Cedar, Western Red | Thuja plicata

Western red cedar is a large softwood that grows in British Columbia and some of the nearby western states of the USA. A versatile timber, it is commonly used for applications such as cladding, windows and joinery.

Other Names: Giant Arbor-vitae, British Columbia Red Cedar, Red Cedar, Canoe Cedar

Overview

Western red cedar is a large softwood that grows in British Columbia and some of the nearby western states of the USA including Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho.

Western red cedar will remain dimensionally stable under most weather conditions and is not prone to shrinkage or swelling. Due to its versatility, it can be used for both internal and external applications such as cladding, linings, joinery, windows and roofing shingles. Natural preservatives provide resistance to fungus and insect attack, while its low density offers very good thermal insulation qualities. Western red cedar also delivers impressive acoustic properties.

Visually, western red cedar is favoured for its rich and inviting colours. The heartwood ranges from a pale brown through to a richer dark brown. The sapwood is a paler yellowish white colour. It has a fine texture and straight grain with growth rings often visible.

A durable, yet soft timber, western red cedar has a good workability. It cuts, machines and glues well and can also be painted, stained and polished. Precautions should be taken when sanding western red cedar as the sawdust can cause irritation for some people.

It nails and screws well, however if timber is damp it is corrosive to iron and copper, so hot-dipped galvanised nails/screws should be used where required, and any copper plumbing, fittings or sheathing isolated from contact with the wood.

Western red cedar can be brittle along the end grain and sharp cutters are recommended due to its soft nature. It is not suitable for steam bending.

Western red cedar is commonly available with significant quantities being imported into Australia.

Properties

Shrinkage

Very Low Low Medium High Very High
Tangential:          
3.0
Radial: 0 - 2

Strength Group

Very High High Reasonably High Medium High Medium Reasonably Low Low Very Low
Unseasoned:S1S2S3S4S5S6S7
Seasoned:SD1SD2SD3SD4SD5SD6SD7SD8

Stress Grade

Structural
No. 1
Structural
No. 2
Structural
No. 3
Structural
No. 4
Structural
No. 5
Unseasoned: F7 F5 F4    
Seasoned: F8 F7 F5 F4  

Density per Standard

Unseasoned: 0 kg/m3
Seasoned: 350 kg/m3

Joint Group

Very High High Reasonably High Medium Low Very Low
Unseasoned:J1J2J3J4J5J6
Seasoned:JD1JD2JD3JD4JD5JD6

Colour

  White, yellow, pale straw to light brown Pink to pink brown Light to dark red Brown, chocolate, mottled or streaky
   

Mechanical Properties

Modulus of Rupture - Unseasoned: 37
Modulus of Rupture - Seasoned: 54
Modulus of Elasticity - Unseasoned: 7.2
Modulus of Elasticity - Seasoned: 8.3
Maximum Crushing Strength - Unseasoned: 19
Maximum Crushing Strength - Seasoned: 34
Toughness - Unseasoned: Low - up to 15 Nm
Toughness - Seasoned: Low - up to 15 Nm
Hardness - Unseasoned: 1.2
Hardness - Seasoned: 1.5

Durability

Low Moderate Reasonably High High
(0 - 5 yrs) (5 - 15 yrs) (15 - 25 yrs) (more than 25 yrs)
In-Ground:
(0 - 7 yrs) (7 - 15 yrs) (15 - 40 yrs) (More than 40 yrs)
Above ground:
(0 - 20 yrs, usually < 5) (21 - 40 yrs) (41 - 64 yrs) (More than 60 yrs)
Marine Borer Resistance:
Lyctid Borer Susceptibility: Not Susceptible
Termite Resistance: Resistant

Fire Properties

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
EFH Ignitibility:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
EFH Spread-of-Flame Index:
EFH Smoke-Developed Index:
1 - non-combustible 2 - reasonably non-combustible 3 - slightly combustible 4 - combustible
Fire Properties Group
Number:
Average Specific Extinction Area: <250
Bushfire Resistance: Not Tested

Description

Botanical Name: Thuja plicata
Preferred Common Name: Cedar, Western Red
Other Names: Giant Arbor-vitae, British Columbia Red Cedar, Red Cedar, Canoe Cedar
Species Type: Softwood

Appearance

Western red cedar is favoured for its rich and inviting earthy tones. The true beauty of this durable softwood is most evident when used for appearance based applications such as external cladding and windows. The heartwood ranges from a pale brown or honey colour through to a richer dark brown, with older growth timber somewhat darker in appearance. The sapwood is a paler yellowish white colour. It has a fine texture and straight grain with growth rings often visible.

Common Applications

Western red cedar is used for applications such as cladding, linings, joinery, windows, doors and roofing shingles. Natural preservatives provide resistance to fungus and insect attack, while its low density also provides good insulation qualities. It can be used in many types of weather conditions due to its natural durability.

Common Form

Sawn

Workability

A durable yet soft timber, western red cedar has good workability. It cuts, machines and glues well and can also be painted, stained and polished. It also nails and screws well, however if timber is damp it is corrosive to iron, so hot-dipped galvanized nails/screws should be used where required.

Western red cedar can be brittle along the end grain and sharp cutters are recommended due to its soft nature. Precautions should be taken when sanding western red cedar as the sawdust can cause irritation for some people. It is not suitable for steam bending.

Origin of Timber

North America

Readily Available

NSW, VIC, SA, TAS, QLD, WA, North America

Availability - Further Information

Western red cedar is commonly available with significant quantities being imported into Australia.

Source of Timber

Native Forest

Applications

  • Doors

    Timber is one of the most popular and superior material choices for both internal and external doors. Whether manufactured from solid or engineered timber, there are many stylish and practical options that won't compromise on strength and structural performance. A distinctive timber door can also create visual impact, adding value to any commercial or domestic building.

  • External Cladding

    The natural appeal, versatility and strength of timber makes it the superior choice for external cladding. Through specification, planning, design and finishing processes, timber cladding not only creates a building of superior strength, acoustic and thermal performance but also creates a place of beauty, style and natural appeal.

  • Fencing

    When it comes to fencing, timber is your natural choice. A material that is durable, strong and reliable it compliments almost every outdoor landscape and environment. Clear specification, detailed installation and appropriate maintenance will see any timber fence provide a natural and lasting property boundary and back drop for years to come.

  • Internal Paneling

    Timber paneling creates interiors as warm as they are stylish. Commonly using an MDF or plywood substrate, internal timber paneling is natural and versatile and comes as either solid natural timber panels or as sheets of engineered wood products

  • Pergolas

    A timber pergola is a practical, functional and attractive way to extend living and entertainment spaces into the outdoors.

  • Timber Joinery Products

    Timber joinery products offer a classic, unique and stylish touch to any interior design.

  • Timber Portal Frames

    For buildings that require large spans and column free interiors, timber portal frames provide one of the most aesthetically pleasing solutions. Utilising modern engineering technology, portal frame design transforms timber into a highly effective, efficient and economical structural product. This application guide provides a comprehensive overview of the process of using timber in the specification, fabrication and erection of portal frame structures.

  • Timber Shingles and Shakes

    A shingle, generated from a sawn piece of timber is characterised by its relatively smooth face and back, while in contrast a shake, essentially a split piece of timber, is dominated by a strongly textured surface.

  • Windows

    With natural aesthetic appeal, versatility and sound structural performance, timber provides excellent window joinery design options. Whether stained to bring out natural tones, or painted to compliment particular décors, timber windows can be tailored to suit a huge variety of styles and can be installed into any type of building.

Case Studies

  • ARkit Prefab and Prefabricated Eco Homes

    Prefab and Prefabricated Eco Homes Australia: ARkit’s timber kit homes change the way we think about sustainable building and living.

    Applications: Decking, External Cladding, Flooring, Framing, Internal Paneling, Windows,

  • Eastern Precinct, University of Melbourne, Parkville

    The durability and warmth of timber supports the University of Melbourne’s model, providing a new learning landscape at the Eastern Precinct Student Centre.

    Applications: Decking, Doors, External Cladding, Flooring, Internal Paneling, Windows,

  • The Dickson Apartments, Little Bay

    An innovative coastal refurbishment where the use of timber contributed to an environmentally sustainable development while respecting the site's heritage significance.

    Applications: Doors, Exterior Rails and Balustrades, Exterior Stairs, External Cladding, Fencing, Framing, Interior Rails and Balustrades, Interior Stairs, Internal Paneling, Retaining Walls (Landscaping), Timber Portal Frames, Windows,

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