Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is an evergreen coniferous tree from the Cupressaceae family. It is a softwood, commonly used in both structural and aesthetic building projects. Originally native to North America, it is now grown all over the world, and a popular timber for use in architectural projects.
The Complete Guide to Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar – The Complete Guide
At Cedar Sales, we're experts in Western Red Cedar. We wanted to impart some of that knowledge with our customers to help make your decision in choosing the right timber a little bit easier.
Below you'll find Q&As that cover just about everything you would need to know about Western Red Cedar; from tree, to lumber, to timber, to cladding and more. If you still have questions we're always more than happy to answer them - use the links below to contact us and one of our great team will be there to help.
There are a plethora of uses for this softwood. From timber cladding and screening, to construction and decking. The wood is know to be easy to work with, machine well and stand the test of time.
As a tree, Western Red Cedar is a conical / pyramidal shape, often very tall (growing up to 65m) with a dark reddish-brown, deeply textured bark. The canopy is often very dense, and the leaves look somewhat fern-like. Once the tree is cut, the timber has a range of colours, from pale brown to deep, dark reddish tones.
Western Red Cedar is widely recognised as the ultimate sustainable timber. It produces fewer greenhouse gases, generates less water and air pollution and requires less energy to produce than alternatives. The Timber used at Cedar Sales comes from a renewable and sustainable resource.
As a tree, Western Red Cedar has a dark reddish-brown bark. Once milled for lumber, the timber is between a pale brown and rich darker brown colour. Sapwood tends to be lighter in colour, more of a yellow-brown. By staining, painting or other methods of finishing the timber you can get many different colours and gradients.
When left exposed and untreated, the timber will quickly fade to a silvery-grey colour. For many, this is a very desirable look, especially in cladding, and will leave it exposed purposely for an older-look finish.
When untreated and left in the sun and to the elements, Western Red Cedar will fade to a silver grey colour. Very desirable for some. Avoid the greying by finishing the timber immediately.
STRUCTURE / LIFE SPAN
No. Western Red Cedar is a softwood. Despite commonly thought of as weaker, many softwoods are in fact as strong as, if not stronger than, some hardwoods. Western Red Cedar is a very durable example of a softwood, and excellent for use in various architectural projects.
Western Red Cedar makes an ideal choice for decking. The timber is resistant to weather and sun, rot, insects and is one of the strongest and most durable softwoods available. Properly cared for, a WRC deck will last a very long time.
Although not completely waterproof, the timber does have natural moisture-resisting properties. Left out in the rain and exposed to the elements, WRC will stand the test of time. To extend the life of your Cedar even further, be sure to finish it with your chosen oil, stain or paint.
As with all wood, Wester Red Cedar will eventually rot if not cared for properly, however if the timber is fairly fresh, it will last a long time, even untreated, before it will begin to rot beyond repair. It is rated highly in terms of rot-resistance.
Western Red Cedar is a very hardy timber, and will last a long time, even untreated. There are many factors to the lifespan of the timber;
- Where it has been installed
- Which direction the timber is facing (with regards to the sun)
- How much time it will spend wet
- Quality of the installation
- Various treatment methods
- Exposure to weather and more
Western Red Cedar has many desirable properties which make it great for outdoor use. It has a natural resistance to moisture, rot and insects, and has been known to last a very long time when maintained correctly.
We wrote a guide on how to install timber cladding here: How to Install External Timber Cladding
The average dried weight of Western Red Cedar is around 370kg/m3, one of the lighter species of timber. Compared with Red Oak, which weighs around 730kg/m3, WRC is around half the weight of this hardwood.
Weight is calculated on averages at between 8%-12% moisture content.
Western Red Cedar will grey overtime if not treated and maintained. For some, this is a very desirable quality, and will leave it to naturally age and weather. In some instances, the timber can develop dark, non-uniform patches and look, to some, very unsightly. Treating and maintenance will prevent non-uniform weathering or discolouration.
The desity of Western Red Cedar is 22 lbs/ft3
Western Red cedar is one of the lightest softwoods available. In it's early stages it has a very low density growth; these low density areas of the wood contain small pockets of air, which are very useful for insulation.