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Western Red Cedar Grading: The Complete Guide

Updated: Mar 26

Western Red Cedar Grading

Are you looking for information on western red cedar grading? It is crucial to understand the grading system to get the right lumber for the project you are working on. We are here to help you understand the red cedar grading system as the premier Canadian western red cedar lumber supplier. Keep reading this short guide for more information!

Quality Cedar Products can meet all your cedar board needs. This blog is informational only and not a replacement for expert advice. Please consult a professional before starting any building project as your needs and specifications may vary and it may not reflect the most current building codes, regulations, or industry standards.

What Does Western Red Cedar Grading Mean?

Each piece of western red cedar is graded (except for fence pieces). These grades are put in place to assist buyers in choosing the correct cedar for their projects. Sometimes they will have two different grades – appearance and structural.

  • Structural Grade: This grade is used for pieces of cedar 2 or more inches in thickness. A structural grade will be between 1 and 5, 1 being the highest quality cedar.

  • Appearance Grade: The appearance grade is for cedar that is not used as part of the structure or that will be seen. So, this grade is based on how excellent of an appearance it will provide. The appearance grades are A – D, with A being the best.

How Western Red Cedar Lumber Grading Works

When you are ready to buy red cedar lumber, you might wonder how the grading system works. Although we also discussed the structural grade, we will focus on appearance, as that is what most people purchasing red cedar are looking for.

Two main things are looked at during western red cedar grading. These items are knots and grain orientation. Grain orientation is a description of the directional pattern of the grain. For instance, it may be graded as vertical grain. The knot factor is the more significant component of the grade.

A board with fewer knots (or none) will be graded the highest. The absence of knots, or the presence of fewer knots that are smaller in nature, will be graded the highest as these cedar boards will allow creators to make the most attractive products.

Finally, you may be surprised to find out that the color of the boards is not considered during the grading system. Cedar-graded boards cover a broad spectrum of colors, from chocolate brown to straw-colored boards. However, the different color tones do not change its durability. Therefore, it is not a factor in grading.

Western Red Cedar Grading: Different Grades of Lumber Explained

Now that you better understand what grading is and how it works, it is time to talk about the different grades you may find. Typically the grades are divided into two types – grading for knotty cedar and grading for clear cedar. Keep reading for a short description of each western red cedar grading. We will also include grading for structural wood.

Here are the three Knotty grades you might see.

Select Knotty

Select Knotty is the highest grade of knotty cedar you can get. These cedar boards have knots as well as other visual features that are tight and attractive. When you order select knotty, you may get a combination of Select and quality knotty in your order.

Quality Knotty

Quality knotty is similar to select, but there may be a few scattered holes. This difference is allowed. Each piece must be serviceable, but with this variation, 10% of waste per board is permitted. This grade of wood is sold "as is," meaning exchanges and refunds are usually not allowed.

Custom Knotty

Some companies create a custom knotty board to sell. This grade could also be called appearance knotty or proprietary knotty. These boards can be slightly different, depending on the manufacturer. However, they usually offer good value for the money and do not have holes.

Here are the seven grades you may come across for clear cedar.

Clear Vertical Grain

Clear vertical grain is the highest grade of western cedar you can get. Sometimes it is just referred to as VG. The name vertical grain references that the growth rings are parallel to one another on the board. It is wood that is sawn to create that look. Typical VG is used as paneling or siding.

Clear Heart

Clear heart is also a highly rated cedar board. This name refers to the fact that it is not entirely free of imperfections, but it is close.

A Clear

This board is graded just below clear heart. It still has a beautiful appearance, but pieces are often of mixed grain. You may also see this rating referred to as A&Btr.

C&Btr Clear

This is a middle-of-the-road grade. It is still high quality, and the appearance is good. Still, there are more imperfections or specific characteristics that are visible. This wood can be used for siding and paneling, as the first three ratings above usually are. However, it is often used for things like trim, doors, and windows.

No. 2 and Better

This is the grading you would look for when using red cedar for timbers and beams. Specifically, people usually purchase the No. 2 and Better graded cedar when shopping for rough lumber.

D & Better Clear

Although still part of the clear family, this graded cedar is typically used for purpose, not appearance. These pieces will have much more character than the others. Typically it is used for constructing outdoor landscaping structures. Some examples include porticoes, trellises, and arbors.


A rustic grade is for when you want the exposed cedar to show a rustic and charming element. This grade allows some characteristics, but they can not detect from the serviceability. This is the perfect choice when you want to add some rustic charm to a specific project.

Here are the two common structural grades you may see.

2 and Better Structural

This piece of western red cedar is wholly judged by the structural integrity, not the appearance. It is the standard.

Standard & Better Beams, Posts, and Timbers

Finally, this grade is for general construction, and no value is assigned. Typically, it is made of box heart, the tree's center. This part of the tree is less stable.

Quality Cedar Products Has All the Western Red Cedar Grades Ready For You

Quality Cedar Products is a family-owned and operated business. Although located in Bancroft, Ontario, we service customers across Ontario, Canada, and the United States. We provide a wide range of western red cedar products for all of your needs.

At Quality Cedar Products, we sort all of the lumber and grade each piece by hand. This allows us to maintain the highest standards of quality for our customers.

We provide wholesale lumber of different sizes and quantities depending on the project order. This could include wood for resale in a retail location or cedar to be used in construction projects. You can get a quote from us and set up a wholesale account today!

If you are not interested in wholesale packages, we also sell western red cedar for different projects as well. For instance, you can order cedar deck boards in 10 different sizes and varieties, cedar fence boards in 14 different sizes and types, sound barrier fencing, or cedar siding in 9 different sizes and varieties.

Final Thoughts on Western Red Cedar Grading System

Western red cedar is a popular wood type for all your construction and remodeling needs. Although there is a grading system for this wood type, it is easy to understand now that you have read this guide.

Western red cedar is popular for siding, paneling, fencing, and decks. If you want to start a new project or need a new supplier, check out Quality Cedar Products. We are a family-owned business catering to North Americans. Quality is our highest priority, and we hand inspect and grade each piece of red cedar ourselves.

G&B Wholesale Lumber Incorporated does not assume any liability for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the information provided in this blog post. The reader is solely responsible for any actions taken based on the information presented. Any reliance on the information is at the reader's own risk. G&B Wholesale Lumber Incorporated is not responsible for any loss, injury, or damage that may occur as a result of following the suggestions, tips, or recommendations provided in this blog post. Building projects involve inherent risks, and it is essential to exercise caution, obtain proper permits, and engage qualified professionals to ensure safety and compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The inclusion of external links, references, or recommendations in this blog post does not constitute endorsement or guarantee the quality, reliability, or suitability of the linked sources. The reader should independently verify the information and assess its relevance to their specific circumstances. The author reserves the right to modify, update, or remove the content of this blog post at any time without prior notice. It is recommended to check for the most recent updates or consult with professionals to ensure the information is current and applicable. By reading this blog post, the reader acknowledges and accepts the above disclaimer and agrees to use the information provided responsibly and at their own discretion.

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