Cedar Grades: Whats the Difference?

How can you figure out what grade of cedar you need for your project?


Lumber grades are very technical and detailed, which means they can be confusing and complicated when deciding what grade you want for a project. Different species have different grading systems, so let's talk specifically about Western Red Cedar.

First, there are two different grading systems for Cedar: Structural Grade and Appearance Grade.

Structural Grade:

Structural Grade is typically used for Cedar 2 inches thick or more because these are dimensions used in a structural capacity first and foremost. Structural Grade is also referred to as Common Lumber. This grade is measured in numbers 1-5, with number 1 being the highest quality.

Appearance Grade:

Cedar is also graded based on Appearance, which is called appearance grade or Select Lumber. Appearance grade is primarily for non-structural lumber under 2" thick. Appearance grades use letters A through D, with A being the highest grade. There are also two other terms under appearance grade Cedar: Clear and Knotty or STK.

Clear Cedar refers to A & Better Cedar and is free of almost all knots, but it isn't 100% free of knots. If you want Cedar that's 100% free of knots, which is difficult to find and costly, then you would need Clear Vertical Grain Cedar.

Knotty or STK stands for Select Tight Knots. As the name suggests, this grade has knots and provides a more rustic look.

Structural and Appearance grades can sometimes be combined as well. For example, you could have a Number 2 structural grade that also has an A & Better appearance grade.

We know this can get confusing, so if you want to do more research you can visit the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association website for more grade info.


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