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Whitewood vs Redwood: Which Wood is Best for a Garden Shed?

So, you’re in the market for a Shed. You’ve been looking around the web, and you’ve noticed something quite odd: loads of companies build their Garden Sheds completely differently from others. 

And you’re wondering why that is…🤔

Further to this, you’re noticing that almost every company either uses “whitewood” or “redwood” for their Sheds. 

So, what is the difference, and which one should you have a shed built with?

When picking what Shed is right for you there’s a lot to take in. From the type of wood used to the thickness of the wood, and even to the way that the Shed fits together, it all matters. 

So I know exactly what you’re wondering:

  • Why is every Shed construction so different? 
  • What’s the actual difference between the types of wood used for Sheds?
  • What is better: whitewood or redwood, and why? 

Sheddie, fear not. You’re absolutely correct to be thinking along these lines. Indeed, why must timber Sheds be so complex?

And we get it. It’s daunting at first, but trust us, it’s easy peasy once you get the basics down. 

So why are we writing this article? 

Well, there’s a real lack of information out there when it comes to Shed construction and the best type of timber to use, but the information that is out there is often in disagreement. 

As such, today we’re going to walk you through what the differences are between whitewood and redwood, and which timber type is best for a Garden Shed. 

It’s important to know these differences and be aware of them before making any purchase. Regrettably, a lot of suppliers will opt not to discuss how different types of timber result in different qualities of Shed, and we want to change that. 

After reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of how whitewood and redwood differ, why different companies use one over the other, and what is best for your brand new Shed. 

By knowing this, you’ll be able to ask the right questions to your #SheddieSupplier, and be able to make an informed decision on what is the best fit for you. 

Now, it’s worth noting early on that Gillies & Mackay use redwood, but we know that many companies in the market use whitewood. 

We stand by our decision to use redwood, and will of course explain why, but we’re also going to explore why companies choose to use whitewood, and why it may well be the right fit for you. 

So without further ado, let’s have a look at exactly what’s going on here and get to the bottom of this. Whitewood vs redwood: which is best for a Garden Shed?

Whitewood vs Redwood: Are there Similarities?

Before going into detail on the number of differences between these two types of timber, let’s look at their similarity. The key word, here, is similarity (singular). 

That’s right, the only thing that really binds these two is that they are called softwood. 

And what is softwood, you ask? 

Well, there’s no one better to ask than our very own Cara:

“Softwood is wood from gymnosperm trees such as conifers. Softwood is the source of about 80% of the world’s production of timber and when used externally, does require treatment. There are two grades of Softwood; Redwood and Whitewood.”

Thanks, Cara! 

That’s right, softwood is absolutely everywhere in the timber market. You’re going to find that almost every Shed is made from softwood, and this means you’re going to have to paint virtually any Shed that you buy. 

At Gillies & Mackay, we use Sadolin Superdec for this purpose. If you’d like to know more about why softwood needs to be treated, check out this blog here: Why Do You Have To Paint Your Shed – Gillies & Mackay

It’s worth noting quickly, that the opposite of softwood is “hardwood”. These are your trees like oak and birch. They come from angiosperm trees, which means that, unlike gymnosperm, they flower, and are able to produce fruit. 

You don’t really see these used in the construction market. The main reason for this is that hardwood is CRAZY expensive. (For example, oak is around five times as expensive as pine.)

But hardwood isn’t the name of the game today, so let’s cut to the chase and dive into exactly what “whitewood” and “redwood” are, and what separates them.

What is Whitewood?

As Cara mentions in the video above, whitewood typically comes from a spruce tree. Whitewood is grown very quickly and is usually done so in wetter climates (like the UK).

What this means is that its growth rings (which trees develop as they age) are not very tight.

I found this topic awfully confusing when I first started to learn about it in early 2019. What helped me was thinking of it as being similar to skin wrinkling over time: 

The more growth rings; the older the tree. The more wrinkles, the older the skin.

So, when a tree is grown quickly, the fewer growth rings you have. Basically, it’s the tree equivalent of a babyface:

Whitewoods still get ID’d at 30. 

Now, the more growth rings a tree has, the more dense and heavy the timber is when cut. This unfortunately means that boards of whitewood are awfully light due to their wide grain. And, it will be no surprise to you, that, the lighter the structure, the more flimsy it will be, and the more susceptible to the Scottish climate.

Furthermore, the sparsity of the wood grain allows for deficiencies such as bending, cupping, and splitting. When all of these things combine, it results in whitewood structures being rather prone to problems.

A photo of a wintry scene showing a forest of snow-covered Nordic Spruce trees.

What is Redwood? 

Redwood is typically from a pine tree and is grown in colder climates. Places like Norway, Denmark, and Finland. 

Now, pine grows far slower than spruce, and this means that its growth rings are a lot tighter together, making the timber very dense.

This results in redwood boards being far more sturdy once cut. Of course, the sturdier the material, the less prone to things like bending and cupping it will be. 

Redwood is heavy-duty stuff. Just think about how this stuff is naturally designed to withstand Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

And, if it’s fine in Finland, it’s fine in Scotland – even once machined and worked on. 

That’s the gist of it, really. Let’s compare!

A photo of a snow-covered Scandinavian pine forest.

Whitewood vs Redwood: What is the difference?

Okay, we’ve looked at what these two types of softwood are, and started to touch on the differences in their growing process. So now, let’s look in more detail at exactly how they differ including:

  1. Longevity
  2. Aesthetic
  3. Cost

Naturally, let’s start off with the most important facet in Gillies & Mackay’s opinion: longevity.

Whitewood vs Redwood: What is the difference in longevity?

Here at Gillies & Mackay, we claim to know a *fair amount* about Sheds, and nothing more so than making them last AGES. After all, the company mantra is “Built to Last a Lifetime”, and we believe this is achieved by using 19mm Scandinavian redwood.

Now, there are lots of different types of whitewood and redwood, as they can all grow in different places, so we’re just going to compare the redwoods that are most geographically common in the construction market. 

As such, Scandinavian spruce and pine are the best to compare.

And, before we go into detail, it’s worth quickly talking first about “cheapy” sheds. A “cheapy” shed is basically jargon for anything that’s a 12mm cut of timber or less. Regardless of the type of timber you use, the cut is so thin that it’s realistically only going to last you about 5-6 years anyway. 

And, the thicker the wood is cut, the longer it is going to last, at least in terms of tongue and groove constructions. 

If you’re wondering what “tongue and groove” means, or why this makes a difference, feel free to read more here: What’s the best type of cladding for a shed? Tongue and Groove vs Overlapping Cladding

Whitewood timber Sheds: how long do they last?

As mentioned above, a 12mm whitewood shed – or any Shed for that matter – just will not withstand consecutive Scottish winters. 

However, even when you go up to say, a 16mm thickness on whitewood, other issues present themselves. Having spoken to the lads in the workshop, whitewood is SO hard to construct and work with due to its flimsy nature (recall its wide grains). 

Because of this, folks, I’m going to suggest that if you do go for a whitewood shed, please do make sure the company is willing to construct it for you. It’s not that we have no confidence in you, but this is not a material that is easy to work with. If constructed perfectly, you could get a good 15/20 years out of it, but it’s risky stuff.

I suppose it’s hard to put an exact number on it, but with whitewood being more problem-prone than redwood, it’s more likely to falter the older it gets. It could last a long time, but its chances seem slim given its susceptibility to warping issues in cohesion with the admittedly terrible Scottish climate.

Like we say though, it’s all very well talking about how one lasts longer than the other, but you need to keep in mind the cut as well. 

Because of that, it’s really hard to say exactly how long it will last, especially with it being somewhat unreliable. Just keep an eye out, Sheddies. 

Let’s have a look at redwood Sheds.

Redwood timber Sheds: how long do they last?

Let’s talk first about how long we believe a Gillies & Mackay Shed to last: approximately 35-40 years

30 of that comes from the wood itself, and the additional 5 years comes from the coat of Sadolin we supply. Furthermore, each coat after that (that you should apply roughly every 5 years after that) replenishes that 5 years of protection. 

If you’d like some proof of this longevity look no further: these are the first two Sheds ever built by Mr John Mackay & Mr Grant Gillies in 1988: 

A photo showing the first two garden sheds built by John Mackay and Grant Gillies. The shed on the left is unpainted, has an apex roof, and tongue and groove cladding. The shed next to it on the right has been painted pale blue, and has bitumen roofing felt on its apex roof.

With a fresh lick of paint, I think they’d be looking pretty up-to-scratch. 

Recall, though, Sheddies, that the actual cut of timber is SO important for a building’s longevity. Thicker timber = better lifespan.  So, whilst we use 19mm and can say with certainty that it lasts around 35 years, we really can’t say for sure how long 16mm lasts.

So redwood may last longer, but if it’s only 12mm as opposed to, say, 16mm whitewood, then you’re actually going to be worse off by going for redwood. Feel free to read more about this here, folks: What is the best timber thickness for a timber building in Scotland?

Okay, let’s look at aesthetics.

Whitewood vs Redwood: What is the difference in aesthetic?

Despite both being softwoods, they actually look quite different. So let’s have a wee look at a whitewood shed first. Let’s see what that whitewood Shed from Wayfair looks like.

A screenshot of Wayfair's website, showing a photo and product information for a shiplap pent garden shed. The photo shows a four-sided pent shed with a door and two small windows on a deck next to some trees.

As you can see, the grains are quite few and far between on this one, and that means that the timber isn’t *overly* sturdy. 

As the name suggests, the wood is far brighter than redwood, and this colouring is due to the grains being so wide apart. 

It’s worth remembering here: the tighter the grain, the browner the tinge. You’ll see what I mean when I show you a Gillies & Mackay Shed:

A photo of the interior of a Gillies and Mackay redwood apex shed. The framing timbers are visible as well as the tongue and groove cladding.

Here, the boards that make the Shed really strong are the browner boards. It’s these that have a Shedload of tight wood grains, ensuring density and sturdiness of structure, giving it that golden brown colouring.

Overall, they look pretty different. Both are aesthetically pleasing, but redwood’s brown tinge is contributing to its longevity.

I say all of this, but it’s really only internal aesthetics that are different in the end. Why? Because softwood Shed externals need to be painted for additional protection, so the outer aesthetic really becomes about the paint you use; not the wood you’ve opted for. 

Quick thought I’ve just had, folks: since we’re discussing how redwood and whitewood look different, you’re probably wondering what Sheds look like when they’re built with a completely different material. If you’re interested in finding out about the #ShedWorld BEYOND TIMBER (dun dun dunnnnnn), then feel free to have a read of this blog here by our very own Cara & Nicola:

Plastic shed vs metal shed vs timber shed: which is best for you?

Let’s move on, now, to what whitewood and redwood are going to cost you.

Whitewood vs Redwood: What is the difference in cost?

As always, to keep things nice and simple, we’re going to compare a selection of redwood and whitewood Sheds by looking at your bread and butter Shed: an 8’ x 6’.

Whitewood Sheds – What do they Cost?

I’m noticing that either fewer companies are using whitewood now, or they’re neglecting to say that whitewood is what they use. Admittedly, that seems likely, because if a company is using redwood, they’ll say it!

Anyway, let’s try to examine as broad a range of whitewood Sheds as possible. 

We’ve already looked at the Wayfair 8’ x 6’ Shed’s aesthetic, so let’s have a shufti at its cost. 

Okay. £1,599,99. That is significant.

To be fair, it is 16mm and pressure treated, which is great, but it is self-installation. As we know, this could be a problem due to it being so hard to work with. Nonetheless; a good, pressure-treated cut.

Fair enough. Let’s keep looking.

Okay, I’ve found a company called “Elbec Garden Buildings” and their 8’ x 6’ Apex is £601.99. Definitely whitewood: 

A screenshot from the Elbec Garden Buildings website, with a photo and product listings for a Shiplap Apex Shed priced at £601.99. The photo shows an unpainted wooden apex shed with bitumen roofing felt. A plant pot and gardening tools are shown next to the shed.

Yeah. 12mm Shiplap Tongue and Groove really isn’t the best. Between the wood is so thin, and it being whitewood, that is very worrying structurally. However, the price is very low, so I guess it’s a case of “you get what you pay for.”

The third Shed I’d like to look at is HT Garden Buildings “Leif”. This is 4.2m², whereas an 8’ x 6’ is 4.32m², so virtually identical. They make this with nordic spruce (a whitewood) and come in at £1,020.00. Really not bad!

However, it, unfortunately, doesn’t say the thickness of the cut…so I can’t really offer any analysis beyond this!

Overall, it does appear to be relatively cheap, but I am curious about comparing that Wayfair price to 16mm Redwood Sheds…let’s do that.

Redwood Sheds – What do they Cost?

Let’s start off with a direct comparison to Wayfair (16mm thick) but in Redwood. 

Who better for that than our friend, Alex, at Balmuir Sheds? 

At Balmuir, they charge £1,072.00 for the 8’ x 6’ Apex Shed. That’s a good price, and it’s accompanied by 19mm redwood flooring, too. Quality! Felt roofing, and 16mm redwood cladding is a robust structure. That price is especially good when you consider that it’s also the supply and erection of the Shed!

And, I suppose whilst we’re here, I ought to talk about Gillies & Mackay, where we use redwood for all of our buildings. Specifically, 19mm thick Scandinavian redwood cladding. 

Our 8’ x 6’ is £2,150.00. This includes the delivery, installation and VAT on the building. Take a peek:

A photo of three Gillies and Mackay sheds. The further away is a grey pent shed. The middle shed has a pointed apex roof and is painted pale pink with white doors and trim. The shed closest to the camera is an apex shed painted dark red with white door and trim. There are potted plants outside the two apex sheds.

On top of using redwood, we also use Sadolin Super Dec to treat our Sheds. This gives a further layer of protection to the redwood cladding. 

Since there are so many manufacturers that use redwood, we should have a look at one other company and see what the crack is. 

 Okay, so Nordic Timber Buildings are charging £919.99 for their 8’ x 6’. They build this with 19mm Scandinavian redwood (tick), and 22mm tanalised flooring (tick), but is only available as a flatpack delivery. That means putting it together yourself. And, even though redwood is easier to work with, it’s still not overly ideal.

A screenshot of the Nordic Timber Buildings website showing a photo and product information for a standard flat-packed shed priced at £919.99. The photo shows an unpainted garden shed with an apex roof. It has a door in its gable and three small windows in the walls, and is roofed with bitumen roofing felt.

So generally speaking, redwood is more expensive than whitewood, and I can only put Wayfair’s price down as an anomaly. I don’t know, I think my word of advice to you Sheddies is when buying a whitewood shed, be very careful that you’re not getting something that’s more of a redwood-esque price. 

Whitewood vs Redwood: Which is the best for a Garden Shed?

I feel as though we’ve gone over everything that makes them different, and it’s now time to weigh up on which is the best for a Shed. Of course, we use 19mm Scandinavian redwood, but we’re still going to try and be as objective as possible. 

Now there’s no point beating around the bush: whitewood is cheaper than redwood across the board. However, although it’s been worth covering in this blog, it doesn’t really come into answer our question of “what is the best timber for a Garden Shed?”

To this question, we truly believe the answer to be redwood. Semantically speaking, if it lasts longer and is less problem-prone, then it is the superior material. And, in our 30+ years of making Sheds, we believe that redwood trumps whitewood in both of these categories. 

So, you now know how both pine (redwood) and spruce (whitewood) trees grow, and the role this plays in the aesthetic, cost, and longevity of your Shed. To recap, we believe redwood lasts longer due to its density from growing so slowly, and how this prevents issues such as bending from it being such a strong material. 

The disadvantage, of course, is that it is an expensive material. It will almost always cost more than its whitewood counterpart of the same thickness (I think that Wayfair price is a genuine anomaly). But, the name of the game today is what is best, not what is more cost-efficient, and for us, that’s redwood.

Interestingly, this isn’t just the answer Shed-wise. Whilst researching this, I came across this article from MrStairs: Pine (Redwood) Vs Spruce (Whitewood). It’s very interesting. (Spoiler: they use redwood because it’s far more reliable to work with). 

Clearly, this is a sector-wide debate; great to see!

So now it’s over to you: “Do I want a Shed made from whitewood or redwood?”

Well, folks, we’ve delved into the nitty-gritty today, and there’s not much more to look at now. We’ve covered virtually everything that separates whitewood and redwood, and the effects this has on all aspects of your #ShedLife.

And you’ve heard our opinion on the matter: that redwood is the best when it comes to Shed construction. But, it’s ultimately all about what’s more important to you. 

So, if you are looking to spend a bit more money on a Shed, then redwood is the way to go. Whilst it is more expensive, you will get more years out of it.  In essence, if longevity takes precedence over cost, then we believe it is the best choice.

However, we also appreciate that some people don’t need a long-term solution. Maybe you only need it for 5/10 years.  If this is the case, and you’re looking to spend a bit less money on the project, then a whitewood Shed will be a great choice for you.

And, whatever you choose, what’s important to us is that you gain a better understanding of how different these two timbers are, and what suits your needs best. It ultimately whittles down to cost vs longevity: which is more important to you?

So, Sheddies, if you feel as though redwood is the best choice for you, then we’re happy to help you on your journey.

As such, please do book in for consultation HERE. This way, you can be first in line for a brand new 19mm Scandinavian redwood Shed.

Still not quite ready to book an appointment yet? Feel free to check out our pricing for Sheds here: they detail style, size, cost, and our full timber specification.

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