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Finish Your Cedar Trim To Last!

Nothing beats the warmth, character and durability of cedar trim on the outside of a home. However, many shy away from using it because it has a reputation of being a high maintenance product. Like anything, it's important to understand the nature of the product you are finishing to get the best results from your paint or stain. Doing so will give you many years of lasting, low-maintenance wood siding.

Red cedar is one of the most effective wood species for exterior siding. It retains a variety of finishes well, excretes no pitch or resin, is naturally resistant to decay, and its low density qualities prevent excess shrinkage or swelling.

Some general rules when choosing an exterior finish include:

Use only corrosion-resistant, hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum or stainless steel nails to prevent stains.

Never leave cedar to weather without a protective coating as some manufacturers recommend. Even a few weeks of weathering can decrease cedar's ability to hold a finish and may cause blistering, or cracking.

To obtain the naturally weathered look, use artificial stains designed for that purpose. These commercial bleaching stains are water-repellent and contain pigments to give that gray shading of weathered cedar.

Some prefer the look of newly milled cedar which also can be obtained by using finishes that contain chemicals that block out the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Always choose a finish containing ultraviolet blockers and mildewcide to protect the wood.

The more solids your finish contains, the less maintenance it will require. In otherwords, painted wood may last up to 10 years where a solid color stain about 3 to 5 years. Semi-transparent stains last 1 to 3 years and water-repellent preservatives and oil about 1 to 2 years. These numbers are all slightly increased when applied to textured cedar as opposed to planed or smooth cedar planks.

An oil base will give you more longevity than a water base finish. Transparent, film-forming finishes such as lacquer, shellac, urethane and varnish are not recommended for exterior use. The sun's rays easily penetrate and degrade the wood causing the finish to become brittle and crack.

Apply finish to all four sides of the wood, and never leave a cut edge exposed without finish. The more stain or paint you apply, the longer the finish will last.

You may want to consider using a combination of solid and semi-transparent stains depending on the area. Use the more solid colors in exposed areas that are less protected from the elements. Another option is to used paint on vertical planks and a semi-transparent on the horizontal planks. It provides an accent and requires less maintenance.

Use a good quality stain such as Para or Sikens.

Preparing Your Cedar for Finishing:

Almost important as the type of stain or paint, is the preparation before applying the finish. Always protect the wood from the elements before, during and after construction. If the cedar has been contaminated with dirt or oil, it needs to be cleaned. Smooth surface cedar should be scuff-sanded with 50-60 grit sandpaper to open up the pores.

Old finishes that are severely peeled or blistered need to be removed by sanding, wet sandblasting, pressure washing or any other paint removal technique.

Applying Finish:

When applying paint, always use a quality stain-blocking primar for your first coat. Apply one or two top coats over the primar. Using a roller is a quick way to apply the finish, but a brush will ensure all the pores are filled.

Newly manufactured bare cedar should be treated on all four sides with a water-repellent preservative. This can be used as a natural finish, but the life expectancy of the finish is only one or two years. Dip treatments will last even longer. If using additional stains, apply only one coat of the water-repellent preservative and one to two coats of your stain.

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