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Cedar Siding Stain Recommendations and Application Tips

Updated on March 23, 2012

Is Your Cedar Siding Stained or Painted?

Before purchasing stain for cedar siding, it is really important to determine whether the siding is currently stained or painted. If the siding is already coated with paint, a new coat of paint should be applied, not siding stain.

The reason is because the thick coat of paint on siding prevents stain from penetrating deep into the cedar, which is the whole purpose of stain in the first place. Staining over painted wood, although possible with certain stains, is more likely to lead to premature peeling.

The best way to determine if your siding is currently stained or painted is to look for fading from the sun. Typically, stained siding mostly fades from the sun and doesn't peel much. Also, with stain, the natural texture of the cedar is more noticeable, as well as wood knots.

A painted surface will mostly peel in chips and the surface of the siding will look thicker and more solid, with less wood texture showing through. Also, brush and paint roller marks are usually more noticeable on painted siding because paint is thicker than cedar siding stain.

In my opinion, cedar siding should never be painted in the first place. Painting over cedar prevents the wood from naturally expanding and releasing moisture from within. This causes paint failure and other problems.

Select the Best Cedar Siding Stain

Staining cedar siding isn't fun, so using a quality stain will greatly reduce the chances of having to re-stain the house again too early. A good house siding stain should resist fading as much as possible and seal bleeding wood knots to prevent discoloration.

Wood knots aren't so much a problem for darker colors, but if you're staining cedar a light color, it is recommended to go the extra mile and manually seal each knot with Shellac, or primer, before staining.

Sherwin Williams Woodscapes Acrylic Solid Stain

I would recommended this product for staining cedar siding in a solid finish. You can find it only at Sherwin Williams. I use Woodscapes for all of my cedar siding jobs and I've been very pleased with it. The stain comes with an 8 year warranty. If you properly prepare the surface of the siding and apply two coats, Woodscapes will last.

Woodscapes does a good job at sealing wood knots, to prevent discoloration, and the coating dries very solid. I mostly spray this stain with my airless sprayer and then back-brush the siding.

My only complaint about Woodscapes is that the deeper colors don't seem to touch-up well. That could have been a mis-tint, or a mixing issue at the store, but I had a job where a touch-up on a dark blue color left horrble brush marks.

Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain

In my opinion, Cabot is probably one of the best stains for cedar siding. It can get a little expensive, but like anything else, you get what you pay for. Woodscapes usually costs less, but the quality of Cabot is a little better, plus Cabot is for sale in more than one store, whereas Woodscapes is only sold at Sherwin Williams. I mostly use Woodscapes because my customers don't want to pay the higher price for Cabot.

Cabot is self-priming and covers exceptionally well over weathered cedar knots and siding. It is advertised as a one coat only stain, but I have always gone the extra mile and applied a second coat to ensure it will last the longest.

Cabot stain can be applied over previously painted surfaces, but I have always applied it over previously stained wood. This stain resists fading and touches up very well in any color.

Prepare the Siding Before Staining

Like any other type of stain or painting project, surface preparation is the single most important part of the job. You could have the greatest looking stain job in the world, but if you neglected the surface preparation. you could really pay the price in a few years time when the finish starts to peel off of the siding.

  1. Power wash the siding with care. Don't go overboard, just clean off the dirt and mildew. Always try to keep the flow of water pointing downwards, not upwards into the siding. This could force water behind the siding and cause all sorts of problems. I like to clean cedar siding with Simple Green, or a bleach/water mix and power wash mildew and dirt.
  2. Let the siding dry for at least 48-hours. Cedar absorbs a lot of water from a power wash and it's really important to make sure the wood is totally dry before applying the new stain.
  3. Sand the surface. You can even use a sanding head on a painting pole to do this. You don't have to sand thorougly, just enough to smooth everything out.
  4. Spot prime wood knots if staining white, or a very light color. If you don't spot prime, the knots are more likely to bleed through and be more noticeable in the lighter color. Use Shellac or a specialized exterior primer sealer.
  5. Spray the cedar siding stain and either back brush, or use a roller to push the stain into the wood. Do not spray the stain without back brushing or rolling right after. Apply 2 coats. If you are staining all of the siding on a big house, do yourself a favor and use a sprayer, otherwise it will take forever to finish.

Read more of my articles about painting and staining:


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