Western red cedar is a popular wood choice for both exterior and interior applications – thanks to its beautiful grain and color.
This wood is especially well-suited for siding, paneling, ceilings, moldings, and blinds because of its dimensional stability.
If you want to give your wall paneling in the home or the sauna paneling at the cottage that extra-long life, it’s an excellent idea to treat the wood with a good quality preservative.
But what preservatives to use, do you really need to use? What if you do not use the preservatives for treating red cedar, and how to treat the timber if you decide to add that extra protection?
In this guide, I will today cover all these things and much more about red cedar. So stay tuned and do not miss it.
Cedar Preservatives for Wall Paneling
There are many different types of red cedar treatment preservatives on the market.
The most common ones can be broadly classified into three groups:
Unlike many other wood varieties, red cedar wood is completely non-resinous, making finishes last a long time.
Make sure you apply them before the weathering process begins on your wall paneling.
Also, note that the exterior look and the durability of the finish on the Western red cedar are remarkable, especially when the timber is smooth rather than textured.
As a result, if you’re especially concerned about longevity, seek planed cedar wood rather than textured. Then apply the treatment of your choice to get the best results.
Opaque treatments, such as paints and solid-color stains, will better protect the wood from damage but will also obscure more of its natural appearance.
On the other hand, transparent treatments like natural stains and water-repellent preservatives won’t offer as much protection against the elements but will preserve more of the timber’s original beauty.
Now that you have understood some basics let’s get into the details of the wood treatment for red cedar wall paneling product…
1- Opaque or Solid-Color
Solid-color stain finishes work best for red cedar to provide an opaque finish whilst retaining some of its original texture and providing robust protection against the elements.
Applying at least two coats of acrylic-based paint is also the best way to protect your wood from damage.
However, this type of paint will cover up the natural color and grain of the wood, so pick a shade that you like while remembering that in mind.
Paints and solid-color stain finishes typically last for around a decade and can help you create a unique look for your cedar project, but they’re not for everyone!
Particularly, if you desire to retain the natural look of your cedar wall paneling, opaque treatments aren’t ideal. Instead, try a transparent or semi-transparent product.
2- Transparent Preservatives and Oils
Unlike colid colors and preservatives, transparent cedar treatments will last for 2 to 3 years.
A transparent finish with some modest protection, such as a coat of water-repellent preservative, is an option.
While these don’t offer much UV protection, they do help keep the wood’s warm hues for longer.
Keep in mind that, after months and years of transparent preservatives and treatment, the cedar will still fade to a grey color; however, this will occur more slowly, and you’ll be able to keep the wood’s beautiful natural hues and patina.
No matter what finishes you use for your wall paneling, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions.
3- Semi-Transparent Stains for Red Cedar
If you’re not interested in an opaque finish on wood while keeping the pronouncing grains and knots along with some of the wood’s original color, then a semi-transparent stain is your best bet.
A quality semi-transparent stain will provide UV protection and some water repellency for your cedar while still allowing the grain to show through.
Semi-transparent cedar wood preservatives are available in oil-based or natural finishes.
Depending on the brand and color of the product you choose, this is an ideal yet affordable way to achieve a unique look that will pop against other opaque finishes.
While oil-based protection will penetrate deeper into the cedar to provide better protection from the elements and significant change in color, natural finishes with water-based preservatives will preserve more of the wood’s original hue.
They’re also less toxic and more environmentally friendly.
Choosing the Red Cedar Preservative for Paneling
Once you know the basics of how to protect your red cedar paneling, the next step is to choose the right product.
There are certain things to consider, but your choice will generally depend on your preference and the protection level you require for your wooden wall paneling.
- Choose a semi-transparent stain if you want to keep the cedar’s beauty while still getting some protection.
- If you want your wood to take on a weathered, aged appearance gradually, use an oil-based preservative that is transparent.
- An opaque finish will do the job if you wish to have complete control of your wood’s color with maximum protection.
- The condition of your wood will also have an impact on the finish’s longevity; if it’s visible, consider a thick, oil-based stain or paint.
Besides the above, the location of your cedar project will help you decide what kind of finish to use.
For example, if it’s difficult to reach, you’ll want a finish that doesn’t need to be reapplied too often.
On the other hand, if your cedar is easily accessible, then reapplying every couple of years might not be a problem.
Tips for Success
Once you’ve decided on a treatment plan, you need to put it into action.
- First and foremost, make sure the wood is dry; if it’s not, the coating could fail entirely.
- Prior to applying paint or solid-color stain, be sure to cover the surface with a primer coat.
- Then with a soft bristle brush, apply a more consistent, even topcoat.
The quality of the finish uptake should also be determined by how weathered the timber is.
If your Western Red Cedar looks like it’s seen better days, you’ll have to give it a good cleaning and restoration.
What if I Leave My Western Red Cedar Paneling Untreated?
No problem, you can leave your project untreated — one of the accolades of long-lasting timber species like Western Red Cedar.
Because of all its resins, Western Red Cedar is naturally rot resistant and still performs well without a finish.
Also, a beautiful silvery-grey finish can be seen on Western Red Cedar when it is left untreated and exposed to the sun’s oxidizing UV light.
So, if you’re after a weathered appearance and distinguished cedar paneling, you don’t have to apply any treatment.
In fact, I have seen many constructors, architects, and homeowners appreciate the natural beauty of timber and leave it untreated. If you want, you can go the same route.
But if you want that grey cedar look while also guarding it against splitting and cracking, a preservative coating with properties of water-repellent, mildewcide, and fungicide products can be applied.
It will still allow the wood to change its color over time but at a slower rate.
The Bottom Line
Western Red Cedar is renowned for its rot resistance, so even if you don’t treat it, your paneling will last for years.
And if you’re going for a rustic look, letting the wood silver over time is a great option.
But if you want to keep the wood looking fresh, protecting it with a preservative is the way to go.
Just be sure to choose the right product for your needs and follow the application instructions carefully.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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