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Western Red Cedar vs Yellow Cedar: Which is the Best Choice for Your Project?

When it comes to crafting something special for your home or outdoor space, the choice of wood plays a pivotal role. Two contenders that often stand out when we’re talking about woodwork are Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. 

Renowned for their aromatic appeal and exceptional resistance to decay, these cedar varieties offer unique characteristics. Hence, in our exploration today, we’ll delve into the nuances of Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. 

While at it, we will weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each wood type. So, if you’re embarking on a woodworking venture or contemplating a home improvement project, you can read this guide to get an idea of the best choice for your project.


Western Red Cedar vs. Alaskan Yellow Cedar: The Key Differences

Before deciding between the Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar, consider the key differences between these wood types. These differences contribute to the major factors determining your choice at the end of the day.

That being said, let’s get into it.

  1. Appearance

When choosing between Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar, appearance is a big talking point. Western Red Cedar is renowned for its timeless beauty. It features a captivating reddish-brown hue with delightful variations, including salmon pink, dark red, and brown streaks. Architects, designers, and home improvers find its rich, inviting color incredibly appealing. 


Conversely, Alaskan Yellow Cedar presents a uniformly pale yellow-white color with a straight grain that creates an airy and clean aesthetic. When treated with a suitable stain, the Alaskan Yellow Cedar can remarkably emulate the sought-after look of Western Red Cedar. 


With this possibility, many people choose the Alaskan Yellow Cedar when on a tighter budget. After all, when both wood types are left untreated, both species gracefully weather to a trendy silvery-grey tone. Hence, both wood types are capable of beautifying any project. 

  1. Properties & Durability

In evaluating the best choice for your project, it is equally important that you understand the properties and durability of both wood types. 

To start with, both varieties exhibit remarkable natural resistance to insects and fungi. This means they both last long, and minimal risks of decay are associated with them. Notably, they remain dimensionally stable, resisting swelling, shrinking, and warping even in varying moisture conditions. 

A standout feature of Alaskan Yellow Cedar is its exceptional density. It surpasses the Western Red Cedar in strength and impact resistance with a Janka hardness rating of 580 lbf. While both excel in outdoor durability, Alaskan Yellow Cedar is the winner for indoor applications thanks to its superior physical durability. 

Conversely, Western Red Cedar takes the lead in outdoor weather resistance. This makes it the preferred choice for enduring various climatic challenges. 

Ultimately, your choice between the two depends on the specific demands of your project. You must decide if you need an outdoor structure that is resilient to the elements or an indoor creation with robust physical durability.


  1. Uses

Both varieties are renowned for their physical resilience and outdoor durability. Hence, they tend to find common ground in applications such as cladding, fencing, and decking in residential and commercial settings. They are also favored for garden features, landscaping, and interior cladding.

With its superior density, Alaskan Yellow Cedar stands out in projects prone to knocks and abrasions. This makes it especially suitable for high-traffic decking, stairs, and outdoor furniture. Beyond the mainstream, Alaskan Yellow Cedar finds niche applications in carving, crafting musical instruments, and boatbuilding.

Similarly, Western Red Cedar is incredibly versatile, with applications in outdoor furniture, decking, siding, and shingles.

However, the scratch-resistant nature of Alaskan Yellow Cedar elevates its popularity in specialized projects like boat building, where a harder and more durable wood is desired. 

Overall, you must understand these wood’s unique uses to pick the best choice for your project.


  1. Cost

When deciding between Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar for your project, cost is crucial. A comparative analysis indicates that Alaskan Yellow Cedar generally has a lower price tag than Western Red Cedar. 

The average costs per square foot, depending on the style of the custom home, reveal that Alaskan Yellow Cedar tends to be more budget-friendly. However, it’s important to note that these costs are estimates. They are subject to change based on factors like availability and location.

If you’re mindful of your project budget, opting for Alaskan Yellow Cedar could offer a cost-effective solution without compromising on the wood’s desirable qualities. 

Consider the specific requirements of your project and weigh them against the estimated costs. When you’ve done that, proceed to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial considerations and your vision for the project.


  1. Aroma

While it might not be the primary factor in your decision-making process, the aromatic distinction between Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar is noteworthy. 

Western Red Cedar is celebrated for its sweet, citrusy fragrance that lingers pleasantly over time. In contrast, Alaskan Yellow Cedar offers a milder scent, often likened to raw potatoes. 

While not as immediately pleasant as its Western counterpart, the scent dissipates faster, particularly if a quality finish is applied. As far as wood characteristics are concerned, the aroma of the Alaskan Yellow Cedar is a subtle yet distinctive element. 

Western Red Cedar’s earthy scent, used in aromatherapy practices, contrasts with Alaskan Yellow Cedar’s more understated olfactory presence. 

As you weigh the factors influencing your choice between the two, consider not just the visual and structural aspects but also the nuanced sensory experience each wood type brings to your project.


Choosing between Western Red Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar for your project involves carefully considering various factors. Each wood type brings unique characteristics to the table, from appearance and durability to uses, cost, and even subtle nuances like aroma.

While Western Red Cedar offers a rich reddish-brown hue and a lingering citrusy scent, Alaskan Yellow Cedar stands out with superior density and a milder aroma.

Your decision ultimately depends on your project’s specific needs, budget constraints, and aesthetic preferences.