Learn how to clean and protect cedar siding. Find out how to select a color or clear stain for cedar siding.
LESLIE: John in Michigan listens in on Discovery satellite radio. What can we do for you today?
JOHN: Yeah, I was just wondering – I trimmed my house all out of cedar . And bottom is changing colors from the top. I was just wondering what kind of material should I use like to put on it. You know, I know if I pressure wash the bottom it’ll come back to the natural color but I like that natural wood finish.
LESLIE: Did you put anything on it initially or is it raw?
JOHN: It’s just wood; like rough-cut cedar lumber.
TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you, we had cedar siding on our house . I’ve had it one for many, many years. And for the first 10 or so years it was OK with a clear finish. But the sun eventually got to it and started to darken it.
LESLIE: And starts to gray it.
TOM: And what I found was the best thing to do was to use an oil-based primer that has tannin-blocking qualities. This is the bleeding that sort of comes out of the cedar after a long period of time and it’s sort of black and dark. And you need an oil-based primer to seal that in. So we used an oil-based primer; sprayed it on first. And then I used a solid color stain on top of that.
Now, if you want it to look natural, then use a natural color stain. You’re not going to be able to maintain the true natural appearance of the wood indefinitely. But if you use a cedar color stain  on top of it, then, you know, you have half a chance of having it look fairly natural. And if you use a tanning-blocking primer underneath it, then it’s going to stay on there for the long haul. That was really the key. The primer is so important.
LESLIE: Yeah, but that’s if you want a solid color. If you want to see the grain you – you know, you’ve got to do something different.
TOM: Well, but the thing is if you put solid color on it, you’re still going to see the grain. You’re still going to see the grain through the solid color because – you’re just not going to see differences in the grain color but you will still see grain. It’s not the same as paint. Many people confuse solid color stain with paint. It’s not the same thing.
LESLIE: Yeah, but sometimes solid color stain is so heavily saturated that you just lose a lot of the characteristics of the wood and it almost looks like paint but the difference being the wood is absorbing it rather than it sitting on top.
TOM: Yeah, but when it’s 10 years old, I really think that’s the best way to go. If it was newer, you know, then you had a chance of doing it.
LESLIE: I would say, John, if you want to see the natural wood and you’ve gotten it fairly clean, I would use a cleanser that’s made for exterior wood; something that’s used to bring back the color. And one of them that I know is called DEKSWOOD and it’s by a company called Flood . You can get it at The Home Depot or any other home center. And that goes on. And you know, it’s a pretty hefty cleanser but it really does work great to get rid of all of the, you know, grayed and weatheredness that sort of has saturated into the wood. And once you get it back to the natural surface and let it dry up, then I would use a clear wood finish for exterior woods that’s oil-based to help seal in those tannins and to keep that color looking more uniform. I mean those are two options.
JOHN: Well, I appreciate your help.