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Which Cedar is Best for Your Project?

Which Cedar is best for your project?


Western Red, Aromatic & Inland

These are the most prevalent cedar lumbers sold in the Mid-West and are often sold under the generic label of Cedar. I use the term lumbers instead of species, as none of these are True Cedars.  The word cedar is describing the wood and not a species of tree.


Western Red Cedar and Inland Cedar are the same species (Thuja Plicata) – so what is the difference?  Basically, where it is grown- Western Red or Coastal Cedar grows on the coast from British Columbia to Oregon. Inland Cedar ranges east all the way to the Rockies.  The varied growing conditions are what make the difference.  However, it is more about grade than it is the physical properties such as strength and density.

Western Red Cedar trees are larger, a lot larger and they grow fast.  This produces more clear lumber with straight grain and consistent coloring.  These qualities make it perfect for siding, trim and beams along with shakes and shingles.  The trees tend to produce a lot of vertical grain lumber which is ideal for a smooth and consistent finishing.

Inland Cedar does not grow as large as Coastal Cedar because of the drier climate.  Slower growth means more limbs and more distinct color patterns between spring and summer wood.  The lumber produced tends to be a little more dense, a lot knottier, and shows a variety of colors within the same board.  These qualities are often sought out in paneling, rustic trim, flooring and decking.

Aromatic Cedar, as the name would indicate, has a very distinct and favorable odor.  The wood itself is full of character and color – these colors can range from deep violets and browns to pure white.  Wide sizes and clear grades are nearly impossible to find, as the trees tend to be narrow and slow growing.  It is naturally rot- and insect-resistant, making it ideal for fence posts and other ground contact applications. The scent of the wood, plus the fact that it repels moths, makes it a great lumber for closets and chests and the colors and character are sought after in wood-working projects.