Western Red Cedar, the archetypal timber cladding

Sep 21, 2016 | cladding timber, fresh sawn timber, Grown in Britain, woodland products

We know fresh sawn Western Red Cedar cladding comes high on the ‘wish list’ for lots of building projects.


When we ask our customers ‘why?’ we often hear the same thing… it’s ‘the one we know’.

It turns out ‘Cedar cladding’ has become ubiquitous as the alternative term for ‘timber cladding’ and so we thought we’d ponder that for a moment.

We know that Western Red Cedar is a safe choice because it’s been used in construction for over 50 years. So in a way the proof is in the pudding. The timber clad buildings from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s etc.. they’re all still here. We see them around, ranch style bungalows with stone chimney’s , small scale span housing developments, 60’s comprehensive schools, beachside cafes, pre-fab office buildings all with their wood cladding, maybe gloss white, or maybe black painted or just weathered, still looking neat, tidy, stylish and still intact. It’s ubiquitous by proxy.

No wonder it’s the ‘one we know’ right?

It’s the one we should know, our own pre-fab office building is just one such article!

Built in the 80’s for ease and speed when the company was expanding. Clad from top to bottom in a shiplap profile Western Red Cedar, given a thin coat of black paint and then left alone to get on with it for the next 30 odd years.

And yes, it’s still here. You’d think we’d have used it to play ‘cladding‘ with over the years but we’ve actually been too busy to even think about it. We have a ‘one day we should…’ conversation every so often but so far – bar bashing in the odd loose nail and giving one side a bit of black paint about 10 years ago – we’ve just left it alone. Exposed to the elements on the side of a hill, on the top of the South Downs.

And right here is where we should be showing you a nice picture of said building, in situ…  but as we’ve taken it for granted for so long it seems we haven’t actually taken any pictures of it and right now it’s raining 🙁 So in lieu of our nice wooden office.. here’s an aerial shot of our sawmill from the 1980’s just before said office building was installed… note the tiny white shed where our office now stands.

cocking sawmills just before the new office building was installed in the 1980's

Back to the present day..

So in pondering, the ‘why?’ it seems the answer to the question is in the pudding (if only), we mean the proof.

It’s easy to be confident about a product that you can see, touch, hold, push, pull,  pick at, pass by and over years and years and actually experience. It’s not so easy to put your trust in the timber merchant flannel 🙂 but is easy to trust your own experience. We think that’s what happens. You end up ‘knowing’ Western Red Cedar cladding by the osmosis of everyday experiences.

That’s not the same for all of our timber species, especially when it comes to cladding, but we hope that’ll change in the near future as the UK Forest & Timber industry builds the credibility and the viability of homegrown timber and more people use more wood more often. #choosewood

But back to pondering Western Red Cedar… we can’t argue with our customers experience. It’s real.

Fresh sawn WRC is a superb timber cladding. It’s low cost, it’s easy to fit, it has short lead times, it has a long, low maintenance lifespan and it looks really, really good. Cedar cladding it is then!

More detail?

Ok. Well some quick fire facts are….  like the other redwoods, Wester Red Cedar is naturally durable & works well externally (yes, we know durability Class 3 – as tested on fenceposts!). It’s the lightest of the homegrown redwoods with the most open grain so it’s not very dense but it is stable, even as it dries & doesn’t need treatment to elongate it’s lifespan. If do you want to prevent silvering then Osmo UV Protection oil works well once the cladding has dried out a bit & WRC has a nice warm ‘woody’ colouring so this is a possibility!

The surface finish of fresh sawn cladding is a soft textured, fine sawn finish. Cleaner & tidier than rough sawn but it isn’t the smooth planed surface of dry machined timber.

fresh sawn western red cedar cladding showing fine sawn surface texture

In terms of sustainability, fresh sawn Cedar cladding has solid, traceable provenance i.e. good sources from well managed UK woodland, not to mention GiB licensed woodland. It’s sourced very locally so minimum transportation is required & it uses very low levels of machining so the carbon footprint for production is very low.

If embodied carbon is a factor in your project then fresh sawn timber cladding may be your new best friend…

that’s without mentioning the starting price, which for FS WRC F/E is very economical £13.05 +VAT /m2 !

What profile? Well try these options for size:

fresh sawn western red cedar time cladding prices

We hope this has whetted your appetite a little and that you’ll give that Cedar cladding a little stroke next time you see some 🙂

See you next time woodfans…


P.S. Before we go… When is cedar cladding not cedar cladding?

There’s lots of talk of ‘aroma’ or perfume of Cedar cladding.. and we think that people are mixing their species and that talk of aroma is misleading. We’re not saying WRC doesn’t smell lovely…  it does. It has a nice spicy, fresh, woody scent.

But Cedar of Lebanon has an incredible perfume. Syrupy sweet but strangely menthol, heavy and long lasting. it’s a very different aroma. It’s a very different tree. It certainly isn’t Western Red Cedar.

Cedar of Lebanon is the one that ‘people’ make balls out of to stop clothes eating moths. In the UK it’s usually an ornamental tree and not grown in numbers enough to use it for cladding – although it would be brilliant for it as it’s durable.

english cedar of lebanon boules stacked in the yard at cocking sawmills

Our Cedar of Lebanon is amazing, it makes the yard smell wonderful on a misty morning and we mill it and dry it for furniture makers who use it for drawer linings and wardrobe backs. Clever huh? But we don’t usually supply it for cladding.

Maybe one day….



See the current WRC stock

See the Cedar of Lebanon stock

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What our friends at Wikipedia are saying about Thuja Plicata https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuja_plicata

What America says about WRC http://www.wood-database.com/western-red-cedar/

Great video from Harper Adams University to help identify your WRC trees https://youtu.be/VVpvaLyNlHs

A great page about durability and cladding species by GreenSpec http://www.greenspec.co.uk/building-design/cladding-durability-quality/