Western Red, Incense, Port Orford and Alaskan Yellow cedars are grouped together for similar performance properties. The heartwood of these species is naturally durable against the harsh effects of exposure to the elements. They are favorites for decks, siding, planters, fences, and other outdoor amenities such as screened porches, greenhouses, pool-side structures, arbors, and trellises. The sapwood of these species also pressure treats well with preservatives for added durability.
Grades for cedar products can be very confusing to the uninitiated because every purveyor seems to offer their own grades. However, there are recognized standard and special grades for cedar products. It is important for designers and specifiers to learn the difference between ALSC-recognized grades (defined by ALSC-accredited agencies), the proprietary grades defined through buyer-seller agreements, and marketing names used primarily for promotional purposes.
Western Red Cedar is the largest and most abundant of all cedars in managed forests. It is non-resinous and has a strong spicy scent. Heartwood varies from dark reddish brown to a pinkish color and has excellent weather-resistant properties. Sapwood is light yellow. One of the lightest in weight of the commercially important softwoods, it is often used for houseboats. It is valued for paneling, decks, and greenhouses as well as for siding, posts, fencing, shingles and shakes.
Incense Cedar has a famously spicy scent and is widely available. Heartwood is light brown, frequently tinged with red and is extremely durable. A highly workable wood, it machines and weathers well. Used outdoors for amenities and landscaping applications, it is also used for paneling, chests, louvers and pencils.
Port Orford Cedar is limited in supply and availability. It grows only in a small area of southern Oregon and northern California, and very limited amounts are harvested from private lands and made available, usually only by request. It is priced accordingly. It has a pungent, ginger-like scent, is easily worked, and polishes well. In Japan, it is sometimes substituted for Hinoki when appearance is critical. It is used for small items such as woodenware, novelties and toys.
Alaskan (Yellow) Cedar is one of the most beautiful of America’s durable softwoods and is sometimes overlooked in favor of more publicized species. However, it is reasonably abundant from Alaska and Canada. It has a fine texture and straight grain, and its nearly yellow color silvers exquisitely upon exposure. Strongly aromatic, it is moderately strong and hard. It is used where weather resistance, stability and workability are needed: bleachers, park benches, exterior cabinet work, stage construction, and marine and commercial landscape installations.