My first woodworking project was to make adirondack chairs out of cedar fence boards. I got the plans from Sunset magazine & they lasted for about 5 years outside in our Washington weather.
Adirondack chairs can be made out of just about any wood or even plastic. So why choose cedar? Firstly, cedar is a naturally beautiful wood for many reasons (which we describe below), as well as being incredibly durable and versatile, which is why it is used to construct everything from siding to decks to furniture and even roofing shingles. The natural preservative oils and characteristic smell of cedar also make it very insect and rot resistant.
Cedar is not a very dense wood, making it one of the lightest softwoods available. Cedar also boasts an incredible thermal co-efficient. That means that the little tiny “air pockets” between the cells of the wood end up acting as an insulator when the wood is dry. If it is hot outside, for example, cedar will remain at a lower temperature than most other materials that conduct heat with more efficiency (e.g. other hardwoods, metals and some plastics). The result is a cooler chair to sit on. And don’t forget, because it is a lightweight wood it will be easier for you to move it around (and store it away) than a heavy hardwood chair.
Even though cedar is a lightweight wood you will not be sacrificing strength. It is a full 80% the strength of mighty OAK! That’s tough!
Cedar also has amazing dimensional stability. More simply put, cedar naturally tries to equalize its moisture content to match that of the air around it, like all woods. However, unlike many other woods, cedar does not expand or contract very much when it is absorbing or evaporating moisture. This is very important because while other harder, denser woods will tend to crack or warp from season to season, cedar tends not to crack or warp. If you live in an area where humidity levels can vary wildly between seasons, cedar is a must for you.
Cedar has a very low flame-spreading ratio and is low on the “smoke developed” scale when burning as well. This means that it doesn’t spread fire as fast nor produce as much smoke as some other types of wood.
Finally, cedar is very decay and weather resistant. If you leave the furniture outside you have the option of either staining it every year or two if you want to maintain its fresh new look, or allowing it to age gracefully into a beautiful silvery gray color. If you choose to leave cedar permanently outside through all of the seasons, every day, every month, every year, we highly recommend treating it to protect the furniture properly and greatly extend its natural life. After all, cedar is resistant to decay but is not impervious to it. No wood is impervious to natural aging. Staining cedar just gives it an extra durability edge against Mother Nature, especially if it is left in constant contact with the ground.