A History of Western Red Cedar

Throughout the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Southwest Canada and British Columbia the western red cedar (thuja plicata) also known as the Giant Arborvitae is interspersed with douglas fir and western hemlock.

The western red cedar is a magnificent tree standing in heights of 100′ to 180′ with the tallest on record reaching a massive 277′. Their base has a diameter of 2′ to 8′ with the largest recorded at 22 1/2′ wide.

For ages western red cedar was the material of choice for the regions Native Americans. They carved canoes large enough to hold 40 people giving the tree the nickname “canoe cedar”. They used the tree to construct totem poles, storage boxes, baskets, clothing and shelter.

Western red cedar is rot & decay resistant, shade tolerant and insect resistant. It has a lifespan of 450 years or more and is among the most durable timber in history. Today it is used for outdoor projects such as fences, decks, siding, utility poles, porches, window and doorframes. Indoor projects such as paneling, kitchens, bathrooms and saunas are great applications as western red cedar is extremely moisture resistant.

Cedar is like a dream to work with. As a contractor its absolutely my favorite material as its lightweight and easy to handle. It can be cut, sanded, shaped, planed, glued and nailed. With a natural stain the rich texture and warm colors will stand out above all and can never be duplicated with substitutes such as concrete,plastics and metal.

Cedar is a dimensionally stable wood, it retains fasteners, paints and stains like no other. Your cedar fence will last between 30 and 40 years with proper installation and is the only fence material that brings the natural look and lustre of the Pacific Northwest forests to your yard.

For any questions or if you would like to see a sample of our Grade A western red cedar contact us today for a consultation.

Some information on this page obtained from the WRCLA.


Western Red Cedar is one of the most popular exterior species in use in North America these days. The lower cost, rot and insect resistant, and easy availability in all sizes, including large timbers, makes it an obvious choice for projects from decks to pergolas, siding, flooring, ceilings, and paneling.
Like all softwoods, there is a standard grading system in place to designate how clear a board may be, but there are also cut distinctions like vertical grain, when you want that perfect, straight grain face appearance. Ordering CVG (clear vertical grain) Cedar is usually the path to getting the highest quality boards, but there is another factor to consider that is not often discussed. In some cases your supplier may not even know the answer, yet it will dramatically change the appearance of the wood you receive.
You have to love how an organic product like wood keeps us on our toes! Even the exact same species when grown in different climates will present different lumber. Knowing the differences will save you a lot of heartache when trying to find the right material for your next project.

Inland vs Coastal Cedar
If you haven’t guessed by the heading, where the Cedar grows is a major factor in its appearance. Coastal Cedar is most commonly referred to as Western Red, and it will grow in coastal British Columbia and coastal Washington, Oregon, and even California. Inland Cedar is often named as such, and it grows all the way in to the Western slopes of the Rockies. There is a pretty dramatic change in soil chemistry and rainfall as you venture inland, and this environment changes the appearance of the lumber. While there may be some physical property differences like strength and density, these are actually quite small and usually chocked up to being a different grade of material.
Coastal Cedar grows quite large and fast and shows very few knots. Large timbers, wider boards, straight grain, and very clear boards are common with this variety. The color will be much more consistent and usually darker. This is mostly due to the high rainfall amounts which the Coastal Cedar trees receive that evens out the early and late growth seasons. When you are requesting CVG (clear vertical grain) Cedar, this is the lumber you are most likely getting. These boards are commonly used for siding, paneling, shingles, structural timbers, and flooring. They are graded in both appearance and clear grades.

Information on this page provided by mcilvain.com