Choose the Right Cedar Siding for Your Home

Image credit: PNWRA/Flickr Creative Commons
Image credit: PNWRA/Flickr Creative Commons

If you are in the market for new siding and live in the Lower Mainland, cedar siding makes sense. It’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye, decay resistant, long lasting and well-suited to the Pacific Northwest climate. Is red cedar better than white cedar? Should you go with shingles or planks? Here are helpful aspects to consider when choosing the right cedar siding for your home.

Is It Really Cedar?

“Pretend” cedar: Most homeowners looking for cedar siding equate Western Red Cedar with the siding material they have in mind. Actually, cedar siding can refer to several different woods species that, while they might look like the real thing, aren’t related to the cedar family at all. For example, products manufactured from Aromatic Cedar are from the juniper tree, while siding material labeled Port Orford Cedar is a variety of cypress.

Red cedar: What makes Western Red Cedar so appealing as a siding material is its grain; it’s straight, not prone to splitting, and resists swelling. Red cedar grows taller and is somewhat stronger than white cedar. When stained, its rich grain pattern becomes even more apparent. Age gives red cedar its rot-resistant chemical characteristic: the older the tree at the time of harvest, the more decay resistant the wood will be. Western Red Cedar typically grows in the western half of North America.

White cedar: Eastern White Cedar, found in the eastern part of North America, is a “softer” wood than Western Red Cedar. It also contains rot and insect resist oils. It is shorter, growing to an average height of 50 feet rather up to 200 feet like the red cedar. When left to weather naturally, white cedar turns a range of silver-green to gray-blue tones. It is the popular siding material choice for cedar shingles.

Cedar Siding Styles

Cedar siding is available in a wide range of styles and can complement most house designs, from ultra modern to Craftsman to formal traditional. When deciding on a cedar siding style for your home take into account house type, texture and the look you want to achieve – rustic, sophisticated, tailored or urban. Popular cedar siding styles include:

  • lap siding – panels or boards overlap and are positioned horizontally
  • board and batten siding – battens or strips of wood are attached to cedar planks; hung vertically for maximum effect
  • wood strip siding – cedar planks arranged either vertically or horizontally; varying widths from narrow to wide
  • bevel siding – cut thicker at one end and hung horizontally
  • tongue-and-groove siding – panels are fitted edge to edge; can be hung diagonally, vertically or horizontally
  • shakes/shingles – while they can appear to be the same, cedar shakes are typically thicker than cedar shingles

Making the Grade

A certified lumber grading agency such as the West Coast Lumber Inspection Bureau (WCLIB) inspects and grades boards individually. Clear grades are visually clear, with no obvious inclusions – natural occurrences in wood such as knots, raised grains or cracks. Knotty grades haves more inclusions. Propriety grades are typically high end, produced by mills under their own brand names. Each grade of cedar has its own price range, reflecting the cost of its quality and how it was produced. White cedar is generally less expensive than red cedar.