skip to main content

How Do I Pick A Wood Species and Wood Grade?

Choosing a wood species for wood siding is important; it has a direct bearing on the longevity of your siding. The last thing you want to be thinking about before purchasing and installing your new siding is when you’re going to have to do this again!

Choosing an economy wood siding may not be the best choice in the long run because differing wood species don’t perform the same in outdoor elements.

Wood grade is the natural look of the wood, including how many knots are visible. You want the wood grade to complement your siding style. Your siding appearance expectations and budget play an important role in choosing wood grade. 

Choose a wood species and wood grade that creates a beautiful siding, adding curb appeal and real value to your home.

Old Growth Wood vs New Growth Wood
Old Growth Wood vs New Growth Wood

Can Wood Species Be That Different?

Siding can be milled from many different species of wood and not all woods are created equal.

Lower price point wood siding looks inviting at first glance. But a little research tells the story.

The pine that is typically used for siding today is not the pine of our great-grandfather’s era.  “Back in the day”, it was slow growth, virgin wood with tight growth rings and built-in stability.  That pine could last 100 years.

Today’s pine is a quick-growing species that has none of the stability and none of the longevity of bygone era wood. It has minimal resistance to rot and insects. At best, it has a moderate durability threshold.

Spruce has no resistance to rot. It attracts insects. It is highly moisture absorbent and susceptible to mold and mildew. Spruce is prone to splitting and cracking because of its poor weather resistance. It’s a moderately durable wood.

Douglas Fir is now harvested at a younger age giving way to a weaker wood with much less durability against outdoor elements. Because of its large pores it tends to splinter and warp over time. Doug Fir should always be kiln dried to improve its resistance to mold and insects. It has minimal longevity unfinished and moderate longevity when finished.

T1-11 wood siding panels of any species of wood. Don’t even go there! It’s made two ways - wood particles compressed together with resin and glue or thin veneers of wood glued together. T1-11 is very susceptible to moisture and will wick water if not kept completely sealed. The glues tend to degrade over time. T1-11 has minimal durability and longevity.

The maintenance protocol associated with these less expensive wood sidings will be more frequent with no room for slacking. You’ll have to put some type of protective finish on all of these siding choices every year or two. Some of them should be finished several times a year to prevent moisture damage.

Do you really want the hassle of re-siding your home in 10 or 15 years if you choose an inexpensive wood siding?

In addition to the cost of the siding, you’ll have delivery costs, again.  Installation costs, again. You’ll pay for the removal and disposal of the old siding. There’s going to be some level of destruction or disturbance of your yard and landscaping during the installation process. The dollars will add up.

Cedar Siding Customer Select Grade
Cedar Siding Customer Select Grade

What’s the Best Wood Species Choice for Wood Siding?

You want a wood species that is very durable with a lot of longevity built in.  And you want your wood siding to be beautiful. Curb appeal and added value are important factors when choosing a wood siding.

Cedar siding checks all of these boxes. 

Stained Clear Grade T&G Cedar
Stained Clear Grade T&G Cedar

The natural tannins in cedar repels rodents and insects and makes cedar rot resistant. It’s extremely durable. If you’ve decided you want your wood to weather naturally, there is no better choice than cedar.

Cedar’s longevity has made it the number one choice for wood siding. Installed and maintained properly, cedar siding can last 70+ years!

Naturally Weathered Cedar Siding
Naturally Weathered Cedar Siding

Cedar has a beautiful luster, unmatched by most wood species. Being pitch and resin free makes cedar ideal for a wide range of finishes allowing you to customize your wood siding to fit your style.

Painted Mill Select Bevel Cedar Siding
Painted Mill Select Bevel Cedar Siding

How Important Is Wood Grade for My Wood Siding Project?

Wood grade is an indicator of the natural look of wood.  It’s really all about the knots.

It’s a subjective decision about the aesthetics of your wood siding. You want to consider your appearance expectations.

Questions to ask when selecting wood grade for your siding:

Are you envisioning clean, clear siding virtually free of blemishes?

Do you love the character of knotty wood?

Which wood grade best complements your design style? 

Will your wood grade choice enhance your finish choice and vice versa?

What does your budget dictate?

There is a price difference from grade to grade. Less knots equates to higher cost.

Cedar Siding Mill Select Grade
Cedar Siding Mill Select Grade

What Are the Wood Grade Options?

There are four wood grades available for most patterns.

Clear Grade has virtually no knots and is the finest appearance grade wood siding with the highest price point. Clear grade is very popular in contemporary designs or when a very clean aesthetic is desired.

Clear Grade
Clear Grade

Near Clear Grade has very few, small tight knots with a lot of clear wood at a nice price point. If you’re looking for a fairly clear over all appearance but don’t mind a few knots, this is a great option.

Near Clear Grade
Near Clear Grade

Mill Select or Select Tight Knot (STK) is knotty and budget friendly. The wood is pulled to meet a “tight knot” grade, which refers to the type and size of knots. They must be “sound” and the diameter of the knots no larger than 2” to 3.5”, depending upon the board width.  If you want a beautiful, budget friendly siding that easily fits a rustic style, Mill Select is the perfect choice.

Mill Select Grade
Mill Select Grade

Customer Select Grade wood will have larger, more frequent knots and minor flaws but within a standard 10% trim and waste margin. The wood is machine graded in large volumes, not hand selected by humans, saving the mill time and, you, money. Customer Select Grade is rustic with a lot of character.

Customer Select Grade
Customer Select Grade

Finger Joint Grade is available for painted siding only. Finger Joint Grade has three major advantages.  Clear wood. Long boards. Great price point. The joinery method has been re-engineered with the “fingers” now on the edge of the boards, not the face, all but eliminating telescoping issues.

Finger Joint Cedar
Finger Joint Cedar
Painted Finger Joint Cedar
Painted Finger Joint Cedar

In Summary

Know what species of wood your vendor is using for your siding.

Is it durable and does it have built-in longevity? 

Initially, what may seem like your best option, will backfire when you tackle the chore of re-siding again, not too many years down the road.

Choose your wood grade for appearance. Is it what you’ve envisioned? Does it complement your siding style?

Choosing wood species and wood grade is your opportunity to create longevity and enhance your siding style for exceptional curb appeal and add value to your home.  

Choose the best performing wood species and wood grade your budget allows.

Your wood siding vendor should have the experience and expertise to answer your questions and walk you through wood species and wood grade options.

Cedar Siding Near Clear Grade
Cedar Siding Near Clear Grade

High Five, Wood Lovers

Check back. We’ll talk about patterns and finishes in an upcoming article.

Need to know Guides
Wood Lover's University
A comprehensive education for wood lovers of all types

Homeowners, protect your heart and wallet. Architects, desig...

Wood Siding Installation Tips
Common Sense Wood Siding Seasoning, Storage and Installation Tips for Do It Yourself Homeowner and Builder

It's not rocket science but it has to be done right. Our DIY...

Field or Factory?
When does it make sense to Factory Finish?

A FACTORY FINISH ensures a lasting, higher quality job than ...

Signup to our newsletter

Don't miss out on expert tips & design inspo!

Latest Blogs
We deliver everywhere

National Shipping and Delivery

We carry products from suppliers located all across the country so each delivery will be calculated based on location of customer, location of product manufacturer and weight of total shipment. See Areas we ship to and Delivery Information.

International Shipping and Delivery

Buffalo Lumber offers full 20 and 40 foot container quotes internationally. Europe, Asia, Africa - anywhere a container will go we can get it there. We can only quote full 20 and 40 foot containers - smaller shipments would be customer arranged.

Buffalo Lumber Company, Inc., Lumber - Retail, Woodbury, TN BUFFALO LUMBER  on HOUZZ

Making mistakes - Fixing something that goes wrong costs 10 times more than it does to do the job right in the first place. Consult with a Buffalo Lumber Milling Expert today.

We can help - Call Buffalo