Spruce Up Your Cedar Siding

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Homeowners and building contractors often choose cedar siding for house exteriors because of its durability, beauty, and elegance as well as its natural resistance to decay and insects. Natural cedar siding varies in color between a honey brown to a deep cinnamon red. Left in its natural state, its color will change to silver or grey as it ages. For this reason, many homeowners choose to spruce up their cedar siding using fresh paints and stains.

If your home is looking rather dull these days, this upcoming fall season could be the best time to revitalize its color.

Choosing a Finish

Because cedar siding is receptive to paint or stain, homeowners can easily add, change, or extend the color of it over the years. Unfortunately for many confused homeowners, the debate over which product is best varies between contractors and DIYers alike. The truth is, choosing the best coating for your home will depend on a number of factors, including the condition of your current material and aesthetic preferences.

This might require sanding for smooth cedar siding or commercial strippers/restorers designed for rough sewn cedar. A solid stain or paint would be best for these types of surfaces to help conceal the imperfections. With new cedar siding, all coating options remain on the table including semi-transparent stains.


The condition of the cedar siding is the first factor you should consider before choosing a coating system. Paint provides a protective layer across the surface of the wood without penetrating its pores, which makes it an ideal coating for hiding discoloration and imperfections in wood. Although old, cracked, weathered, and discolored wood will require extensive labor to restore no matter what type of finish you choose, paint will more effectively hide material flaws, whereas stain may exaggerate them.

One drawback to choosing paint is the added surface preparation needed. Once sanding and other restoration steps are taken, the wood will also need to be primed and sealed to ensure adequate adhesion and to prevent moisture penetration.


Unlike paint, stain is a thinner product that penetrates the pores of the wood and showcases its natural beauty through the coloring.

Two common types of stains used on cedar siding are opaque or solid stains and semi-transparent stains. Opaque stains contain higher concentrations of color pigments, which means your product is thicker. Thicker stains are beneficial for homeowners with older material with flaws, as these products will change the wood color and hide grain imperfections. (Keep in mind they will not mask flaws as well as paint.)

Alternatively, semi-transparent stains contain fewer pigments, so they are best suited for altering the color newer materials, as they will not conceal grain impurities.

Although applying stain requires less surface preparation, it is a thinner material, meaning even with protective sealers and coatings, you might not receive the same level of surface protection against pests and weathering that paint can provide.

Prepping the Surface

Applying both paint and stain will require a certain amount of preparation. For

Applying both paint and stain will require a certain amount of preparation. For areas where paint is chipping or obvious imperfections exist, you should scrape and sand the surface so that the material is smooth and leveled. Any cracked areas should be filled with caulk or wood filler as applicable.

You will then need to thoroughly clean your cedar siding to remove dirt, grime, mold, and mildew from its surface. A low-pressure rinse with a power washer is one effective method. However, you can get adequate results with a broom, brush, and water hose. A mild soap for use on this specific material can be found at most home improvement centers.

Be sure to secure any loose boards and replace and irreparably damaged or rotten planks before applying either finish.

Applying the Product

Application methods for both types of exterior coatings are the same, but as previously mentioned, paint will require at least one coat of primer before application.

Either product can be directly applied to a fully cleaned and dried surface with brushes, rollers, or airless sprayers.

It's recommended that you test your product on a scrap piece of wood before applying it to your cedar siding. This will ensure that you are fully satisfied with the choice you made and that your area has been adequately prepped to hold the color.

Be sure to apply at least two coats of either product to ensure a long-lasting result, but wait at least 24 hours before you begin your second application.

Maximizing Durability

When applied properly, either finish will offer years of protection from outside

When applied properly, either finish will offer years of protection from outside elements. The trick is in knowing the best way to maximize your color’s lifespan. If you’ve applied the proper primers and at least two coats of paint or stain, you can expect approximately 10 years of protection for your cedar siding.

Additionally, you can extend the vibrancy of your color by regularly washing away dirt, mold, mildew, and debris from the surface. If you can keep trees and shrubs from rubbing against the exterior of your home, this will also prevent scraping and accumulating dirt from dulling your home’s shine.