Western Red Cedar Has Natural Color Variation. And That Might Be Just Great.

Date: January 31, 2024 Category: Press Releases

We talk a lot about initial color. Too much, I think. When working with architects and homeowners, we try to help them consider longterm color as much as initial color. Wood fades and changes over time, and it’s at least as important to think about how the project will look down the line as it is to consider the color on day one.

All that having been said, I get it: initial color is important. Time, money and energy is being expended in these projects, and they need to be bangers right out of the chute.
While longterm color, maintenance, fade cycles and the like are all worthy of conversation, if the product isn’t Instagram-ready on Day One, it doesn’t get selected. So let’s talk about initial color!

Part of what vexes me in the world of wood is the sampling process. I can send you a gorgeous, beautifully milled sample that looks like this:

Western Red Cedar A&BTR Boards | A&BTR Cedar Boards | Real Cedar Lumber Supplier | New England Western Red Cedar Distributor

That’s a true-to-life, midrange example of clear Western Red Cedar. But what you’ll actually receive may look more like this:

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this picture. Western Red Cedar is a natural, untreated, unmodified forest product, and different growing conditions, altitudes, variances in the canopy around where the tree was grown, soil and water conditions, etcetera all impact the color of the boards produced from this incredible natural resource.

In the photo above, I see boards the color of straw, boards the color of coffee, and even boards with some pinkish tones. Over time, they’ll all weather to gray, but take some of the character of the original color with them as they age: the lighter boards fade to a lighter silver than the darker ones do.

And this might be just great. Western Red Cedar has been beloved for generations for its natural rot resistance, insect resistance, and, especially, for its beauty. And that color variation is a hallmark of its beauty.

Now, you may be thinking: “But I just want the blonde ones? Can’t you just sort for that?”


We’re a company that NEVER says no. But as mama taught me, sometimes No is a complete sentence. You just can’t ensure that any percentage of a lot will achieve any range of color tones, and one man’s blonde is another man’s tan, and that’s a road to perdition.

But it’s GORGEOUS, and the color variation is part of the natural, inherent beauty of the product. So take all that natural color and run with it, as below:

Or, don’t!

If this article is giving you hives and all that variety of color just doesn’t please your eye, it doesn’t have to be that way. In today’s market, natural wood options abound that can provide similar or better rot resistance than Western Red Cedar, with a much more homogenous initial color. Thermally modified wood from Thermory and UFP Edge are two such options for when longterm performance and color consistency are paramount.

In any case, we’re here to help. We live and breathe this stuff every day, so when you’re vexed by color palettes or stumped by samples, contact us. We’ll help you land on something you’ll love – on Day One and Day One Thousand.

About the Author

Jordan Russin is the 3rd generation Co-Owner and Co-President of Russin. His passion for the lumber industry, custom homeowners and architects, and the Russin team knows no bounds. When he’s not working you can find him skiing with his family, climbing mountains, or with his nose buried in a book.


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