Sunday, October 28, 2007

Red Cedar vs White Cedar




Is it a White Cedar fence? Or is it Red Cedar?

Northeastern United States and Central and Eastern Canada has locally grown Cedar, Eastern White Cedar or Northern White Cedar—but the real “Western Red Cedar” is a very different material for a couple of different reasons.

Long lasting outdoor materials grow in a rainforest climate. When a species adapts to deal with excess moisture in the environment it makes it longer lasting in dry climates. Take red cedar or Douglas fir to Ontario or Michigan and it will last 20-30 years depending on the detailing.

The “White Cedar” that grows locally here has a very similar appearance however it is a much smaller tree. The larger the tree, the more stable the grain and the more high quality material is hewn from it. “Old Growth Red Cedar” is often a few feet in diameter. “White Cedar” can get up to about 15” in diameter. “Second Growth Red Cedar” is normally harvested at 15-25” which means that even farmed red cedar will be superior material. It will crack less and twist less if the material is straight grained.

Many builders are selling cedar fences for $25-40 per running foot all over the northwest. This is “Eastern White Cedar”. An eastern white cedar can be expected to last 5-10 years.

When materials have to be trucked 1500+ miles and go through a Distributor, Broker and Lumber Retailer before your contractor sees it you are looking at about $30+ for materials to build a basic red cedar fence which means that depending on design you are looking at considerably more than $25.00 per running foot.
Photos: Top is Juvenile Eastern White Cedar Bottom is Western Red Cedar
White cedar is a yellowy beige in colour, Red Cedar is more of a red colour. Aside from that, the face grain is very similar so looking at the end grains is the best way to identify--the white cedar will normally have the core of the tree in nearly every piece of lumber. Red Cedar may have the core of the tree in about 10% unless it is of an extremely low grade.

Sometimes a Cedar Fence is not a cedar fence. Sometimes folks that believe they are getting a steal—are not getting exactly what they expect.
L
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