Western Red and Northern White Cedar

298014_14Western Red Cedar and Northern White Cedar are coniferous members of the Cypress family. However, many people know Western Red Cedar for its rustic, resilient furniture. Others may know cedar as the sauna wood which withstands a lot of humidity and heat.

Western red cedar grows in the Pacific North West of the U.S. The Northern white cedar grows in Eastern-Southeastern Canada and adjacent states of New England and the Great Lakes region west to Minnesota. Cedar trees grow mainly in rocky, wet areas where hardwood trees such as oaks and maples can’t grow. Cedar is desirable in waterfront areas because it contains no chemicals that can contaminate the water like pressure treated wood can.

Red western cedar has twice the stability of most softwoods due to its low density and shrinkage factors. It produces long, lightweight lengths of timber with a fine straight grain and uniform texture. This makes it easy to cut, saw and nail with common tools. It also can be planed to a smooth surface or machined to any pattern. It will hold glue bonds and also provides a good base for many types of paints and stains since it lacks pitch and resin.

Northern White Cedar is the lightest of any commercial wood. It is even-grained and finely textured. The heartwood is resistant to decay and subterranean termites. It is easy to work, glues well and holds paint well. Northern white cedar also experiences little dimensional change.

Both cedars are insect and rot resistant because of oils they naturally contain. Cedar is also valued for its distinct aroma as its pungent aromatic oils are believed to discourage moth and carpet beetle larvae infestations. All of these factors make it the premier choice for either interior or exterior home use. Cedar wood has been primarily used to make rustic fencing and posts, but can also be used for cabin logs, lumber, poles, shingles and other specialty type products. Cedar is a natural wood for longevity and an excellent wood choice for various applications. Cedar’s natural resistance to moisture, decay and insect infestations makes it more resilient for outdoor projects. Properly finished cedar will last for decades, even in harsh environments.

Think beautiful cedar for your next wood project.

My cedar outdoor project is done, now what?

Ron StarrattHow? When? and Why? Should I protect my cedar project are great questions that are repeatedly brought up when cedar is the choice made for your project. Cedar wood only needs to sit before staining if it is still holding sap moisture, if it is then one season is fine to sit. The how? Every paint and stain manufacturer has their own set of rules when it comes to using their products. Each of them starts with opening the pores of the wood before you start in order for the product to penetrate properly and more evenly. You can use sandpaper with a grit between 80 and 100, which is medium grit, to lightly sand the cedar and open the pores. Just to sum it up. Prep work, prep work, prep work! On to the when? Spring or Fall are ideal times to stain your cedar because the heat of Summer can cause most products to flash dry, not letting the product do its job. Moisture levels can be a bit of a nuisance in the Spring so be prepared to be a little bit of a meteorologist. It is suggested to stain or protect your cedar every 2 years….but you will be able to tell when it is needed (more often in high traffic areas). The Why? A better question would be “what do I want the cedar project to look like in a years time?” The answers to that are: A beautiful grey patina or like the day you built it. Keep in mind that any time you stain or seal a cedar project you will block the natural cedar smell but not 100%. The colour and type of products are completely up to your personal preferences.

Kiln dried or Green lumber, what is the difference?

Kiln dried lumber is put into a large oven and force dried down to approximately 12% moisture. Green lumber is lumber still holding sap moisture from the field. That could be a moisture level of 20-30% moisture or greater depending on where it came from. This type of question should come up when attempting a project with any joins, 45 degree cuts and miter cuts. The problem being when the wood is holding moisture it will have a tendency to shrink and create gaps in your joins and miters. This will create water penetration points and cut down the longevity of your project.

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Which Fasteners Do I use?

Another big question in the cedar world is. What type of fasteners do I use with cedar.
A.) Regular zinc coated screws.
B.) Hot dip galvanized steel.
C.) Epoxy or porcelain coated.
D.) Stainless steel screws.

Answers;
If you chose (A) you would have terrible blackening in the cedar around the screw head and eventual failure of the screw itself.
If you chose (B) you would also have blackening of the cedar around the fastener but the galvanized coating would keep it from rotting through.
If you chose (C) you would only have blackening where the coating failed and the screw would stay true as long as the barrier stayed true.
If you chose (D) you have made the right choice. No blackening of the wood and no rotting of the metal of any kind. It is pretty self explanatory that stainless steel is the only choice.

Choosing an under mount fastening system is another way of adding longevity to your deck project. This will eliminate any surface water penetration point.

Clear or STK Cedar?

When starting an outdoor project choosing cedar is your first step in the right direction. Choosing the right cedar for the job should be your second. You should be asking yourself questions like; what look do I want for my home? Is my décor rustic or more contemporary? Do I want clear or STK (select tight knot)? The obvious differences being looks and price. When thinking of looks you have two choices. Clean and contemporary which you would use the clear cedar for or a rustic charm that STK is more suited for. When deciding between these be aware that the price between clear and knotty cedar is double. In some cases more, depending on the size of the dimension needed. Clear is the more sought after wood of the tree and there is less of it, coming from the center of the trunk. The price will reflect this. Both choices are a fragrant and durable choice for any outdoor project.
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Iron Stain on Wood

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Iron stain, an unsightly blue–black or gray discoloration, can occur on nearly all woods. Oak, redwood, cypress, and cedar are particularly prone to iron stain because these woods contain large amounts of tannin-like extractives. The discoloration is caused by a chemical reaction between extractives in the wood and iron in steel products, such as nails, screws, and other fasteners and appendages. This often occurs the first morning after rain or dew, when water enables the extractives and iron to meet and react. For hundreds of years, ink was made by mixing tannin and iron in solution, where the reaction takes place instantly.

If the wood is kept dry (indoors), no discoloration will occur. Steel used in contact with wood must not corrode. This can be accomplished by using stainless steel or by coating the steel.

Coatings for fasteners, such as galvanizing (zinc) or ceramic coatings, give a wide range of performance. Shiny galvanized fasteners are electroplated with zinc and have the thinnest coating. Dull-gray galvanized fasteners are mechanically coated and can last longer than electroplated fasteners, but the zinc coating contains iron and staining is likely. Hot-dipped (double-dipped) galvanized fasteners, recognized by their “globby” appearance, give the longest protection to the steel; however, the zinc globs can clog the head of a screw, making it difficult to use. Therefore, stainless steel is the best choice for fasteners, particularly screws.

Problems have been associated with traces of iron left on wood from cutting or slicing; cleaning the surface with steel wool, wire brushes, or iron tools; using finishes stored in rusty containers; and using iron containing or iron contaminated finishes. Iron dust from metalworking and even plant fertilizers can be sources of iron. Urine on wood floors will hasten the reaction of iron and wood extractives.

A simple test can determine if wood discoloration is caused by iron: Apply a saturated solution of oxalic acid or sodium hydrogen fluoride (NaHF2, sodium bifluoride) in water to the stained wood surface. If the solution removes the stain, then iron is present on the wood. If the solution does not remove the stain, apply bleach to the stained area. If bleach removes the stain, the discoloration was probably caused by mildew. The appearances of discolorations caused by iron and mildew are distinctly different. After looking at examples of both, many people can identify them by sight.

Discoloration can occur long after finishing if the finish repels water. When water reaches the iron (possibly from the back side), discoloration appears. In this instance, the finish must be removed to access the discoloration, to test it, and to treat it.

If the iron stain is spotty, try viewing the stained wood under a 40× microscope. “Chunky” discoloration is usually a result of molten metal and looks like clinkers from a grinding operation. Particles that resemble slivers or flakes could be from steel wool. An even discoloration throughout the stain indicates that the iron was in solution when it contaminated the wood, probably in a contaminated finish.

Contaminating wood is easy. For example, a wood processor routinely treated wood with a solution of oxalic acid to prevent iron staining, not realizing that the treatment tank itself contained iron, which contaminated the wood. Merely striking wood with a hammer can cause iron stain on some wood. (Covering the head of the hammer when nailing redwood and western redcedar siding is a good idea.)

Iron staining can be removed, at least temporarily. Oxalic acid reacts with iron tannates to form a colorless chemical complex. After treating wood with oxalic acid, thoroughly wash the surface with fresh, warm water to remove excess acid. If all sources of iron are not removed or protected from corrosion, staining will occur again. In other words, oxalic acid treatment is only a temporary solution if iron remains on the wood. In time, oxalic acid breaks down with exposure to sunlight, and if wetted, discoloration occurs.

Aluminum contamination produces a similar stain, although it is usually less dark. Aluminum stain is removed in the same way but with greater difficulty.

Note:
 Oxalic acid is usually available at paint supply stores labeled as wood bleach (check ingredients). Always apply a saturated solution, or at least 5% by weight. For oak, a chemical reaction between oxalic acid and extractives can leave a pink stain if the solution is left on the wood too long. Sodium bifluoride appears to not break down with exposure to sunlight and so may be a better choice if rinsing is not practical; start with a 5% solution.

Caution:
 Use extreme caution when using oxalic acid or sodium bifluoride. Irritation and burns of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes can occur, and ingestion of a few grams can be fatal. Sodium bifluoride (which will dissolve glass) is available only to professionals in retail quantities from Aldrich Chemical (800–558–9160) and will be shipped only to a school or business.

Mark Knaebe
USDA Forest Service
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison WI 53726 2398
For more information, consult our website http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us

Why choose cedar for my deck?

As we look out our doors and see our gardens coming alive, we begin to envision the nice weather and spending more time outdoors.  It is this time of year that many people begin to think about building, replacing or fixing their decks.  Nothing says summer like cool, refreshing drinks outside on our decks with family and friends.  When you are planning your new deck or maybe siding your home, think cedar.
 Why choose cedar over other types of exterior wood choices?  If you listed the pros for each of the wood types you would find that cedar is the most well rounded and stable choice.  Cedar has a much tighter and therefore stable wood grain that creates a lesser tendency to warp or twist.  Cedar has a built in natural wood preservative whereas other woods need to be chemically treated, making cedar an eco-friendly, green and biodegradable choice.  Cedar decking and siding is lighter and easier to work with yet still extremely durable with the added bonus of the natural cedar fragrance and unsurpassed beauty that can’t be found with other woods.
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Jeff Fortushnick
RETAIL MANAGER
Free: 1.800.263.3653
Local: 905.684.1665
Send PDF drawings via email to jeff@thinkcedar.com Fax: 905.684.4791