fence, don't skimp on materials! Higher-quality cedar may have a slightly larger upfront cost, but it pays off in the long run with better durability, a beautiful appearance, and superior resistance to insects and decay. Seek out cedar grades known for their longevity and resilience, and work with a trusted supplier to source the best wood for your project.

Bonus Tip: Not all cedar is created equal! We've put together a handy comparison chart of different cedar types and their best uses. Check it out:

Species Primary Use Coloration Strengths Weaknesses Cedar Rustic Approved
Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) Shingles, decking, and fencing Interior WRC is light in coloration with a red hue. Coastal WRC is darker red in color with greater variation. Readily available, produced by large mills. Old growth heartwood and very decay-resistant Most logs are second growth. Posts are more sap than heartwood which is less decay-resistant. Yes
Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) Fencing, log cabins, and rustic furniture Light in color with light chocolate colored knot structure. Smaller log than WRC. All posts are heartwood and very decay-resistant. Availability. Produced by small mills with limited production. Hard to find consistent supply. Yes
Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) (a.k.a. Red Cedar, White Cedar) Pencils, venetian blinds, chest and toys White wood with a light brown heartwood with a tinge of red coloration. More affordable than WRC and NWC. Has issues with mold. Most mills with only a 60-day warranty for mold. No
Alaskan Yellow Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) Interior woodwork, furniture, and small boats Light yellow sapwood with darker yellow heartwood. Has a tight cell structure giving the lumber strength. Does not accept stain and has mold issues. No
Port-Orford Cedar (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) (a.k.a. Lawson's Cypress) Matchsticks, millwork, coffins in Japan, and archery supplies. The heart is yellow to pale brown. This type of wood is strong for a softwood Not manufactured for fencing. Fence boards are usually remanufactured and supply will be spotty. Severe checking. No
Asian Cedar, China Cedar, Asian Fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata) Used in Asia for outdoor furniture, decking, and siding White in color with brown hues. Has a very distinctive fir scent. More affordable than WRC and NWC Only in the market since 2007. Don't understand the longevity of material. Conflicting studies on decay resistance. No

Over the last 97 years, Cedar Rustic has experimented with and researched many different types of cedar. 6 primary species have been sold and installed in the Chicago/NW Indiana marketplace. When selecting the right cedar for your fence, it's crucial to consider the following:

  • Characteristics of the Lumber: Is the wood naturally resistant to decay and rot? How does it fare in the sometimes-harsh Midwest climate?
  • Material Availability: Be aware that some mills may remanufacture lower-quality lumber into fence boards. This can lead to limited supply and make sourcing replacement boards difficult down the line.
  • Material Grade: Not all cedar, even within the same species, is created equal. Inspect your chosen material before installation to ensure it meets your expectations.

Why Dry Set Footings Extend Your Fence's Lifespan

You won't find construction experts recommending that wood posts be set directly in cement. Cement traps moisture, which will eventually lead to rot and decay in the wood.

Consider these examples:

  • Utility Poles: These are always set in backfill or gravel for maximum lifespan.
  • Deck Building Code: Codes require a metal base and a buffer between wood deck posts and cement footings.
  • Home Construction: Sill plates (where your walls rest on the foundation) always have a vapor barrier to protect them from the cement.
  • Hardwood Floors: These also require a vapor barrier when installed over a cement subfloor.
Why will a Dry Set Footing make your fence last longer?

Why Do Some Fence Companies Still Use Cement?

There are a few reasons why some companies stick with cement for wood fence posts:

  • Convenience: It's a familiar method used for various types of fencing.
  • Tradition: They may simply be following outdated practices without considering the specific needs of cedar.
  • Lack of Experience: Companies without extensive cedar-specific experience may not fully understand the long-term negative effects of cement on cedar posts.

At Cedar Rustic, we know that dry set footings are the way to go for optimal cedar fence longevity. This method allows water to drain freely away from the post, significantly reducing the risk of rot.


Cedar fencing is a fantastic investment! It's a beautiful, durable, and versatile choice for enhancing your outdoor space. With proper care, a cedar fence can easily last between 15-30 years. Understanding the keys to maximizing its lifespan (like choosing the right footing method!) will help you enjoy your cedar fence for many years to come.

Your Local Cedar Experts

In the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana areas, Cedar Rustic Fence Co. is the name to trust for all things cedar! Our decades of experience, commitment to quality, and focus on customer satisfaction make us the ideal choice for your fencing project. Contact us today and discover how we can transform your space with a beautiful, long-lasting cedar fence.

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Cedar Rustic Fence Co.


We are Cedar Rustic Fence Company ;) Nailing expertise in fencing for nearly a century. We've seen it all, from picket perfection to backyard beast-proofing. Your fence needs are in good hands.

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