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What is Cedar Siding?

Karyn Maier
Updated Feb 24, 2024
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Cedar is a coniferous tree native to the Mediterranean that produces evergreen leaves resembling pine needles. However, due to successful cultivation, the habitat range of cedar now extends to New Zealand, Australia, Western Europe, and the warmer regions of North America. Aside from being valued as an ornamental, the distinctively scented wood of the tree has been put to numerous practical purposes for centuries. Today, a popular use of the wood is to manufacture cedar siding, which is considered by many home construction professionals to be of superior quality compared to vinyl or aluminum siding.

To understand the benefits of cedar siding, it’s helpful to explore the historical significance of the wood’s use as a natural preservative. For one thing, it is highly durable and resistant to decay from moisture or insects, making it particularly suitable to use to construct closets and chests to store clothing. King Solomon apparently appreciated these qualities too since he chose cedar to build the first temple of Jerusalem. The native tribes of North America used cedar wood to make totem poles, canoes, and sweat lodges, while the bark provided roofing material. In fact, the Native Americans used cedar so extensively that they dubbed it the Tree of Life.

Today, cedar is used abundantly in the home construction industry, as well as in commercial building. Due to the rich amber hue and even texture of the wood grain, cedar siding imparts a warm, inviting look to any structure. It also offers a seamless integration with any style or design. In fact, while cedar siding is very popular to use when building new homes of contemporary design, it is also used to enhance the intricate features of Victorian architecture.

The natural pigmentation of cedar holds up well on its own with a simple finishing stain. However, the wood contains so little resin that it readily takes on other types of finishes, including paint. In addition, cedar contains a high concentration of thujaplicins, tropolone compounds that are responsible for giving the wood its characteristic aroma. These compounds are also poisonous to unwanted intruders, such as fungi and wood-eating insects. This feature alone is what makes cedar siding more durable and cost-effective than other materials.

Cedar siding is also considered to be an environmentally friendly material. First, most of the tree is harvested and any debris left behind is reclaimed by nature. It is also a renewable source. In addition, cedar is completely biodegradable, unlike aluminum, vinyl, or many other materials. However, cedar trees dating to the mid-1800s that bear markings suspected of being made by aboriginal peoples are designated as “culturally modified.” These trees, as well as the land they reside on, are preserved under the Heritage Conservation Act for future generations to enjoy.

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Karyn Maier
By Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to WiseGeek is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill Mountain region, Karyn is also a magazine writer, columnist, and author of four books. She specializes in topics related to green living and botanical medicine, drawing from her extensive knowledge to create informative and engaging content for readers.
Discussion Comments
By Vincenzo — On Jan 13, 2015

@Markerrag -- People do love the look of cedar siding, and that may be why vinyl cedar siding has also become popular. That stuff is generally less expensive than its wooden counterpart and some of the better siding looks OK, too.

You will not fool people who look at your vinyl cedar siding up close, but it looks good enough from a distance and will probably last longer, too.

By Markerrag — On Jan 12, 2015
Cedar siding is as common as sin in the southern United States and that should come as no surprise as cedar trees are all over the place. People have been using cedar siding as far back as I can remember for the reasons this article mentioned, plus at least one more.

What is that other reason? It just looks great in an area where trees are common as homes with cedar siding just look like they "belong" in those areas (if you get my meaning). Nature and scenery are abundant in the South and a lot of homeowners like to draw attention to that and live in homes that reflect those qualities.

Karyn Maier
Karyn Maier
Contributing articles to WiseGeek is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill...
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