19 Sep Which Cedar is Right for You?

Woodworkers love the versatility cedars bring. From decking to lining to roofing, find which cedar species is best for your lumber needs by glancing over our simple guide.


Eastern Red Cedar

Background: Eastern red cedar grows in the eastern part of the United States, typically ranging between 20′-100′. Sometimes referred to as “aromatic cedar,” this cedar is known for its pungent scent from its natural oils.

Appearance: This cedar’s exterior boasts a reddish-violet tinted brown, while its inner sapwood appears pale yellow. The sapwood often makes an appearance throughout the heartwood.

Properties: Fine grain with soft texture. High stability that works quite easily with both hand and power tools.

Common Uses: Birdhouses, boat & canoe trim, bookcases, cabinets, closet linings, outdoor furniture.


Northern White Cedar

Background: Northern white cedar grows in southern Canada into the northeastern quarter of the U.S., but can also be found as southern as Tennessee and as westward as Iowa. This cedar can grow up to approximately 50′ tall.

Appearance: This cedar’s heartwood is light brown/tan, and is often seen with numerous, small knots. Its sapwood appears as a creamy white.

Properties: Being both soft and weak, northern white cedar lumber offers easy workability with hand and power tools, but does not hold screws as well as its competitors. However, this cedar does hold glue and finishes well.

Common Uses: Due to its high decay resistance, this cedar is ideal for outdoor projects such as canoes, decks, fences, and shingles.


Spanish Cedar

Background: This is the only import of these cedars, native to Central and South America (and planted in Florida). A relative to the mahogany family, these trunks stand up to 100′ tall.

Appearance: The Spanish cedar’s heartwood darkens with age, but typically ranges in lighter brown with pink/red undertones. This lumber’s sheen offers a moderate, natural gloss.

Properties:  This cedar’s soft, low density body makes for easy use with both hand and machine tools. Finishing this wood may be more difficult, as its natural gum pockets have the ability to continuously ooze, which can then lead to clogged saw blades.

Common Uses: Boats, cabinets, cigar humidors, classical guitars, veneers.


Western Red Cedar

Background: This cedar is found across southern Alaska, northern California, and throughout the Rocky Mountains, and can grow up to 200′ tall.

Appearance: Western red cedar’s heartwood bears tones of reddish-brown, while its sapwood appears as a creamy white.

Properties: Both low density and lightweight, making for undemanding use of hand and/or power tools. Resistant to decay, and can also repel water.

Common Uses: Boat-building, crates, decking, musical instruments, and numerous outdoor structures.


Yellow Cedar

Background: Also known as “Alaskan cedar,” this lumber grows mostly in Pacific northwestern regions, and can grow to be about 100′.

Appearance: The heartwood and sapwood both vary in shades of light, creamy-yellow, and often can be hard to distinct from one another.

Properties: Lightweight, yet hard and dense.

Common Uses: Boat-building (decks, railings, paneling), decking, flooring, musical instruments (guitars, flutes).