Timberpedia - Western Red Cedar
Western Red Cedar
|Latin Name:||Irish Name:||Native to Ireland?|
About the Tree
Introduced to Ireland in 1854
Western Red Cedar is obtained in British Columbia and parts of the northwestern United States
from a tree which reaches 50m or more in height growing to be over 5 meters in diameter, and
reaching ages of over 1500 years, it is no wonder that it is aptly called the tree of life. The wood is
famous for being rot resistant, while the tannin rich bark resists insect invasion. The vertically
fibrous bark, and unique odour of the leaves when crushed are perhaps the best way to identify
this species along side other close relatives.
Cedars are very popular ornamental trees, widely used in horticulture in temperate climates.
They are also grown for their durable (decay-resistant) scented wood, most famously used in the
construction of King Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem provided by King Hiram, or Ahiram, of Tyre,
Lebanon, circa 1000 BC. The wood is also used for humbler purposes requiring resistance to
weather, such as shakes and shingles.
Cedar wood and cedar oil is known to be a natural repellent to moths, hence chests were made of
cedar when available. Cedar is a popular lining for modern-day closets in which woolens are stored.
The use of cedar is mentioned in The Iliad Book 24, referring to the cedar-roofed or lined storage
chamber where Priam goes to fetch the treasures used to ransom the corpse of his son Hector from
About the Wood
Western red cedar varies from pale pinkish-brown to dark brown. It is non-resinous, but has a
fairly pungent odour, and is typically straight-grained with a conspicuous growth-ring figure. It is
the lightest weight softwood in common commercial use; western red cedar is some 25% and
white cedar 35% lighter than European redwood.
The cellular composition of cedar, millions of tiny air-filled cells per cubic inch, provides a high
degree of thermal insulation on both roof and wall applications. Western Red Cedars’ slow growth
and natural oily extractives are responsible for its decay resistance and its rich colouring, which
ranges from a light straw colour in the sapwood to a reddish pink in the heartwood. It is a stable
wood that seasons easily and quickly, with a very low shrinkage factor. It is free of pitch and has
excellent finishing qualities.
Western red cedar is one of the most durable softwoods available in quantity, but being light in
weight it is suitable only for uses where there is little structural need. It is seen most commonly as
vertical cladding and weatherboarding, and is popular for garden buildings and greenhouses as well
as a deck covering. It is used, especially in America, for roofing shingles, and lower grade timber is
used in America for posts and piles.
Know your wood! The Timberpedia is a broad resource that aims to catalogue all the major tree species in Ireland, containing information that we’ve gathered from over two decades maintaining our natural woodland and serving Ireland’s woodworking industry.
All written material is copyright © 2021 by the Lisnavagh Timber Project.