The good news about cedar shingle siding is its ability to resist rot and pests better than other woods, but as a soft wood, it mars easily. When left to its own devices, cedar weathers well to a silvery gray — a common sight on on beach homes and mountain cabins. Marred or broken cedar shingles can be quickly replaced when they do get damaged, but the new wood tends to look out of place against the old, weathered wood. Cleaning and sealing all of the shingles at once results in the best appearance.
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Cedar Shingle Maintenance
You don't have to do much to cedar shingle siding if you prefer its weathered gray look, other than clean and coat it with a water-resistant preservative and inspect it for rot and damage periodically. Coating the cedar shingles with a water-resistant product helps to preserve the wood against moisture damage. Clear preservatives will not prevent the wood from turning gray, but pigmented sealer offer some UV protection to minimize the graying effect.
The climate in which the house is located is the determining factor at how often you must clean and recoat the shingles with a water-resistant preservative. Homes in humid climates or near beaches, for example, may require maintenance and reapplication once every two to three years, whereas drier climates may increase that period to three to five years, dependent on weathering.
How well you clean and maintain the cedar shingles on the exterior of your home can mean the difference between having to replace the siding in less than 10 years or having a home that continues to look good for 40 to 50 years.
Avoid oil-based sealers, paints, or stains on cedar shingles if you want to avoid mildew and mold growth. Mildew and mold grow more rapidly on oil-based sealers because they feed on the ingredients in the oils. Even products with mildewcides and fungicides may not prevent this because of the sun's ultraviolet rays and weathering that breaks these ingredients down.
Cleaning Cedar Shingles
Cedar shingles can also grow moss and algae or develop iron staining, which requires periodic cleaning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Services Laboratory recommends cleaning cedar shingles with an oxidizing bleach — as opposed to a household chlorine bleach — to prevent damaging the wood. While you can use chlorine bleach to kill mold and algae, it tends to make the cedar shingle's surface fuzzy because of the excessive pulping reaction when using it.
How to Clean Cedar Siding With Oxygen Bleach
- Brush the surface to remove dirt and debris with a long-handled scrub brush or broom.
- Mix the oxygen bleach in a ratio of 2 cups of powdered granules to 1 gallon of water, or based on the product and manufacturer's instructions on the label.
- Pour the mixture into a cleaned lawn and garden sprayer.
- Cover about a 4 x 8-foot section with the liquid and let it sit on the siding for about 15 minutes.
- Scrub the saturated area with a scrub brush with a broom handle.
- Rinse with cold water from a garden hose, and let dry.
High-pressure sprayers or pressure washers easily damage cedar, leaving raised grains, pitting, and scarring. These tools also force water between and behind the shingles and can damage the home. Opt for low-pressure sprayers instead.
Moisture-Resistant Clearcoat, Stains, and Paints
While you can certainly apply a paint to cedar shingles if you desire, it may not be worth the effort, as peeling paint will be hard to remove from the individual cedar shakes. You're better off using a clearcoat product or a transparent or opaque water-based stain. Once the house is dry, you can apply a clearcoat product or a stain directly from a lawn and garden sprayer, a high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) paint sprayer or manually with a paintbrush or roller.
Applying Wood Stripper and New Stain
Before you can add a new clearcoat protectant or a stain, you must prepare the wood after cleaning to accept the new coating. In some cases, you may be able to skip this step if the cleaning process using oxidized bleach removed all traces of the old clear coat, stain or paint.
- Cover landscaping material around the house with plastic sheeting, or wet the area down with a hose.
- Pour the wood-stripping product into a low-pressure sprayer.
- Cover an area you can comfortably work -- about a 4-by-8 foot section -- in about 20 to 30 minutes. Let the wood stripper sit on the shingles for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Scrub the soaked area with a long-handled stiff-bristle brush. Do not use a wire bristle brush.
- Rinse clean with water from the hose and let dry for at least 48 hours.
- Apply the protective clear coating or stain in the desired finish — transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque — with a HVLP sprayer, lawn and garden sprayer, or manually.