Throughout the wood industry, specific standards have been set so that there is consistency in grading when Western Red Cedar, as well as other lumber, is manufactured; as well as bought and sold. For the general consumer, this can be somewhat confusing. Generally speaking, the higher the grade, the higher the price. So, when selecting and pricing lumber, it is important to know the grade of material being purchased and how it is best used. Alaska Yellow Cedar is also graded similarly.
Here is an overview of the characteristics that determine the grades of Western Red Cedar:
Clear Western Red Cedar
- Clear, Vertical Grain – This is the highest grade of Western Red Cedar and is commonly just referred to as “VG”. Vertical grain means that the growth rings are parallel to each other on the face of the board and the wood is sawn specifically to achieve that look. Pieces have a smooth face of decay-resistant heartwood and are free from growth characteristics that affect appearance. Pieces have excellent dimensional stability and the ability to hold finishes very well. Generally used in siding and paneling products, but also found in trim and other dimensional boards; this product is generally supplied Kiln Dried and is ready to accept paint or stain either prior to installation or after.
- Clear Heart – Includes only pieces with heartwood on the exposed face. Many of the pieces of Western Red Cedar are completely clear, others have minor imperfections that do not detract from their fine appearance. This product is also is generally supplied Kiln Dried and would be ready to accept paint or stain.
- A Clear – This is a fine appearance grade that allows only slightly more growth
characteristics than Clear Heart. It is commonly referred to as A&Btr. Pieces are of mixed grain. These mixed grain (vertical and flat) pieces are graded from the surfaced face. Typically sold with a percentage of B grade. A few small, sound tight knots or pin knots are allowed.
- C&Btr Clear – High quality lumber for use where appearance is important, but permits more numerous characteristics than Clear Heart or “A” Grades. In addition to interior and exterior trim, as well as exterior cladding, Western Red Cedar of this grade is also used for cabinetry, doors, windows and similar applications. 4 knots per 12’ of board is allowable.
- No 2 & Better – A grade offered generally for Western Red Cedar timbers and beams when the finest quality rough lumber is desired. The Cedar lumber is sound, well manufactured and its characteristics do not detract from the wood’s fine appearance.
- D & Better Clear – This grade permits larger and more numerous natural characteristics and is used where general utility is more important than appearance. Suitable for quality landscape structures and exposed beams. More pin knots and tight knots are allowed than within the other Clear Grades of Western Red Cedar and other natural characteristics which are widely accepted in the construction of outdoor structures, including arbors, pergolas, large trellises and porticos. Some pieces may require trimming to yield lengths for intended uses.
- Rustic – Generally a grade of Clear Western Red Cedar Bevel Siding or cladding, it is recommended for use as sidewall covering where the distinctive charm of a rustic saw textured appearance is desired. This grade allows limited characteristics that do not detract from serviceability. The grade may include pieces too thin to manufacture to standard sizes. Pieces may contain up to 4 sound, tight knots per 12’ of board and pin holes may be present.
Knotty Western Red Cedar
- Select Knotty – Knots and other natural features define the visual characteristics of the Western Red Cedar. All knots are sound and tight. Red Cedar Lumber products are available rough surfaced, kiln-dried or unseasoned and smooth or with a re-sawn texture. Some companies may supply this grade of Western Red Cedar with knots glued on the reverse face and there is typically a percentage of Quality Knotty included in an order.
- Quality Knotty – Similar to Select Knotty, but a few small scattered holes are allowed, the grain may be heavily raised and checks are not limited. Pieces must be serviceable, but 10% waste per board is allowed and is considered with the price of the material is set. Because of this, a product in this grade is sold “as is” and returns or exchanges are generally not allowed.
- Proprietary, Appearance or “Custom” Knotty – These products are graded to the manufacturer’s specifications to meet the intended end use. This is something that is commonly seen in the Cedar decking market as well as in large timbers for outdoor structures. Boards often represent good value for appearances and uses with no holes. Allowances do vary based on manufacturer set standards and pricing is set accordingly. Less expensive materials would allow more waste, knots and checking; while higher priced material would generally be of better quality. Depending on product, returns and exchanges may not be allowed.
- No. 2 and Better Structural – This grade is evaluated on structural characteristics, rather than appearance.
- Standard & Better Beams, Posts and Timbers – These items are intended for general construction use where serviceability is more important than appearance. No structural values are assigned. Most of the material will be box heart, meaning the timber is taken from the center of the Cedar tree and is less stable. There may be over sized or missing knots, rot pockets, wane on edges and corners and loose grain. Items may be supplied surfaced (S4S) or with a re-resawn texture.
Please note, these grading standards do not apply to Western Red Cedar Fencing. For information on grades of Fence materials, please click HERE
Before your next project, be sure to visit us! Our staff of Cedar Experts will be happy to discuss your individual project and make recommendations for the grade of Western Red Cedar to use, assist you with the correct amount of material to order, as well as provide you advice on installation.
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