Repairing Wood Siding

A man working on wood siding with a broom.

Wooden siding is a fundamental element to the decor and appearance of your home's exterior, but it also an essential protective element — the skin of your home. There are several different styles available and most offer some kind of statement about what part of the country you live in. Whether you have clapboard cedar siding or shakes, the proper maintenance of your wood siding will ensure that your home's exterior will last as long as you do.

There are many siding types to chose from, each with pros and cons of its own. As with anything that stays outside and is exposed to the harsh elements of sun, wind, rain, snow, ice, and whatever else Mother Nature can conjure up, wooden siding has to be maintained or it will fall apart. Sometimes, the siding is damaged to the point that it is beyond repair and actually needs to be replaced. Here's how to care for your siding.


As with anything that is made of wood that is left outside, wooden siding needs to be sealed. The primary purpose of this sealer is to protect the wood from water damage. Paint is the most obvious and common type of wood sealer. It forms a hard protective coating over the wood and doesn't allow moisture to penetrate into the wood. Sometimes though, prolonged exposure to the sun and wind can cause the paint coating to crack.

Once it cracks, moisture is able to find its way into the wood and, as it is absorbed, causes the wood to swell. When the wood swells, it causes additional cracking and then, as the wood dries out and shrinks, those cracked pieces begin to peel.


The best way to prevent this from happening is to make sure that the first line of defense is impenetrable. When preparing to paint your wooden siding, make sure you take the following steps. These will ensure that you don't have to repeat them every year.

Make absolutely sure that all loose paint has been scraped away. Painting over paint that is already loose is the fastest way to guarantee that your new paint will not stick. The best way to remove the old paint is with a scraper, a wire brush, and a lot of muscle.

Use a high-quality primer on all of the bare spots before you paint. A good primer will soak into the wood slightly as well as provide a good base for the paint to stick to. It is best to let the primer dry completely before applying any paint.

Don't be afraid to use multiple coats of paint. Don't get caught in the trap of thinking that one really thick, heavy coat of paint will suffice. Use multiple thin coats of paint to get the best finish. These thin coats create a better bond because they aren't heavy and don't sag. Use several thin coats to ensure the highest quality finish of your topcoat. This is what will help your paint job last as long as possible.

Don't use the cheap stuff. There really is a difference in the quality of paints. The general rule is the more titanium, the better. Good-quality paint will pour out of the can like pudding. There is no reason to expect a can of paint that is like water to protect your wooden siding. You need something substantial to build a barrier between your house and the elements.


In the event that you already have some damaged siding and it's more than what some paint will fix, then you may need to replace the damaged piece(s).

In an ideal situation, the homebuilder should have left a few extra pieces under the basement stairs or in the attic. In reality, though, you will probably have to do some shopping to find a match. Check your local lumberyards first, as they will most likely have bigger selection of wooden siding in stock than the big home improvement stores. If you have to order something, go ahead and use the big retailer because you will probably get a better price.

Once you have the replacement pieces, you need to remove the damaged ones. Carefully place a pry bar underneath the damaged piece and work it back and forth slowly, loosening the nails that hold the siding in place a little bit at a time. If you try to do it too fast, you may damage the other pieces around it. After you have the damaged piece removed, use it as a template to cut the new piece to the correct size.

Use #8 or #10 concrete coated nails to attach the new piece of siding. If you use galvanized ones, it can bleed through the paint and cause discoloration. Once the new piece is in place, use paintable silicone or acrylic caulk to seal around all the edges of the siding.

Once the caulk has cured, go ahead and prime and paint the siding. The chances are pretty high that you are going to need to paint the entire wall in order to hide the new piece. Rarely will new wood take paint the same way as an older piece that has already been painted. The best way to camouflage the fact that you replaced some of your siding is to paint the entire area so that it has a fresh coating all over.

If you do have to go buy new siding pieces and are successful in finding somewhere that has your style in stock, go ahead and buy some extra. Mill styles come and go, and you may not be able to find what you need the next time you have a repair to make. Buy enough to ensure that you can always make the repairs that you need and find a safe place in the garage or basement to store the extra pieces. With these repair tips, your wood siding will last for years to come.