Western Red Cedar: A Species of Wood for All Seasons

Western Red Cedar siding

Western Red Cedar siding

Did you know that what we call a Western Red Cedar (or Redcedar) isn’t actually a Cedar at all? While it does produce an aroma similar to that of a true Cedar, the lumber sourced from a Western Red Cedar also acts similar to that of a true Cedar. Because of its rot resistance, this species is ideal for use in outdoor applications such as decks, pergolas, and siding. It has a reddish or pinkish brown heartwood with streaks or bands of darker reddish brown. The narrow sapwood streaks are pale yellow, almost white.

As a domestic softwood, Red Cedar provides the benefits of high availability and lower cost, compared to increasingly popular exotic hardwoods. Allowing for wide, long planks, Red Cedar is an excellent option for those wanting to follow that trend. As you shop for Red Cedar, though, you should know that there are two basic types.

Western Red Cedar house, deck & chairs

Western Red Cedar house, deck & chairs

Coastal Cedar

Western Red Cedar lives up to its name in one sense, in that it grows along the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada. Whether the lumber comes from the coast or further inland can make a big difference in its appearance and performance, though. Coastal Cedar comes from the coasts of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. Also referred to as Western Red, these trees receive a high amount of rain, causing them to grow quickly.

The result is large, tall trees with very few branches, in turn producing extra-long timbers and wide boards displaying clear, straight grain and a minimal number of knots. The color tends to be on the darker side, largely due to the slight distinctions between early and late growing seasons. For that reason, most CVG (Clear Vertical Grain) Red Cedar is, in fact, Coastal Cedar, as are those highly sought-after large timbers and wide boards.

Inland Cedar

Western Red Cedar siding

Western Red Cedar siding

Even though it’s still the same species as Coastal Cedar, Inland Cedar is highly affected by its distinct climate. Both the rainfall and the soil chemistry further inland contribute to smaller trees whose boards have a striped appearance, showing the distinctions between early and late growth periods. As you might guess, the smaller sizes lead to a greater number of branches, producing a larger incidence of knots. Many consider this striped, knotty look to be attractive and ideal for applications such as decking and paneling. It is typically graded #3 and better in STK (Select Tight Knot).

Both Coastal Cedar and Inland Cedar are good options for various applications. When placing an order, though, it can be helpful to inform your lumber supplier about your project so they can recommend the correct type of Western Red Cedar. At J. Gibson McIlvain lumber company, we intentionally focus on quality and endeavor to source the highest quality Inland Cedar and Coastal Cedar we can find.

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Forklift loading lumber at J Gibson McIlvain

Forklift loading lumber at J Gibson McIlvain

J. Gibson McIlvain Company

Since 1798, when Hugh McIlvain established a lumber business near Philadelphia, the McIlvain family has been immersed in the premium import and domestic lumber industry. With its headquarters located just outside of Baltimore, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company (www.mcilvain.com) is one of the largest U.S. importers of exotic woods.

As an active supporter of sustainable lumber practices, the J. Gibson McIlvain Company has provided fine lumber for notable projects throughout the world, including the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian museums.

Contact a representative at J. Gibson McIlvain today by calling (800) 638-9100.

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