Cedar is popular among woodworkers due to its durability and unique aroma. Nevertheless, it’s notorious for being hard to paint. As a result, it requires seasoned painters for all finishing needs.

If you have cedar furniture, fencing, or siding, you may be at your wits end on whether to paint it. In this post, we’ll focus on the following concerns;

  • What is cedar wood
  • Can you paint cedar?
  • How to paint cedar?
  • Should you paint or stain cedar?
  • Can I leave cedar unfinished?

Read on to learn more.

Can You Paint Cedar

Yes, you can paint cedar. You are at liberty to use any choice of color including custom ones. Ensure you use the right paint, that is, acrylic-latex paint because of its stain-blocking properties. Cedar contains sap that seeps through the paint and this seeping form ugly stains that show through layers of the paint.

What Is Cedar

Cedar is a strong and durable wood that’s used for most construction needs. It’s also versatile, making it a good wood option for various applications. These applications include durable cedar shake sidings, decks, fences, and shingles.

Cedar also features a distinctive smell, which many people find pleasant. Although the wood is native to North America, you can find it growing in some parts of Asia and Europe. Typically, cedar trees grow tall, with some attaining heights above 100 feet tall.

Can You Paint Cedar

Cedar is easily painted like soft pine wood compared to hardwoods such as maple. Moreover, once painted, cedar siding pais seamless.

However, before reapplication, prime any bare areas using Resene Wood Primer. Then, whether it is a cedar siding or furniture piece, coating it with fresh paint will deliver a new look.

Revitalizing the appearance of a home involving a transformative process, such as painting weathered cedar siding, bringing new life and protection to its exterior.

How To Paint Cedar

Painting your cedar project or siding offers numerous advantages. From enhancing its aesthetics to improving its durability, you can do your cedar a favor by coating it with paint. Below, you’ll find the correct steps to follow when painting cedar;

Tools Needed

  • Scrubbing brush
  • Wood primer
  • paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Oil-based exterior acrylic primer
  • Moss and Mold killer
  • Sandpapers
  • Painter’s gloves
  • Clean rag or cloth

Step 1: Inspect The Surface

Prior to commencing your project, you’ll want to inspect your cedar siding for flaws- the kind that paint can’t fix. Check for large holes and small dents, filling them up using a wood filler. But can you drill through wood filler when using it to patch holes or dents in cedar siding? Absolutely. Wood filler is designed to be drillable once it has dried and hardened.

If the damage is extensive, you have no option but to replace the entire piece of lumber. Also, check the wood’s surface for mold growth.

When present, mold prevents the paint from adhering to the wood surface properly and results in bubbling. Moreover, it features long-term health impacts. Scrub the mold off using soap and water or spray a mold killer.

Step 2: Strip The Old Paint

It’s still debated whether applying a fresh coat of paint over your old, peeling paint is okay. However, I recommend stripping the old paint to reveal the surface for the paint to be effective.

This way, you don’t risk losing your new paint if the old paint becomes loose and peels off. Use a pressure washer to remove the old loose paint effortlessly. Use a siding cleaner in your pressure washer if you have to deal with excessive mold.

However, if the pressure washer doesn’t get rid of the paint, you’ll have to use sandpaper or a scraper to remove what remains. Use the scrapper first, leaving the sandpaper for the most stubborn areas.

Paint removal is a tough job, and you may need to use power tools such as a power sander.

Step 3: Sand The Cedar Wood Surface

Sanding is vital to achieving a smooth surface that can accept a primer. Whether your cedar is old or new, sanding is required to eliminate dust and debris. When sanding, work along the wood grain without missing any spot.

Also, remember to apply uniform pressure throughout the surface. After sanding, wipe off the sawdust using a clean rag and prepare the surface for priming.

Step 4: Apply The Primer

Cedar is rich in tannins, an oily substance, which makes it highly water-resistant. Unfortunately, the tannins seep over time and eventually leech through your paint. This results in ugly blotches all over cedar surfaces, delivering an unappealing look.

Fortunately, applying an oil-based primer will seal cedar wood, preventing the tannins from leaching. Alternatively, if you don’t want oil-based products, use stain-blocking acrylic-based exterior paint to prevent the tannins from seeping through.

Never use a latex primer on cedar. Instead, go for oil-based acrylic primers to achieve the best results. Once you’ve primed the entire surface, spare about 8 hours for the primer to settle in.

Step 5: Apply The Paint

Once the primer coating dries fully, you can proceed to the next step. First, deep the Paintbrush into the paint and apply it along the grain of your cedar wood.

Painting along the wood grain facilitates maximum paint absorption. Additionally, it ensures you achieve a smooth paint job without brush marks or streaks.

Cedar, being highly porous, takes paint well. Subsequently, you’ll want to apply the paint over the wood’s surface to achieve the desired finish.

I recommend using a brush, not a sprayer or roller when painting cedar. Besides being porous, cedar features a textured surface. Thus, a roller or sprayer won’t deliver full coverage. Moreover, you could easily miss several spots.

So, use your brush to make short and deliberate strokes. While it may not be the most efficient method, it guarantees full and even coverage.

If you must work with a roller, pick one that features a heavy nap to hold more paint. While applying the paint, recurrently roll back over the areas you’ve painted already.

You’ll eventually cover the entire board with any luck by making multiple passes. Work evenly, ensuring that you cover all areas. Also, take caution not to trap any moisture underneath the paint coat.

The trapped moisture will result in surface blotchiness. Moreover, yellow/ brown particles will go through the paint and ruin the entire project.

To help you pick the right nap, check the battle of 3/8 nap vs 1/2 nap

Should You Stain or Paint Cedar?

While there’s no definite answer to this question, whether to stain or paint cedar siding boils down to the condition of the wood and the environmental conditions. A stain is more durable than paint and delivers a more natural finish.

On the contrary, painting guarantees more protection and is the best option for badly worn cedar or failed painted projects. Additionally, you can only stain cedar if it’s paint free.

So, ensure you scrape off any previous finish before staining cedar wood. Fortunately, you can paint stained cedar with ease.

Another difference between paint and cedar is how they protect the wood. Staines typically penetrate the wood fibers, offering protection from within.

On the other hand, paint creates a protective coating on the wood surface without penetrating. So, while stains enhance the natural wood color, paint hides and alters the surface color of cedar wood.

In addition, since the stain’s formula can penetrate deep into the porous cedar wood, it’s longer lasting than paint. Moreover, staining cedar helps the surface to resist moisture from snow, ice, and rain.

Therefore, the need for reapplying the stain of the wood is less frequent. Moisture levels also determine the most suitable finish for cedar wood.

For instance, a paint finish could easily deteriorate and collapse in the presence of moisture. The coat tends to lift and starts peeling. Stains offer a better wood protection strategy since they make wood water-resistant from within.

Sometimes, you may want to paint over stained cedar. While you can apply paint over a stain finish, you’ll want to ensure that the stain is dry to the touch.

You can confirm this by splashing some water on the stained wood surface. Then, check whether the water beads up or soaks into the wood. Finally, you can paint the stained surface if it absorbs the water.

Even so, you’ll want to inspect the cedar wood before you decide whether to stain or paint. If you’re a beginner, you could hire a painting contractor to assess the wood. Here are some things to look out for when inspecting the surface.

Check if it’s a previously painted surface or new cedar wood. If it features a previous paint coating, you’re better off repainting the surface than applying a fresh stain layer. Staining will require that you strip the entire paint layer and sand the surface.

Check for the cedar wood’s integrity to determine whether you’ll deliver a new solid finish or maintain the wood’s natural beauty.

Tip; Remember to inspect the cedar regularly for sun or water damage. This way, you’ll easily spot areas that require a touch-up.


Can I Leave Cedar Unfinished?

Applying a finish on your cedar project or furniture protects it from the elements, which would’ve limited its longevity. If you leave cedar wood unfinished, it will begin to rot and soften due to penetrating moisture.

It will also lose its golden-brown color. However, it is less likely to succumb to mold and insect damage. Technically, there is nothing wrong if you leave cedar unfinished or untreated.

Cedar contains natural oils that resist fungus and mold. So, expect your unfinished cedar siding or cedar fence to last a few years before suffering serious damage.

However, unfinished cedar doesn’t weather evenly. Instead of turning to a uniform gray color, it grays in patches and blotches.

Fortunately, unless you have a keen eye for minute detail, you won’t notice this on small weathered wood such as an individual cedar shingles.

However, uneven weathering is more obvious and pronounced if it’s on the entire wood siding or fence. The effect is even more accentuated if there’s a difference in rain and sunlight exposure.

So, if you leave your cedar unfinished, consider treating it regularly using wood oil. While the oil doesn’t alter the surface color or prevent the wood from aging, it replenishes the natural oils.

In addition, this keeps your cedar wood from drying out. This way, you can achieve a uniform gray look without splintering and cracking.


Is It Okay To Paint Raw Cedar?

Yes, it’s okay to paint cedar. However, you’ll want to use a high-quality primer and paint. Plus, you may be asking, can you mix primer with paint? Before painting:

  • Apply a durable, stain-blocking primer to the raw cedar.
  • Add a minimum of two coats of 100% acrylic-latex exterior paints.
  • Never apply oil-based paints on cedar.

What Happens If You Paint Cedar?

Cedar is renowned for containing tannings- a sap that seeps through paint. When the sap leeches into the layer of paint, it results in ugly stains that can reveal through the paint coating. So, you’ll want to use an ideal oil primer before painting. Alternatively, you could use a latex-based paint that features stain-blocking properties.

How Long Does Painted Cedar Last?

If painted correctly, cedar can be long-lasting, with a 12–15-year lifespan. In addition, painting cedar is an effective way of protecting wood. To achieve the best results, use high-quality primers and finishes. I prefer painting cedar with products that include mold and mildew inhibitors.

What Is The Best Paint For Cedar Wood?

Exterior grade acrylic latex paint is the best paint for cedar wood outdoors. Besides protecting cedar from outdoor elements such as moisture, it includes stain blockers that prevent bleeding of the tannins. This is important, for every cedar siding paint job.

Does Cedar Need To Be Sealed Before Painting?

Cedar wood does not necessarily need to be sealed, but it can benefit from a protective coating. Sealing cedar can help prevent damage from moisture, UV rays, and insects, and can help maintain its natural color. However, some prefer to let cedar age naturally without any coating.

Read also: Does Cedar Need To Be Sealed?

Will Cedar Bleed Through The Paint?

Tannins exist in many kinds of wood and are more notable in cedar or redwood. When painting these woods, the tannins could bleed through the surface, resulting in splotches and patches. These splotches are more pronounced when you use lighter paint colors such as white or cream.

Can Cedar Be Left Untreated Outside?

Cedar is the perfect material for exterior painting projects. It features natural oils that can resist moisture, insects, and high temperature, among other elements. As a result, you can leave untreated cedar outside for a long time due to its resistance to environmental elements and high durability.

Read also: Can exterior paint be used inside?


Now back to your question, can you paint cedar? Yes, you can. However, painting cedar siding is more demanding than working with other woods, since you’ll have to contend dealing with the protective tannins.

When painting cedar siding, ensure that you work evenly and accurately while adhering to all instructions. Moreover, choose high-quality paint and apply a primer before embarking on your project.

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