Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) is one of North America’s great renewable resources.
Slow growing and naturally durable, Western Red Cedar has one of the longest life spans of any North American softwood. It produces long lengths of timber with true, straight grain. It is free from pitch and its heartwood has natural decay resistance. Its low density gives it an insulation value superior to most other species.
Light weight, easy to work, easy to finish, possessing outstanding dimensional stability, Western Red Cedar is a preferred wood for nearly all purposes where attractive appearance or resistance to weather is important.
Viking offers western red cedar products in three grades:
- Select – 5/4″ board (1″ thick), Smooth 4 sides (custom order only)
- Select #2 – tight knot, no-hole board
- Select #3 – Economy/Builder’s grade (Rustic)
Like all woods, Western Red Cedar is hygroscopic and will absorb or discharge moisture to attain equilibrium with the surrounding atmosphere. However, it has a very low shrinkage factor and is superior to all other coniferous woods in its resistance to warping, twisting and checking.
One of Western Red Cedar’s most valuable characteristics is its well-known high resistance to decay. It is one of the most durable coniferous species and can be counted on to give long and trouble free service under most conditions. Cedar’s decay resistance comes from the presence of naturally occurring fungicidal compounds in the wood called thujaplicins. Another extractive present in the wood, thujic acid, helps make the wood resistant to insect attack.
Properly finished and maintained, cedar will deliver decades of trouble-free service. If exposed for prolonged periods to conditions where decay could be a factor, such as where the wood is in contact with the ground, cedar should be treated with suitable wood preservatives
Attractive Finish and Workability
Western Red Cedar’s attractive red color has long been one it’s most popular aesthetic features. As it ages, the red tone will turn to an attractive light gray color. Alternatively, Western Red Cedar can be stained if achieving a consistent color is the desired effect. The wood takes a variety of coatings, paint and stain, exceptionally well, when dried and properly primed. The wood is among the easiest to work with because of its straight grain and uniform texture.
Resistance to Termites and Wood Borers
Western Red Cedar’s natural resistance to termite attack has been found to vary with termite species, source of wood materials and feeding conditions. However, Western Red Cedar is "non-preferred" i.e., the termites will not eat western red cedar if they have access to other wood species with less resistance. However red cedar will be attacked if there are no other sources of food available (Carter and Smythe 1974; Mannesmann 1973; Su and Tamashiro 1986). Eating cedar has been shown to result in significant termite mortality. That said, there have been documented cases involving more aggressive species of termites and ideal micro-organic conditions where Western Red Cedar has been attacked successfully. We recommend that you consult with your pest control professional if you have a termite situation on your property and take appropriate action.
For more information on this topic, see page 27-28 of the attached Western Red cedar document at the bottom of this web page. Viking Fence strongly believes that the total of evidence shows that Western Red Cedar is the preferred wood option for your fence project.
A Renewable Resource
Western Red Cedar grows along the Pacific coast from northern California to southeastern Alaska (see map). In Canada, western red cedar’s growth is limited to British Columbia (BC). The British Columbia Ministry of Forests closely regulates and monitors the harvesting of Western Red Cedar. Based on a five-year average (1997- 2001), approximately 11.2 million board feet of red cedar year is harvested in BC and on the coast, from all land ownerships, on an annual basis. This accounts for less than than 1% of BC’s cedar growing stock. The amounts harvested must be within the Annual Allowable Cut, the volume of timber that the Chief Forester determines can be sustainably harvested from the lands regulated by the province.
Every five years (or less) there is a timber supply review to ensure this cut is sustainable. This review ensures the annual cut is based on the latest technical information, both economic and environmental The BC Forest Practices Code has mandatory requirements for forest practices and sets enforcement and penalty provisions. Soon after logging, public lands must be reforested with species suited to the site. The Western Red Cedar Lumber Association estimates that 3 trees are planted for every one that is harvested on an annual basis. In short, the supply of this remarkable tree is safeguarded for centuries to come.
Other Cedar Variations
Occasionally, Viking will offer inland cedar, a sub-species of Western Red Cedar, which grows primarily in Vancouver, Washington state and Idaho, as well as incense cedar, which is grown primarily in California, Oregon and Washington state. The primary difference in these boards vs. Western Red Cedar is the color of the board. There is less iron in the soil where these trees are grown. As a result, the color of the board is less "red" in nature. Ask our estimators for current availability.
Inferior Products Used By Other Fence Companies
Pine – Treated and untreated. Pine is not a dimensional stable board and will warp. Additionally, pine does not have the decay resistance compounds that western red cedar does. Used by other fence companies because of its low cost. The chemical in treated pine, while not being environmentally friendly, has been known to eat thru nails within a 3-4 year span, thus creating significant warranty issues.
Chinese Cedar/Fir – not a cedar, probably a fir. Imported from China, just recently into the U.S. in the last 4-5 years. The Chinese attempted to import this product into New Zealand and Australia in the last 20 years. Both times, this product failed the test of time. Also used by other fence companies because of its low cost. Dimensional stability and decay resistance are inferior to western red cedar.
Eastern Red Cedar – is not a true cedar. It is a juniper and the most widely distributed native conifer in the Eastern United States. It is found in every state east of the 100th meridian (i.e. east of central Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming). Dimensional stability and decay resistance are inferior to western red cedar.
Viking Fence does not offer or install any of these inferior products.
Call us at (512) 837-6411, or use our Estimate Request Form, for a free estimate today!
When you think Western Red Cedar fence, think Viking!