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Paint or Stain my cedar clapboard siding?

April 18, 2008

I have gotten a few estimates to paint my ranch style home (cedar clapboard siding).

But one thing the contractors can't seem to agree on is:

Paint or Stain??

My home is in Connecticut, ranch style home that faces due West (so it gets a lot of sun in the evening).

Which is better to use? Paint or Stain?

If there is no definitive answer either way (which is what it seems to me), what are the pros and cons of each?

Finally, any opinions on the various products? Benjamin Moore, etc.

Most of the contractors I got estimates from use Benjamin Moore....which I assume is good quality stuff.


Comments (9)

  • heimert

    Personally, I'm partial to stain, especially for a nice wood like cedar. But I don't think there's a definitive answer. Benjamin Moore paint is good, though, if you go that way.

    On stain, the advantages I see are (1) aesthetic--you can see the wood (2) doesn't peel (if you use semitransparent) (3) easier to recoat. On 2, the stain soaks into the wood, rather than sitting on top. You won't get peeling after the sun beats down on it every afternoon. You will get fading, however, and reduced protection over time. But, it will be a lot easier to recoat--you clean off the dirt/grime/algae and then restain. No need to sand (at least not heavily), no need to burn/scrape. Just recoat it with the same stain.

  • paintguy22

    For cedar siding, there is a definitive answer. Stain it with a 100 percent acrylic high quality exterior stain. The pros to using a stain are that it does not peel like a paint because it is not film forming. Also, stain is perfect for cedar siding because of its lapping properties which means you will not see where the painter stopped in the middle of a board to move his ladder and then started again. These days, the word stain is confusing because people think stains are like semi-transparents but not all of them are. The acrylic stains look and apply very much like a paint does.

  • allison1888

    I go with stain also. It's a nicer look for cedar.

  • moonshadow

    Stain! I've used solid acrylic stain that paintguy mentions on exterior cedar and it holds up much better than paint, imho. (As far as appearance it looks better, too, imho, gives a more uniform appearance overall.) I've had poor success with Behr exterior stains. Have had pretty good success with: Maxum; Rez, Cabot.

    Have checked into Sikkens for other projects, too. Pricey, but I heard they make a really superior product.

  • mrmichaeljmoore

    Thanks for the responses...
    If stain seems to be so much better, then why did 2 out of the 3 quotes I got recommend paint?? They are both from highly reputable guys in my area.....

    Well, I talked to the guy I plan on going with (he prefers stain)....
    He said for the first coat he uses Oil Based Primer. For the topcoats, he uses Latex arcylic stain.
    He prefers Benjamin Moore.

    Now one other question....
    Is there a difference between a solid stain and a semi-transparent? Is it just aesthetics? Does one look better or last longer than the other?

    Oh....I asked him how many years should I get out of his job....He sadi 10-12 years easy. Sound about right?

    Thaks again for the help.

  • davefr

    On new wood I prefer semi-transparent oil based stains. However the weather eventually takes it's toll and the siding develops weathered areas, water marks and faded sections depending on the sidings orientation. At that point it's best to transition to solid color acrylic stains. You'll still see the texture of the wood but you'll get better coverage. (pick a natural solid color like cedar or redwood).

    All the previous coats of oil based stain make an excellent base for the solid color acrylics.

    Solid color acrylic stains are simply a thinned paint. They'll last much longer then semi-transparent stains but not quite as long as paints. IMHO they're the best solution for older cedar siding. I'd never use paint on high end cedar siding because I like the woods natural texture and stains generally don't chip, crack and peel like paint can.

    When it comes time to recoat a solid color stain all you need to do is clean the surface. (never use a powerwasher!!)

  • mrmichaeljmoore


    My house is built in 1993....so it's not new cedar....
    I think the previous homeowners slapped a coat of stain up before we bought the house in 2004 to freshen it up a bit....but it has begun to fade.

    The house color is a creamy biege....and the wfie wants to keep it that way.
    So I guess my painter will be tinting the stain to match.

    I attached an old photo below....that picture is about 3.5 years old (and taken with an old crappy digital camera).

    Thanks for the help.

  • heimert

    The reason painters recommend paint is because they're probably more familiar with painting than staining. They know what they'll get with paint, but with stain they're not so sure.

  • paintguy22

    That doesn't look like rough sewn cedar either, which is what I automatically envision when somebody says cedar clapboard siding. For rough sewn, I would use the stain every time, but for smooth wood I can understand why some would recommend paint. The paint is going to have a sheen, probably satin. The stain is going to be flat. What would look more natural for smooth siding? Probably something with a sheen. Also, the sheen of a paint is going to give you some washability while a stain will not. I'm not saying that you will be washing your house all the time, but if it does get dirty you can hose the dirt off rather easily while with a stain that may be more difficult.

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