Softwoods Focus: Alaskan Yellow Cedar

Yellow cedar end grain

Yellow cedar end grain

As J. Gibson McIlvain (visit website) has entered the softwoods market, we’ve learned a lot about how distinctly those lumber species behave differently from the hardwoods we’ve worked with for over two hundred years. In our new dedicated softwoods distribution yard, one of our most popular species is Alaskan Yellow Cedar.

Local Origin

As you might guess from its name, Alaskan Yellow Cedar grows along North America’s Pacific Coast, from Alaska down through Canada and into Washington and Oregon. Contrary to its name, however, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is not actually a cedar; instead, it’s part of the Cypress family.

Like Western Red Cedar, its aromatic attributes and texture make it similar to actual cedars. While Yellow Cedar grows in some of the same areas as does Western Red Cedar, the latter grows in inland areas, as well. While the two species share some characteristics, Yellow Cedar is arguably the better of the two when it comes to strength, stability, and weather resistance. (On a side note, we also stock Western Red Cedar (view specs), Douglas Fir (view  specs), and a handful of other softwoods species.)

Unique Specifications

Because this species gravitates toward moist climates, it’s found exclusively along the coast. The cold temperatures and high rainfall in those areas contributes to its slow growth and compact growth rings, showing little to no distinction between late and early wood rings.

Yellow cedar canoe

Yellow cedar canoe

The positive results of these climate effects include dense, consistent coloring and high stability. This large, slow-growing tree often includes heavy timbers as well as wide and long boards.

Some additional high points of Alaskan Yellow Cedar include rot and insect resistance, remarkable hardness, and responsiveness to both machining and hand-tooling.

Popular Applications

Alaskan Yellow Cedar is considered one of the best species to use for flooring, trim work, ceilings, and exterior siding. The remarkable weather resistance and strength of this species, coupled with its light weight, makes its list of ideal applications include boat building and aircraft construction.

Also a favorite for pool houses and saunas, Alaskan Yellow Cedar boards thrive in moist environments. More exotic structures include Japanese gardens and outdoor structures; because of the strength and availability of large timbers, combined with its light weight, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is ideal for structures ranging from gazebos and pergolas to Shoji screens.

In Stock

Moulding quality control

Moulding quality control

At J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber, we keep Alaskan Yellow Cedar in stock in 4/4 and 5/4 sizes, but we can also handle special orders, usually within 2 weeks. From greater widths to large timbers, feel free to ask us about any preferences, no matter how big or small.

With our extensive millwork operation, we can also mill Yellow Cedar for use as paneling, siding, or flooring, shipping your order directly to your job site, according to your specifications.

Due to our careful storage and handling at our dedicated softwoods distribution site, you can be sure that your order will arrive free from defects. We ship throughout the contiguous United States as well as to Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. Call us today at (800) 638-9100 to speak with a regional representative or visit our website at

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