5 Tips to Help Your Home’s Wood Siding Last Longer

Nick P. Cellucci
Written by Nick P. Cellucci
Updated December 20, 2021
A country house with wood siding
Photo: Anne Kitzman / Adobe Stock

Keep your home looking fresh while protecting its structure from the elements

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Quality siding is your home’s first line of defense against year-round exposure to wind, rain, snow, and heat. With good maintenance under normal conditions, your exterior wood siding should last 20 to 40 years before requiring replacement. Learn how to spot common problems with your wood siding and how to stay on top of its regular maintenance needs.

1. Inspect Your Wood Siding Twice a Year

Do a routine check of your siding every six months to ensure it looks like you want. Any visible damage on the surface is a sign of potential damage to your home’s structural integrity, so it’s vital to catch small problems early and fix them before they get worse and become more expensive to repair.

Potential signs of problems with your wood siding include:

  • Chips, holes, scratches, or cracks, which indicate possible moisture penetration points

  • Mold and fungus on the surface, which typically indicate moisture problems

  • Warped, wavy, or bubbling wood that is loose and no longer protecting your home

  • Peeling interior paint or wallpaper, which indicate moisture behind your walls

  • Insects boring into the wood

  • Rotting or decaying wood

We recommend doing one check in the fall to prepare for winter and another in the spring so you can complete any needed maintenance while the weather is warmer.

2. Keep Your Wood Siding Clean

No matter what type of siding you have, you need to clean it regularly to remove dirt, mildew, and other potentially harmful substances from the surface. Clean siding is more durable and improves the overall look of your home’s exterior. Learning how to maintain wood siding is definitely a wise investment. 

Be sure to annually wash your wood siding using warm, soapy water and a soft-bristled brush to gently remove dirt. Clean your home in sections, working from bottom to top to avoid drip marks, and rinse each section with a hose before moving on to the next.

If you notice mildew, gently scrub using a solution made of one part bleach to four parts warm water, rinsing afterward. Rust stains from uncoated nails or screws can be removed similarly, but swap out the bleach in your solution for oxalic acid. Swap out the rusted fasteners galvanized or stainless steel siding nails.

Because both bleach and oxalic acid can irritate your skin and eyes, we recommend wearing gloves and eye protection when handling your solution.

3. Have Your Wood Siding Painted, Stained, and Sealed

 A man painting the wood siding with protective paint
Photo: ronstik / Adobe Stock

Wood naturally expands and contracts with seasonal changes in humidity and temperature, which can cause stress on paint and caulked seams around windows and doors. If these protective barriers are damaged, water can penetrate your siding and cause damage to your home’s structure.

You can seal your wood siding with a fresh coat of paint or stain and a sealer. It’s important to choose the right products, so here’s the difference between each:

Paint

Fresh paint coats your siding, makes your home look put together, and increases its curb appeal. The average cost to paint wood siding is $700 to $3,000, and you should have it done every five years or as soon as you see it start to peel and chip.

Wood Stain

Unlike paint, stain penetrates wood fibers and won’t chip or crack. Stain seals your siding against moisture, and it costs less than paint to apply. Keep in mind that, once you choose a stain color, it’s difficult to change that color.

Clear Sealer

In addition to paint or stain, wood siding also requires a sealer. This will protect it from moisture and UV light from the sun, which can discolor your wood and cause it to turn gray. You should apply new sealant at least every two years.

4. Create Space Between Wood Siding and Foliage

The trees and shrubs you plant around the perimeter of your home should not directly touch your siding. Live green plants attract and retain moisture, which can then find its way into porous wood, especially if you find nearby cracks or tiny openings. Branches can also strike the siding when blown by the wind, causing scratches.

To prevent this type of damage, as well as moisture and mildew, trim back bushes and tree branches so that they do not touch the exterior siding of your home. As a rule of thumb, you want to leave enough room to comfortably walk between your house and any plant life.

5. Replace Your Old Siding with Quality Wood

If any pieces of your wood siding are scratched, dented, warped, loose, or missing completely, have them repaired as soon as possible. Be sure to repair or replace siding if it’s old or severely damaged. The same is true for repairing rotted boards. Otherwise, your home is at risk of water penetration and mold growth that could compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Whether you opt for new siding or simply want a material to match the look of your existing home, make sure you are choosing quality wood materials. Look for wood species with natural resistance to rot, as this is the most common problem for wood siding. Some of the best siding choices include Nordic whitewood, redwood, cypress, and western cedar wood siding.

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