Learn how to differentiate between Inland & Coastal Cedar
Did you know that Cedar is one of the most popular wood species for exterior use in North America? It’s not too surprising, since it’s readily available in large sizes, inexpensive, and rot and insect resistant. Applications from decks and flooring to paneling and siding and even ceilings and pergolas all look great in Cedar.
As a softwood, the grading system helps categorize boards of various degrees of clarity and distinctive cuts. For those who desire top-grade Cedar, CVG (clear vertical grain) is usually the designation you desire. In addition to grading considerations, you’ll want to know whether you’re getting inland or coastal Cedar. While some suppliers may not specify the origin of their lumber, a diligent supplier will research their sources as much as possible. At J. Gibson McIlvain, we strive to delineate as much detail as customers request.
The appearance of Cedar is highly linked to its origin. Coastal Cedar, also known as Western Red Cedar, grows mostly from British Columbia down to northern California, along North America’s West Coast.
Inland Cedar, on the other hand, grows throughout the Rocky Mountains, where the soil chemistry and rainfall are quite different than on the coast, resulting in a lumber species with quite a different appearance. Strength and density do not vary much, but appearance does.
Coastal Cedar grows quickly to large sizes, producing few knots. High amounts of rainfall help to even out early and late growth seasons, producing wide boards and large timbers. Coastal Cedar lumber comes with straight grain and clear boards with consistent (and typically darker) coloring. Most CVG Cedar will be Western Red Cedar, simply because the coastal region tends to produce higher quality lumber. Coastal Cedar boards are often used for structural timbers, flooring, paneling, siding, and shingles.
Compared to Coastal Cedar, Inland Cedar trees are smaller and lighter in color. Due to the more drastic seasonal changes, early and late growth rings have distinctive densities, resulting in lumber with a striped appearance. Even the clear lumber contains many, many knots, caused by the high frequency of branches in a smaller tree. Perfect for knotty ceilings, paneling, or flooring, Inland Cedar is often graded similarly to Pine, with a grading of #3 and better in STK (select tight knot).
Even though Coastal Cedar and Inland Cedar are technically the same species, those two varieties behave so differently that we believe our customers should know exactly what they’re buying. J. Gibson McIlvain sources both varieties from across the distinct growth areas.
Grade distinctions and coloring can be key in determining which type of Cedar a customer may want. If you want clear, darker boards, then Coastal Cedar is for you. If a knotty, striped appearance will work better for you, then Inland Cedar would probably be your choice.