When it comes to cedar, there are few people we trust more than “Mr. Cedar” himself, Paul Mackie. He’s been with the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association—the “voice of the cedar industry”—for more than two decades, representing quality cedar producers and educating others on all things cedar.

In this series, Paul is sharing everything cedar-related, from what exactly western red cedar is to the difference between kiln- and air-dried lumber to best practices for installing cedar. Today’s episode is about how to maintain western red cedar siding.

Paul Mackie shares how to maintain western red cedar siding

Here are some key takeaways:

Types of finishes for western red cedar siding

There are five basic options for finishing western red cedar siding and trim: transparent stains, semi-transparent stains, bleaching or weathering products, solid stains, and paint. Each one creates a unique look and has its own expected service life. Let’s break these options down.

Transparent and semi-transparent stains

Transparent stains have the shortest service life of all the finishing options for western red cedar. With transparent stains, you can only apply one coat to smooth-face wood. The expected service life depends on the design, including factors like orientation toward sunlight and rainfall and the size of protective overhangs or eaves. All of this can extend—or shorten—the anticipated service life of your finish. To maintain the look you’re trying to achieve, you will need to reapply this type of stain annually.

Semi-transparent stains are another one-coat option for smooth-face wood and are recommended by most coating manufacturers (depending on the wood’s orientation to sunlight and design overhangs). Semi-transparent stains will last two to four years if you have wide overhangs and eaves.

Bleaching and weathering products

Weathering and bleaching products contain pigments that mute the color variation that naturally occurs in western red cedar—giving it a more uniform and weathered look faster than exposure to sunlight would. While these products used to be fairly popular, they have become less common in the last two to three years. As builders have come to prefer the natural look of western red cedar, bleaching oils and weathering stains have largely been discontinued.

Solid stains and paint

The final option for finishing western red cedar siding or trim is a solid body finish. Solid body finishes are film-forming finishes that are applied over stain-blocking primers. You’ll get the best service life out of these products.

With all of these finishing options, a base coat should be applied to all six sides of the wood prior to installation. With solid body finishes, you only need to apply the primer to all six sides, and then you can apply the top coat either once or twice to the face.

Watch additional installments of this series here, and stay tuned for more from Paul as we continue to learn from him here at Dunn Solutions over the next few months.