Hot Topics: Painting Cedar Shakes on a House

A house with a ladder propped against cedar shakes.

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This DIYer wants to paint his house, which is a straightforward task—but not when you have peeling paint on cedar shakes. How does he remove layers of old paint without damaging the wood itself? Once again, the forum has answers.

Original Post: Old Cedar Shakes With a Few Layers of Paint. Peeling Pretty Bad. What Should I Do?

Brian1900 Member

Small house: about 1,100 square feet. I hate the look of vinyl siding and was thinking of painting the house, but I've never done it before. It's really a tiny house and I wouldn't mind painting it myself, but I dread having to scrape all the old paint off the it difficult to strip off all the old paint or do you just take off the loose peeling stuff? There also could be lead paint—I'm not sure.

These are the larger shakes with the grooves in them. I wouldn't be sure how to get the paint off. I wouldn't want to mess up the grooved wood.

Cedar shakes on a house.

Another option would be hiring someone to scrape it all or prep it, and then I could paint it. I really wouldn't mind painting it myself as it's rather a small house.

Should I be going vinyl instead? Yuck! Cookie cutter houses!

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

How old is the house/siding? Are the shingles in good shape other than the paint? The only good way to know for sure if there is lead paint is to test...if the house is old enough.

Usually on a house like that we'll pressure wash and then scrape (maybe use a wire brush, too). Obviously, the more paint you remove the longer a properly primed paint job will last.

Brian1900 Member

The house is from the 1970s. To me, the shakes seem OK, but I'm not a painter. None are crumbling or anything, but someone painted over them, leaving a lot of paint on them. You can tell there are multiple layers and someone must've been lazy and not scraped a lot off in the past.

A good deal of the paint is peeling pretty bad. If I took the time, I could most likely hand peel a lot of the shakes—that's how bad the paint is holding on.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

The main thing is whether or not the shakes are solid—no rot. Pressure washing will remove a lot of the peeling paint, although care must be used to not force water behind the siding and especially along windows and doors.

While I'm sure the siding can be cleaned up, painted, and look nice, it will require repainting at some point. Of course, that does give you the option of changing colors if you wish. There are a lot of different styles of vinyl siding, so there might be one out there that suits your fancy...and then the maintenance is basically just washing it as needed.

I'd pressure wash it and then come back with a putty knife and wire brush to finish removing any loose paint. Resist the urge to do all the washing from the ground. Spraying upwards under the shingles can force water behind the siding.

You will know better after it's all prepped, but you'll probably need an oil-based wood primer. It can be top-coated with most any quality latex house paint. While I might spray the primer, both coats can be applied with a 1" nap roller, and brush work where needed.

calvert Member

The siding you show is known as striated cedar shakes. They consist of a layer of cedar mounted to either plywood or fiberboard and are attached in panel form.

Any rough treatment in your preparation will damage the visual aspect of the material as it is cedar, which is a softwood.

Your problem looks more like an issue of poor preparation between previous paint jobs. The original may have been done with an oil-based paint which was then covered with a latex. If the original paint was not washed and allowed to dry properly, the subsequent finishes would not develop an ideal bond to the first paint application.

You could try using an air compressor and blast off a lot of the loose material along with a stiff nylon bristle scrub brush. I don't see how a scraping technique could not end with disaster. The final prep would be to use the pressure washer, but since this is cedar you need low pressure and fan spray. As an alternative, you could wash with a TSP substitute material and a stiff scrub brush. Allow to dry thoroughly and you will probably see some additional evidence of peeling which will have to be addressed before priming with a bonding primer and acrylic finish coat.

The beauty of wood siding is that the house color can be changed as opposed to vinyl, which can be painted but never has the charm of wood.

biketrax Member

There is a lot of good information stated here. I agree with wire brushing and scraping, however, I didn't see anyone mention a spray prep liquid solution before power washing. There are assorted variations, such as Jomax, that help lift off dirt, sap, and mold (among other things), and prep the wood and/or painted and stained surfaces for better adhesion. It's highly recommended for decks, but I also like using it in applications like yours.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

A cleaning agent is almost always in order when washing siding/decks as part of the paint prep. I generally use a bleach/water solution and may add TSP as they are both cheap and effective. Commercially prepared products are more dummy-proof. I generally wet the siding/deck, spray the cleaning solution on with a pump-up garden sprayer, let it set but not dry, and then rinse with a pressure washer. Stubborn areas often require a second treatment and/or scrubbing.

inspiration16 Member

Calvert, you mentioned rough treatment will affect the visual aspect of the cedar siding—can I imply that to say it shouldn't affect the wood itself? I have grooved cedar shingles which I'm getting painted, but I'm not happy with the paint job that they are doing because I can actually see the old layers of paint that didn't get removed by power washing and scraping. I was thinking maybe I could get it sanded if it doesn't affect the cedar and its properties. I can live without the 'grooves' on the cedar. I want the paint to look uniform and nice.

calvert Member

You can sand the striations out of the wood, but this would be an extremely labor-intensive operation to ensure a smooth surface. You have to also be sure that your siding is not too thin to engage in a vigorous sanding procedure. You don't want to reduce it to less than 3/8" thick.

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