Important Tips Painting or Staining Cedar Wood

7 Tips Painting or Staining Cedar Wood Siding

Walking into a paint store can be overwhelming, trying to decide which paint or stain coating you wish to provide your exterior Cedar wood and siding, as there are many varieties. The following outline is intended to prepare you, before buying any such products, knowing exactly which type fits your final outcome. Preparing exterior Cedar for painting or staining, a few important steps are involved to ensure lasting beauty and Cedar paint stain's  adhesion characteristics. Before tips are mentioned, would like to clarify the following terms

Tips Before Painting or Staining Cedar

Tips Before Painting or Staining Cedar Wood or Siding

painting or staining Cedar wood and siding before we get into painting or staining tips, which are sometimes loosely thrown around in conversations when getting this work done, and would like everyone being on the same page.

Exterior Cedar Paint or Paint-Stain

First, painting freshly milled Cedar requires a paint stain, unless a 100% acrylic exterior primer is used first, thereby allowing a 100% solid acrylic paint to be used as final finish coats. If you do not intend on priming brand new Cedar or Redwood for that matter, a high quality stain paint should be used, as 50% of volume soaks into the wood, other 50% is left on top, as a dried paint mil. This stain covers all wood grain completely, and gives the wood an appearance of being painted.

Either way of painting Cedar, whether priming first, then painting, or painting using a stain paint, both will receive optimum performance, but priming and painting will usually be 75% more in paint material costs, also having some other drawbacks listed below in table. Using a paint stain right off from the start, a primer is not required, and additional coats further down the road is much easier achieved.

Secondly, using a 100% acrylic primer and paint, at some point this paint product will breakdown over time, and you could see fading, cracking, peeling, chipping, needing to repaint once again. Using a stain paint, only fade becomes an issue, wearing thinner over time, needing to re-coat.

Knowing the differences of Cedar paint or paint stain, I tend to lean towards the stain paint, having this on my own personal Western Red Cedar home, enjoying the protection it provides, as well as re-coating say every 7-10 years.

Exterior Cedar Stain

Exterior Cedar stain is exactly what it implies, either in an oil based or water. Staining new Cedar requires a Transparent, Semi-Transparent, or Semi-Solid stain, if your intention is to still see the natural beauty of the wood's grain after completing the staining process.

Transparent has less product colorants, showing most of the wood grain, as do the Semi-Transparent stains covering just a bit more,  as the Semi-Solids having the most colorants, giving the most uniform wood grain coverage, while still showing some of the grain to show through.

The more the colorants, the more uniform, and consistent the boards will be. No primers needed using these stains, as they do not cover like paint, or paint stains. The linseed and turpentine oils soak into the wood, leaving many different hues and shades of wood colors left, which gives somewhat a wet darker look, until stain has cured and completely soaked into wood's grain.

First Item before Painting or Staining Cedar

First important item to consider is moisture. Moisture is the main deterrent for all stains, oil or latex, from a moisture content within the wood itself and or weather conditions. Weather conditions include cleaning, power washing, rain, snow, drizzle, and higher than normal humidity ratings. Depending upon where in the country you live, and what the normal humidity ratings may be, applying exterior paint under the lowest humidity ratings is always recommended.

Every city in our country has a normal humidity rating, and if not sure where you live, check with your local weather forecaster. Some areas of our country may never see humidity ratings lower than 70%, such as in New Orleans, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Houston, or other coast line areas, closest to large bodies of water. Relative humidity is probably the first factor people should take into consideration when painting Cedar siding, as well as others listed below.

Denver on the other hand is ideal, having one of the lowest humidity ratings in the country, which makes painting and staining a real pleasure most times of the year, painting and staining Cedar wood correctly. Mentioning below some more very key points when considering staining or painting your Cedar wood exterior, never wishing "I wished I would have done that first"

Solid Body Stain Or Semi-Transparent

You have a real important decision to make, and once made, it is not impossible reverting back to another type coating, but requires a lot of work you did not think this out carefully, so this is why this is being mentioned towards the top, after determining best weather conditions, choosing which stain, solid body paint stain or semi-transparent, when painting or staining Cedar, or any other exterior wood for that matter.

Choosing Which Stain

There are basically two (2) types of paint stain for Western Red Cedar wood and siding. Various paint manufactures provide these options, and you really need to be aware before walking into a Lowe's™ or Home Depot™. Nothing against the paint clerks behind the counter, as they all represent the company's philosophy helping paint customers, painters, and contractors, but many have not a clue what they are doing on the other side of the table, rarely ever seeing a paint can before, much less product knowledge.

Now I know there are some, but going into a box store is like a crap shoot, never knowing what correct information you will get. Having correct product knowledge is your best avenue before walking in, choosing which stain to use. I can't count on my right hand the number of customers who have told me the same scenario of walking in a box store, telling staff what they wanted, and planning to do, getting something totally different.

Once you open the can of stain, even if it is a stock shelf item, not having to custom tint the stain, it is normally yours, and no returns, and if you start using it on your siding, makes it very interesting trying to blend something else over, being uniform. Therefore, knowing stain differences before making your selection, makes perfect sense, especially achieving desired results.

Solid Body Stain

Solid body stain is like a paint stain, whereby allows 50% of the stain to soak into the wood, the other 50% lays on top as a paint mil, thereby being referred to as a paint-stain. If your Cedar wood and siding already has this type of paint stain on it, you are required to put something very similar for a new coating. These paint stains can come in latex water borne, or Alkyd base and water clean-up.

Either types of solid coatings are good, most having the words "Fence and Siding". If your attempting to re-stain a deck, you guessed it, the words "Deck Stain" is highly recommended, as Deck stains have higher solids and polymers to last on horizontal surfaces. Don't be chintzy, and go ahead and buy the more expensive Deck stain for decks, which it will last the normal period of time. Putting "Fence and Siding" stain on a deck may last only a year, if that, not getting near the performance otherwise.

Applying Deck stain to Cedar vertical siding is not required, could be cost prohibitive, and not needed, but could very well be done, lasting much longer. As mentioned, this paint-stain or solid body stain can be applied to new or previously paint-stained Cedar wood and siding. This type of paint stain covers up the natural beauty of the wood, like a paint, so be aware. If you like the natural wood grain look, and you have new Cedar wood trim or siding, this product is Not for you.

Solid body paint stain can be applied to previously treated Semi-Transparent or Transparent stained wood which has dried out over time, say a couple years, after a good power rinse is completed. However, once solid body stain is used, you Cannot go back to a natural Semi-Transparent or Transparent Cedar wood grain look, using Semi-Transparent oil stains very easy, without having to strip and remove all of the previous solid body stain off down to bare wood. Paint removal is a tedious and time consuming job, requiring much labor, time and money.

So getting it right from the get-go is always best, never having to wish you would have chosen another paint or stain product.

Tip: Recommend finding a similar piece of Cedar or wood siding, and applying your stain of choice, allowing to dry, and studying the results before going further.

Semi-Transparent Stain

Staining Cedar with a Semi-Transparent formulation, normally comes in a oil, linseed oil, or water based mixture. Many manufactures provide a less colorants in stain, referring to just Transparent Stain, and Semi-Trans. Most of these products provide very good wood protection from the Sun, rain, snow, and wide range of temperatures.

Once stained, these products repel moisture like water rolling off a ducks back. You'll know additional Semi-Transparent application is needed when this water repelling is not occurring any longer. These types of product coatings will never crack, peel, chip, or bubble, as they soak into the Cedar, only leaving colored particles behind, coloring the wood. The only product on the market I would not recommend is Thompson's Water Seal.

Rarely do I speak negative about any product, but have seen many homeowners who have used this (from you guess it! a box store) and within 3 months, calling me for help, looking like they had never stained in the first place. This stain does nothing for protection nor performance, and is a waste of your time and money, costing the same if not more, than higher quality stains on the market. Will give a list of recommended stains later in this message in table.

Tips Before Painting or Staining Cedar

Tip 1: What Are The Current Weather Conditions

Besides relative humidity as the first consideration, when attempting to paint or stain Cedar wood siding or exposed Cedar in the outside elements is forecast of future weather conditions that could be approaching, while you may be in the middle of a finishing project. Estimating your time to complete this paint or stain project, looking into the forecast, picking out the best optimum window of opportunity.

Depending on paint or stain product, some moisture may not be a factor as mentioned further into reading. But for the most part, when applying product coatings to an exterior wood such as Cedar, a quick glance at your weather forecast is a good idea.

Tip 2: Cleaning Cedar

Another quick determination is deciding if the Cedar wood siding is new or old. Will you be applying paint or stain coatings over new or older seasoned Cedar? Having brand new Cedar siding requires installation, as well as preparing it for accepting stain of any sort. Cleaning the mil glaze by power washing first opens up the wood's grain, allowing proper adhesion and saturation. A good additive to use is TSP or Trisodium Phosphate. This chemical is widely used as a cleaning agent, stain remover, and de-greaser.

It is a white powder, highly soluble mixed with water, which allows the wood's grain to open up, and remove the saw blade's glaze for new and older seasoned Cedar. With all chemicals and detergents, safety is the utmost importance, wearing gloves and proper eye protection when mixing and applying is always a good idea for worker safety.

If Cedar is aged, having Grey weathered, and or ugly Black mildew all over, the best Cedar cleaner by far is Oxi-Clean laundry detergent, saving time and money, and is also a must before staining. Only difference between cleaning new and old wood, is new wood does not require much cleaning, as old discolored wood sometimes does.

Tip 3: When Painting or Staining New Cedar

With new Cedar wood siding, starting from scratch, as in an Artisan's canvas, this surface area should be cleaned, and dried. Brand new Cedar wood and Cedar siding freshly milled, could have a moisture content too high accepting much of the product coatings your attempting to use.

Highly recommend checking with your lumberyard where this is purchased, finding out the date it was cut and milled. Normally fresh cut Cedar requires at least two weeks after installation to dry out completely, especially if this was stacked outside in yard and not covered. Letting Cedar wood cure is the best recommendation for new Cedar wood and siding, and before applying paints and sealers.

Tip 4: When Painting or Staining Seasoned Cedar

Older, seasoned Cedar wood and siding is where your painting skills are evenly matched. Having painted and stained numerous structures having this exact wood, comes out flawlessly, once a few important steps are completed. No matter which paint or sealer product you are leaning towards using, working with seasoned older Cedar wood and siding, it is imperative to remove all the old flaking paint or if stained, removing all the old, dried, top layer of wood off by power washing.

Tip 5: When Painting Previously Painted Seasoned Cedar

As a paint or solid body stain ages, it tends to dry out and fade. All loose paint must be removed, as paint or solid body stain is not smart, and is only as good as the substrate it is covering. Surfaces must be scrubbed with a soap and water mixture, sometimes even using a wire brush. Not trying to remove every bit of old product coating, but to insure a sound adhesion is still taking place. After all surface areas have been cleaned, it's time for the drying process to take place.

When Cedar siding is vertical and installed, after power washing, normally a two-day allowance for drying is good to provide previously painted seasoned cleaned Cedar wood. Drying back out after power washing, not to be confused with brand new wood from the lumberyard. If Cedar siding was previously stained with a solid body stain, a good power washing is prescribed. Coming back days later, after drying, scraping any paint still loose, not bonding.

Tip 6: When Staining Previously Stained Cedar

Older Cedar wood previously stained years before can be quite a challenge. Especially if a Semi-Transparent or Transparent stain is being considered, allowing the natural beauty of the Cedar wood grain to show through, as this stain does not cover wood grain imperfections.

If Cedar siding had a Semi-transparent or transparent stain, and your wishing the same type again, you may need to clean extensively with a wood brighter and cleaner, removing all the gray, black mildew away, for a brand new wood look. Best Wood Cleaner for Cedar wood and siding I have ever used, and will only use in the future is Oxi-Clean® laundry detergent. This product not only saves time, it saves tons of money in the interim, being the best homemade deck & Cedar cleaner.

Tip 7: When Painting or Staining Previously Painted or Stained Cedar

Don't want to sound like a broken record, but painting or staining Cedar siding and wood trim, previously painted or stained, it is imperative you know what was used before. A solid body paint stain used before, you will Not be able to stain with a Semi-Transparent or Transparent oil stain over a solid body, as this type does not cover the same, and you will have a living mess on your hands.

Now, suppose a Semi-Transparent was used several years before, your able to apply a solid body paint stain, or go back with a Semi-Transparent one, but never the other way around, Semi over top of Solid.

Painting And Staining Methods of Application

Painting and staining can be a easy thought at first, but requires a lot of perseverance and dedication completing this home improvement in the most uniform and consistent amounts. Whether you are spraying, brushing, rolling, or back rolling product coatings, having the same amount applied is very important, especially working with stains. The Super Deck products, linseed oil based, cannot be applied too heavy, as wood's grain may not allow all the stain to soak in, whereby leaving a thick wax-type coating on top, once dried, needing to be removed.

Wood, especially Cedar soaks in stain over a period of several months, drying out at the same time, which is why you cannot put additional coats on too quickly, or your in for a real surprise. Applying solid paints and stains, refer to manufactures recommendations on the back of each can, and or each product's MSDS sheet. Normally 100% Acrylic primers, a 6-8 mils thick, 100% Acrylic paint, 9-13 mils dried thickness, and paint stains needing at least 2-4 mils dried thickness.

Many different shades of stains, colors of paints designed for Cedar, listed below. A wide spectrum of colors, can you Cedar be painted white, to dark brown. Even custom color matches are available with many, but would have to check with local paint store.

Careful, not applying solid paint stains too thick initially , as not only can they run, but eventually flake, crack, and peel. Additional stain coatings, will cause a build up so to speak over multiple coatings, which this is normal.

Importantly, if older Cedar shingles have never been painted, don't.

understanding how Cedar shingles are cut on a wedge, exposing grain at it's highest, having a rough sewn cross grained texture is standard. Knowing Cedar shingles, how they are meant to slough off older wood, allowing newer wood with this wedged, cross grained thick to thin surface.

You'd be best served staining them with a Transparent or Semi-transparent stain, as these coatings will never crack, or peel.

How to Paint Exterior Wood, Siding, and Trim

If your painting the exterior, or staining it, several commonalities are present with both. First, starting with a clean surface, a light power washing sometimes with a mild detergent is necessary removing all the dirt and grime. Replacing any deteriorated boards,  siding, trim. This is a great idea and time, if your considering replacing any shutters, garage doors, or gutters, before painting the exterior getting this done first.

Scraping any loose mils of paint, caulk, re-caulking for a weather tight seal. Re-nailing any loose nails that may have popped out over time. Followed by all the rest of exterior preparations, completing with an expert exterior painting or staining job. At Eco Paint, we provide the majority of wood repairs and replacements, and can get you in contact with other specialty companies for garage doors, roofing, gutters as an added bonus, if needed.

Consider Which Paint or Stain Products

Considering which paint or stain to use from the start is the best avenue to take, not having to Re-do, starting over, as each additional coating applied, is working in conjunction with the other, giving maximum protection. Important knowing if you want to still see the wood's grain, or cover up like a paint. Several pluses and minus are listed below in a chart for your quick reference, determining which one to choose.

Followed by a quick list of Top Paints, and Stains in our country available for Western Red Cedar. I personally like the beauty of the Cedar's wood grain, but this wood must have some form of paint or stain protection, if it will last decades.

Cedar Stain Products and Manufactures, Applications, Positives and Negatives of Each

Primer/ Paint Transparent Oil / Water
Semi-Transparent Oil / Water Semi-Solid-Paint Stain O / W
Can crack, peel, flake. Costs 75% more, priming 100% Never Peel, Flake. Material costs normally the same as Semi-Trans, Semi-Solids Never Peel, Flake. Material costs normally the same as Trans, Semi-Solids Rarely Peel, Flake. Material costs normally the same as Trans, Semi-Trans.
Must power wash 1st. before priming Must power wash w/wood cleaners, brighteners Must power wash w/wood cleaners, brighteners Must power wash w/wood cleaners
Covers wood grain 100% Covers minimal wood grain, highlights natural wood Covers little more than Trans, highlighting wood's grain Covers most wood grain, showing minimal wood grain
Least maintenance, generally lasting 7-12 years Most maintenance, generally every 2 years, additional stain coat High maintenance, generally every 2-3 years, additional stain coat Lowest maintenance, generally lasting up to 7-10 years before additional coat
Must power wash before each new paint coating Light rinse, if wood has not changed colors Light rinse, if wood has not changed colors Light rinse, preparing for additional coat w/no color change
Use the same amount of paint on additional coat Use the same amount of paint on additional coat Use the same amount of paint on additional coat Use less amount of paint stain on additional coat
Can be sprayed, brushed, or back rolled Can be sprayed, brushed, or back rolled Can be sprayed, brushed, or back rolled Can be sprayed, brushed, or back rolled

Can apply multiple coats, wet on dry




Once coated, must let cure, soak in, dry out before additional product coating Once coated, must let cure, soak in, dry out before additional product coating Once coated, must let cure, soak in, dry out before additional product coating

Dries within 1 hr. @ 70 degrees


Oil dries within 48 hrs. @ 70 degrees

Water-based dries within 1 hr. @ 70 degrees

Oil dries within 48 hrs. @ 70 degrees

Water-based dries within 1 hr. @ 70 degrees

Oil dries within 48 hrs. @ 70 degrees

Water-based dries within 1 hr. @ 70 degrees

Light rain can harm product coating's life immediately after applying Light rain can harm water based, but not oil based immediately after applying Light rain can harm water based, but not oil based immediately after applying  


Light rain can harm water based, but not oil based immediately after applying





Super Deck











Average Cost 25-50.00 per gallon Average Cost 25-30.00 per gallon Average Cost 35-60.00 per gallon  


Average Costs 25-60.00 per gallon



Product Coverage 125-200 sq. ft. of surface per gal. Product Coverage 125-200 sq. ft. of surface per gal. Product Coverage 125-200 sq. ft. of surface per gal.  

Product Coverage 125-200 sq. ft. of surface per gal.



In Closing,

Interior, exterior painting and staining in Boulder can be a daunting task, and hope this helps your painting or staining exterior Cedar wood and or siding the correct way, making all the difference in the world for your siding’s wood protection and lasting beauty. Proper painting and staining techniques will insure your Cedar siding will stand the test of time, protecting the contents within the home, you of course.

Hiring a professional house painting contractor in your area can save you time and money, many assist with Free in Home Paint Color Consultation. Saving  time and money with professional house painters also adds value and sense of personal exterior paint decorating, while getting the job done right the first time.

Hiring an exterior painting contractor also provides the least amount of inconvenience while weatherizing and painting your home’s Cedar siding and trim, which is always a plus. Several other answers can be found painting Masonite™ siding correctly, as Eco Paint prides themselves as exterior painting experts for Colorado.

In Denver Colorado, Eco Paint company, provides some of the best Denver painters, Colorado has to offer, along with these above attributes mentioned. Any painting questions can be asked and answered by some of the most informed paint contractors in the painting industry.

Thank you for visiting our Painting Blog! If you’ve enjoyed this article, please leave a like, share, ping, and/or comment below. Always enjoying house painting discussions when ever we’re not too busy painting homes in Denver and Colorado.

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Great info painting, staining, and cleaning Cedar wood. Had no idea what best products to use, Thanks!


[…] like an expert on this subject, I have another important tip to make about staining Cedar wood. Most stains are either Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Solid Transparent, or Solid wood stains. The […]


[…] Important Tips Painting or Staining Cedar Wood – Eco Paint, Inc. <strong>Important Tips Painting or Staining Cedar Wood</strong> […] for worker safety. If Cedar is aged, having Grey weathered, and or ugly Black mildew all over, the best Cedar cleaner by far is Oxi-Clean laundry detergent, saving time and money, and is also a must before staining. Only difference between cleaning new […] Log in to Reply November 27, 2017 […]


[…] you are applying paint, the species doesn’t matter except that you should reject cedar and redwood. (I thoughtlessly used some ceder in my project and it didn’t take the paint as well as the […]


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Peter valentino
Peter valentino
3 years ago

We used sherwin William’s weathered teak at a suggestion from designer not realizing it was interior stain and it turned out looking black???Is there any way to lighten this up?Is the wood protected in Texas weather with this stain?

3 years ago

We have cedar siding, live in Atlanta Ga. we had the house painted ( not stained) in 2003. Can stain be used once the house has been painted. Or is it better to go with paint? The current paint is peeling, with proper prep can stain be used. Thank you
Trying to get an unbiased opinion.

3 years ago

Staining wood, in and of itself, is an art. Knowing how a given type of wood will color under stains and then under another layer of protective coating is important. In the case of cedar, it is even more critical to get it right. I would suggest that you get some practice pieces of cedar to see what stains and paint combinations you like and maybe even test them a little by leaving them outside to see how they respond to the elements.

Susie Brown
Susie Brown
2 years ago

Good article. I made the mistake of using solid stain on my red cedar house and hate it. Now it just looks like a painted house and you are saying I am locked into this. Is there a certain color that I could use to project the cedar color. I have used cedar and it looks peachy.