How Should I Care For My Cedar Siding?

Jacqueline Zenn
Written by Jacqueline Zenn
Updated June 14, 2021
Cedar shake siding
Robert Houser / UpperCut Images via Getty Images

Cedar siding can give your home an extra wow-factor—if you keep up with maintenance

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If you’re looking to give your home some warmth and rustic charm, cedar siding (sometimes called cedar shakes), can make your house stand out on the block. 

Maintaining cedar siding requires treating it correctly—not only when it’s first installed, but throughout its lifetime. And while well-cared-for cedar shakes can give your home a vintage vibe, if left untreated the siding can discolor, soften, or even decay and rot.

Here’s how to keep your cedar siding looking its best.

1. Make a Budget

The cost of painting, staining, or otherwise 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

Keep in mind, this is just for treatment—if the wood siding needs to be repaired or if panels need to be replaced, you’ll probably pay more. You should expect to replace your cedar siding every 10 to 15 years. Installing cedar siding can cost 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.

2. Give Your Cedar Shakes a Check-Up

Though you’ll only have to face a full replacement every 10 years or so, you should inspect your cedar siding a couple times each year. Give it a 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 2 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 become trapped inside the wood.

Cedar shake siding
penfold / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

3. Know Your Treatment Choices

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. 

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.

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 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

Love the natural look of your cedar siding, but want to protect the wood from the elements? You can hire a contractor to add a clear waterproofing treatment or transparent stain that still shows the grain and texture of the wood for an attractively rustic look. 

Clear coatings sometimes need to be reapplied more often than other treatment options, though, 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. 

4. Know When to Call 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 and increase your home’s value

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. 

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