According to a recent article which appeared on Architects Journal, Western red cedar is a superb wood product, and can be fashioned into tough trusses and durable cedar shakesiding. However, the quality of the wood is only as good as the lumber mills that harvest and process these trees. In a forum held by the Western Red Cedar Export Association (WRCEA) last year, Patrick Cooper of Canada Wood UK discussed some of the challenges that come with harvesting Western red cedar.
A fully-matured Western red cedar tree, reaching between 40 to 60 meters high, can yield as much as 450 cubic meters of timber. Western red cedar thrives in the northwestern coast of North America, running from the northern edges of California all the way up to British Columbia. A number of these trees have also been recorded around the Idaho Panhandle.
Western red cedar trees thrive in soil with a pH between 5.5 and 8.5. Cooper discussed the considerable effort involved in harvesting Western red cedar trees. Moreover, the lumber industry has to use the correct equipment due to concerns of environmental damage. An excerpt from the Architects Journal article states that:
Felled trees are extracted by truck or by helicopter, to reduce the risk of erosion and loss of habitat....the expense of harvesting makes it especially important that every wood chip is used, with local applications including heating the sawmill.
The acidity of western red (pH’s have been measured as low as 3.5) requires all fixings used to be stainless steel.
The availability of quality cedar wood siding will also depend on the number of trees that can be harvested every year. WRCEA says that less than one percent of the total stock of Western red cedar is harvested every year. Clearcut harvesting has already been phased out in the Western red cedar forests along Canada's west coast in favor of variable retention, which keeps some flora and fauna intact for forest preservation.
While Western red cedar is known for its natural protective oils, Cooper says that the lumber is still treated because untreated lumber will eventually turn gray. After a bit of cutting and coating, big red cedar logs eventually yield plenty of shingle siding and shakes for homes and other structures. Reputable suppliers like WoodRoof.com then sell these products to homeowners, contractors, resellers, and builders.
(Info from The ins and outs of Western Red Cedar; Architects Journal)