9 Cypress Wood Uses (And Why It’s So Valuable + Expensive) 

Bald cypress trees reflecting in the water in a florida swamp on a warm summer day

Cypress trees look like evergreens with their small needle-like leaves and round cones, but they are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in Autumn. Cypress trees have many uses and applications which make it cypress wood valuable and expensive compared to wood such as pine. 

Milled cypress wood is naturally water-resistant, decay-resistant, and durable. These qualities make cypress wood a premium choice for use in homes and heavy construction and thus, more expensive. Other cypress wood uses include boat docks, piers, siding, furniture, paneling, fence posts, and boats.

Read on to learn more about the uses of cypress wood and its value!

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Cypress Wood Is Valuable

Cypress lumber usage has been documented since before America was settled. The trees create an oily resin that makes the milled lumber water-resistant, decay-resistant, and also repels most insects.

These traits, along with other quality characteristics, make cypress lumber some of the most versatile, as well as valuable lumber to come from the coastal US.

Cypress Tree Are Slow Growing

Cypress trees require wet areas to grow, especially before they get established. They also do not grow as fast as some trees like the fast-growing pine trees, meaning it takes years longer for the trees to grow large enough to use for lumber. 

Some cypress wood, like pecky cypress wood, is extremely valuable because it is created by a fungus. The fungus creates a pattern of pockets pleasing to the eye and sought after by artisan woodworkers. This type of wood is also quite rare, adding to the value. 

Uses For Cypress Wood

Stunning cypress tree tunnel

Cypress lumber is an all-around useful wood with many practical uses.

A Journal of Delta Studies tells us cypress wood is used for roof shingles, boats, posts and pilings, caskets, water tanks, sugar crates, furniture, and appliances. This is, of course, alongside its construction uses.

Cypress Wood Was Used For Dugout Canoes And Boats

Cypress wood use has been documented since the beginning of record-keeping. Native Americans use cypress to craft canoes for transportation across the swamp and wetlands. They would cut down the tree and hold the trunk over a fire to soften the bark so they could carve it out into the shape of a canoe.

The natural water and decay-resistant traits made these canoes a staple for Native American life on the swamps and marshlands. With these hollowed-out trunks, Native Americans could trade with other communities, fish, and hunt in other areas. Without these cypress wood canoes, they might not have survived in the swamps. 

We still build some boats today with cypress wood. Especially by boating enthusiasts who want to build vessels. It is softer than oak or teak wood, meaning it is a little easier to work with, and of course, as stated above, it is naturally water and rot-resistant.

Skilled craft workers with the right tools can create gorgeous works of art that also serve as watercraft. 

Cypress Wood Is Used To Build Log Homes

Cypress wood today is still used to build log homes. These trees produce a preservative called Cypressene, which helps with water and decay resistance. It also repels insects like termites and carpenter bees who love to cut out perfect-looking dime-sized holes and burrow into soffits and siding of wood houses.

Cypress trees are softwood, but because of the tightly packed growth rings, they are often considered hardwood. Also, because of the narrow growth rings, they are less susceptible to shrinkage, twisting, and warping, making cypress trunks a perfect wood for log homes. 

If you have stayed in a log cabin on a vacation, it was most likely built with cypress logs.

Cypress Wood Is Used For Boat Docks And Piers

Cypress trees often grow in swamplands and marshes, leaving the lower trunks and roots completely submerged. Therefore, it makes sense to use this wood to make boat docks and piers. The wood stains well and can last upwards of 40 years.

If the wood came from heartwood and/or from an old-growth tree, with proper care, the wood could last upwards of 100 years. Again, the minimal shrinkage, twisting, and warping associated with cypress wood makes a splendid choice for docks and piers. 

Cypress Wood Is Used For Siding And Roofing Shingles For Houses

Similar to the benefits of using cypress wood for the above-mentioned applications, this wood is also used for siding and roofing shingles. Similar to cedar, cypress makes great siding and shingles because they both have resistant qualities to insects, harsh weather, water, and shrinkage.

Cypress has more of the insect resisting oils in it making it a slightly better choice, and it is oftentimes cheaper than cedar. 

The cypress wood used for shingles also ages well, slowly turning a silvery-gray color as the years go by. To prevent the wood from maturing to a pewter color, just seal the wood or stain it. Cypress wood takes sealants and stains very well compared to more resinous types of lumber. 

Since it is a softer wood, cypress works well on the exterior of your house and acts similarly to some pine species. Nails and screws are less likely to bend, break, or split the wood when attaching to the side or roof of the house. 

Cypress Wood Is Used For Outdoor Furniture 

With the natural ability to weather well, cypress wood is a great medium for outdoor furniture. Cypress wood is often used for outdoor fireplace mantels, tables and chairs, and outdoor kitchen cabinets. Outdoor cypress furniture that is properly treated and sealed will give its owner a lifetime of quality service. 

The lumber from cypress trees is easily worked. Meaning it can be cut, carved, and sanded with power tools or by hand with ease. This makes cypress wood a standout choice for woodworking and furniture making. 

Paneling Is Made From Cypress Wood

Cypress wood paneling is gaining popularity in houses because of the pleasing, compact grain pattern and the rich golden color of the natural wood. Cypress also takes stains, oils, sealers, and paints well, making it a versatile option for wall coverings. 

Stadium Seats Are Sometimes Made From Cypress Wood

Similar to outdoor furniture, stadium seats are sometimes made from cypress wood. Cypress wood simply seems to be made for this kind of application.

Stadium seats spend a lot of time in disuse, in harsh weather like baking sun, heavy rains, and snow. With all the beneficial attributes included in cypress wood, it makes stadium seating last a long time, reducing the cost of having to replace seats often. 

Ground Cypress Trees Are Used As Mulch

You can ground cypress trees down for mulch. It is a light-colored mulch, and it often carries a pleasing aromatic scent. It is a natural insect-repelling mulch as well as containing fungal resistance.

Like the long-lasting qualities of cedar mulch, cypress mulch lasts as much as two to three times longer than comparable hardwood mulches. 

Cypress mulch deters weeds, holds in moisture for your plants, prevents airborne seeds from reaching the ground and germinating, and regulates temperatures for plant roots. It also deters insects and reptiles. 

One thing to be on the lookout for is to be sure your cypress mulch does not contain sapwood. This could end up attracting insects because they can make a meal of it. 

Cypress Oil Is Used In Shampoo And Beauty Products

Cypress oil has many uses as well. The oil-resin of cypress trees is extracted using a steam distillation process. The purified cypress oil is in several products many of us use all the time.

Things like shampoo, beauty products, and health products contain cypress oil occasionally. 

You can even get it as an essential oil, like the Artizen Cypress Essential Oil, which some claim has a host of health benefits. It comes in high quality, UV protected glass bottles, and has a lifetime warranty. As with any health related products, be sure to contact a professional before use.

Is Cypress A Hardwood Or Softwood?

Cypress trees and gooses in a swamp

Softwood With Attributes Of Hardwood

Cypress wood is a softwood, but it has some of the best attributes of hardwood. It is easy to work like softwood, but has a tighter grain and growth rings like hardwood. Cypress is also less likely than other softwoods to warp, shrink, split, or twist, making it a good option where hardwoods are often preferred.

Another attribute of cypress wood is it is strong and light. It is strong, like hardwoods like maple and ash, but is light like the softer pine wood. It’s no wonder why this wood is so popular and coveted all around. 

Is Cypress Wood Good For Furniture?

Furniture made from cypress wood is durable and long-lasting both indoors and outdoors. Being water-resistant and decay-resistant only adds to the value and is an excellent choice for outdoor furniture.

From tables and Adirondack chairs to outdoor cabinets, furniture made from cypress wood has exceptional longevity and durability, even when exposed to the extremes of outdoor elements. 

Where Do Cypress Trees Grow?

Bald cypress’ native range includes the southeastern U.S., where it is the dominant tree in swampy environments. Although it is a conifer, it loses its leaves in the fall.

The cones and balls of bald cypress trees also have many uses. You can learn about a few of them here: 5 Different Uses For Bald Cypress Cones And Balls.

Two factors limit the natural range of the bald cypress: the need for constant moisture until a sapling root reaches the water table and the need for seasonal flooding to eliminate invading hardwoods.

What Makes Cypress Wood So Valuable?

Cypress wood is valuable for several reasons. First off is the natural water-resistance of the wood, making it a great building material for many applications, such as piers, docks, boats, and exterior siding and shingles for houses.

Cypress Is Rot And Insect Resistant

It also has ingrained rot and insect resistance. These reasons make cypress wood more valuable in some applications compared to pine, poplar, oak, and others that have to be treated chemically to increase the rot and insect resistance. 

An article from Texas Parks and Wildlife tells us Cypress is also referred to as “wood eternal” because its heartwood is so decay-resistant.

Cypress Wood Is Less Likely To Twist Or Warp

The compressed wood grain or growth rings of cypress wood also increase the value. Because of the tighter growth rings of the tree, when the tree is processed and turned into logs or other building materials, cypress wood is less likely to warp, twist, or shrink. These traits make cypress wood the perfect material for exterior applications and log cabins. 

Cypress Wood Makes Great Log Cabins

Log cabins are meant to last lifetimes, and they will not be any good if the wood shrinks in a few years or warps and bends because of the weather extremes. Cypress wood logs are characteristically resistant to twisting or misshaping because of the tight grain patterns in the wood.  

Exterior Applications Look Beautiful With Cypress Wood

The excessive longevity and durability of cypress is great for nearly all outdoor applications. Brilliant looks, and a natural golden hue of the wood, which matures into a silvery-gray hue when left untreated, are more reasons it is used.

Matured cypress is reminiscent of aged pewter that some people find exceptionally pleasing and increases the value of cypress wood.

Old-Growth Cypress Is More Valuable 

Old-growth cypress trees are getting harder and harder to find for several reasons. This rarity makes heartwood cypress, the wood with much fewer knots, richer color, and a tighter grain, more valuable. Old-growth, heartwood cypress is also the most aesthetically pleasing.

Old-growth cypress trees are more valuable because of fewer knots, a tighter grain, and richer color. A tree has to be at least 80 to 150 years old to be considered old growth. Most old-growth trees are protected or have already been harvested, making old-growth wood more valuable and expensive. 

Cypress trees used in building materials are rather slower-growing trees. It may take some up to 30 years to become mature enough to get enough lumber from the tree to make it worth cutting down. This makes old-growth trees harder and harder to find. 

Pecky cypress is the most valuable because of a fungus that creates patterns of pockets people find appealing. 

Why Is Cypress Wood So Expensive?

Swamp cypress branches on sky, spring time.

The rising cost of cypress wood has several factors built into it. Most of all is the law of supply and demand. As demand for quality cypress wood increases and the supply decreases, naturally the price will increase.

There are other mitigating factors added to the high cost of cypress wood. Let’s explore those reasons now. 

Cypress Tree Habitat Destruction

Bald cypress trees grow along the marshlands and swamps along the Eastern coast of the US. They also need lots of water, nearly flooding, until their roots get deep enough to reach the water table before they become established. 

These wetland habitats are getting drained and covered over to make room for houses, buildings, and roads, making natural cypress groves rare, thus causing a shortage of cypress wood. 

Quick Harvesting And Slow Growth Makes Cypress Wood Valuable

It does not take long to cut down a tree and mill it into usable lumber, but it takes a cypress tree around 30 years to reach commercial maturity. The resources it takes to grow a cypress tree and keep it growing and healthy for 30 years makes the wood more expensive. 

Cypress trees in the wild can take a long time to germinate as well. In the swamps and wetlands when the seeds from a cypress tree drop they often fall into standing water.

Even though they grow in standing water, the seeds will not germinate while submerged. There have been reports of seeds staying underwater for 30 years before they reach dry land and sprout. 

Cypress Trees Have Become Unsustainable

The demand for cypress wood products, destruction of its habitat, and cutting down of old-growth cypress groves has made this wood unsustainable. Meaning the supply continues to dwindle, but the demand for cypress wood stays the same or increases.

Demand for cypress wood has increased along the gulf coast because of its inherent water and rot-resistant qualities, therefore increasing the price of good cypress wood.

Just these traits alone, being exceptionally water resistant, rot resistant, as well as insect-resistant, help to increase the value and price of cypress wood. 

Demand For Antique Cypress Millwork

Along with the above reasons, more and more people living in finer homes along the coast are looking for and collecting antique cypress millwork to display in their residences. Again, as the demand goes up and supply dwindles, the cost will also rise.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is often more expensive than fresh culled lumber. But old-growth cypress wood is increasingly difficult to come across, and people who want that kind of heartwood cypress will pay the prices.

The pecky cypress wood mentioned earlier is also part of the rise in cost. It looks like linear divots carved out of the wood, making it seem more aged, and giving the wood more character. People will pay premium prices for the distinguished pecky cypress, sometimes up to 3 or 4 times as much as solid cypress. 

That’s A Wrap!

Cypress wood has many uses, especially in housing and building construction. From siding and shingles, log cabins, paneling, boat docks, piers, mulch, and even boats, cypress wood is a versatile lumber useful for many projects. 

Its water, insect, rot, and decay-resistant characteristics make it a very valuable wood as well. Unfortunately, because of the slow growth rates, reduced supply, and higher than typical demand, the price of cypress lumber will continue to grow.

References:

Beilmann, A. P. (1940). The Bald Cypress as a shade tree. Bull. Mo. bot. Gdn28, 111-4. https://www.cabdirect.org/cabdirect/abstract/19400621403

Liu, W., Thummasuwan, S., Sehgal, S. K., Chouvarine, P., & Peterson, D. G. (2011). Characterization of the genome of bald cypress. BMC Genomics12(1).

Therrell, M. D., Elliott, E. A., Meko, M. D., Bregy, J. C., Tucker, C. S., Harley, G. L., Maxwell, J. T., & Tootle, G. A. (2020). Streamflow Variability Indicated by False Rings in Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum (L.) Rich.). Forests11(10), 1100.

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