Originally created 10/30/04

Western red cedar preferred wood in homes

If there's a better wood than western red cedar on, in and around houses, the Western Red Cedar Lumber Assocation doesn't know about it. For that matter, there's no faux-wood that outperforms cedar, either.

The association is staking a claim to western red cedar as the homeowner choice for decorative wood that looks good, lasts a long time, and is a renewable resource.

"Consumers still want cedar inside and out in their homes," says Peter Lang, general manager of WRCLA. "We don't see that changing anytime soon."

Cedar differs from kindred softwoods in a number of ways. Notably, it is "dimensionally stable," according to Lang, because cedar products tend to lay flat and stay straight with less chance to swell, warp or twist. Cedar is also resin-free, meaning it more readily accepts paints and stains than other types of woods.

The technical jargon isn't lost on consumers who nevertheless buy cedar because it's pretty. Lang points to consumer research that still identifies cedar as a plus whenever homeowners want wood with a natural warmth and luster.

One of the knocks against wood was deterioration over time. Lang says cedar has a natural resistance to rot and decay, owing to natural compounds called "thujaplicins" the trees have acquired in the millenniums of growth in the moist and damp Pacific Northwest. Thus, cedar needs no chemical preservatives to ward off moisture. Chemical protectants, including the now-banned CCA (chromated copper arsenate), are typically necessary in other woods.

This resistance helps cedar hold its own against the latest challenger to its reign as king of decks: composites made of plastic and wood chips. The WRCLA touts cedar as no more troublesome to maintain than other decking competitors, wood or not.

The association says composite decks are "prime candidates for mold and mildew". The group also says composites show wear from traffic patterns and are susceptible to stains concerns of a lesser magnitude with cedar. Cedar also does not get as hot underfoot in searing summer temperatures as composite planks.

The absence of chemicals is an important factor during disposal; cedar will deteriorate completely whereas composite planks and residue will stay intact in landfills for years to come.

Cedar also has a leg up over composites when it comes to energy and renewable resources, according to Lang. Cedar is fast-growing, and with America growing 30 percent more wood than it uses each year, is a resource that can be replanted and harvested indefinitely. Lang says cedar requires less energy to harvest and get to market than is used to prepare plastic composites.

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