Western Red Cedar is a softwood species that is renowned for its durability and resistance to decay. It is native to the Pacific Northwest of North America and is found growing in coastal regions. The heartwood is usually a salmon-pink to dark brown color, but over time it will change to a reddish-brown and eventually to a silver-grey when exposed to the elements. It is known for its straight and even grain that has a coarse texture, and is non-resinous with a distinctive cedar smell. It is easy to work with and is often left unfinished for its weathered look. The sapwood is a white-cream color and is clearly differentiated from the heartwood. Western Red Cedar is often used for cladding, fascia, cover fillets, beading, and mouldings. It is not ideal for decking or external joinery due to its softness and tendency to bruise easily, but is well suited for timber greenhouses.
Red Cedar, Giant Arborvitae, British Columbia Red Cedar, Canoe Codar, Pacific Red Cedar, Shingleowwd, Giant Cedar,
Western red Cedar weathers very well. It can, however, suffer from attack from the western cedar borer when growing, and the common furniture beetle when seasoned. It is challenging to treat with preservatives but can be succesfully left to naturally weather. It is a very common external cladding timber.
The drying and seasoning of Cedar is dependant on a number of factors; the speed in which it is processed after felling and logging, the method of drying and the specific kilns or location (if air dried). Generally the care taken by those processing the wood will have an impact on its drying and seasoning. As an overview; Cedar - Thicker timber sections must be dried with care to avoid honeycombing and collapse. Please note that all wood is liable to move when in service plus there can be dimensional change. The extent of this will depend on; the stability of the species itself, the conditions it is exposed to, the coating, decoration and protection. You will find more information about the suitability of this wood, for any proposed application, by using our interactive system and the filters shown.
Western red cedar has very low resistance to shock loads and very low stiffness. Its bending and crushing strength are low and it does not steam bend well. It works easily with hand and machine tools. It nails well without splitting and glues and screws well. The wood planes well and has only a minor blunting effect on cutting edges. It straight grain allows it to be split easily for roof shingles. Its acid properties can corrode iron, so copper, galvanized or stainless steel fixings should be used.
Guitar parts, ship and boat building, roofing shingles, exterior cladding (siding), beehives, sheds and greenhouses, and decorative veneer.
Roots and bark were used for baskets, bowls, ropes, clothing, blankets, and rings.
Cedar cleanses negative atmospheres. Used for the creation of sacred spaces. Related to longevity, protection, and preservation. Often used to summon helpful spirits during rituals and invocations.
Considered as of least concern by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (last assessed in 2011)
Wood Worker's Thoughts:
Lightweight, easy to handle, cuts and machines well. Smells nice! Finishes well. Only real downside is that it bruises easily so cannot be used for flooring or furniture (or windows, doors or any high traffic/high usage items). Very good for greenhouses though due to it's low maintenance and durability. Generally a nice timber to work with.
Western red cedar has a history of use by the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast (North America). Some tribes refer to themselves as "people of the red cedar". Used for totem poles, masks, utensils, boxes, instruments, canoes, vessels, and houses.
Commonly asked questions about Cedar Wood
Is Cedar a hardwood or a softwood? Cedar is a softwood. It is the same for; is Cedar hardwood or softwood? - Cedar is a softwood.
Most groups/families of species share the same characteristics but this normally relates to their life as plants. Individual species do not always share the same characteristics as their relatives, in terms of the wood. Many factors influence how we use the wood and what we use it for, including where it grows, how it is forested, how it seasons/dries, etc. The answers to the following common questions, therefore relate to this particular species/wood and not the Cedar family as a whole. Even more specific – our answers relate to the wood (as we know it) in its form as a useable resource.
What colour is Cedar? Cedar can be described as dark red, grey, light brown, pink/pale red, red,
Is Cedar good for outdoor use? or is Cedar good for exterior use? Cedar is most suited for exterior/external use. Cedar can be used as an exterior/external timber (without treatment).
Whether the wood is naturally durable or not we would still recommend that it is decorated and/or coated with a suitable product to provide protection and/or maintain its appearance. This even applies when using the wood internally as, even subtle, changes in temperature or humidity will affect the wood. This will depend on the application/purpose of the wood and the user’s desired appearance. We also recommend that a recoating, care and maintenance programme is adhered to, for the life of an exterior wood. Wood cannot rot if it is kept dry – coatings and decoration can provide this protection. All of that said there are many durable timbers that are often left to weather naturally and will last for many years untreated/coated – movement and visual changes will occur but this is sometimes the desired effect. All wood is hygroscopic (it 'wants' to be in tune with its environment) it will therefore take on water from moisture in the air (or when directly exposed to or submerged in water) and ‘release it’ when dry or exposed to heat. This, inevitably, results in movement and dimensional change. For more about moisture in wood please click here - Moisture in wood