I am lucky enough to live in the countryside. Among the many positive aspects, there is also the presence of numerous birds that live in the trees and hedges that surround my house. Listening to them chirping with joy every time I open a window gives me peace. The other day I saw a couple of house sparrows the were trying to nest under my roof. There was a lot of material (twigs, blades of grass) scattered on the balcony, which made a big mess. I decided I wanted to help those little guys and build a birdhouse, which hopefully would make their life easier! Moreover, if you have some kids and you want to introduce them to woodworking, this is the perfect project. It’s easy, cheap and rather quick.
It’s not the first birdhouse I build, and I think the most important thing is to use the right material. This raises the question: what’s the best wood for a birdhouse? Generally speaking, you want to use wood that can withstand weathering and the passage of time. So your best choices would be either cedar or redwood.
Let’s dive deep into what I consider to be the best wood choices you can make when building a birdhouse. Then, I’ll answer some questions you might have and give you some general tips that could you could find helpful.
What’s the Best Wood for a Birdhouse?
Your best choice would be a durable and weather-resistant kind of wood. You don’t want your birdhouse to decay too quickly. If you wanna make it even more long-lasting, you could paint it or apply a finish. Use a color that blends with the surroundings. If you want a natural-looking birdhouse, the wood choice is fundamental.
Redwood: maximize your birdhouse’s life length
My first choice would definitely be redwood wood. It’s harder than cedar (which is my other top choice); thus is gives good insulation and protection against bad weather. It also produces more natural chemicals than cedar, which makes redwood less likely to rot. A disadvantage of redwood is that since it’s softwood, it’s prone to denting. That’s not a problem when using it for a birdhouse, in my opinion. The only possible redwood drawback is the price: this type of wood isn’t cheap. If you have the chance to get some of it though, it’s definitely worth it.
In conclusion, if you want to maximize your birdhouse durability, redwood wood is the best choice.
Cedar: maximize your birdhouse’s looks
Cedarwood is well known for its durability. It has good resistance against humidity and decay, and it’s also insect repellent. On top of that, it’s also aesthetically pleasing (for example, it’s used for decking and fencing). Same as redwood, the only problem it’s the price: cedarwood is also quite expensive. I would definitely go for it though: you don’t need a lot of wood for a birdhouse after all, and you’ll make something that will last for years.
So if you want your birdhouse to look good and also last a reasonable amount of time, cedarwood is your go-to choice.
Pine: a good budget choice
Pine is definitely the best wood for a birdhouse you can choose if you are on a tight budget. You can easily get it at home centers as it’s very inexpensive and popular for woodworking projects. Don’t expect your birdhouse to look as good as if you used cedar or redwood: it’s quite common for pinewood to have defects and knots. It doesn’t swell or shrink too much, so it’s a good choice if you live in a place where the climate can get really cold or really hot.
You have to keep in mind that a pinewood birdhouse’s resistance to decay won’t be as high as with redwood or cedar. It will also be more prone to insect attacks. To mitigate these negative aspects, you could paint or apply a finish to your birdhouse to make it more durable.
If you don’t want to spend too much money on your birdhouse project, pinewood is a reasonable choice.
Can I use Pressure-treated Wood for a Birdhouse?
If you have any pressure-treated wood scraps laying around, you might be thinking of using them for your birdhouse. Pressure-treated wood is recognized for its resistance to weathering, so it must be a good choice right?
Unfortunately, I have to remember you that pressure-treated wood is also known as CCA-treated wood, meaning it contains chromated copper arsenate. This chemical blend makes the wood resistant to decay, but it also generates health risks. There are reported cases of itching, rashes, and even neurological problems. Even if there aren’t studies about the risk for the well-being of animals due to prolonged contact with this kind of wood, I would still adopt a “better safe than sorry” approach. I suggest avoiding using pressure-treated wood for birdhouses. You don’t want to intoxicate baby birds by making them being in contact with wood that has been treated with nasty chemicals.
This argument is also valid for other types of wood containing toxic chemicals of some sort, for example, wood that contains creosote or painted with old lead-based paint. Any other type of wood scraps will be fine. You won’t get the same durability as if you used one of the wood types mentioned before, though. Be aware of that.
Now, you might ask yourself what to do with those pressure-treated wood scraps that you have. Well, the best thing would be getting rid of them. For small quantities, a trip to your local dump is sufficient. For large quantities, you might have to take them to a burning facility or an authorized landfill. If you wanna learn more about how to dispose of CCA-treated wood safely, check the article I wrote on that topic here.
Can you use Plywood for Birdhouses?
If you have some plywood laying around, you might be guessing if you can use it to build a birdhouse. As we said before, there are definitely better choices. If you want to keep your expenses low for this project, plywood will work just fine. However, keep in mind that not all plywood is born equal. There are a lot of different types available on the market; each one of them is better suited for certain applications.
For birdhouses, you should use plywood that is appropriate for external use, such as exterior plywood or marine plywood. The main differences between these two are price (marine plywood is way more expensive) and water resistance (marine plywood can be used underwater). You should check if your scraps fall into these categories. If that’s not the case, you can still go ahead and use them, but keep in mind that your birdhouse won’t last as long.
Some Things to Keep in Mind When Building a Birdhouse
Building your first birdhouse? Here are some tips you may find useful.
- Give your birdhouse an appropriate roof that will protect the entrance from the rain.
- Think about air circulation! drill some small holes on each side of the birdhouse, better if they are under the roof to avoid rain infiltration. Drill some hole on the floor too for rain drainage;
- Avoid perches. They might look nice, but they will also make the job of predator birds easier, giving them something to hold on to;
- Build a house that is the right size for the bird you want to attract. Not too big, not too small;
- Make the roof or one wall detachable, so that you can clean the birdhouse for new birds to come. Appropriate maintenance will also make your birdhouse last longer.
In conclusion, you should use a durable and weather-resistant kind of wood for your birdhouse. Redwood and cedar are my top choices: they will make your project look good and they will last for a long time.
If you don’t want to spend too much, you could go for pine wood. Exterior plywood will also work fine if you have any scraps available. Don’t use chemically treated wood that might intoxicate the baby birds.