Cedar Series: A Guide To Western Red Cedar

There's so much to know when it comes to working with cedar, and no better person to turn to than our friend Paul "Mr. Cedar" Mackie. Here's a recap of our interview series with Paul and a shortlist of our favorite episodes.

Jim Coshow


There are few wood species with such a devoted following as western red cedar—and for good reason. It’s naturally durable and stable, doesn’t attract insects, and like other wood products, is more environmentally friendly due to its ability to offset greenhouse gases by storing carbon. Luckily for us in the Pacific Northwest, western red cedar is native to regional forests, with the vast majority of it located within a 500-mile distance.

While western red cedar grows up and down the northwest coast and in parts of Idaho and Alaska, you won’t find a cedar forest. One of cedar's most interesting characteristics is that it’s an incidental species, meaning that cedar trees grow intermixed within forests of taller species like Douglas fir. And while the supply of cedar (along with many lumber products) has been impacted due to COVID-19 and forest fires, continued innovation in engineered wood products and sustainable forestry practices have helped create a reasonably consistent supply over the past couple of decades.

When it comes to western red cedar, there’s no one we trust more than Paul Mackie, who’s known around the industry as “Mr. Cedar.” Paul has been with the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association—known as “the voice of the cedar industry”—for more than two decades, representing quality cedar producers and educating the industry on all things cedar.

In our cedar series, we sat down with Paul to learn what he knows about cedar, how to work with it, and best practices when using it. We suggest starting with the five episodes highlighted below. To check out the rest of the series, you can find a full list of episodes at the bottom of this page.

Part 5: How Western Red Cedar Is Graded

Because western red cedar is mainly used for “appearance applications” (meaning, applications where strength is not a primary concern and high-strength value is not required), it’s evaluated for different factors than structural lumber would be. In this video, Paul explains the cedar grading system.

Part 6: How To Treat and Stain Western Red Cedar

Western red cedar is a naturally durable product, and it contains water-soluble extractives, sometimes called tannins. Tannins are tobacco-juice brown in color, and they can sometimes migrate to the surface of the wood, causing “tannin bleed.” In this interview, Paul shares best practices for treating and staining cedar to avoid tannin bleed and maintain a consistent exterior color.

Part 7: What Are the Best Fasteners for Installing Western Red Cedar?

Choosing the right fastener is key to creating something that lasts—and it’s important to understand which fasteners are safe to use and which are more susceptible to deterioration over time. This video goes over the best fasteners to use when installing western red cedar—and which ones to avoid.

Part 10: What Are the Best Practices When Installing Western Red Cedar Siding or Cladding?

Western red cedar is a great material choice for exterior siding—but there are do's and don'ts to be aware of before you embark on a project. In this episode, Paul walks us through his recommendations and best practices for installing cedar siding (also known as cladding).

Part 13: Best Practices for Staining and Finishing Cedar Decking

You have a lot of options when it comes to staining and finishing cedar decking—including applying nothing at all. In the final installment of our cedar series, Paul goes through the pros and cons of different staining and finishing techniques.

We hope you learn something new from these videos—and to learn more, check out the rest of the episodes in the series:

Part 1: What Is Western Red Cedar?
Part 2: What Is the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association?
Part 3: What Are the Best Uses for Western Red Cedar?
Part 4: What's the Difference Between Kiln-Dried and Air-Dried Western Red Cedar?
Part 5: How Western Red Cedar Is Graded
Part 6: How To Treat and Stain Western Red Cedar
Part 7: What Are the Best Fasteners for Installing Western Red Cedar?
Part 8: What Are the Benefits of Using Western Red Cedar for Trim or Siding?
Part 9: How To Maintain Western Red Cedar Siding and Trim
Part 10: What Are the Best Practices When Installing Western Red Cedar Siding or Cladding?
Part 11: What You Should Know About Finger-Jointed Western Red Cedar
Part 12: Best Practices for Building a Western Red Cedar Fence
Part 13: Best Practices for Staining and Finishing Cedar Decking

Dunn Solutions is here to offer you trusted advice and industry tips 24/7. For more helpful information about lumber materials, check out some of our most recent articles on working with wood: The challenges of pressure-treating engineered wood products, how to maintain the warranty of pressure-treated lumber, and glulam beam basics.