Not All Western Red Cedar Is Created Equal

Here at Silva, Western Red Cedar has been our flagship product for almost two decades, so we know a thing or two about this wonderful wood species. Buying cedar can be a bit of a minefield, so we hope by reading this you will become a bit more informed and know some of the pitfalls to watch out for.

This article was triggered by a recent phone call we received from a homeowner who’d had Western Red Cedar cladding installed on their self-build project which wasn’t of the quality they had expected. The cladding in question wasn’t supplied by Silva, but the homeowner wanted our expert opinion on what they had received, as they were disappointed with the appearance of it.

The homeowner had seen and liked our Select Prestige VG product, but they left the sourcing of the cedar cladding to their builder, who then went and bought it elsewhere saving a few pence per metre.

 

We assume the builder called round a few suppliers and went with the cheapest. After all, cedar is cedar, right? Wrong. The reality is that the quality of Western Red Cedar can vary greatly from one supplier to the next, and if it’s cheaper, it's probably cheaper for a reason.

So, what do you need to look out for? Firstly, ask if the material is kiln dried or air-dried. Air-dried cedar is cheaper, but it may not be properly and consistently dried to the right moisture content.

If it hasn’t been properly air-dried, then it may shrink excessively after installation, leaving gaps at the joints. If the moisture content is too high then it probably won’t accept a coating properly, meaning premature coating failure.

It’s essential to look at the actual material to satisfy yourself that it’s of a good quality standard. Every sawmill interprets and applies the official industry grading rules differently, some just scraping through at the lower end whilst others set their own quality standards at the higher end. A low price often means a sacrifice on quality. This may be in the form of excessive knots or sapwood, which is the least durable part of the tree and may have a negative effect on long term performance.

You should ask where the raw material comes from. UK plantation-grown cedar bears little resemblance to Western Red Cedar from the British Columbia coastal regions, and it differs in performance too. Canadian cedar is rated ‘Class 2 (durable)’ according to the EN 113 standard. By comparison, the UK grown Western Red Cedar is rated class 3 (moderately durable).

Is the wood vertical grain (VG)? In this case, the main reason for the homeowner’s disappointment was that they had expected the richly coloured, fine ‘vertical grain heartwood’ appearance of Select Prestige VG, but what they ended up with didn’t have the same look. This is such a shame, as the extra cost represented a barely noticeable percentage of the overall cost of the cladding installation yet was supposed to be the crowning glory on their self-build project.

 

Here at Silva, we source all our Western Red Cedar on quality rather than price. We have forged long-term relationships with the best Canadian sawmills in the industry to ensure quality and consistency in our products.

Silva is one of the only members of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association located outside North America. Our knowledge of the material and the industry is second to none - we know who the best suppliers are and who to avoid.

Our trained advisors are on hand to offer guidance to help our customers choose the right product for their project.