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Cedar Shingles: Paint or Stain?

BP_Walters's picture

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We are going to "paint" our currently unpainted cedar shingled house? A painting contractor buddy says to use an oil based primer and a good paint? A general contractor buddy says to use a solid stain. He thinks paint is a bad idea because moisture will sneak up between the shingles, get some shingles wet, and then the moisture will be trapped by the paint. But with the stain, he says, the shingles can breath, so they can dry out after the water sneaks up behind them.

Any thoughts? Just tryin' to do it the right way - before it starts raining.

(post #158356, reply #1 of 12)

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oil prime and paint.... or oil prime and 100% acrylic solid body stain.....

the extractive bleeding can play hell with the finish.. try something like Cabot's Problem Solver primer and then finish with your choice...
if you do due-diligence and work the primer into all the joints and pay attention to the butts.. the capillary action will be minimal...

nothing is as good as prefinishing.. but i think you'll like the results just the same....

AND.. now you'll have a renewable surface....the oil prime / paint should last longer between refinishing than the solid-body stain

...ask about some of the new 100% acrylic paints......

(post #158356, reply #2 of 12)

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Try some WoodRX, tinted up to a solid stain. The Lindal Cedar Homes dealer in Anderson, SC did a trial study of a bunch of stains a couple years back; WoodRX came out far superior after a long period of weathering. Check out their website at www.woodrx.com. If interested, give them a call to find a dealer. They don't have too many, which is a shame.

(post #158356, reply #3 of 12)

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Thanks for the replies. I'm getting the idea that paint or stain would be OK, with each having pros and cons.

Oil prime/paint would block the surface bleeding and staining, and would provide a longer lasting and renewable surface, but there is some risk of peeling if water works its way into the shingles.

With a solid tinted stain like WoodRX, water working it's way into the shingles would not be a problem because the stain would not peel like paint might and the stain would allow the wood to dry (preventing dry rot), but the surface bleeding may tarnish the finish sooner with stain, and stain probably will not last as long as paint.

As you can see, I know just enough to get myself in trouble. I'm leaning towards Mike's suggestion of oil prime then paint, but any other thoughts are appreciated.

(post #158356, reply #4 of 12)

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Solid body oil stain, I think Fuller O'Brian makes the best.

In the long run the extra frequency of staining is worth the savings in paint prep, stain wears and paint peels. You aren't back-primed you want to use a finish that is not sensitive to moisture.

As for the bleeding issue, are your shingles red or white cedar? Either way, if you don't have a moisture problem they won't stain. If you do and you paint they will peel forever.

(post #158356, reply #5 of 12)

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The shingles are red cedar and I think it will have to be stain. By the way, it occurs to me that the stain may not adhere to the galvanized downspouts (they will be the same color as the house). For the downspouts, would you buy some paint that is the same color as the stain?

(post #158356, reply #6 of 12)

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the galvanized DS are weathered and if you're using a solid body stain. it will stick to the DS just fine..

if they were new, you could pickle them and prime with a metal primer, but these should be just fine.

even with the solid body stain.. i'd still use an oil primer

(post #158356, reply #7 of 12)

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I put solid acrylic stain on my gutters and downspouts 20 years ago. Still look fine.

(post #158356, reply #8 of 12)

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Regarding trying to paint galvanized gutters: Have you ever been in a building where the paint is peeling from exposed pipes? And you know that it has not been exposed to severe conditions? The problem is in the paint and galvanizing.

Solvent-based paints traditionally were made from Linseed oil, and later alkyd resins. Both of these materials actually react with zinc (galvanizing). They form what is called a "soap" which is very weak. So, as the pipe undergoes any thermal expansion, the paint will crack off. Ain't nuthin you can do about it; no vinager etch, weathering, sanding, or anything else will stop this reaction.

So, what is your answer? Today we have a superb product, commonly available: standard acrylic house paints. For better performance, you can get similar paints specifically designed for metal and even galvanized. But for most purposes, ordinary acrylic paints will work quite well, even without a primer. And, if you are going to get a primer, be sure it is designed for galvanized.

A really incredible product is MetaLatex from Sherwin Williams. It is a maintenance coating from their commercial division, but any SW store can get it for you. It has really good adhesion to zinc and aluminum. Another product, also from SW, is their DTM ("Direct to Metal") coating. This can be used directly onto iron without causing flash rusting.

Now, why the etching/weathering/abrading suggestions?There are three reasons:

1. If you ever visit a galvanizing process, you will see that the surface of the molten zinc develops a film of oxidized metal, or dross. [A Brit I used to know called it "clag" which is a wonderful sounding word]. This material does not stick well to the zinc, so painting it is a waste of time. However it will weather off.

2. On metal strip lines, they apply a thin coating of zinc, which cools fast and has no clag. But, to keep corrosion down and to prevent it from sticking as it is made into a product, they often spray it with a little lubricant. Again we have a painting problem.

3. Finally, there is the zinc surface itself. It is extremely smooth, and it is best if it si roughened to help adhesion. However, that is the least of your problems.

(post #158356, reply #10 of 12)

Hi Neal,


I read your reply in the Breaktime archives (from 3 yrs. ago) about a cedar treatment product called WoodRx.  I checked out their website and it looks good.  We live in Tallahassee, Florida, a very challenging place to maintain cedar, have tried various products (e.g., CWF, Flood), and are looking for something better in looks and maintenance.  Do you have any more information or insights about WoodRx?  It seems like a small operation that not many people have heard of or have experience with.  Thanks.


Terri Bedosky

(post #158356, reply #9 of 12)

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We are going to "paint" our currently unpainted cedar shingled house? A painting contractor buddy says to use an oil based primer and a good paint? A general contractor buddy says to use a solid stain. He thinks paint is a bad idea because moisture will sneak up between the shingles, get some shingles wet, and then the moisture will be trapped by the paint. But with the stain, he says, the shingles can breath, so they can dry out after the water sneaks up behind them.

Any thoughts? Just tryin' to do it the right way - before it starts raining.

staining cedar shakes (post #158356, reply #11 of 12)

With cedar apparently water is a big problem, so stain (which will not trap water) sounds logical.  My question is: do I stain the entire shingle before I install or just the front?  I was told to leave the back untreated so it could breath.  Which brings up another question, the back can get wet too, that is why in the past they used 1x4 with spaces between - so the shakes could dry out.  If that is true I would think I should stain both sides.

If the back needs protection (stain) and ventalation, then does anyone have a comment on the product "Cedar breather" in back of the shakes to allow them to dry (given that the old way of using "1 by" as a roof deck is not longer an option in my case.

I used benjamin obdyke (post #158356, reply #12 of 12)

I used benjamin obdyke hydrogap for my last shingle job it allows a small 1/8-inch gap behind the shingle (better than nothing) to allow for dying. Definitley stain both sides. I've seen people just dip the shingle into the stain then hang it from a line with a clothespin to dry.