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Cedar Siding: Pros & Cons, Types, Maintenance, Cost, Styles

Before you choose cedar as the siding material for your home, there’s a bunch of things that you may want to familiarize yourself with to ensure that you know what to expect and that you choose the right type of siding material.

cedar siding

So What Exactly is Cedar Siding?

From the name itself you probably guessed that it is in fact a type of siding material made from the cedar wood. It has stood the test of time and has been around for a number of years – since the 1800s more specifically and it is still a popular type of wooden siding.

It has a bunch of benefits, both when compared to other types of siding, but also when compared to other types of wood. Of course, if you choose to ask vinyl siding contractors, they’ll heavily advocate in favor of vinyl, but it won’t have the same authenticity as does cedar.

We don’t want you to pick this type of material without first knowing if it is actually the right type of material for your project. For that, it’s imperative that you also learn about both the advantages and disadvantages when going with this material.

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Pros and Cons of Using Cedar Siding

illustration of pros and cons

We’ll first walk you through some of the advantages, and then you will get some of the reasons why you might rather want to go with something like fiber cement siding instead.

Pros

  • Cedar is stronger than other types of wooden siding – wood siding is commonly known for being very vulnerable when it comes to things such as termites, however cedar’s a lot stronger than other types of softer wood. Pine is an example of a more vulnerable type of wood.
  • It protects well against hail – other types of materials may gets easily damaged, bent or cracked when exposed to things such as hail. Cedar won’t.
  • It’s more environmentally friendly than other options – are you trying to go green? Cedar’s not a manufactured product, meaning your ecological footprint will be significantly smaller from choosing this compared to some type of manufactured product, such as plywood siding which will needs more treatment and adhesive to stick together.
  • Its beautiful looks – the main reason why you’ll choose cedar siding is likely because of the way it looks. It’s truly beautiful, and while other types of siding may be made to look like cedar, none of them beat the actual thing. Its aesthetics is warm and will make any house feel like home.
  • It has great options for customizing its look – no matter what you’re trying to achieve looks wise for your home, you’re likely to be able to do it with cedar.
  • Show off its texture with staining – some types of wood absorb stain better than others. Cedar is great for this, and people also choose it simply to stain it, since they don’t want to just cover it with a layer of paint that won’t show its texture equally well.
  • Swelling, cracking and cupping won’t be as a big of a problem – pine and fir, other popular types of wood siding will suffer from these problems much more frequently than cedar will. You will, however need to maintain it properly to keep these problems away.
  • Cedar is durable – for a wooden material, when taken care of the way it deserves, this is a material that will last a very long time and give your home the truly magnificent look it brings with it.
  • Good insulating properties – the R-value of cedar can be very good if it’s thick and properly installed. You might still want to make sure to talk with insulation contractors to hear what other recommendations they have for you.
  • Shingles and shakes are available – other types of materials may be limited in the style you’re able to get. With its seniority and popularity, it’s available in basically all the different styles you may desire.
  • Cedar siding is not hard for a professional siding contractor to install – the siding you install on your home is only as good as the installation. The same way you don’t want to install a roof with a leak, you don’t want poorly installed siding either.
  • While it’s not the cheapest siding you can find, it’s still competitively priced and can provide many benefits – while low grade vinyl is some of the cheapest siding you can have installed, cedar is competitive when compared to higher quality vinyl, fiber cement and other types.
  • It can be biodegradable – while it will depend on the way it’s been treated, it could be biodegradable.
  • It’s reclaimable – cedar is a material that can be reclaimed from old buildings, helping make it a more eco-friendly choice.
  • White cedar will even become more beautiful over time – you want your siding to look beautiful, but did you know that the white version in fact becomes better looking as it ages? We all wish we did that too!
  • It’s a timeless appeal that won’t become unfashionable – there’s no sign that this material should go off fashion, meaning you’ll also be likely to recoup a good chunk of your remodeling investment by having it installed. It also means that you won’t have trouble when times comes to selling your house.
  • Good sound insulation too – if you live next to something noisy, you obviously know that it’s nice to have building materials that don’t just make those noises seem even louder. Cedar is a great option to go with.
  • It goes well with different types of architectural styles – this is great no matter the type of architecture you’re going for with your home, cedar can look well on everything basically.

Cons

  • It requires more maintenance than vinyl and fiber cement – staining and sealing, or painting, is required to keep it from deteriorating prematurely. It does mean that if you truly do not want a material that has any maintenance required, other options may be better.
  • You need to treat and stain it to keep insects away – untreated cedar will be more inviting for those pesky insects that you don’t want to have inhabit your beautiful siding. Since they’re not wooden materials, fiber cement and vinyl won’t have those problems.
  • Vinyl is more fire-resistant – while you can get things that will make it more fire-resistant, being that it’s a wooden material fires can be an issue.
  • You may find yourself having problems with woodpeckers – woodpeckers, given the name, could become an issue – that’s why we’ve written a guide on how to get rid of them.
  • These different types of treatments will make it a less environmentally-friendly option – while you can do a lot to help make it more fire-resistant and make it last longer, all these different treatments make it less eco-friendly and it will therefore also take longer to degrade once you actually need to replace it later on.
  • You can’t use all types of nails for the project – cedar is a material that reacts when it gets in contact with iron and that means you’ll need to be careful when selecting the right nails.

It is obviously your own decision to choose the type of siding material that you believe will best match with your desires and needs and at least having a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages is a good start.

Types and Styles

There are a lot of different types available for you to choose between depending on the look you want. Some of them provide better protection than others do but you might still have preferences for which style to go with if you wish to get a specific look for your house. For instance, board and batten will have clear disadvantages when compared to bevel or lap siding since it’s considerably harder to install.

Bevel

Bevel siding is a way of installing the boards. It’s the simplest way of installing them and it provides a lot of advantages and barely any disadvantages. The boards are installed horizontally and doesn’t need additional support. It provides great water-resistance since they overlap vertically, not giving any room for water to creep in through.

The panels you get for such installation depends on the look that you want. You can install the panels with more or less overlap too.

Board and Batten Using Cedar

Board and batten is another way of installing the siding where wider planks will be covered by smaller, outer boards, that are called batten. Cedar is a great material option to go with for this type of installation. Since the boards are installed vertically, it doesn’t provide quite the same rain protection that bevel does, but it has a more distinctive look than bevel.

Cedar is not the only option that can be used for this style of installation, however, but for this type, it’s especially important to get it periodically inspected to ensure that no water leaks have emerged and that the water won’t end up going behind the boards.

Cedar Tongue and Groove

tongue and groove

The tongue and groove refers to the way the panels are cut in order for them to interlock. They can either be stacked vertically or horizontally and provide great water-resistance too, although anything that is stacked vertically will naturally end up being better able to withstand water since it’ll just run off.

Lap

Dutch lap siding is likely the most known type, and cedar comes available lap siding too. It can help give your home the rustic appearance that you desire, and it can be installed in whatever dimension you desire, even diagonally. The boards will overlap will overlap slightly and you get the distinctive shadow line effect with good weather-protection.

Shingles and Shakes

Using cedar shingles or shakes for your home’s siding is great, although the installation part of it will be slightly more expensive than the lap siding or bevel, for instance, since it’s a process that requires more work. Needless to say, when your concern is curb appeal, many homeowners choose this option.

Shingles are thinner than shakes and will therefore cost less, but on the other hand, they also don’t last quite as long as shakes do. These are cut so that one end of the material is thinner than the other. The individual panels can also be cut in individual dimension and be installed to create a look that is as either unique or symmetrical as you desire.

There are different styles of installation that includes cedar shingles, and those include mitered corners, staggered butt, even butt, contemporary or keyway, although they can be installed exactly to your liking.

Log Siding

Log siding is popular on cabins and other buildings wishing to have that cabin look to it. The white cedar is often used for the log style siding.

Western Red Cedar

contemporary home

There are many reasons to choose Western red cedar, since it’s both beautiful, long lasting and a green choice. The image above shows an alternative way that the wooden material can be used.

Cedar vs Other Types of Siding

In your decision making process, you’re comparing different options, and while you’ve read the pros and cons in an earlier section, we think it makes sense to make a section that actually compares it to other options more systematically, including some of the other options that you could be considering.

Cedar vs Other Types of Wood Siding

It’s even great when compared to other types of wood siding. Other types are more vulnerable when it comes to a range if different things. Cedar is both better against insects (including the damaging termites) and it also grows fast. While bamboo does grow faster, cedar is still fairly renewable with its rate of growth, making it comparatively sustainable. It’s provides greater protection against moisture which also means that swelling and warping is less likely, especially when properly maintained.

You can read more about T1-11 siding or get quotes from wood siding contractors right here.

Vinyl Siding vs Cedar

vinyl_siding

The advantage to getting vinyl siding is that it comes in a lot of different styles and grades, the inconvenience related to that is that if you choose a color or style that you won’t like in 10 years, it’s not as easy to paint as cedar is. When choosing vinyl you will also need to be aware of the different grades, and since its thickness will basically dictate how durable it is, you will want to make sure that you don’t go for a low grade option.

Vinyl is the most popular type of siding, but if you wish to have the option that looks the most like cedar, vinyl will let you down in comparison to the real thing.

If you get good quality vinyl installed, it will likely outlast cedar and require less maintenance too, since vinyl basically doesn’t require any maintenance. For more upscale houses, cedar will likely add more value too. Cedar also adds more random variety where vinyl simply could end up looking too homogeneous.

Vinyl Cedar Shake Siding

Whenever you install anything that has outside exposure, fewer seams will result in fewer problems and less needed inspection. Shingle or shake installation is no different and it creates a lot of seams since the rectangular panels are installed one by one, leaving a good amount of exposure to water and other outside elements. Vinyl cedar shake siding is a popular alternative to traditional cedar because it has less maintenance, and especially given the difficulties associated with traditional shake siding.

Because it doesn’t require painting and stays clear of bugs, many homeowners choose this instead. CertainTeed is one of the brands that are popular and make these vinyl options.

They’re available in both straight edge and staggered edge depending on the type of style you’re looking for, and the different textures available are many. They can be either rough, smooth or anything in between.

They can also be used in combination with other materials depending on your wishes.

Aluminum Siding vs Cedar

aluminum siding

Aluminum siding is a very popular type of metal siding. It looks a lot like vinyl and is a better option than cedar if you’re very cost conscious. The different options available to you when it comes to aluminum are many, and insect infestations and moisture problems will not be a problem with the aluminum itself. Some people that live in areas that have a lot of hail may want to avoid aluminum given that it gets dented easily. Cedar also insulates better between the two options.

Fiber Cement vs Cedar Siding

Fiber cement siding is an option that has grown a lot in popularity, and for obvious reason. It’s obviously not a natural material like cedar but can be made to look a lot like cedar. It clearly isn’t the same thing and once again – if you want to have the real thing, cedar’s the right choice.

Fiber cement is more fire-resistant than any wooden options that you may be considering. It also often comes with great manufacturer’s warranty covering you against manufacturing defects, although this is usually voided if improperly installed.

Fiber cement can be made to look like a wide range of materials, cedar being one of them, but building codes may prohibit its use with historic buildings, although some areas do allow its use. The materials going into this material include cement, cellulose fibers, sand and binding ingredients. They generally come already colored.

When you wish to have stained wood siding, you’ll have to go with an actual type of wood, since fiber cement isn’t able to provide you with such a look.

You will be spending more time and money on maintaining cedar, than you will if choosing fiber cement. No special treatment is needed for fiber cement so it is greatly valued by homeowners that do not appreciate home maintenance.

Cypress vs Cedar Siding

Cypress is another type of wood material that can be used for either siding or other home improvement projects. They’re both fairly weather-resistant when properly maintained.

Your location, your budget and what it’s needed for are often the determining factors in choosing between the two materials.

Cypress is a softwood but have certain characteristics you would only be expecting from hardwoods, like good moisture-resistance. It’s commonly grown in areas that are full of moisture, and in the process the tree has developed great moisture-resistance, an important feature when you’re either living in the South or another place with a lot of moisture.

Like cedar, cypress also has great durability and like hardwoods, provides good resistance against termites and insects.

Cypress sometimes tends to develop less defects than is the case with cedar when it’s been installed for years and been exposed to the elements.

Cypress also requires either painting or staining, and if you maintain it as intended, the cypress could be one of the parts of a building that actually ages the best.

You should also know that there are different types of cypress and that old-growth cypress is different from younger options, and that a comparison between the two types of siding therefore gets more complicated.

Pressure-Treated vs Cedar

While pressure-treated T1-11 siding may also provide an attractive exterior, cedar is the typical look you associate with the romantic wooden look. T1-11 also adds fairly good protection against rot and termite infestations because of the processes it has undergone, although it isn’t naturally insect-resistant like cedar.

Cedar is a more environmentally-friendly option than T1-11 is since fewer chemicals go into its production, although pressure-treated wood is cheaper than cedar. You can actually also get plywood where cedar has been used.

White vs Red Cedar

Whether you choose to get shingles or lap siding installed, you will have to make up your mind between the red or the white cedar as well, which is why it’s good to know a little about the difference between the two materials too.

So how does the white cedar compare to the red type?

First of, both options are great for both siding or fences. They also have a lot of the same benefits too, making it important that you get to know the differences. Both types provide great resistance against cracking and there’s not a difference in working with them. They also work the same in terms of nails.

The oils contained within both types is what makes them resistant against the various different things such as mold, insects and rotting.

They both look beautiful despite being different in color, and both options accept stain well, giving them a lot of different options.

While red cedar is strong, white cedar is stronger. Knotting, though, is more of an issue with the white cedar, although inspection solves that issue. The white cedar is strong enough to provide great protection as siding, so that shouldn’t be your main concern when choosing between the two.

Because of the oils inside the white, it can last as much as 10 years longer and could be the swaying factor in your decision.

You should also keep in mind where you are, since that may playing a factor in your decision. Since they each grow in their own place, you might have cheaper access to one than another. If it needs to be shipped a great distance, the material inevitably ends up being more expensive. Getting it shipped further also makes it a less environmentally-friendly option.

The red Western cedar obviously grows in the West, while the white version grows more in the Eastern parts.

The Cost of Having Cedar Siding Installed

While the easiest way for you to better understand the cost of having cedar siding installed is by getting quotes from competing contractors, there are certain things that affect the cost of material and installation.

The more advanced the design is that you get installed, the more expensive the project will also end out being, with shingles and shakes ending up high on the list.

Cost Per Square Foot to Buy Cedar Siding

Remember that style you choose to use will dictate the price. The figures below are indicative, although you might be living in an area that has more readily available access to one type, therefore making it cheaper too.

For the cost of $3-4.5 per square foot, you’ll typically be able to get Western Red Cedar siding. Northern white cedar siding will set you back $1.5 per square foot fot the material. That number is around $2.5 for Eastern Red, $5 per square foot for yellow cedar siding and $5.5 per square foot for Spanish cedar.

The thickness of the siding also affects the price, as do the different grades. Economy grades can be as much as 50% cheaper than those prices, although it will lead to earlier deterioration and additional maintenance.

Grades

The higher the grade of the material, the more it will cost you but the less problems it will cause you. While the different grades is not something that regulated, it can still give you a good understanding of the quality of the material that you’re having installed.

They’re basically marketing tools making it easier for the consumer to differentiate between the different types, and it does mean that you won’t be able to claim that you got the wrong grade since it’s basically up to the manufacturer to determine the cuts that deserve the different types of ratings.

The premium grades include Clear Heart, Heart and Clear Vertical Grain (VG). Mid grades include the classifications of prime, superior, C select and D select. The lower quality grades are STK, Select Knotty, 2&Better and 3&Better.

Going For Charred Cedar Siding

You can choose to go for charred cedar siding, which is unique and beautiful. They’ll give your home a Japanese feel to it. The traditional name for this type of siding is “Shou Sugi Ban” or “Yakisugi”. The treatment given to the wood through the charring helps create a surface that is more weather-resistant and durable

Maintenance

Regularly inspecting the material is part of the maintenance process, and preferably it should be done by a professional too to make sure that everything is checked.

If you want to keep that great looking cedar siding, you will want to make sure that you stain or paint the cedar every 3-5 years. How often it is needed depends on the solution that you end up going with. Staining needs to be done more frequently but it will also look better with the traditional, rich wooden textures.

Once you have painted it it will be hard to have the paint removed again so that you can bring back the richness of the cedar. You can scroll to the bottom of this article to read more about the process of staining.

Make Sure There Are No Problems With Moisture

As with any other type of wooden siding, moisture is one of the things that will cause it to deteriorate the fastest and cedar is no exception. The better you are at limiting moisture the more painless the process is. That includes making sure that the roof vents are working as intended. Good insulation is also important for this.

Gutters and downspouts should be properly installed and working. That means that you will need to check them for clogs and have them cleaned so that there are no problems with them.

Be on the Lookout for Termites

Termites love wood. Cedar is naturally pretty good at withstanding the damaging effects but it’s still important that you check out for any signs of termites.

Signs to look out for include fecal pellets, mud tubes and their wings. You can also take active measures to help protect the siding by making sure that it is shielded from ground contact.

Properly Cleaning it Twice a Year

As with any other type of siding, it should be properly cleaned to also help keep potential problems away. Ideally, it should be cleaned twice per year and while it can be pressure washed, using this technique could create problems and damage the material. Pressure washers, if used, should be done so on their lowest setting.

Scrubbing the siding with soap and water followed by washing it down will also get the job done. Mold and mildew issues may require you to use bleach to deal with it, but the best solution is to talk to pros to hear what their recommendations are in your specific situation. Instead of bleach, vinegar can also be used for cleaning.

When you’re done, make sure to wash off the area where the soap and water solution has been added since it can otherwise leave marks.

Make Sure There Are no Cracks

Damage, which could include cracks, should be dealt with as soon as possible to stop it from causing problems with leaks. If the cracks are small, sealant or painting may suffice, but if not you should have the panel replaced. You don’t want moisture going up behind the panels.

Moisture and water damage problems are expensive to fix, so the causes should be fixed as early as possible.

How to Get Rid of Woodpeckers?

Woodpeckers is a type of bird that is especially fond of cedar siding and knowing how to get rid of it so it doesn’t damage your property is important. They can be annoyingly difficult to actually deal with as they’re pecking away at your precious wood.

They can be rather stubborn so if you realize they’re fond of your siding, you better deal with the situation.

It’s important to know one of the reasons why they may be attracted to your siding. If they find out that it is full of insects, the woodpeckers will want to go there to feed. While it may be nice that they’re eating away at the insects, they’re doing damage in the process, and you should get rid of the insects to hopefully deal with the different problems.

You can also spray your siding with bird repellent glue which will help deter them from stopping by in the first place.

Make sure to have wood siding repaired if damage does show since it’ll just be an easy access point for the birds.

Get a fake owl and put it on your roof since this will help scare the woodpeckers off. If you get one that both moves a bit and makes noise, it’s more likely to keep them away.

Nail Recommendations

Not all types of nails are equally good for cedar siding. The best ones include stainless steel, aluminum and hot-dipped galvanized ones since these are the corrosion-resistant ones, meaning the siding is also less likely to loosen as a consequence.

These are the types of nails you should be sticking to. Other types of nails will react poorly with the cedar and streaks, stains and other problems could end up being a reality otherwise. You also should not be using copper nails.

When a nail is put into cedar, it should be done carefully or it could end up causing the material to split. What size nails will vary with the different thicknesses of the chosen material.

Can You Stain it and How to Do it?

A lot of people ask us “can you stain cedar siding?”, and the answer is definitely yes. In fact, you can either stain or paint it, and we will talk about the different options in this article.

Reasons You Need to Protect it

There are a couple of reasons why it’s so important that you keep making sure that your cedar siding is protected with either a layer of paint or stain, and if you start seeing that it is no longer so, that you call wood siding repair contractors and have them help you.

By staining the siding, there are a couple of different elements you’re protecting it against, including moisture, rot and pests, such as termites. It will also ensure that your home looks its absolute best by doing this every so often.

Paint vs Stain?

When you’re asking yourself if you should paint or stain the cedar siding, it’s imperative that you know the different characteristics of paint vs stain, and what they actually do to the wood, as well as that we’re a little bit more specific when talking about the different options.

Solid-color stain: It comes in many different colors, including brass, smoky suede, chocolate, red, almond and more. In fact, it is almost identical to paint, and can be purchased in a lot of different colors. The same way that paint forms and external layer on the wood, so does the solid-color stain. Since they form a layer outside, it is also the most protective form solution for the wood as opposed to usual staining.

Get quotes from up to 4 screened painters for your painting or staining job. It’s completely free.

Semi-transparent stain: What usual stain does is that it penetrates the wood, and thereby expanding with the wood during hot and cold seasons, whereby it also stays more breathable. It also comes in a lot of different colors for you to choose from. The coloring sinks into the fibers, and opposed to the solid-color option, the character of the grain will shine through this option. With solid-color options, the wood loses a lot of its distinctive characteristics. It’s pretty cheap to have installed, and you will need to do it more often than painting it, but if you want to keep the beautiful wooden feel, staining is the solution

Which product should you choose?

Should you go for solid-color stain, semi-transparent stain or paint? If you can, the best option is to keep using what you have previously been using, because it will greatly limit the amount of preparation you need to do. If your wooden siding has already been painted, you’re in for a lot of work when you choose to change it to staining instead, since you’ll first need to get rid of the existing outer layer of paint, which is done by sanding and priming it.

However, since paint is an exterior layer, it is easier to switch the other way. Imagine that if you want to stain the wood, you would need to remove all of the existing layer, which is why it takes so long. As you can see in the video, the surface was previously painted, and they’re only preparing it for painting. If it was for staining, they would have needed to do a lot more sanding than is shown.

When you’re installing new siding on your home, it is up to you to choose if you prefer staining or siding. Just remember that it’s harder to go back from painting, and it will require work more often to stain it, although it isn’t too expensive.

Doing a good job at staining it will help preserve the thujaplicins, which are natural oils in the wood with anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Before You Start

Before you start staining the siding, it’s important that you prepare it correctly, which includes cleaning it properly. When cedar is maintained correctly, it can last 50 to 60 years or more.  To ensure you’re maintaining it properly, you should power-wash it every 2-4 years, and stain it every 3-5 years too. If you live in an are that has a lot of sun, you might even want to do it more frequently than that because of the damaging effects of the sun.

Therefore, in areas that have a lot of sun, you may consider painting it rather than staining if you want to limit the amount of maintenance you need to do.

The bark that is outside the tree when it is still alive, helps protect it against the sun, thus when it is used for siding, it needs an artificial protection, which it gets from the staining or painting. If not, you will start seeing visible signs of deterioration within 10 years. Unprotected wood has a tendency to absorb a lot of water, which will make it swell. On the other hand, when the suns rays shines on it, it dries it out and shrinks it. Proper maintenance therefore protects against these cycles that would otherwise cause it to warp and crack very quickly.

When the wood has already been stained, it needs to get a treatment with a wood stripper which goes in and removes the existing stain. This will help restore it back to its original beauty. What then happens is that the wood stripper interacts with the existing stain, getting it to separate from the wood.

After the wood stripper has been applied, a neutralizer needs to be applied so that it corrects the pH value of the surface, or the stain won’t work as effectively. Before the stain is applied, the wood needs to dry again completely, which is why it can be advantageous to do this process when you expect the weather to be good. To ensure that it’s completely dry, make use of a moisture meter to test the wood. See how to use a moisture meter as effectively as possible.

You can then use an airless sprayer with the siding to ensure that it is applied evenly on the wood, or otherwise apply the stain in accordance with the guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

Here’s a video of how a professional painter is applying a solid-color stain on a home. If your house isn’t easily accessible with a ladder, or it has some very tall facades, we strongly encourage you to get this work done by a professional instead of doing it yourself, just so that you stay safe.