Standing dry cedar: Lumber-worthy?

      Are standing, dead cedar trees a good source for decking boards? July 11, 2000

Does anyone know if "standing dry" cedar (Eastern) is still usable for decking material? The trees have been dead a few years but there is little rot in them.

The heartwood (red color) will be fully acceptable. The sapwood (white color) may have a little decay. Use the trees and enjoy the deck.
Gene Wengert, forum moderator

We only cut dead standing or dead-and-down Western red cedar. I don't know if it is similar, but the stuff we cut mills beautifully.

White cedar is 50 percdent of my production for the last 10 years. Once in a while we cut a dead, standing tree. If the bark is not on anymore, the crack may be deep; in those cases we square them (4x4, 6x6), since it might be difficult to produce 2x6 without cracks.

The surface may be rotted, but not necessarily the heart, because it has a very different resistance to rot. So trees that have been standing up for a few years might be still very good. Judge piece by piece for the intended use.

Although the common lumber names are similar, Western redcedar is in the Thuja genus and Eastern is in the Juniperus genus (juniper). Pencil cedar (incense cedar) is in the Libocedrus genus. Alaska cedar is in the Chamaecyparis genus, along with Atlantic white cedar.

This is an interesting discussion about a species people around here (MS) know very little about, me included. The variety of cedar we have here in southwest MS is the typical "Christmas tree" kind, and is very aromatic. People use it a lot for closets and the like. Is this Eastern red cedar, incense cedar, or what?

BTW, the butts begin to develop heavy flutes once they get to about 10 to 12 inches in diameter.

In Louisiana, the wood you describe is Eastern redcedar (note that redcedar is one word) which is Juniperus viginiana.

I understand that the seeds of this tree are very tough and require the surface to be scratched before they can germinate, which can be done in a bird's stomach, which in turn is why we see so many of these trees growing along a fence line.

The acid scarification helps them sprout as well, Gene. Birds love those berries, but little else will touch them.

Thanks, Doc. We don't have to worry too much about developing E. redcedar around here as a commercial species for the reason you listed, plus it usually gets grabbed up at 5 to 8 feet for Christmas trees.

Or as here, in Louisiana, it gets cut and used for fence posts. I have managed to salvage about 30 plus 8-inch or larger old cedar logs that I know don't have fence wire in them. Are these still viable to cut and use for anything other than outdoor firewood?

They should make good lumber -- use a common metal detector to find wire.

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