The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How long will a cedar post last?

Red cedar heart woodSome of you may be wondering about our decision to use untreated cedar posts as the foundation of our shed.  It almost certainly wouldn't pass the building inspector's eagle eye, but luckily small sheds are often exempt from code restrictions (especially when you live out in the middle of nowhere.)

How long will the red cedar posts last in the ground?  Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect they'll last a good long while.  Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) wood contains substances that naturally kill termites, but it's hard to say whether the wood is as effective against fungal rots.

The red heartwood, from which Red Cedar gets its name, is the most hardy part.  Mark carefully chose large cedar trunks with plenty of heartwood, figuring that even if the pale sapwood rots away, enough heartwood will remain to support our shed.  People have been using Red Cedar as untreated fenceposts for a long time, and Mother Earth News notes that they will last for 15 to 20 years.  Since our supports are significantly thicker than typical fenceposts and will be protected on the top from water, I wouldn't be surprised if they lasted for several decades.

At Uxmal, we learned that Mayans traditionally tore down their homes and started fresh every 52 years.  It just makes sense to me to create a structure that uses fewer resources (and costs less money), but that will need care and maybe will even have to be replaced in our lifetime.  So far, we're on track to build the shed for around $6 per square foot, including insulation.  At that rate, we could rebuild our shed every 5 years for the rest of our lives and still come out ahead of someone who used more traditional methods.

Check out Mark's homemade chicken waterer.

This post is part of our Building a Storage Building from Scratch series.  Read all of the entries:

Part 1: Foundation
Part 2: Floor
Part 3: Walls and scavenging lumber
Part 4: Adding the loft
Part 5: The roof
Summing it up:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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The cedar heartwood will last much longer that 15 years. I've seen fence posts where only the heartwood was left and it thin as a pencil. As for codes, around 25 years ago, the feds approved wood foundations, which are treated plywood fastened to treated 2 x6s.

Comment by Errol Fri Oct 23 08:32:05 2009
I thought I'd seen something like the pencils of heartwood left --- glad to hear it confirmed. So you approve of our cedar post foundation? :-)
Comment by anna Fri Oct 23 08:48:34 2009
Comment by Errol Fri Oct 23 11:10:38 2009

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