exterior cedar siding on home

Top 20 Cedar Siding FAQs

We’re answering Google’s top twenty questions about cedar siding.  These questions are from wood lovers, wood lovers-to-be, and those who’ve invested in cedar siding and want to get it right. 

We’ll answer questions about cedar siding that is stained to preserve lustrous brown tones, cedar siding that is primed and painted and will be beautiful for 25 years or more, and cedar siding in the buff … allowed to weather naturally to a handsome silver-gray patina. 

All beautiful finishes.  And each finish has its ardent lovers.

1. How Long Does Cedar Siding Last?

Cedar siding will last as long as you take care of it.  It can last fifty to seventy years.  It’s all about the maintenance.  And the maintenance question typically has to do with whether or not you are going to paint it or keep the natural wood look.  The more of the natural wood look you want to maintain, the more maintenance you are going to do.  If you want the natural wood colors, the brown tones and the ambers, that’s going to require more frequent maintenance than allowing it to weather to a silver-gray.  The more opacity you add to your finish the more longevity between refinishing.   Semi-transparent stains are a see-thru stain with some color and allow the wood grain to show through.  Semi-solid stains are semi-opaque, masking the wood grain but allowing the wood texture to be seen.  A solid stain gives you a rich, vibrant opaque finish, but hides the wood grain and allows very little of the texture to show through.  By the time you get to a solid stain you are essentially talking about a paint.  You can get eight to ten years before you need to refinish it using a solid stain.  If you prime and paint then add a final coat of paint in the field you can get up to twenty-five years before you need to do it again.  And you’ll add another twenty-five years to the life of your cedar siding.  Many years beyond that is not unheard of.  

2. What Is The Best Finish For Cedar Siding?

The finishes don’t really have that much of a performance difference when you’re talking about semi-solid stains, solid stains and paints.  They all pretty much perform the same.  You can put an opaque water-based finish on your wood for a primer then you can top coat any color you want.  The type of finish and brand of finish become more important when you’re talking about the natural wood look.   For this look, you use semi-transparent stains…the see-thru stains with a little color.  We like Timber Ox.  It’s a small company that has created a true oil-based, oil-born stain.  This stain penetrates.  It conditions the cells of the wood as it passes through and it operates more like the stains we all grew up with.  Some of the new formulations since 2012 don’t really provide a good finish.  However, the technology is evolving and we’re interested to see where this technology takes us.  Right now, our favorite finish for cedar siding in a semi-transparent application is Timber Ox Green.

3. What Do You Put On Cedar Siding?

This, again, depends upon the look you are going for.  If you’re considering prime and paint, you will want an oil-based, extractive bleed-blocking primer on the wood before you put a latex top-coat of paint on it.  If you are talking about a semi-transparent stain, you are going to want to find a penetrating oil or a penetrating resin that does not require caustic strippers when it comes time for maintenance.   And when you’re wanting the weathered silver-gray patina …you don’t mind your siding graying naturally over time, you’ll want a wood sealer.   There are some on the market that will last ten years.  They protect your wood from moisture but do not protect the color of the wood.   Sunlight will gradually change your wood’s color to a silver-gray.   There are quite a few finishes on the market.   Seal Once Wood Sealer comes to mind.  Or you can opt for no finish at all.   

4. Do You Stain Both Sides Of Cedar Siding?

Yes, if you want your cedar siding to last.  Building construction has changed over time.  Today’s building envelope has tightened, restricting air flow, not allowing for air to escape.  If cedar has no room to breathe, it collects moisture from the backside.  Even cedar can rot under these conditions.  We seal the backside to protect the cedar from moisture ingress when you cannot build for an air space.  We suggest staining both sides regardless of building conditions because it is a very good measure to protect your cedar siding.  

5. Is Cedar Siding High-Maintenance?

That will depend on the look you want.  Maintaining the natural amber and brown tones of cedar will be the highest maintenance scenario.   You factor in how much pigment is in the stain and whether you have rough textured or smooth textured cedar siding.  You will be refinishing every three to five years, best case.  The worst case would be refinishing every other year.  If prime and paint is in the cards for you, there’s very little maintenance involved once you apply a coat of oil-based extractive bleed-blocking primer and a topcoat of latex, possibly two topcoats of latex.   You can get twenty-five years before your cedar siding needs refinished.  And there is very little to no maintenance if you’re going for cedar’s weathered, silver-gray patina.   You can use a wood sealer to protect against moisture.  Some of these sealers could last about ten years.  Under a few different protection conditions that we set up initially, you can actually let it go without maintenance.  In coastal towns and Cape Code style homes the weathered, silver-gray patina of cedar siding is very popular.      

6. What Are The Disadvantages Of Cedar Wood?

We could say that cost is a disadvantage, especially if you’re comparing it to an inexpensive wood like pine, which lacks natural rot and insect resistance or vinyl that lacks character and warmth.  Compared to many wood species on the market the cost is comparable.  Maintenance will be a disadvantage if your comparing it to a vinyl or composite material.  But any wood siding will require maintenance because wood is a live product.  It requires more handling.   It’s a little more labor intensive than your standard composite plank products or your vinyl siding products.  Cedar can be temperamental.  The tallies are a little different.  You can’t always get 16 footers.  You have to deal with 6, 8, 10 and 12’s most of the time.  It requires a bit of skill on the craftsman side and can be a little more labor intensive.  In our opinion, you don’t want to consider cedar siding unless you absolutely love it.

7. Does Cedar Siding Increase Home Value?

Absolutely!  We’ve had quite a few cases where cedar siding sets the home apart and increases the value in excess of $30,000; far exceeding the actual cost of the siding.  The majority of our customers insist on cedar siding, not just for its beauty, but for the value it brings to their homes.

8. Does Cedar Siding Attract Bugs?

Not specifically as a species.   Wood, in general, attracts bugs.  However, cedar wood has tannins in it that bugs do not like.  Once they take a bite of it, they don’t like it and move on.  So, cedar has a built-in natural bug repellant.   This is one of the many reasons cedar is so popular for siding.

9. Is Cedar A Good Choice For Siding?

Yes.  Cedar is a great choice for siding.   We’re wood lovers so everything reflects a labor of love associated with really having an affinity for wood.  If you’re going to use wood siding, and you’re a wood lover, and you love the natural wood look, then absolutely cedar.  Western red cedar specifically, is the only way to go.  Being a wood lover aside; in general, it a really good option for siding.   It has natural properties that make it resistant to rot and insects.  Both important considerations for exterior siding; as well as many other reasons that make it a great choice.  

10. What Is The Best Exterior Stain For Cedar Siding?

Timber Ox Green, in our opinion, is the best because they use a castor oil and a citrus oil combination to replace the petroleum products.  They didn’t go ‘the water’ route or the ‘acrylic resin’ route, or some way of mixing water with resins.  They just replaced the types of oils so you still have an oil performing stain.  Now, it’s a little more expensive than some of the other items on the market but when you’re talking about performance long term, and you’re going to have to maintain your wood anyway, you want an oil-based stain that does all of the things that oil is supposed to do.  Not only does it penetrate the wood to make cleaning your wood easier, it also conditions the wood cells each time it passes through.  It keeps your wood flexible, preventing splitting and cupping.  It allows the wood to move around a little bit without cracking.   And it keeps your wood from drying out … it conditions the wood all the way through.   A complete and pure oil-based stain is the only way to go and Timber Ox Green, to our knowledge, is the only pure oil that is legal in all fifty states since the law change of 2012.  

11. How Do You Keep Cedar Siding Looking New?

Clean it!  You don’t want to see the natural wood finish turn black.  Painted or stained, the answer to keeping it looking new is clean it often.  Once a year is probably good.  A warning and disclaimer here, though.   Using a pressure washer is how everyone wants to clean their siding.  It’s faster and less labor intensive.  But pressure washing is the number one way I have seen inexperienced people ruin their wood.  You want the pressure set very, very low or you’ll damage your wood siding and it will no longer take a finish.   Complete replacement will be your only option.  Someone who knows what they are doing, with the pressure at the correct setting, can do a good scrub down with oxygen bleach and get the wood clean with no damage.  If you have a semi-transparent stain on your wood, you will need to refinish it every two to three years to keep it looking new.  If it’s primed and painted, cleaning it annually will keep it looking brand new for as long as you own the wood.

12. How Do You Weather-Proof Cedar?

Waterproofing cedar is accomplished by sealing all six sides of it with a moisture repelling finish.  If you’re painting your cedar siding, the prime and paint will seal it.  If you’re staining for some color and to keep it from graying, the stain will seal it.   If you want the wood to gradually gray, use a moisture repellant finish that doesn’t have any pigments in it.   And always seal all six sides.   Buffalo Lumber finishes the front, the back and the sides with a factory machine.  The customer does the butt ends and the cut ends on the jobsite and possibly another coat to the face, depending on the opacity and the natural wood look you are going for.

13. How Do You Protect Cedar Siding?

Weatherproofing.  Walk around your home and inspect your siding.  You protect it by refinishing it when it’s needed.  If the wood shows signs of needing to be refinished, especially in your semi-transparent and see-thru stain families, you are going to want to address the issue within the year.  A two hour problem this year is a two week problem next year.  Inspect your siding, clean it and maintain it when it needs it.

14. Should You Pressure Wash Cedar Siding?

Not unless you know what you are doing.  Pressure washing, again, is the number one cause of damage to wood siding.  Damage severe enough that you’ll need to replace it.  It is a great way to clean wood when you know what you’re doing.  Make sure the person doing the washing understands wood and what pressures wood will tolerate.  High pressures are bad … low pressures are good.

15. Is It Better To Paint Or Stain Cedar Siding?

It depends on what wood finish appeals to you and how many times in a ten year period you want to go through the trouble of cleaning and refinishing your home.   Many of our customers love the natural wood look and do not mind re-staining their home every two to three years to keep that stunningly beautiful, brand new, natural wood look.  Some of our customers don’t want to be out there every two to three years and are willing to use a more opaque product … semi-solid, solid, or prime and paint … to decrease the frequency of how many times they have to refinish their home.  So, whether it is better to paint or stain is going to depend on your preferences and also your tolerance for cleaning your entire home and having it refinished.

16. How Often Does Cedar Siding Need To Be Sealed?

The more natural wood look you wish to preserve the more frequently you will need to maintain it.  Transparent finishes, which perform like a clear and will allow the wood to turn gray quicker, will be every one to two years.  Semi-transparent stains, which add a little bit of pigment and allow you to keep your wood in the brown family rather than turning gray is every three to five years, depending on a number of factors.   Semi-solid stains, which are semi-opaque, will need to be refinished every five to eight years.  Solid stains are opaque and perform well with two coats every ten to fifteen years.  If you’re leaning toward a solid stain, you should seriously consider factory prime with an oil-base, bleed-blocking primer and one factory coat of latex paint for your cedar siding.  Once you install it, put on a final coat of paint and you’ve got yourself twenty-five plus years of performance before you really need to do anything other than clean it.  

17. Can You Stain Over Painted Cedar Siding?

No, you cannot stain over the paint because the paint will reject the stain.   You would need to scrape, scratch, and sand to get the paint off before you can stain your cedar siding.  You can, however, paint over stained siding in certain conditions.  But you can never stain over painted siding. 

18. How Do You Know When To Replace Cedar Siding?

The wood will tell you.  It will begin to curl up at the ends and knots will fall out.  When you start to see excessive splitting, cupping or cracking in the wood, it is time to replace it.   If you notice some of the wood receding and lines standing out, it’s the pulp receding and the grain standing out where the growth rings are.  It’s time to replace your siding when you see this.  When your cedar siding starts to look old and you can’t bring back the rich lustre so characteristic of cedar, it may be time to replace it.   Typically, your siding will start to show signs of any of the above issues before it is actually widespread.   However, if you’re not paying attention it can have a rapid onset.   If you let it go till the next year, it gets worse every year, and the issues spreads faster.  So, this year a two hour problem, next year a two week problem.  As we’ve stated in some of the above questions, if you maintain your wood properly through the years, your cedar siding can last a lifetime.

19. Does Pressure-Treated Wood Last Longer Than Cedar?

No.   There are a lot of variables in pressure treating wood.  The treatment process, the knowledge base of the people involved in treating the wood and the type of wood treated.  The most common pressure-treated wood is pine.  Cedar is going to last a lot longer than pressure treated pine, in my opinion.  If you maintain cedar properly it can last fifty, sixty and seventy years.  Realistically, you’re don’t hear folks say “here’s my pressure-treated deck and it’s 60 years old”.  Not to our knowledge, anyway.  Choose cedar siding, maintain it properly and it will last a lifetime.

20. Is Cedar Siding More Expensive Than Vinyl Siding?  

Absolutely.  Cedar siding is one of the most expensive siding options available, and vinyl is one of the least expensive.  Vinyl has a wood grain pattern with every plank precisely identical, and you can spot it for what it is instantly.  It lacks the depth, warmth, and charm of cedar siding.  Vinyl siding adds very little to no additional value to your home.  Cedar siding gives your home that curb appeal that everyone will notice.  

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