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Unveiling the Charm of Western Red Cedar

Western red cedar is known for both its beauty and its ability to suit a wide variety of applications. But what could make this stunning wood the right choice for your next project? Here is everything you need to know about this durable and highly beloved wood.

The History of Western Red Cedar

Western red cedar, also called Pacific red cedar, is native to the Pacific coasts of North America. These towering giants can grow up to 200 feet tall and are most commonly found around the coastlines of British Columbia. 

The tree was dubbed “The Tree of Life” by the indigenous people living there centuries ago. They used the tree to build many things, including canoes and masks from the timber, while the bark was an excellent resource to make clothing and rope. Other parts of the tree have medicinal properties, helping to treat colds, nausea, and rheumatism.


Cedar’s natural durability still makes it one of the most popular building materials today. Its undisputed beauty and versatility are apparent qualities, but its sustainability is also notable. 

Cedar takes much less energy to manufacture than other materials and greatly resists decay. And like most wood, it’s a strong and renewable material with a lower environmental impact.

Distinctive Characteristics

The color of western red cedar can vary widely. You might see the heartwood in anything from white or pink to a deeper brown or red color. 

The wood’s grain is straight with a coarse texture and usually has a moderate natural luster. Knot placement is random; you might see a knot every foot or so, or there may be none. This adds an element of uniqueness to every piece of timber.

Probably the most distinct characteristic of western red cedar is the scent. It carries a heady aroma that’s surprisingly strong but in an enjoyable, earthy way rather than something overpowering. The scent adds to the overall charm for most people and is seen as an asset, especially in urban areas where the touch of nature is most welcome.

Harvesting and Processing of Western Red Cedar

Harvesting western red cedar is certifiably sustainable. Aside from being a renewable building resource, most of this cedar is recognized by multiple international forest certification agencies. 

And for every western red cedar tree harvested, a minimum of three are planted in its place, which has caused the North American forests to grow since 1970 despite being a very popular building resource.

The characteristic scent of western red cedar is most prominent during processing. The wood is easy to work with, regardless of whether you’re working by hand or with machine tools. It also glues and finishes nicely. The softwood can dent or scratch easily, and it’s best to avoid iron-based fasteners, as they can stain the wood.

It’s also appropriate for timber sawmilling and timber wood products.

Common Uses of Western Red Cedar Timber

Western red cedar’s use cases are constantly growing. It’s a highly durable wood that, while ideal for outdoor use, can also make a statement for indoor projects. Some of the primary uses of this timber include weather-resistant shingles and siding, outdoor decking, and boats. 

One of the many reasons it’s an excellent outdoor building material is that it’s an effective thermal insulator. It’s the best among the common softwood species and is even better at insulating than brick or steel. 

And since cedar has been a favorite for centuries as a building material, it’s no surprise that it can hold up for decades with little to no trouble, provided it stays well-maintained. 

This wood is also helpful for reducing noise or confining it to specific areas. All woods are fantastic at dampening sound, but western red cedar is particularly effective for adjusting or manipulating acoustics in a space.

Western Red Cedar: A Powerful Pick for Any Project

Western red cedar’s place at the top is well-earned. Its beauty, sustainability, and durability all make it a prime choice to create high-quality timber wood products. It’s also straightforward to work with and holds up over time. 

With these benefits in mind, it’s easy to see why western red cedar lumber may be the premier choice for your next project.