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Cedar Deck Board Spacing: What Gap Between Decking Boards Is Ideal?

Updated: Mar 27


cedar deck board spacing

A stunning cedar deck can transform your backyard into a serene retreat or a vibrant gathering space, with the wood's rich tones and inviting texture setting a natural stage for relaxation and entertainment. 


The allure of cedar goes beyond its visual charm, though. It's also a durable and naturally resistant material, ensuring your deck remains a lasting fixture of your home.


But what about cedar deck board spacing? This is such an overlooked aspect of building a deck, yet it's incredibly important. Proper space between cedar deck boards allows for the wood to expand and contract with changes in moisture, ensuring structural integrity and preventing potential warping or cracking. 


So, what gap between decking boards is ideal? Generally, the ideal cedar deck spacing is between 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) and 1/4 inch (6.5 mm), depending on the specific environmental conditions and moisture content of the wood.


Keep reading to learn more about how to perfect the gap between cedar deck boards along with additional advice on bringing your deck to life, including why you can count on Quality Cedar Products for the premier cedar decking in North America!


Quality Cedar Products can meet all your cedar board needs. This blog is informational only and not a replacement for expert advice. Please consult a professional before starting any building project as your needs and specifications may vary and it may not reflect the most current building codes, regulations, or industry standards.


The Importance of Cedar Deck Board Spacing

Before getting into the specific cedar deck spacing we recommend, it’s worth a quick discussion on why you have to space your boards in the first place - and why the specific gap between cedar boards is so important. 


Really, it comes down to two things: longevity and safety. This is essential whether you’re dealing with a redwood vs cedar deck or cedar deck vs pressure treated deck, for that matter!


Like all wood, cedar expands and contracts with temperature fluctuations and changes in humidity. Adequate cedar deck spacing accommodates this natural movement, preventing the boards from buckling or warping. If the boards are too close together, they can push against each other as they expand, which can lead to structural damage over time. 


A proper gap between cedar deck boards allows for essential water drainage, too. Rain or snowmelt needs to flow through the gaps between the boards to prevent water from pooling on the surface. Standing water can accelerate the deterioration of the wood, leading to rot and decay, which undermines the integrity of the deck.


Speaking of drainage, consistent board spacing aids in the cedar lumber drying process after wet weather, reducing the risk of mold, mildew, and algae growth on your cedar deck. These organisms not only pose a health risk but can also cause the wood to become slippery and dangerous to walk on.


Moreover, the gaps play a role in the overall aesthetics of your deck. Even, uniform spacing between cedar deck boards creates a visually pleasing pattern that can enhance the appearance of your outdoor space. It shows attention to detail and craftsmanship that adds to the overall value and appeal of your deck.


The space between cedar deck boards is also important for the practical aspect of cedar deck maintenance. You’ll be glad you prioritized cedar deck spacing when it comes time to clean cedar decking.


Debris such as leaves, twigs, and pine needles can accumulate on a deck, and adequate spacing ensures that such debris can be easily washed or swept away, simplifying the cleaning process and maintaining the beauty of the cedar.


Safety issues can arise if cedar boards are too far apart, too. Pets or kids can injure themselves walking/running across the deck, with tiny feet or paws getting caught between a larger gap.


It’s important to find the sweet spot right in the middle that offers safety, drainage, contraction/expansion, and aesthetics. So, what gap between decking boards is ideal?


So, What Gap Between Decking Boards Is Ideal?

So, how much space between cedar deck boards is ideal? Determining the ideal gap between cedar decking boards is not a one-size-fits-all scenario, unfortunately. You need to consider several factors to ensure optimal performance and appearance. 


The key elements that influence the ideal cedar deck board spacing include the moisture content of the wood at the time of installation, the local climate and weather patterns, and the size of the boards being used.


Cedar decking typically comes with a moisture content that's suited for the climate where it's sold. However, it's crucial to account for the wood's acclimation to its new environment. 


A smaller gap is often sufficient in regions with high humidity, as the wood won't expand significantly. Conversely, a larger gap is advisable in drier climates to accommodate the potential for wood expansion during damper seasons.


All that being said - the standard recommendation for the gap between cedar deck boards is between 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) and 1/4 inch (6.5 mm). This range allows for the natural expansion and contraction of the wood, adequate drainage, and debris removal. 


As we said earlier, it's a balance that guards against too much movement, which could compromise the deck's structural integrity, and too little space, which could hinder drainage and cleaning.


For narrower boards, a gap closer to 1/8 inch may be sufficient, while wider boards will benefit from a gap closer to 1/4 inch to allow for proportional expansion. 


It's also worth noting that the end-to-end spacing between cedar deck boards should be slightly different (usually smaller) to account for the different expansion characteristics along the length of the boards.


Always use precise measurements and consider consulting an expert to determine the best cedar deck board spacing for your specific situation. 


This attention to detail will not only extend the life of your cedar deck but also ensure it remains a safe and beautiful space for outdoor living. We’ll offer a few tips on perfecting the gap between cedar deck boards below to steer you in the right direction!


Tips on Getting the Perfect Gap Between Cedar Deck Boards

Achieving the perfect amount of space between cedar deck boards is an art that requires a blend of precision and practical know-how. Here are some pro tips to guide you through the process:

  • Choose the Right Tools: A set of spacers is invaluable for maintaining consistent gaps. These can be as simple as nails or commercially available spacers designed for decking. Using the same tool for cedar deck board spacing throughout the project is key to uniformity.

  • Consider the Season: If you're installing your deck during the peak of summer's dry heat or the wet chill of winter, remember that the wood will likely contract or expand as the seasons change. 

  • Account for Board Variations: Cedar boards can have slight differences in width even within the same batch. Measure periodically to ensure that your gaps remain consistent across the entire deck. Much of this can be alleviated by following our advice on where to buy western red cedar lumber and choosing Quality Cedar Products. 

  • Use a Hidden Fastener System: These systems can help maintain consistent spacing and give your deck a clean look without visible screws or nails. They often come with their own set of spacing tools that fit into the system.

  • Start Straight and Stay Straight: Your first board sets the tone for the entire deck. Ensure it's perfectly aligned and secured. Use a chalk line or a straight edge as a guide to keep your lines true as you progress.

  • Be Flexible with Your Gaps: If you notice a particular board is slightly off in width, don't be afraid to adjust the gap by a fraction to compensate. This is where a discerning eye comes in handy to maintain the overall aesthetic.

  • Plan for the End: As you approach the end of the deck, you may need to adjust the cedar deck spacing slightly on the last few boards to avoid having to rip the final board to a very thin piece.

By following these tips, you'll set yourself up for a cedar deck that not only looks professional but also performs well over time. We want to offer a few more tips on installing cedar deck boards before wrapping things up, though.


Other Factors to Consider in Bringing Your Dream Deck to Life

Beyond how much space between cedar deck boards is ideal, there are a few other things you should take into consideration as you build your deck. Perhaps most importantly - the cedar decking material itself.


The Cedar Decking Material Itself

The foundation of a dream deck begins with choosing high-quality cedar. This wood is prized for its natural beauty, durability, and resistance to decay and insects. 


Look for uniformity in color and grain patterns, as well as minimal knots, which can affect the wood's structural integrity. Opt for kiln-dried cedar if you desire less moisture content, which can reduce the potential for warping post-installation.


Partner with a reputable provider who sources sustainably harvested cedar and offers a range of western red cedar grades and sizes. A trustworthy supplier will not only provide quality material but also valuable guidance based on their expertise in the field.


If you’re looking for western red cedar products in Canada or the US, look no further. We sort and grade our boards by hand to ensure high-quality standards, as we take our reputation as the #1 cedar lumber supplier seriously. In other words, you can enjoy peace of mind partnering with us knowing you’re getting the quality you deserve!


In fact, we back our lumber up with a satisfaction guarantee that extends across the entire course of your project. If at any point you discover issues with our lumber, just let us know and we’ll make it right. Simple as that.


We also have cedar posts for sale, cedar siding, and all the other top-tier lumber you need for any project. So, get a quote today and take the first step towards building a deck you’re proud to show off! 


Decking Orientation and Pattern

The orientation and pattern of your cedar deck boards can significantly influence the deck's overall look and feel. 


Running boards parallel to the house tends to draw the eye outward and can make the space appear larger. Diagonal patterns add visual interest and strength but may require more material and skilled cutting.


Consider incorporating creative patterns like herringbone or picture framing for a custom look that stands out. These designs require careful planning and precision but result in a deck that's a true reflection of your personal style.


Fastening Methods

The choice of fastening methods for your cedar deck can affect both aesthetics and longevity. Traditional screws and nails are tried and true, but modern hidden fastening systems provide a seamless finish free from visible hardware. 


These systems can also allow for natural wood movement without compromising the deck's structure. Just ensure your fasteners are compatible with cedar and suitable for your climate to prevent corrosion and staining over time.


Railings

Railings are not only a safety feature but also an opportunity to enhance your deck's design. Cedar railings can complement your decking for a cohesive look, or you can mix materials such as glass or metal for a contemporary twist. 


The height, spacing, and pattern of the railings should meet local building codes and your personal preferences for privacy and views. Find an extensive array of cedar deck railing ideas if you’re looking for inspiration!


Final Thoughts on Cedar Deck Spacing

There you have it - everything you need to know about cedar deck board spacing. Remember that the proper gap between cedar deck boards is crucial to accommodate natural wood movement and ensure longevity. 


Aim for a balance that allows for drainage and wood expansion, typically between 1/4" and 3/8" based on your specific environmental conditions and the moisture content of your cedar.



At this point, though, it’s time to take the first step toward making your dream deck a reality at Quality Cedar Products. Request a quote on our superior lumber and find out firsthand what makes us the #1 choice in North America!


Quality Cedar Products does not assume any liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the information provided in this blog post. The reader is solely responsible for any actions taken based on the information presented. Any reliance on the information is at the reader's own risk.

Quality Cedar Products is not responsible for any loss, injury, or damage that may occur as a result of following the suggestions, tips, or recommendations provided in this blog post. Building projects involve inherent risks, and it is essential to exercise caution, obtain proper permits, and engage qualified professionals to ensure safety and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The inclusion of external links, references, or recommendations in this blog post does not constitute endorsement or guarantee the quality, reliability, or suitability of the linked sources. The reader should independently verify the information and assess its relevance to their specific circumstances. The author reserves the right to modify, update, or remove the content of this blog post at any time without prior notice. It is recommended to check for the most recent updates or consult with professionals to ensure the information is current and applicable. By reading this blog post, the reader acknowledges and accepts the above disclaimer and agrees to use the information provided responsibly and at their own discretion.

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