How Should I Care For My Cedar Siding?

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated July 22, 2022
Cedar shake siding
Photo: Robert Houser / UpperCut Images / Getty Images

Highlights

  • Proper maintenance helps cedar siding last longer and keep its color.

  • You should inspect your cedar siding up to twice a year.

  • Treat cedar siding with paint, stain, or a clear treatment every five to seven years.

  • You should replace cedar siding every 10 to 15 years.

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If you’re looking to give your home some warmth and rustic charm, cedar siding, also called cedar shakes, can make your house stand out on the block. Maintaining cedar siding requires treating it correctly throughout its lifetime, otherwise it could discolor, soften, or decay and rot.

Here’s what to know about cedar siding cleaning and maintenance, including how and when you should treat it—and when it’s time to repair or replace it.

How to Maintain Cedar Siding

Though you’ll only have to face a full replacement every 10 years or so, you should inspect your cedar siding two times each year. Give it a visual once-over, looking for any loose or damaged panels, scratches or blemishes, or rot. 

Here’s how to keep your cedar siding in top shape:

  • Nail down or replace any loose boards.

  • Trim trees and shrubs so they’re at least two feet away from the siding.

  • Fill any blemishes with putty or caulk.

  • Clean out your gutters. A clogged gutter will overflow, letting water soak into the cedar below.

  • Wash your siding once a year. Use a garden hose—never a power washer, as the high pressure can damage the wood.

  • If you’re repainting or restaining the cedar siding after washing it, allow enough time for the cedar to thoroughly dry first. Otherwise, moisture can get trapped inside the wood.

Cedar shake siding
Photo: penfold / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

How to Clean Cedar Siding

Proper cedar siding maintenance helps it last longer and can restore its original color. If your siding is beginning to turn black, it’s likely because of mold and mildew growth. Before washing your siding, it’s important to treat this growth with an oxygen bleach solution. Otherwise, it will just feed on the moisture left behind during washing and grow back in a few days.

Wash your cedar siding properly by following these basic deep cleaning steps:

  1. Apply oxygen bleach solution to your siding with a garden sprayer.

  2. Allow the solution to sit and soak into the wood for about 15 minutes.

  3. Use a soft nylon-bristle brush to scrub away residue and debris.

  4. Slowly rinse away dirt and soapy residue using smooth passes with a garden hose or pressure washer set to the lowest speed and pressure settings.

  5. Allow two to four days for your siding to fully dry before sealing.

When rinsing, it helps to keep your hose or pressure washer angled downward to avoid forcing water behind the siding and accidentally tearing them off. Using the lowest speed and pressure settings can also reduce this risk. For peace of mind, you can hire a local professional pressure washing contractor with the tools and experience needed to do the job safely without harming your siding.

Cleaning Solutions

When cleaning cedar siding, use a solution of one part oxygen bleach powder mixed with three parts water. This wood-safe cleaner will not remove any natural color from your siding and won’t harm any nearby plants or trees. Soaking your cedar siding with oxygenated bleach breaks down grime and removes stubborn stains from the wood.

Carefully read product labels when shopping and avoid products that contain chlorine bleach, sodium hydroxide, or potassium hydroxide. These chemicals can bleach wood and kill plants.

After soaking your siding with an oxygen bleach solution, you’ll need to rinse it off with water. If pressure washing, you can complement the oxygen bleach with a pressure washing detergent appropriate for cedar siding. Look for one specifically formulated to kill mold, mildew, and algae.

How to Treat Cedar Siding

There are several options for treating and protecting cedar siding, such as paint, stains, or clear treatments—you can even use a combo of these. The cost of treating your cedar shakes will range from $2,500 to $4,000 or more, at about $1 to $4.50 per square foot. The cost to refinish cedar siding is determined by the size of your home, the labor required, and the materials used. For an exact quote, contact a siding repair company near you

Paint

Painting your cedar siding a solid color is a classic choice that can look more formal or classic, depending on your home’s style and aesthetic. Typical exterior house paint can last for around five to 16 years, depending on your climate. Painting cedar shakes requires a base cost of exterior oil-based wood primer topped by a latex-based exterior wood finish coat.

Stain

If you want to let the cedar siding’s natural wood grain show through, a latex house stain can work beautifully. Just make sure you test the shade (or shades) on an inconspicuous area of the house first to make sure you love it.

Depending on the grade of your cedar shakes and whether your stain is solid or semi-transparent, you might need to apply two coats to get the desired effect.

Clear Seal

If you love the natural look of your cedar siding, you can add a clear waterproofing treatment or transparent stain that still shows the grain and texture of the wood for a rustic look. 

Clear coatings need to be reapplied more often than other treatment options, so keep this in mind if you choose a transparent seal. You can also add a weatherproof clear seal on top of your stained or painted shakes. 

When to Treat Siding

Brand-new cedar shakes should be treated right away, and you can have them treated before they are installed to get the sides and edges completely coated. If you’re treating the cedar that’s already on your home, make sure to wash it and let it dry completely first.

The label on your treatment product should provide specific instructions, but generally the outdoor temperature should be above 50° F during application and for 24 hours after application. A top-quality water repellent can last five to seven years before you need to reapply.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro

Though you can perform some maintenance on your own, calling in a local professional to help you install, clean, and treat your cedar siding will give you the best results. In fact, if you hire a contractor with experience in all things cedar siding and cedar shake roofing, they can recommend when it should be refinished and replaced.

FAQs

When should cedar siding be replaced?

Expect to replace cedar siding every 10 to 15 years. Inspect your cedar siding a couple times each year for the following signs of damage that could require replacement:

  • Loose or damaged panels, which should be nailed down or replaced

  • Holes, cracks, scratches, or blemishes, which can lead to moisture damage

  • Rot or soft, crumbling areas under boards and joints along gutters and chimneys

How much does it cost to replace cedar siding?

Replacing cedar siding costs around $5 to $10 per square foot or from $7,000 to $18,000 for the whole house, and the national average cost is $12,500.

Can cedar siding be power washed? 

Cedar siding can be power washed. However, this type of cleaning is best done by an experienced pro due to the risk of high pressure tearing away the wooden panels. If you plan to power wash cedar siding as a DIY project, do so slowly and gently with your machine on the lowest speed and pressure settings.

Can weathered cedar siding be revived?

Over time, cedar shake weathers naturally from a warmer wood tone to a silver-gray color. Weathered cedar siding can be revived to its original warm color with proper cleaning.

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