Building Tips

The Best Wood to Use on the Exterior of a House

house with wood headers and posts

Wood elements can add so much character and warmth to the exterior of a house. But what is the best type of wood to use?

There are several factors to consider, but the most important should be weather resistance. Cedar, Cypress, and Redwood are extremely weather-resistant compared to other woods. Because of this and the fact that they are relatively easy to find, these three are the most commonly used woods on the exterior of a home.

Cedar vs Redwood vs Cypress

If I was to recommend one type of wood first, Cedar would be it, followed by Redwood. Both are extremely softwoods and are resistant to rot and decay and resistant to termites which is a big plus! Although they do tend to have a pinkish tint in color, staining is always an option and is usually the route most people take with these woods.

On our current house, we used Cedar in several different places as accents to add warmth and interest to the white painted brick and black windows.

Cypress is another wood that is commonly used on the exterior of a house. It is also a softwood that is resistant to rot and decay, but the appearance is somewhat lighter than that of Redwood and Cedar.

However, Cypress is more difficult to get and is more expensive than Cedar. It also has a sour smell compared to the lovely aroma of Cedar. Not that smell is too big of a deal for exterior use.

Exterior Uses and Ideas

There are lots of ways to use wood elements on the exterior of a home. We have always used wood as more of a subtle touch to warm up painted brick or siding. Of course, it can be used in abundance such as cedar shake siding which is an absolutely amazing look, but very expensive! Maintenance is also something to consider when using lots of wood on the exterior.

One of the most common ways to add wood to the exterior is by using wood posts on porches. We did this on our front and side porch and added some arched brackets on the front porch posts for some added detail.

wood posts

Another option is adding wood shutters. Wood shutters can be purchased or even DIYed if you want to get creative and save some money. Wood shutters add a nice detail to a painted exterior home. Making sure to add some stain and poly will help preserve the life of the wood.

Another great idea is using wood headers or lintels above the windows. We chose to do this on our current home with Cedar. We had custom sized blocks of Cedar cut 8 inches tall and 3 1/2 inches thick, and they extend about 3 inches past the window on each side.

It’s a subtle detail that goes a long way. We stained them with Minwax Special Walnut to create a lot of contrast with the painted white brick.

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12 Comments

  • Reply Jackie

    Thank you for sharing this article. What brand and color of shingles did you use for your roof?

    August 21, 2020 at 11:09 pm
    • Reply Henry

      You’re welcome. It’s Owens Corning Onyx Black.

      August 22, 2020 at 5:19 pm
  • Reply marcus

    We are building a house and will be using cedar over the windows like you did. Did you stain the cedar that you used? If so what color did you use?

    August 28, 2020 at 1:45 am
    • Reply Henry

      Yes, we did stain the cedar. We used Minwax Special Walnut.

      August 30, 2020 at 1:15 pm
      • Reply Emory Weber

        Hi Henry, the home we’re building also has cedar accents and post on the exterior. In addition to the Minwax stain, did you also add a sealer?

        October 9, 2020 at 7:07 pm
      • Reply Tracy

        What brand of paint & color did you use for exterior? Thx!

        April 4, 2021 at 3:30 pm
  • Reply Kim Chamberlain

    Hi Henry. We are building and would like cedar lintels above our windows. Our builder is advising against for structural reasons. He suggests putting the cedar over the brick for the effect. If I’m reading your post correctly, this is what you did? Yours are not supportive, correct? Thanks!

    October 26, 2020 at 4:34 pm
    • Reply Henry

      Hi Kim. Your builder is right. Wood lintels should not be used to support the weight of the brick, but I don’t recommend a thin piece of cedar on top of the brick. We used steel lintels above the wood lintels. The masons laid the brick as usual, but basically left a space for the block of cedar above each window. Our lintels are 3 1/2 inches thick, same as the brick.

      October 26, 2020 at 5:06 pm
      • Reply Tim

        Great to hear how you did this – we are planing to do the same on a few of our windows. How do you install and secure the beam? Does it just fit in with friction? Do you use lag screws and then go back to fill the holes? Or is it glued? Does it have space between it and the house sheathing? Do you have any thoughts on rough sawn fir? We’re considering using fir on our porch beams too. Thanks!

        December 12, 2020 at 9:00 pm
      • Reply Angie McPherson

        Is the Onyx black roof showing more charcoal lighter than traditional black or is this just the way the photo picks it up? I really like the color and usually veer away from black roofs. Beautiful!

        February 22, 2021 at 3:56 am
      • Reply Mark

        Henry, We are building a house and want to add cedar lintels over a couple windows on the exterior of the house. I plan to install a steel lintel above the wood lintel to carry and transfer the brick load above. What I am struggling with is how best to anchor the wood lintel to the structure. I’d appreciate you sharing any detailed information on how you did this.

        July 9, 2021 at 2:03 pm
  • Reply Allison King

    Hello – beautiful home! Would you mind sharing the paint color for the brick and siding please?

    December 6, 2020 at 12:49 pm
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