Overview of our Perspectives and Woods
There’s a number of companies that source and mill exterior wood products, so we really appreciate your visit and consideration. Here you can get a sense of our take on things, and since we’ve been around a long time, there’s a lot here. Feel free to look around.
Key elements of our business: 1) Sustainable premium woods, and 2) exceptional custom milling
What is Sustainable?
99% of our wood stock is from sustainable sources, meaning that it is from certified, managed forests, or reclaimed from previous applications. We promote and champion the best selection of sustainable products, because that’s our long view, but we do source other wood when necessary.
Sustainable. This word, like organic, is compromised by marketplace forces, powerful interests and manipulation. The reality: many lumber companies tout sustainability, using that terminology and some certification to allow them to sell unsustainable old growth and tropical woods.
We don’t source or recommend old growth woods like Red Cedar, Douglas Fir or Alaskan Yellow Cedar that are not reclaimed, and we go the extra mile to offer truly sustainable options. We don’t source or recommend Teak, Ipé, Mahogany and other tropical hardwoods, unless reclaimed. And we hope that you can understand why and join us in our effort.
These woods are being cut from old-growth forests and jungles where some trees may be over a thousand years old, and healthy. Unless harvesting removes no more than 1/1000 of a given forest, without damage to the existing ecosystem, it has long term negative impact.
In colonial times, we cut Eastern White Pine and sent it to England for ship’s masts as the ‘King’s Pine’. Between 1880 and 1910 we cut over 100 million acres of Longleaf Pine forests, and then severely impacted the Cypress, Redwood, and Douglas Fir in the 20th century. These old-growth forests and their remarkable ecosystems are gone now, and they can’t grow back. The last great North American old-growth forests are just what remain of Red and Yellow Cedar trees in the Northwest.
Along the way, many lumber dealers have supplemented aesthetic hunger, ‘luxury’ needs, with imported Teak, Mahogany, and most recently, Ipé. This is short-sighted, a little selfish, and most of us know better, but because there’s an appetite, and money to be made off these special and finite resources, purveyors claim sustainability by manipulating certification programs. They then market wood from our world’s last remaining old-growth forests to consumers who may know better, but then compromise.
We choose to be a part of a greater effort; to offer options that have less negative impact on our planet. It’s not an easy path, but we look forward to helping others appreciate and integrate truly sustainable woods. To join us, for interior applications, consider North American hardwoods and Longleaf Pine for woodwork. There are many strong, beautiful woods with excellent character and grain figuring – and if you seek a different or exotic look, then staining or dyeing is a sensible, responsible option for achieving desired colors and aesthetics.
The exterior applications are more difficult, since very little can truly replace Teak or Ipé in terms of hardness, decay resistance, and stability.
In some cases, White Oak or Black Locust are good options, and otherwise, White Cedar may be the right choice. A very old process known as Shou Sugi Ban is used to char the wood, achieving weather resistance and dark tones while maintaining sustainability.
Reclaimed woods, like former water or wine tank Redwood and Red Cedar, or river-recovered Cypress provide distinct, inventive and attractive solutions for exterior applications. Ask us about our options.
We stock great new woods from managed forests and have an unmatched collection of reclaimed woods that are time-tested and ready to be custom-milled. We are passionate about trees, wood and providing materials that will help our customers achieve responsible beauty and strength in their projects.
OUR EXTERIOR WOODS – White Cedar Lumber Company specializes in Atlantic White Cedar and Cypress, and also offers sustainably-harvested local hardwoods such as White Oak and Black Locust. We carry rare and unique reclaimed stock of old-growth woods like Wine Tank Redwood and tropical hardwoods like Coney Island Ipé.
Atlantic White Cedar: Architect Wil Armster started WS&G after a Yale forestry professor suggested he use local white cedar for design, instead of redwood and red cedar. This was long before ‘local’ was a trend and Wil became enamored with the wood’s numerous qualities, for interiors and exteriors. Its aromatic smell, stability and workability, but mostly its natural resistance to decay and insects, and the beautiful silver-grey color it gained when weathered.
Northern White Cedar: Also known as Arborvitae (Tree of Life), this tree ranges between Canada and the US, between Maine and the Great Lakes as a favorite for millenia. Very close in dynamics to Atlantic White Cedar, NWC has a better ability to withstand colder temperatures.
Cypress: In the early to mid-70s, Cypress was seen as interchangeable with White Cedar, but in time proved slightly less stable in exterior design than the nearly impervious White Cedar. Cypress is still a core species for protected exterior applications and benefits from finishes. With its intriguing grain patterns and light tones, Cypress remains a cherished interior wood, and recently, with the charring technique known as Shou Sugi Ban, exterior designs are increasingly viable.
Old-Growth Redwood: All the Redwood we supply is old-growth and reclaimed. We utilize our unmatched network to secure Redwood from decommissioned water and wine tanks, pickle vats, docks, decks, bridges, fencing and other sources. We even reclaimed shelving from an MIT think tank. It is very special wood. A beautiful palette, decay resistant, stable, light and unmatched. It’s perfect for siding, indoor and outdoor furniture, railings, paneling, cabinetry, doors and windows.
Old Growth Red Cedar: This is all reclaimed, and much is untreated utility poles from power companies that we’ve fought to keep them from throwing it into a landfill. It’s complicated and often we lose, but sometimes we win and get enormous tree trunks up to 30” across. We have other sources for reclaimed Red Cedar, but getting the poles is doubly rewarding. Excellent for pergolas, trellises and exterior timbers.
Old Growth Cypress: Our cypress is either river-recovered or reclaimed from former vinegar and pickle tanks. Like our Redwood, the Cypress is exceptionally beautiful and excellent for both exterior and interior uses. It is available in Clear Vertical Grain, Clear, Pecky and Knotty grades.
Old Growth Douglas Fir: The variety of our sources speaks to the versatility of this remarkably strong and often colorful wood: vinegar and pickle tanks, sunken pilings, heavy timbers and even bleacher seats. Ideal for millwork, flooring, porches, exposed timbers, and some exterior applications.
Reclaimed Tropical Hardwoods: We’ve secured most of our stock after major storms or de-commissions. Our Ipe, Greenheart, Cumaru and Ekki comes from Coney Island and Rockaway boardwalks in NYC. We also sourced material from Atlantic City and the South Street Seaport. This remarkably dense, heavy and hard wood is graded ranging from near-new to heavily distressed conditions, for a range of applications, both functional and decorative. Ketchup and mustard stains available.
White Oak and Black Locust: These are the two most decay-resistant, sustainably-harvested hardwoods in the Northeast. Though not often available in tropical hardwood grades and dimensions, in some applications they perform exceptionally well and are worth serious consideration, especially for strength and a hardwood aesthetic.
Longleaf Heart Pine: Our Longleaf Pine is usually reclaimed from century old and older factory timbers, and it was often that old when felled. Though not typically thought of as an exterior wood, there is perhaps no better wood for restoration quality doors, windows, floors, paneling, millwork and other interior and exterior uses. Like most of the reclaimed wood we supply, the best is tight-grained, exceptionally stable, and all heartwood.