Wood Timbers and Beams – Cracks and Checking

Nothing beats the look and feel of real wood products.  They bring warmth, beauty, and charm that just can’t be duplicated with synthetic building materials.  As natural wood lovers, when larger timbers and beams crack and “check” (as they always do), we believe it only adds to the special character and appeal that only natural wood can provide.

When a tree is harvested, about half of its weight is water.  Soon after, it begins to dry and shrink about twice as fast along the growth rings than across them.

Western Red Cedar Timbers and Beams

After it is milled, smaller lumber pieces will dry faster than wood manufactured into larger timbers, beams, or heavier boards.  As the outer layers of the bigger pieces dry and shrink, the center of the timbers will stay moist longer.  All these changes cause the lumber to move, check and crack.  The larger the timber or beam, the larger the cracks, as well.

This is NOT a bad thing!

Checking normally begins on the exterior surface of a timber and is not a structural concern.  In fact, because it releases the tension that has built up, it actually makes the wood stronger.

Western Red Cedar Timber Checks

All wood species will check differently.  Denser exotic woods check more readily than softer woods, such as Douglas Fir and Cedar. However, checks in harder woods are generally smaller.

Ways to help minimize checking:

  • Generally speaking, higher grades of materials will have more stability. Especially when choosing “free of heart center” instead of “boxed heart” grade (as applicable)
  • When building with Douglas Fir, and some other hardwood species, some larger timbers and beams can be kiln-dried.
  • Use proper acclimation techniques. Store your wood off the ground, out of direct sunlight, and allow the ends to breathe prior to installation
  • Seal cut ends of hardwood timbers immediately after cutting.

Please note all wood timbers and beams will continue to move; take on moisture, and shrink, especially those installed in exterior applications.  Checking on large timbers and beams, in many cases, does not occur until well after it is installed.  On a loose rule of thumb, softwood timbers (such as Cedar and Doug Fir) dry about 1” per year.  This means it can take 6 years for a 12×12” beam to reach equilibrium to its surroundings, and there will be movement and change throughout the whole process.

Large Western Red Cedar timbers and beams crate a covered portico and stylish pergola

                  Photo and craftsmanship by Minnesota Pergola

Our team of Wood Building Material Specialists are happy to discuss options on timbers and beams with you that are grown in the Pacific Northwest, including Western Red Cedar, Alaska Yellow Cedar, and Douglas Fir.

We ship nationwide!

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington WA

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

Custom Cedar Pergola

We supplied the full, rough sawn appearance grade Western Red Cedar 4×6″, 8×8″, and 8×12″s for this custom Cedar Pergola and Dexperts of Bellingham, WA, provided the design, craftsmanship, and brawn to get the job done!  Before installation, the cedar beams were given a coat of Ultra Premium Red Label Penofin “Sable”.

Ultra Premium Red Label Penofin exterior wood stain is made from a Brazilian Rosewood Oil base, which penetrates deeply to protect and nourish the wood’s fibers.  With extra protection against mildew and pigments that provide ultraviolet protection against fading, Ultra Premium Red Label Penofin will help preserve and give longer life to any outdoor wood project.

Easy to apply, simple to maintain, with pigments that won’t fade, turn chalky or wash off.

Western Red Cedar Pergola

Western Red Cedar Pergola stained with Penofin penetration oil

With shipments of cedar lumber, siding, shingles, shakes, timbers, and other specialty building materials leaving our warehouse daily to all over the US, our customers value the quality of our products and our honest business practices, combined with excellent customer service and superior product knowledge.  Before your next project, be sure to visit us!

We provide delivery service throughout northwest Washington, including the San Juan Islands, and ship nationwide!

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington WA

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

Custom Cut Western Red Cedar for Outdoor Cross

Western Red Cedar is an ideal wood choice for outdoor structures due to its natural resistance to rot and decay, and workability.  Grown natively in the Pacific Northwest, where Cedar Country Lumber is located, we can source top-quality Cedar timbers and beams in nearly any size and length, including beams over 20′ long, and ship them directly to consumers anywhere in the US.

Likely one of the most photographed projects we have had the pleasure of participating in, we provided the full dimension, 8×12″ Western Red Cedar timbers for this cross several years ago.  Located in Centerport, NY, on the north shore of Long Island, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs R.C. Church was kind enough to send us these photos, along with a note from Father John.

Tom,

Great stories with the cross – the man who put it together, a master carpenter, builds high-end houses and said it was the most meaningful thing he has ever done!! So many working on it – hope the pictures capture the meaning.”  Father John

Western Red Cedar Timbers used for exterior crucifix

Full dimensional Western Red Cedar was used for this outdoor crucifix on Long Island

Check out more photos of this project on Facebook and Instagram!

Before your next project, be sure to visit us! We ship nationwide!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington WA

Appearance Grade Kiln Dried Douglas Fir Timbers and Beams

Highly prized for its strength, durability, and fine appearance, we offer a full line of kiln-dried Douglas Fir appearance grade timbers and beams.  Re-sawn or surfaced, our Doug Fir timbers are dried in computer-controlled, state-of-the-art, conventional kilns using low-pressure steam.  This helps to minimize twisting, cupping, and checking.

Prized for its strength and durability, Douglas Fir timbers and beams are ideal for interior or exterior use

Great for interior or exterior use, including timber framing, post, and beam construction, as well as for adding architectural details, our Douglas Fir timbers are produced from one of the strongest and most durable softwoods and will readily accept paint, stains, and other finishes beautifully.

This chart shows the durability, strength and hardness of Douglas Fir compared to other Fir and North American grown softwoods

Our Appearance grade Doug Fir Timbers and Beams are available in a wide variety of sizes and finishes including:

  • 3×4″ through 3×14″
  • 4×4″ through 4×16″
  • 6×6″ through 6×16″
  • 8×8″ through 8×16″
  • 10×10″ through 10×16″
  • 12×12″
  • Custom Dimensions
  • Rough, Surfaced on All Four Sides (S4S) & Re-sawn Rough
  • 8-20′, 24′, 26′ & 32′
  • Can quote up to 40′
  • All prices subject to availability

Our Douglas Fir beams and timbers are ideal for timber framing and other outdoor structures

Our sales team would be happy to discuss your Doug Fir timber and beam needs.  So, before your next project, be sure to visit us!  We ship nationwide!

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington WA

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright

While we have not had the pleasure of supplying materials to this Frank Lloyd Wright historic property, we have supplied both Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar building materials, including full dimension lumber and beams, as well as decking, to other Frank Lloyd Wright properties for historic restoration.

Built in 1937 by Frank Lloyd Wright, his wife, and students of his architecture school outside Scottsdale, Arizona, Wright constructed Taliesin West largely of “desert masonry,” which consisted of local rock and stone set in wood forms and bound by a mixture of cement and desert sand.

Taliesin West Courtyard

Over the years, Taliesin West was continually worked on an improved and many other buildings were built, including a drafting studio, dining facilities, three theaters, a workshop, Wright’s office and private living quarters, and residences for apprentices and staff. Each building is connected through a series of walkways, terraces, pools, and gardens.

picture view at Taliesin West

Full Dimension Wood Beams at Taliesin West

Originally constructed from redwood, the exterior beams have been replaced by full dimension Douglas Fir beams and timbers with steel supports.

Originally constructed from Redwood, the exterior wood beams at Taliesin West were replaced with Doug Fir Beams

fully dimensional Douglas Fir beams used for historic renovation at Taliesin West

Today, Taliesin West is the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.  Taliesin West is open to the public and offers a broad range of tours.  We hope you have enjoyed our photos of our recent trip there.

Specializing in high-quality building materials, including dimensional lumber, siding, exterior cladding, shingles, shakes, timbers, and more, including custom sawing and patterns, we can help with historical restorations, as well as other unique custom building projects.  Because we are located in the heart of Cedar Country, the only place in the world where Western Red Cedar and Alaska Yellow Cedar is grown, we can offer superior quality with exceptional pricing. Whatever you are looking for, we can find a mill that manufactures it or have it custom milled.

Before your next project, be sure to visit us!  We ship nationwide!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington, WA  98233

Cedar Pergola for Camp Orkila

Prized for large outdoor structures, including pergolas, gazebos, and trellises, due to its workability and natural resistance to rot and decay, Western Red Cedar will provide years of carefree service.   It is also very lightweight, with unparalleled beauty.

Pergola made from Full, Rough Sawn Appearance Western Red Cedar

Recently, we were contacted by Bellingham Bay Builders to provide Full, Rough Sawn Appearance Western Red Cedar timbers for a structure they wanted to build for Camp Orkila.  Located on beautiful Orcas Island, Camp Orkila is committed to promoting healthy living and fostering social responsibility in our youth.

Please enjoy these photos of the crew constructing Camp Orkila’s new outdoor Western Red Cedar pergola.

Western Red Cedar is the ideal choice for outdoor structures

Red cedar beams being constructed into an outdoor pergola

Due to the natural properties of Western Red Cedar, fasteners should be corrosion resistant.  We recommend using stainless steel, aluminum, or hot-dipped galvanized fasteners when installing Western Red Cedar.

Western Red Cedar Timbers being constructed into a beautiful pergola

Full, Rough Sawn Appearance Western Red Cedar Timbers

Western Red Cedar PergolaPhotos and craftsmanship by Bellingham Bay Builders

Before your next project, be sure to visit us!  We ship nationwide and provide delivery Skagit, Island, Whatcom, and San Juan counties; and beyond!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington, WA 98233

360.757.6343

Western Red Cedar Table Arbor ~ DIY

Perfect for small spaces when a massive Cedar Pergola would be overwhelming, or as in this case, to add lighting above an outdoor picnic table, this Western Red Cedar Table Arbor is a great DIY project.  Easy to assemble, and not a lot of special tools are required.

We used a 5’ Western Red Cedar picnic table we already own and made the table arbor appropriate for its size.  We modified the existing table by cutting 4” openings in the tabletop just outside where the table legs are to allow the table arbor to be secured to the picnic table legs, rather than the tabletop for more security and stability.

Material List

  • 2 ea 6’ 4×4” Appearance Cedar Posts
  • 4 ea 4’ 2×6” Knotty Cedar Boards
  • 4 ea 6’ 2×4” Knotty Cedar Boards
  • 8 ea 4’ 2×2” Clear Cedar Boards
  • 16 ea 6” Timberloc Screws
  • 8 ea 4” Timberloc Screws
  • 36 ea 3” Stainless Steel Screws

Tools Needed

  • Tape Measure
  • Cordless Drill & Bits
  • Chop (or Skill) Saw
  • Level

After the openings are cut through the tabletop of the picnic table, we squared the ends up on the 4×4’s, leaving one end on each flat (for the top of the table arbor) and angled the other end on each to add interest.  We attached the first post to an existing table leg using four of the 6” Timberloc screws about a foot down onto the table leg.   To ensure the two posts will be even in height, before securing the second one, use the level to determine the second post’s correct placement.  Attach with four 6” Timberloc screws.

For ease of construction, the next portion of the frame is built on the tabletop around the 4×4’s but not secured to the 4×4’s.  We evened up the ends and angle cut the 2×6’s and placed them on either side of the 4×4 post, then laid out the 2×4’s with even spacing and secured the 2×4’s (after we cut the angles on the end) on top of them using 6” Timberloc screws through the 2×4’s into the 2×6’s.  Once the frame is assembled, around the 4×4’s, lift it up and secure it to the top of the 4×4’s.  Be sure to use the level to check the height on each end before securing each 2×6 to the 4×4’s with two 4” Timberloc screws on each side of the 4×4.  Each post will have a total of four 4″ Timberloc screws in it to secure the frame to the top.

Next, we squared up the ends of the 2×2’s and cut each into the desired angle, spaced them evenly on top of the 2×4’s.  We used 3” Stainless Steel screws to secure the 2×2’s onto the 2×4’s.  (p.s. cats are not very helpful for this portion of the job)

how to build a table top arbor out of western red cedar

Solar-powered garden lights (3 sets) were secured to the table arbor using stainless steel staples.  This will add lighting to the table after the sun goes down.  (cats are not very helpful with this portion of the project, either)

Attaching solar string lights to a Western Red Cedar Picnic Table Arbor

How to build a table top arbor over a picnic table

The finished product ready for the next party!

To learn more about using the correct fasteners for this project and your other Western Red Cedar outdoor projects, please find more information by reading our blog post on this subject by clicking HERE.  

Western Red Cedar table top arbor

Before your next project, be sure to visit us!  We ship nationwide!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

1.360.757.6343

950 B Fountain Street, Burlington, WA

Western Red Cedar Timbers and Beams

Western Red Cedar is a solid choice for interior and exterior applications where strength, appearance, and serviceability are of utmost importance.

With its straight grain and uniform texture, Western Red Cedar has natural properties that provide greater resistance to insect attack and rot, and decay than many other kinds of wood. And, because it is free of pitch and resin, it readily accepts a wide variety of finishes, including paint.

Because Cedar Country is located in the Pacific Northwest’s heart, the only place in the world where Western Red Cedar is grown, we have access to top-quality material in extremely long lengths and large dimensions.

We shipped these beautiful 8×12″ by 32′ beautiful Western Red Cedar timbers to a customer in Kentucky. Even with shipping, the pricing, not to mention quality, is far superior to any our customer could find in his local market.

8×12″ by 32′ Western Red Cedar timbers

Another impressive project is this stunning outdoor space created by using 8×16” x 32’, 8×8″ and 4×4″ Full, Rough Sawn Appearance Western Red Cedar Timbers and Beams that we supplied to a customer on Long Island in New York. The craftsmanship on this project is truly amazing!

32' Western Red Cedar Timbers

Western Red Cedar Beams

With practically every size and dimension available, our Western Red Cedar Timbers and Beams are normally supplied “green”.  And while most timbers are rough cut, you also do have the option of having them surfaced on all four sides to produce a smooth, uniform appearance, if desired.

When the appearance of the highest quality Western Red Cedar is desired, Timbers that have been graded as “Clear” are most often chosen.  Clear Cedar Timbers are suitable for high-quality landscape structures and exposed posts and beams in heavy timber construction.  This grade is produced without cut-outs, and the natural characteristics do not detract from the wood’s fine appearance.

Clear Grade Western Red Cedar Beams

Clear Grade Western Red Cedar Beams

Most often, Appearance Knotty grade Timbers are chosen.  Appearance Timbers and Beams represent good value for appearance end uses.  These timbers contain no large holes or pitch pockets and have very limited wane.  Appearance Timbers are suitable for almost any outdoor structure, entryways, and a wide variety of other uses.  Large knots that do not fall out are present.

Appearance Grade Western Red Cedar Timbers

Appearance Grade Western Red Cedar Timbers

In some instances, when strength or serviceability is more important than appearance, we can provide Structural or “Standard” Beams and Timbers.  Structural Timbers are intended for engineered application where strength is more important than appearance, while “Standard” graded timbers are intended for general construction purposes where serviceability is more important than appearance. No structural values are assigned to “Standard” Timbers.

As expected, pricing on our Timbers is directly related to the Grade of Timber chosen, as well as size.  Timbers in length over 20’ can be considerably more costly per lineal foot than those under 20’, as are Timbers in width over 12″.

Highly sought after because of the stunning natural coloring array, our Western Red Cedar Timbers will range in color from light yellow to a deep, rich dark brown-red.   Because our timbers are made from natural wood and each piece is beautifully unique, we are not able to select timbers based on color to fill orders.

Various Colors of Western Red Cedar Timbers

The Color of Western Red Cedar Varies

When your Western Red Cedar Timbers arrive at your job site, proper storage is of utmost importance to avoid exposing the cedar to UV or moisture.  Your Timbers should be kept covered and banded together, as well as elevated off the ground until you are ready to begin installation.

Large Timbers and Beams will require fasteners larger than nails.  Bolts, lag screws, split rings, and shear plates, as well as custom-made hardware, are commonly used.  All fasteners should be corrosion resistant or suitably coated to prevent corrosion and staining and rated for structural use (as necessary).   Because the cost of fasteners and other hardware can be significant when building large structures, and in some instances challenging to find, they should be secured before your Timbers arrive.

Western Red Cedar Timbers require large connectors

Before Your Next Project, Be Sure To Visit Us!

We Ship Nationwide!

www.CedarCountryLumber.com

Toll-Free 866.757.6343