How Does Siberian Larch Compare to Western Red Cedar as a Lower-Cost Exterior Cladding Solution?

Throughout the pandemic pretty much every sector of the economy has experienced challenges of some form or other. The timber industry is no exception with wood prices having been volatile since spring 2020 when it all began.

With demand exceeding supply, it was inevitable that the price of wood products would start to increase. In fact, prices have been rising since April 2020, and just when we thought that they couldn’t go any higher, we learn that Western Red Cedar is set to soar to new levels, with a predicted 25 – 30% price increase during the first quarter of 2022.

The reasons for this are complex and varied. Sawmills have been on the back foot since the initial lockdown. There have been persistent supply issues caused partly by a surge in homebuilding and home improvement, particularly in the US which is by far the largest market for cedar. Even extreme weather has played a part. Serious flooding in British Columbia last November damaged roads and railway lines and forced sawmills to temporarily cease operations. The price hikes were further compounded by the massive increases in the cost of shipping combined with the value of sterling weakening against the Canadian Dollar. This doesn’t cover all the issues but suffice to say that a combination of factors has contributed to create the perfect storm for Western Red Cedar supply.

For some, there is no substitute for Western Red Cedar, however, we recognise that many of you will be looking at lower-cost alternatives, with Siberian Larch being the obvious choice.

For those of you wondering whether to stump up for Western Red Cedar or make the switch to Siberian Larch, we’ve produced this quick comparison guide for these two mighty fine wood species.

Western Red Cedar

Siberian Larch

Colour: Palette of rich, warm wood tones, which vary from light amber to dark reddish-brown. A lustrous golden-brown. Closer inspection will reveal a range of colours varying from creamy white to straw or dark, reddish-brown.
Grades / Appearance: Select Prestige VG: Fine-grained, virtually knot-free ‘No. 2 Clear & Better’ grade (‘No. 4 Clear’ not permitted). Specially selected to ensure every piece is vertical grain, and every piece is heartwood.

Select Contractor: As above but less stringent grading. Mixed grain and approximately 15% of boards fall into the lower ‘No. 4 Clear’ grade.

Cascadia (Select Knotty): Characterised by well-interspersed sound tight (live) knots.

SILVALarch A: Relatively free of knots. Most pieces clear or displaying occasional small knots.

SILVALarch B: Displays well-interspersed knots with some boards free or practically free of knots.

Moisture Content: Kiln-dried at source to 12–15% (+/-2%) Kiln-dried at source to 16–18% (+/-2%)
Durability: Class 2 (durable) according to the EN 113 standard. Class 3 (moderately durable) according to the EN 113 standard.
Stability: Low movement. Excellent dimensional stability because of its low wood density and shrinkage factor. Shrinkage and swelling are minimal, displaying only small movements with changes in humidity. Low/medium movement. With low permeability, it can cope with varying levels of humidity without absorbing much water. Thus, it will not shrink or swell excessively in service.
Density: Light in weight at 330 to 340 kg/m3 when kiln-dried. Extremely dense and hard, weighing 570 to 650 kg/m3 when kiln-dried.
Origin: Harvested from forests in the coastal regions of the Province of British Columbia in western Canada. Harvested from old-growth forests in the Irkutsk region of eastern Siberia, Russia.
Certification: PEFC FSC
Price: Select Prestige VG: £££££

Select Contractor: ££££

Cascadia: £££

SilvaLarch A: £££

SilvaLarch B: ££

Available from stock? Yes Yes
Factory coating available? Yes Yes
Fire Retardant Treatment available? Yes Yes




About the Author

Alison Evans

Product Marketing Manager