How to Select the Right Lumber for Your Outdoor Project

Spring is the time for building. People are getting to work on new decks, fences and raised beds. But before you start you should make sure you are getting the right wood for the job.

Some of the outdoor wood to consider for your project are:

  • Pressure-treated lumber
  • Cedar
  • Redwood

Pressure Treated Lumber

In the Pacific Northwest, pressure treated lumber is primarily hemlock with a few select products that are Douglas fir. All pressure treated lumber is incised unless it is specifically designed to be used for a deck surface or railing application. The treatment for residential construction is normally a copper based solution referred to as either “CA-C” or “ACQ” depending on the company and the chemical solution that they independently use. CCA treating is reserved for agricultural (pole barn) buildings, and/or commercial retaining walls. There are basically three different treatment levels for incised lumber: above ground, ground contact, and in-ground structural. Non-incised products are designed for use for deck surfaces, and hand rails, and are treated for above ground use only.


Cedar is naturally resistant to termites and rot. Two grades of cedar available at Parr Lumber are tight knot (also known as #2 grade) and clear cedar. Tight knot cedar have knots in the wood, but they are intact and there are no holes. Clear cedar do not have any knots or holes, have a nice grain to it, and could be used to give your project a nice, finished look. Cedar makes great raised garden beds, but if you were to use them for a deck, fence or patio you should use treated lumber at the base to give your projects a longer life.


Redwood, like cedar, is naturally resistant to termites and rot. The #3 grade shown in the photo is great for raised garden beds. Grade three lumber is similar to grade two. But in addition to knots, #3 grade lumber can also have holes.

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