Can I Paint Exterior Wood, or Will it Cause It to Hold Moisture – and Rot?

  • Applying protective varnish on a patio wooden floor
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Beverly in Missouri has a question about whether she can paint exterior wood. What can we do for you today?

    BEVERLY: Well, I have a house that was built just a year-and-a-half ago and has a covered patio. And my builder put cedar posts out there. The rest of my trim is all white. So I wanted to cover or paint the cedar but he’s telling me I can’t do it because I’ll rot them out. And I – that doesn’t sound right to me but I’m not sure.

    TOM: So, what would you – in a perfect world, Beverly, what would you like to see on those cedar posts? Would you like them to be white and match the rest of the house? Would you paint exterior wood?

    BEVERLY: Yeah. All of my trim is white and so I would rather them be white. They’re a year-and-a-half old now, so they’re starting to turn this cedar look and get all dark.

    TOM: Right. Are they kind of decorative?

    BEVERLY: No.

    TOM: OK. See, here’s what I would do. The first thing I would – I’m going to recommend a staining process. So, the first thing you’re going to do is prime the cedar with an oil-based primer or a solvent-based primer. And then you’re going to stain the wood, and I would use a solid-color stain. And the solid-color stain is not going to look like paint, so it won’t tend to peel; it’ll fade over time. But it’ll soak in really nicely. And you can get a white stain – a solid, white stain – and it’ll look quite attractive.

    When you paint wood it does not cause it to rot; it prevents it from rotting.

    LESLIE: It just requires a lot of repainting.

    BEVERLY: Yeah. I mean he said if I covered it or painted them, that it causes the moisture to hold to the base and then they rot.

    TOM: I would disagree with that. I think if you stain them, you’ll find that they’re quite attractive and that the moisture will wick in and out just fine.

    BEVERLY: Good. Thank you so much. I really appreciate this.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. You’re very welcome.

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