Wood vs. Metal Raised Beds: Which is Better?

Raised beds offer the ultimate growing solution for gardens with poor soil, aggressive weeds, or space constraints, but should you plant your crops in wood or metal? Garden expert and former organic farmer Logan Hailey discusses the pros and cons of each and how to choose the best material for your garden.

Collage of two images of wooden vs. metal raised beds. A wooden raised bed is made of a wooden frame, filled with soil and various plants of dill, radishes, beets and other vegetable crops. The metal raised bed is made of galvanized metal, has a ribbed structure and a pale green tint. Young cabbage seedlings grow on a raised bed.


If your yard has poor soil, aggressive weeds, or space constraints, raised bed gardening is an absolute game-changer. The added height saves your back and improves drainage for plants. Moreover, you don’t have to do all the hard work of digging into the soil below. They allow you to build soil from the bottom up, creating a quick-and-easy garden solution that is equally functional and aesthetic. 

But what type of beds should you install? They are typically made of wood or metal, and each material comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. Wooden beds add a classic natural appearance but may require maintenance to prevent rot. Metal beds are sleek and modern, with built-in resistance to rot and corrosion, but they can be more expensive. 

Both styles come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and heights for customizable garden designs. You may even want to experiment with one or install a mixed-bed garden to enjoy the best of both worlds. Let’s dig into the pros and cons of wood versus metal raised beds, and how to decide which one is best for you.

The Short Answer

View of a garden with many metal  beds. metal offers a sleek and modern aesthetic in garden design, characterized by their clean lines and durable construction. Fabricated from sturdy metals like steel or aluminum, these beds feature rounded edges and corners. They come in different sizes, heights, shapes and colors.
Opt for enduring elegance with metal raised beds.

Wood beds are the most affordable, classic raised bed option and metal beds are the longest-lasting, modern option. Both styles support plants equally well and come in varying sizes and heights to support different garden needs. If you want a low-maintenance, ultra-durable option, choose metal, as it will last for decades or more. For a cheaper upfront cost and natural appearance, choose DIY wood beds. If you’d like a pre-made raised bed kit, the cost will be about the same, but wood will require more maintenance to prevent rot.

Wooden beds are the traditional choice for most gardeners because they are easy to assemble, affordable, and add a rustic aesthetic. Although all wood is susceptible to rot and decay, some types of wood are more resistant and require less sealing or painting to prevent deterioration. 

In contrast, metal beds are completely resistant to rot, rust, and corrosion, but they tend to be more expensive. Metal beds have an extra-long lifespan and are easy to clean, adding a modern aesthetic with very little maintenance.

Wood vs. Metal Comparison Chart

Here is a general summary of the similarities and differences between wood and metal garden beds. Keep in mind that every style and brand of bed has slightly different specifications. We’ll explore the best brand options below based on affordability, ease of installation, value, and aesthetics.

Type Wood Raised Beds Metal Raised Beds
Aesthetics Natural or rustic, timeless, blends well with a traditional homestead-style Modern and sleek, matches a rustic or chic style
Cost $50 – $600, depending on DIY vs. prefab $100 – $300, depending on size and style
Customization Easily customizable Slightly less customizable
Durability Last for 4-10 years Last for 20+ years
Longevity May require replacement or repair Longest lifespan
Maintenance Annual maintenance (sealing or painting) needed to prevent decay and rot Very low maintenance, occasional cleaning
Installation DIY requires carpentry skills, but pre-fabricated beds have no-tool installation Quick no-tool installation with a pre-made kit
Sustainability Renewable resource Recyclable materials
Heat Retention Moderate insulation Help the soil warm faster in the spring, but never get too hot for plants
Health and Safety 100% biodegradable, but must avoid pressure-treated and only use non-toxic sealant or paint 100% non-toxic and food-safe, as long as they are made of steel and non-toxic paint

The Long Answer

The truth is that both wood and metal are great options. The most successful gardeners and homesteaders typically use a combination of both because their gardens are always expanding and evolving over time. You don’t have to choose all of your beds at the same time, and a mix-and-match approach can be equally as beautiful as a streamlined, identical installation.

Choosing the right beds can feel like an overwhelming decision because the investment of time and energy is quite large, and it is very difficult to move a raised bed once it is full of soil. Don’t worry; you can’t go wrong with either selection, but it is helpful to know what you’re signing up for before you fill a garden with beds.

Pro Tip: Before you pick your raised bed style, decide if you have more money (and less time) or less time (and more money). DIY options with upcycled materials are often the cheapest, but they can take the longest and require the most building skills. You may spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000+ installing a raised bed garden. The process can take a couple of hours or a couple of days, depending on if you opt for a DIY or modular bed build.

If you want the fastest installation with the least amount of work, choose a pre-made wooden or metal raised bed kit like the ones we’ll detail below. 

Here is a deep dive into the pros and cons of each option, as well as the best brands on the market.


View of a vegetable garden with wooden raised beds. Raised beds stand in rows. Wooden raised beds impart a rustic and natural charm to garden landscapes, characterized by their warm tones and organic textures. They are rectangular in shape, tall, mounted on wooden pallets. Various vegetable and herbaceous crops grow in the beds.
Elevate your garden with classic, stylish wooden raised beds.

The most classic garden style includes wood-paneled raised beds lined nicely in a row. This offers a traditional, homestead-style feel that can adapt to a rustic, modern, or cottage garden design. Wood has the most natural aesthetic and perfectly complements vegetables and flowers by elevating their growing space with a biodegradable, eco-friendly raised border.

Made of the finest North American western red cedar, these USA-crafted beds add elegant beauty and clever ease to your garden. With several sizes and styles, these pre-made kits take all the complexity out of installation. If DIY building sounds overwhelming but you still want to enjoy the natural style of wooden beds, these kits are the perfect option. Cedarline beds arrive ready to assemble with zero tools needed.

The 15” height is deep enough for roots to flourish and tall enough to prevent backaches from hunching over. Each bed includes a sleek top ledge to set your phone, water bottle, or tools while you work. Thanks to the naturally occurring tannins and oils in red cedar, the wood is rot-resistant and insect-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about toxins infiltrating your garden.

For anyone concerned about the aesthetic of ramshackle DIY beds, you will be pleasantly surprised by the professional, sleek appearance of the cedar beds. The dovetailed parts and classic wood grain add effortless attractiveness to your garden with only minimal annual maintenance. 


Wooden beds have remained the most popular garden beds for decades thanks to their wealth of benefits, including aesthetics, affordability, sustainability, and customization.


Close-up of beds in an urban garden. They are made from wooden frames that are richly textured with grains and knots. Various ground cover plants, herbs and vegetable crops grow in the beds.
Craft your dream garden with timeless, elegant wooden beds.

If you’ve spent a lot of time browsing Pinterest or social media gardens, you may have fallen in love with the idyllic backyard garden imagery: Pristine wood beds are all lined in symmetrical rows with an abundance of vegetables and flowers pouring over their sides. The rows are evenly streamlined, so a nice wheelbarrow or big harvest basket easily fits between them. The perfect rectangular wooden beds have a natural, earthy aesthetic that effortlessly balances old-time tradition with tasteful fashion.

Achieving this graceful classic garden is easy as long as you construct or buy quality-made raised wood beds. Choose untreated wood like hemlock or cedar for a durable, attractive appearance. The timeless aesthetic of wood never goes out of style and remains beautiful as long as you take care of it. 


Close-up of a wooden bed with a plastic liner, hammer and several bolts. It is filled with grass clippings. The plastic liner is black and is wound into a small roll.
Easily create custom beds with simple woodworking tools.

Wood is the easiest material to customize, allowing you to make a bed of virtually any height, length, or width. To ensure you can easily access the center, it is recommended that your beds be a maximum of 4 feet across. Raised bed customization is very easy with basic tools and carpentry skills. Wood, saws, and nails or screws are widely available at any hardware store. 

But if you don’t want to do any building, try a no-power-tool-assembly raised bed kit with pre-cut cedar pieces that easily dovetail together. The pre-finished wood panels and stainless steel hardware allow for installation in less than one hour with just gloves and a regular Philips-head screwdriver.


Coarse pine wood on the site Industrial wood building materials. Close-up of many wooden planks of different sizes and colors.
Opt for sustainable wood for eco-friendly garden beds.

Wood is a renewable resource with some sustainability bonuses. On the positive side, wood can decompose, biodegrade, and eventually return to the soil when your raised bed reaches the end of its life. On the downside, deforestation is a major issue.

Many native forests are destroyed to plant timber plantations for lumber, and it is very important to avoid endangered species like redwood or maple. However, these woods are so expensive that they’re usually unsuitable for garden use anyway. Fortunately, Epic’s Cedarline beds and planters are made with sustainably harvested western red cedar grown in the United States.


Compared to in-ground beds, wooden beds are significantly easier to access. If you are somebody who struggles with back pain from hunching over, you’ll definitely want to grow a heightened garden.

Your plants can grow 15” or more above the ground for more comfortable accessibility. The raised soil has a range of production benefits as well, including improved drainage, faster warming in spring, and less problems with rhizomatous (underground-spreading) weeds.


Close-up of a woman screwing a wooden frame for a raised bed using a power drill, in a sunny garden. The woman is wearing blue pants and a purple long-sleeve T-shirt.
Crafting with pre-cut wood makes DIY raised beds a breeze.

Wood is easy to build with, especially when the lumber is pre-cut. Installing a DIY raised bed may take a few hours to a day, depending on your experience and whether your materials are upcycled or new.

If you start with a raised bed kit with pre-drilled holes and pre-cut wood that easily fits together, you can have your beds set up in less than an hour. Compared to metal, wooden beds are very easy to build but can be heavy to handle.


Close-up view of uniquely shaped raised beds growing a variety of plants including strawberries, mint and Woodruff. Wooden beds are rectangular in shape and installed one on top of the other.
Wood provides versatile design options, unlike metal’s limitations.

In addition to its ease of installation, wood offers you a few more design options than metal. Both materials can be shaped in dozens of different ways, but wood is structurally more adaptable. You can build a raised planter, a rectangular bed, a hexagonal bed, or even vertical beds. A rounded bed is the only design that is difficult to achieve with wood. In that case, metal will be the way to go! 


You can build a wooden raised bed for as little as $50 (DIY method) or up to $500 (an extra large pre-fab bed). This huge price range ultimately depends on the type of wood, design, size, and the amount of work. Prebuilt types are more expensive, but they save you time and mistakes. Homemade wooden beds tend to be cheaper but may include frustrations, added time, and less durable materials. 


Every garden tool has a few drawbacks to consider. While wood is the most classic building material, it clearly does not last forever. The main cons include the type of wood, the risk of rot, and the required maintenance. 

Avoiding Toxic Materials

Treatment, treatment of wooden blocks with chemicals. Close-up of a gardener's hand in a white glove with a brush applying a solution to wood.
Choose untreated wood to avoid chemical contamination in your garden.

Whether they’re made of pine, hemlock, fir, or cedar, it’s very important that the wood is not pressure-treated. Because soil and plant roots grow directly against the bed’s material, any chemicals or toxins in the wood can easily leach into your garden and your food. 

Pressure-treated lumber is preserved from rotting using synthetic chemicals like chromated copper arsenate, pentachlorophenol (PCP), and even arsenic. Additionally, most conventional wood stains, lacquers, and paints contain chemicals that are not food-safe. There is evidence that these chemicals leach into soil and water, ultimately moving into your food supply. 

If you care about growing organic food, you must be very careful with the type of lumber and rot-prevention finish that you choose for your garden. Understanding the risks of chemical contamination in wood beds is a vital step to making a wise decision.


Obviously, wood is biodegradable. It won’t last forever because it’s not supposed to. Wood beds may last for 4-10 years, depending on your maintenance routine. The material decomposes over time as it is exposed to rain, wind, insects, and soil. The inside and bottom of the bed are especially prone to decomposition because they are constantly moist and directly touching soil. 

The longevity of your raised wooden bed depends on the type of wood it is made of and how often you maintain it. Cheap framing lumber and pine may only last for 3-5 years, while hardwoods like cedar and oak can last for 6-10 years. While redwood is one of the longest-lasting types of lumber, it comes from an endangered species and is not recommended for anyone concerned with sustainability. 

Rot and Decay

decaying wood planks. The wooden planks are light brown in color with black rotting parts.
Guard against wood rot to prolong your garden bed’s lifespan.

Rot is the biggest threat to your wooden garden beds. All wood is predisposed to rot because decay is a natural part of the tree’s life cycle on Earth. In rainy, humid areas, the decomposition process may be accelerated. Still, we don’t want the beds to rot more quickly than we can use them.

Oil finishes are the best thing you can do to prevent rot in a wooden raised bed. You can also try non-toxic wood preservatives and sealants, but you must double-check that the material is food-safe. Rot-proofing the outside of your beds isn’t as risky, but the interior lining will directly touch your soil and plant roots, which means that anything covering the interior surface is subject to entering your food. Unfortunately, the inside of the bed is also the most prone to mold or rot because it is constantly wet, so you need to prioritize a safe sealant or plan to replace your beds every 5-10 years. 

Sealing your raised bed has the added benefit of boosting the shine and color of the wood, often enhancing the grain. However, wood treatments can be fairly expensive and require annual or semi-annual application. Tung oil and mineral-based food-safe wood sealants are the best options for organic growers. If certain parts of a bed rot out more quickly than others, you may need to cut out a wall or panel and replace it, which can be laborious.


Close-up of two small wooden raised beds with different types of lettuce and peppers growing. Wooden beds have rectangular boxes mounted on four high legs.
Wooden beds face structural risks from weather and pests.

Metal beds are far lower-maintenance than wood. In addition to annual sealing or semi-regular replacement of rotten boards, wooden beds can also have structural issues. You may need to replace rusted hardware or opt for stainless steel hardware like our Cedarline beds.

In the event of high winds, snow storms, or other unexpected events, wood beds are also more likely to be damaged. Sometimes animals will burrow into beds or gnaw on the wood. Carpenter ants and wood boring beetles can also leave extensive damage that may be difficult to repair. Metal beds do not have these issues because they are not biodegradable. 


Wood is notoriously heavy and difficult to move around, especially after it gets wet. Even if you haven’t filled a wooden bed with soil, it can be difficult to relocate once you construct it. The materials are often more expensive to ship and transport compared to lightweight metal.


Garden view with various Birdies Metal Raised Garden Beds. The Birdies Metal Raised Garden Beds exude a sleek and modern aesthetic, their galvanized steel panels glaming with a polished sheen. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, heights and colors including black and pale green.
Elevate your garden with sleek, long-lasting metal raised beds.

For the longest-lasting, sleekest-looking garden possible, metal is the way to go. These modern, durable beds are completely resistant to rot, rust, and corrosion. A quality metal bed can last over 20 years in the garden with very little maintenance.

They can also come with attractive food-safe finishes like mist green, slate gray, or light clay to match your landscape aesthetic. Metal beds are particularly advantageous for urban and suburban gardeners who need extra height to improve accessibility. 

Made of cold rolled aluzinc galvanized steel with a food-safe powder coating, Birdies Raised Beds offer the prettiest, long-lasting garden design you can find. These all-in-one kits are so easy to install that you can set up an entire garden in just a couple hours. Metal has incredible benefits, including its durability, food safety, rust resistance, and lightweight, ultra-strong construction.

Aluzinc galvanized steel is 100% food safe, with zero risk of chemicals leaching into your soil and no need to seal or repair the beds over time. Metal won’t rot or rust and is built to last for decades to come. Steel beds have the added advantage of slightly more insulation for plants (which can mean an earlier start in the spring), but they never get too hot to touch or grow in. 

Better yet, metal beds are beautiful. They add an elegant, modern appeal to your garden that complements minimalist landscaping.


Durability, easy installation, rot-and-rust-resistance, added height, and lightweight construction are among the main benefits of metal beds. Metal is modular and easier to deal with than wood, and you don’t have to worry about annual maintenance. While many metal raised beds were traditionally more expensive than wood, these beds are very affordable and pay for themselves quickly when you consider the setup time, no-tool installation, and decades of growing.


Beautiful urban garden with metal beds standing in a row. Tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers, marigolds, zinnias and other plants grow in the beds. Next to the beds there is a wooden table with two benches. There are several cars parked in the background.
Modernize your garden with chic metal beds.

If you don’t like the traditional homestead or farmhouse look, metal raised beds are the way to go. They appeal to modern homeowners with minimalist landscapes or clean, elegant design elements. Thanks to non-toxic powder-coating, you have more color selections than with wood beds or the old-time shiny metal livestock troughs. 

Birdies beds actually don’t reveal the silvery metallic hues at all. Instead, the interiors are white, and the exteriors come in three aesthetic colors. Sage green adds a natural, subdued hue, while light clay would look perfect in a Spanish-style garden to complement terracotta tones. The classic slate gray is ideal for refined contemporary architecture and dark neutral colors. 


Close-up of Birdies Raised Garden Beds located in the front yard. The Birdies Raised Garden Beds feature sleek, modern designs crafted from durable and rust-resistant steel, presenting a clean and polished aesthetic. With smooth lines and a variety of sizes and colors available, they offer a stylish and functional solution for cultivating plants, herbs, and vegetables. They come in black, pale green and cream colors.
Elevate your garden effortlessly with customizable pre-fabricated metal beds.

Conventionally, metal may offer less customization unless you are willing to buy huge sheets of metal and cut them into the desired shapes. But if you opt for pre-fabricated raised metal garden beds, you get a ton of built-in customization options without requiring extra power tools. Metal is also an awesome material to work with because you can enjoy nice rounded edges or even circular beds that are much more difficult to achieve with wood.


Putting together a metal raised bed may seem daunting if you’ve never worked with galvanized steel before. If you go with a DIY route, you can easily source sheet metal and hardware, but it may take longer to put the bed together and properly secure the sharp edges to ensure safety. 

Some people also make metal garden beds out of upcycled livestock troughs (aka “metal stock tanks”). They are cheaper and easy to set in place and plant. These large steel tubs are galvanized, but not with the food-safe aluzinc coating used in Birdies’ beds. Moreover, upcycling a livestock trough requires more preparation because the bottoms are closed, and you must drill drainage holes and elevate the tub to allow water to flow through.

Thankfully, garden bed kits usually come with pre-cut sheets, rounded corners, vinyl safety edging, and custom hardware that is ready to install with just a hand wrench—no power tools needed! The bed is already bottomless to ensure proper drainage and root growth into the native soil.

Here’s a quick timelapse of our founder, Kevin, putting one of the beds together. It’s so simple that even somebody with zero building skills could get it done in less than an hour:

YouTube video


Metal beds are extremely strong yet lightweight. This makes it easy to assemble a bed on your patio and then carry it (with one or two people) to your yard. It’s easier to experiment with different bed arrangements because the lightweight galvanized steel won’t break your back as you try to lift it. One of the major drawbacks of wooden beds is their weight. Once in place, they are difficult to move around, particularly if you have a large bed.

Ultra Durable

Close-up of young spinach and pepper seedlings on metal raised beds in the garden. Spinach seedlings form a rosette of round, glossy green leaves. There is a seed starter tray in the raised bed for transplanting.
Galvanized steel beds boast unmatched strength and durability.

What is stronger than steel? Only tungsten metal is more powerful than steel, and you surely aren’t using it in your garden. Galvanized steel beds are simply the toughest material you could possibly use for a raised bed. They last four to seven times longer than wooden beds because they won’t rot or decay over time. 

Moreover, aluzinc-coated galvanized steel is two to seven times more effective against rust and corrosion compared to standard galvanized coatings.

Food Safety

Close-up shot of Bok Choy Chinese cabbages growing on a metal raised bed in a sunny garden. Bok choy Chinese cabbages boast vibrant green leaves with thick, crisp stems. Each eaf features prominent veining and a slightly glossy surface.
Metal beds provide a safer option for growing edible crops.

Metal beds are generally considered safe for growing edible crops. Most galvanized steel is coated in a zinc alloy to prevent corrosion. It’s important to avoid painted metal or polyurethane-based finishes. These chemicals can leach into your soil, causing contamination.

Compared to wood beds, metal has a lower risk of contamination as long as you source quality metal. Birdies Raised Beds are made with a 100% food-safe, non-toxic aluzinc galvanized coating that won’t break down or leach into the soil. The colored powder-coating on the outside is completely non-toxic and safe for growing organic food. 


Peppermint growing on a raised metal bed in the garden. The Peppermint plant showcases lush, deep green leaves with serrated edges growing on trailing pinkish stems. The leaves are marked by prominent veins and possess a smooth, slightly fuzzy texture.
Metal beds offer sustainability with durability and recyclability.

Although metal is not biodegradable, it is long-lasting and recyclable. It is often considered a more sustainable option than wood because it does not contribute to deforestation. Moreover, metal beds last for decades, meaning they are unlikely to end up in a landfill.


Close-up of a gardener planting a tomato seedling in a raised bed in a sunny garden. A tomato seedling has an upright stem and several compound leaves that are composed of oval green leaflets with jagged edges. The gardener is dressed in jeans and a white shirt, holding a garden shovel in her hands.
Enjoy comfortable gardening with deep-rooted metal beds.

Metal beds are the best option for tall gardeners or anyone with back issues. They tend to be taller (up to 29”) and easier to elevate on a platform. While we do offer elevated wood planters for easy access, they stand on raised legs. Metal raised beds go all the way down to the soil, ensuring the deepest possible root zone for your plant, which also means less hunching over for you.


Upcycled metal beds can be quite cheap ($70-$100) if you are willing to put in the labor to modify them. A quality pre-fabricated metal raised bed like Birdies ranges from $100 to $400, depending on the size. While wood beds are often considered more affordable than metal, the two have mostly evened out in price.


Metallic raised beds come with a few drawbacks worth noting. 

Sharp Edges

Close-up of a rusty edge of a steel raised bed on a blurred green background. The metal raised bed is covered in rust with orange streaks around the edges.
Ensure safety with smooth edges.

Metal is notoriously sharp after cutting. If you build DIY beds or source cheap materials, you can end up with some fairly dangerous raw edges. Aggressive filing with a metal file or sander is required to prevent injury. Luckily, Birdies beds come with a vinyl safety edging that is easy to apply around the entire container, ensuring that no sharp edges can scrape or cut you.

Temperature: Do Metal Beds Get Hot?

View of metal raised beds in a row in a sunny garden. These beds are high, have an oval shape with rounded corners and a glossy metal cover. They are half filled with soil.
Metal raised beds maintain safe temperatures for plants even in summer.

Many people incorrectly assume that metal beds become outrageously hot in the summer. This is not the case. While metal does hold more heat than wood, it should not reach a temperature that is too hot to touch or grow plants in. While gardening in Texas, I found that my metal beds remained perfectly touchable and safe even during triple-digit summers. 

Metal beds do not pose a temperature risk to your plants. The sun can heat the soil more quickly in the spring, but it will not overheat the container walls due to the powder-coated design and the quality of the cold-rolled steel. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, raised garden beds are difficult to go wrong with as long as you consider the quality of the material and avoid anything that may leach toxins into your soil. Whether your beds are made of wood or metal, raised bed growing will provide all the benefits of extra drainage, warmer soil, fewer weeds, and happier crops. The key is to select an aesthetic and maintenance routine that works best for you. 

Wood beds have the traditional, classic look but they require regular maintenance to slow the decomposition process. A DIY wood bed can be built for very cheap, while pre-fabricated kits may be more visually appealing and easier to install, but have a higher price tag.

Metal beds add a sleek, easy-to-clean aesthetic to your yard and last for decades longer than a wood bed. Galvanized steel is rust-resistant, rot-proof, lightweight, and ultra-durable. With a pre-made kit, metal beds are easy to install, while DIY metal working or upcycling a livestock trough requires more skills. 

No matter what material you choose, remember to fill your bed with the highest quality potting soil you can afford. If you layer sticks or untreated logs in the bottom of the bed, you can save some money on soil.

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