Home & Garden

Ask Angie: Maximize longevity of cedar-shake siding

Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks MCT

Dear Angie: What's involved in maintaining the cedar shakes that cover my home's exterior? I've been told they should be treated every five years. What's the process and cost? — Lynn R., Long Beach Township, N.J.

Dear Lynn: If you want your cedar to live up to its reputation for longevity and decay resistance, make sure it's treated or stained properly and checked periodically.

Left untreated, cedar shakes — individual planks of one of several varieties of cedar — will discolor and begin to soften, with a possibility of rot after about five years, depending on your climate. You have several options for covering cedar siding, including stain, a clear treatment or paint.

A solid-color stain or paint tends to give cedar a more formal appearance, while a transparent stain or clear waterproofing treatment provides a more rustic look.

Top-rated siding experts tell our team that stain is a more effective protectant for cedar and lasts longer than paint. A solid-color latex house stain offers the appearance of paint, but with less effort, they say.

Hiring a professional to paint or stain cedar siding will cost $2,500 to $4,000 or more, depending on your home's size and the labor required. A stain or clear coating needs one or two finish coats, depending on the grade of cedar and whether you're applying a solid or a semi-transparent product. If you choose semi-transparent, test an inconspicuous area to be sure of the color.

Painting requires a base coat of exterior oil-based wood primer, followed by a latex-based exterior wood finish coat.

High-quality paint or stain, properly applied, should last five to 10 years, depending on climate and maintenance. However, you might need to reapply a clear-coat stain every two years.

With new cedar shake siding — which can cost about $5 a square foot — you shouldn't need to do any prep work before staining or painting. In fact, you can pay extra for pre-primed or pre-stained shake products. If new cedar siding requires a finish, apply to individual shakes before installation. This allows complete coating of sides and edges.

Older siding should be cleaned and allowed to dry thoroughly enough that it can absorb sprinkled water. Many siding pros recommend power washing. The Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau, a nonprofit trade organization, warns that an experienced washer should assess a cedar-siding job individually, because high-pressure water jets can damage wood.

Before applying stain or paint, secure loose shakes, replace rotten or damaged ones and fill blemishes with putty or caulk.

Experts suggest the following routine maintenance for cedar siding:

■ Check for damaged or loose boards; nail down or replace as needed.

■ Wash once a year. A garden hose might be sufficient. Be cautious with power-washing; high pressure can damage wood.

■ Trees and shrubs should be at least 2 feet away.

■ Ensure that gutters are clear and don't overflow.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.