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Cedar Siding Stain Recommendations and Application Tips


Matt is a professional painter and freelance writer, sharing his knowledge, house-painting tips, and product reviews.


Is Your Cedar Siding Stained or Painted?

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

The thickness of paint film on siding prevents the new stain from penetrating the cedar beneath. Staining over painted wood, although doable with certain stains, could lead to problems.

The best way to determine if your siding is currently stained or painted is to look for fading. Typically, stained siding mostly fades and flakes a little, while paint usually peels off in chips. Paint looks much thicker, with less wood texture of the cedar showing.

Cedar siding should never be painted in the first place because it expands and releases moisture, and covering the surface with thick paint can cause problems. While solid stain does also form a layer, the material is thin and penetrates the wood deep inside the cracks.

Select the Best Cedar Siding Stain

A good house siding stain should resist fading as much as possible and cover wood knots good.

Wood knots are far less noticeable with darker colors, but if you're staining cedar a very light color, sealing each knot with a shellac-based primer like BIN is a good idea before staining.

Sherwin Williams Woodscapes Acrylic Solid Stain

I use Woodscapes solid stain for all of of my cedar siding and fence jobs. This product is available at Sherwin Williams. I mostly spray this stain with my airless sprayer and back-brush it into the wood.

My only complaint about Woodscapes is deeper colors don't touch-up well. I did touched up siding once in a dark blue color and it left marks everywhere. With lighter colors, touch up is fine.

Cabot Solid Color Acrylic Siding Stain

Cabot siding stain works well on cedar siding. It can get a little expensive, but like anything else, you get what you pay for. I mostly use Woodscapes, but I stained a house once with this product and was very satisfied with the results.

Cabot is self-priming and covers exceptionally well over weathered cedar knots and wood. It is advertised as a one coat stain, but I always apply a second coat for durability.

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

Prepare the Siding Before Staining

Surface preparation is the most important part of the job. If you neglect the surface preparation, the stain won't last as long.

  1. Power wash the siding to remove dirt and mildew. I like to clean cedar siding with Simple Green, or a bleach/water mix.
  2. Let the siding dry for at least 48-hours. Cedar absorbs a lot of water and it's important to make sure the wood is totally dry before staining.
  3. Sand the surface if needed. If the previous coating is peeling, sanding is a must, but if the surface is only faded, sanding is unnecessary. If the surface is peeling paint, everything must be sanded thoroughly to removed anything that's loose. The Wagner Paint Eater is a good sander to use for that purpose.
  4. Spot prime wood knots if needed. If you don't spot prime, the knots are more likely to bleed through and be more noticeable when staining a lighter color. Use Zinsser BIN.
  5. Spray the stain. The stain should be sprayed and brushed into the wood, or rolled. Apply 2 coats.

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