Can Cedar Be Painted White?

If you are a woodworker who enjoys exploring different wood species, no doubt you’ve interacted with cedar one too many times. Cedar is a popular wood choice for both indoor and outdoor projects.

You can use it for fencing, decking, siding, and trim, among other woodwork projects. It has an interesting outlook and forms a uniform texture that wood makes your cedar woodwork always stand out.

For this reason, most people choose never to paint cedar. They avoid this so they won’t hide the natural beauty of the wood grain.

However, like any other wood project, situations may demand that you paint your cedar wood. You may paint a color of your choice, but most woodworkers identify with the white color. So, can cedar be painted white?

My experience led to this finding:

Yes, you can paint cedar white. However, cedar has a significant amount of tannin, which can bleed through the paint, resulting in yellow and brown patches on your surface.

Therefore, while you can paint your cedar white, it would help if you applied an oil-based acrylic exterior primer before applying the solid white paint.

Doing so will help enhance your cedar’s natural look and prevent it from bleeding through your paint.

There is a lot more to learn about cedar!

This article will discuss painting your cedar white. I shall also address some frequently asked questions about cedar, like, “how do you whitewash cedar?”

Read on to learn more!

What Is Wood Painting?

While we consider wood among some of the most durable building materials, it is also a no-brainer that it is susceptible to moisture and other environmental elements. Not to mention mold, insect, and pest infestation on the wood that cause irreversible damage.

Such factors may cause your wood to discolor, decay or warp. The good news is that you can lengthen your wood’s lifespan by incorporating proper protection measures.

Painting is one of the most widely embraced protective measures for wood surfaces, hence the term “wood painting.” So, what is this “wood painting?”

Wood painting entails applying a protective layer over the wood surface to shield it from damaging elements. Other than the protection, the paint layer doubles as a decorative agent.

Therefore, whenever you “outgrow” your woodwork or want to jump on the latest world trends in woodwork for a fresher look, the painting will always do the magic!

REMINDER: The wood painting will give you a desirable finish and protection only if you appropriately prepare your surface. If you apply paint with wood in an unfavorable state, your paint won’t hold as it should, and your structure will imminently fall apart. Therefore, consider repairing those minor dents and replacing the ruined parts.

Wood painting is that colored liquid you apply on your wood to protect it from weather and other elements that may degrade it. After applying the liquid, it will dry into a rigid film that would prevent the wood surface from absorbing or releasing moisture, thus protecting it from fungi and insects.

New painters in woodwork are often challenged on what paint to settle for, thanks to the wide variety of paint available in the markets! Understanding the unique advantages of all paints helps decide the type of finish you desire.

While there are several types of paints, the following are ingredients common in almost all paint types:

The Pigment

I consider this “the coloring matter in the paint.” It is the component that gives paint its unique color. Also, it influences the bulk of the paint and its ability to cover imperfections on your surface.

The Binder

This element holds the pigment particles together and ensures the paint film is hard enough to counter the harmful elements. The binder determines the paint’s adhesiveness to the surface.

The Solvent

This element transports/carries the pigment and the binder. The solvent facilitates the smooth transfer of the solids from the container to the substrates.

As the paint forms a dry film after application, this liquid carrier will evaporate, leaving the solid elements on the surface. Therefore, the paint’s solvents do not interfere with its protective properties.

Other manufacturers add special additives to the primary paint ingredients to improve their protection abilities. You will likely find paints with additives that improve adhesion or improves the wood’s ability to resist mold, mildew, or damaging UV rays.

While these additives only make up a tiny percentage of the paint, they drive the paint costs up by about 10%. So, next time you question why some paints cost higher, this could be the reason!

Now, look at some types of wood paints in the market.

Water-Based Paint

Water-based paint is better known as latex paint. It contains a pigment and a binder. Water often acts as the solvent. This type of paint contains no oil or harsh chemicals; hence they have an extremely low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). This feature makes them ideal for interior wood painting.

The water-based paint will give you a soft finish after complete curing. You want to use it on wood surfaces that are not used as often.

Besides, latex paints are affordable and versatile, as you will find them in various colors. You can quickly get a shade that fits your unique vision of a project.

You can also find water-based paints in several finishes, from matte to gloss.

This will work best if you adore your pieces’ flat or matte finish. Flat latex finish usually contains little or no resin in its formula. Such products will not highlight the light of the painted surface, leaving it with a dull and “velvety” look.

However, the matte finishes don’t contain the protective features needed in paint coats. It won’t form a hard enough film after cure to resist frequent touching, cleaning, and bumping. It would work best if you used it on decorative furniture pieces which you don’t use as frequently.

These brands are specially meant to help your wood pieces withstand regular cleaning. A Satin Finish reflects a minimum amount of light.

This should work for you if you want a protective layer with less reflection but more solid protection. One exciting thing about satin finish is that they are also available in washable formulas.

Semi-Gloss latex paints contain a significant resin concentration in their formula. This is why they reflect more light off the surface. With a high resin concentration, the semi-gloss finishes are strong enough to withstand regular washing and the demands of frequent use.

High-Gloss Paints contain more solid and are the most reflective and durable. Their properties enable them to withstand regular cleaning and use for longer without requiring a recoat. However, this highly reflective nature is sometimes a disadvantage.

This is because the glossier your paint, the more your wood surface stands out, and the more conspicuous the imperfections. Therefore, if you go for a high gloss finish, ensure you prepare your wood correctly and repair any damages that may pop up after painting.

Oil-Based Paints

They are also known as alkyd paints. They have a formula that contains a color pigment and a linseed oil binder suspended in mineral spirits. It may also contain any other thinning petroleum solvent.

This is the most durable wood paint because of its ability to dry into a more rigid film than other paint types. This higher durability also comes at a higher cost.

Oil-based paints also contain high levels of VOC, which release toxic fumes up to one week post applying the last coat. For this reason, always consider wearing protective gear and ensure your working space is well-ventilated when dealing with oil-based paints.

Oil-based paints are best for exterior wood pieces as they are more exposed to damaging elements. Besides, since they contain high VOC levels, using them outside will protect you from toxic paint fumes.

Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint is formulated by suspending the color pigment and acrylic resin in an acrylic polymer solution. It is considered the most versatile paint type as you can use it on several surfaces, wood included.

Acrylic paint is popular as you can apply it quickly; it will flow out evenly on your surface; hence, you won’t have the hassle of smoothing out the paint film. It is also a time saver as it will dry shortly between coats.

Acrylic paints have more elasticity, reducing the product’s resistance against the expansion and contraction of surfaces. The paint’s flexibility allows it to move with the substrate, thus increasing its resistance against cracking and chipping.

Chalk Paint

It’s no surprise that chalk paint has, over time, gained more popularity. People are embracing the vintage look for wood pieces. Isn’t it interesting that the more we advance in science and technology, the more we value the vintage era?

Chalk paint contains a pigment, chalk as the binder, and water as the solvent. This is a form of water-based paint thicker and more durable in texture.

Chalk paint will dry incredibly fast, both an advantage and disadvantage. While it will allow you to finish your project in the shortest time possible, it also increases the chances of an imperfect finish. You are more; likely to leave brush strokes on the painted surfaces with chalk paint.

Therefore, you must learn proper application skills before using chalk paint on your wood piece. Failure to do so will leave you with a ruined project.

What Kind of White Paint Should You Use on Cedar?

We have looked at the different paints you will find in the market. So, which one will best work for your cedar wood surface?

It would be best if you used white acrylic latex paint as it is the most dependable finish with the most protective elements for your cedar. Since cedar has high tannins, acrylic latex paint is the best product as it contains stain blockers that prevent the bleeding that would otherwise occur when working with cedar.

However, this should limit you as your style preference is usually the driving force towards the type of paint you use. For many property owners, painted cedar is a style and not a maintenance/protective action for the wood.

To achieve the best results, apply an oil-based exterior acrylic primer on all sides of your cedar, then top it with 100% latex paint. This is because the acrylic primer and the latex paint are highly compatible. They make a perfect match.

How Do You Prepare Cedar for Painting

Cedarwood is an excellent choice for your outdoor projects. You can use it for cladding, fencing, shingles, decking, and many more.

While painting or staining is an effective way to preserve and protect your wood from any external damage, it will only help if you correctly prepare your surface before doing it. Otherwise, painting on a poorly prepared surface could be as useless as not having it altogether. It won’t offer your wood the protection it needs.

Here is how you can prepare your cedar wood for painting:

Cleaning and Repairing

Mask All Openings, Including Windows and Doors Using a Plastic.

You want to ensure that your paint does not drop on unintended objects, which will cause unnecessary damage. This is why you need to protect your surrounding before painting.

Cut a plastic sheet to fit over all openings and secure it with tape. Putting up a protective sheet will not only protect your objects from paint damage. It will also catch wood shavings that would come loose during the painting. This will also prevent damage to other delicate fixtures.

Thoroughly Clean the Wood Surface

Scrub using a long-handled scrubber brush and a mild detergent. Gently scrub away the dirt, mold, grime, or any other residue that may have accumulated on your wood surface.

Once done, use a garden hose to rinse your wood surface from top to bottom. Afterward, give it a full day to dry before moving to the next step.

NOTE: Pressure washing is also an efficient cleaning method, especially when working on larger surfaces like a fence with algae, moss, or mildew growth.

Rent pressure washer equipment from your local hardware or home improvement stores.

Caveat: Do not use stiff brushes or scrubbers like steel wool, as they may leave permanent marks on your wood surface.

Use Wood Filler to Patch Large Holes and Gouges

Use a putty knife or a hand trowel to apply the wood filler. Use the flat edge of the putty knife to go over the filler and smoothen it out.

For more minor spots, purchase an exterior spackling compound that won’t require additional mixing.

However, the wood filler applied with a putty knife will also work just as fine for them.

The wood filler will dry after a few hours for the basic applications.

Two-part resin systems will stick better on your cedar as it is an exterior wood.

Repairing damaged and uneven areas is crucial as it gives you a uniform and structurally sound surface to work on. This, in turn, will help you achieve a perfect finish.

Fill Invisible Nail Holes

Covering the nail holes is essential as it will prevent them from popping up on the new paint. The wood filler will also work effectively for this stage. Spread a generous amount on any recessed nail holes you encounter. Also, blend the material to match the surrounding surface.

Remove any noticeable nails sticking out (if they are unnecessary). If they are necessary, drive them into the wood surface at least a quarter an inch before filling the holes.

After the cleaning procedures, you must prepare the surface to accept fresh paint. Here is how you do it:

Scrape off Flaking Paint

If you paint a surface with an existing paint coat, it will help if you first eliminate the old paint patches, as they may interfere with the new finish.

Shave the surface using a hooked scraper. Ensure your strokes are moving with the grain to avoid the risk of splintering your wood. Do this till you notice no protrusions on your wood’s surface.

The sharper your scraper, the removing the old paint is easier. Use a scraper with hardened steel or a carbide edge to achieve the best results.

Sand Down the Edges of Bare Spots

After scraping, the remaining paint will likely form a ridge around the exposed wood. Solve this problem using a handheld power sander.

Start with a low-grit sandpaper of about 60 to tone down the sharper edges. Work your way to a higher sandpaper of about 100-grit to smooth the paint into the wood surface.

However, you can feather the contours instead of smoothing them down completely. The idea is to make the edges gradually disappear. Failure to do so will result in the old paint lines creating seams

under the fresh paint. This will, in turn, make your wood surface more vulnerable to cracking.

Use a preliminary Primer to Separately Treat the Exposed Wood Knots.

We mentioned earlier that cedar contains high tannin levels, which will bleed through your paint.

However, this is not a cause for alarm, as a special resin-blocking primer will do the magic for you.

Apply the primer on any area within your wood surface that appears darker or wet.

NOTE: Despite using a resin primer, it is still essential that you apply about 2-3 coats to conceal potential bleeding during the painting.

Sand the Entire Wood Surface

After scraping off the existing paint, it’s time to sand down your working surface. Do this in a wide and circular motion. This light scuffing will enhance the proper adhesion of your paint to your wood surface.

While sanding, pay special attention to the corners, recesses, moldings, or other features you’ll paint. Also, sand away any existing wood splint.

With thorough sanding, you won’t need to remove the old paint, as it will roughen up the exterior enough for the new paint to stick.

Wipe the Surface Clean

After sanding, dirt, debris, and sawdust will accumulate on your wood surface, which you’ll have to clean.

Use a stiff-bristled brush or a dry cloth to wipe the dust off. Sharply blow to eliminate the debris from the cracks and holes on your wood surface.

To collect more dust in broad areas, use a shop vacuum with a brush attachment. Use a finger along the brush to ensure no dust speck is left behind. This is crucial because failure to do so will prevent the paint from adhering appropriately to your wood surface.

How to Prime Cedar

Priming is the last integral part of preparing your cedar for painting. Here is how you do it:

Use a Latex-Based Primer Specifically Designed for Exterior Use.

Latex products are best for exterior wood, like cedar. Their ingredients enhance the paint’s ability to withstand the heat, moisture, rubbing, expansion, and contraction that the outdoor wood surface is typically exposed to.

Latex primers can flex a little, thus reducing their chances of cracking than those paints that dry fast.

Ideally, a single gallon of primer will cover about 400 square feet.

Also, ensure that when you apply the primer, the weather is about 50–90 °F (10–32 °C). This is because when the temperatures are extreme (either too hot or too cold), the primer will not dry with the required consistency.

Brush a Coat of Primer

You now know the best primer for your cedar. Let’s apply it.

A roller will effectively spread the primer if you are working on broad areas. If your surface is much smaller or complex (like railings), a handheld brush will work best as you can control its movement.

Apply a generous amount of primer. Make it thick enough to conceal the grain underneath your wood.

The top of the brush will help you penetrate dips and divots if your surface has a rich grain.

Begin at the top and work your way down. This will help in catching any drips as you go over them.

Touch up the Missed Spots.

Once primed, examine your surface for any spots, seams, or bare patches that you may have accidentally skipped. Use your handheld brush with a few strokes to cover them. You don’t want to leave any spot as your paint will peel or wear out faster in areas without the primer foundation.

Let Your Primer Dry Completely

Under normal circumstances, your primer should dry within two to six hours. In 12 hours maximum, the primer will be set enough for you to paint a follow-up coat (this is optional).

Save yourself from the mess of smudges and transfer by avoiding handling wet primer.

Let your primer dry over the night before applying your first paint coat. Do this to give it adequate time to absorb into the wood.

Fill Any Invisible Openings Using Caulk

You can only do this if the primer has thoroughly dried. Inspect your wood surface for any gaps or cracks that could cause an issue on your finished surface.

Ensure you seal each opening with a caulk gun loaded with a silicon sealant. The caulk will harden within an hour, thus protecting your structure against rain, mold, bugs, and drafts.

You should be able to paint your caulk. It should also be resistant to extreme temperatures and compatible with the materials you are binding.

Be keen on the potential problem areas like the spaces beneath board laps, around window frames, and in-between trim and siding.

How to Paint Cedar Wood White

Most people share a common belief that failing to plan is planning to fail, and I couldn’t agree more! Before painting, plan prior. Ensure that you have all the necessary equipment for the painting.

If you apply white paint on a raw cedarwood piece, I recommend using vertical-grained cedar. This is because it absorbs more stain-blocking primers than flat-grained cedar. Knotty cedar’s texture allows it to hold the primers more sufficiently.

The following is a list of things you will need to paint your cedar wood white:

  • Oil-based Exterior Acrylic Primer
  • Acrylic Latex Solid White Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Sandpapers
  • Clean cloth or rag.

Follow the following procedure to paint:

Sand Your Surface

Sanding your surface will help you achieve a smooth surface for applying your primer. You should sand your surface regardless of whether it is fresh or old.

Sanding would remove dirt and debris that would eventually be problematic if they remained on the surface. Ensure you cover all spots when sanding.

Once you finish, clean the whole surface with a clean cloth for the primer.

Apply the Primer

After sanding, apply an oil-based acrylic exterior primer over the surface. Ensure you do not leave any spot. Leaving spots will allow your paint to bleed through in yellow or brown patches.

Apply a single coat of oil-based acrylic primer over the bare surface and wood knots to prevent cedar tannin.

Let the primer absorb and dry on your surface within 8 hours.

Apply the White Paint

Only apply the paint if the primer has dried entirely. Take the solid white paint can and dip a paintbrush into it.

Apply the paint following the wood grain for better absorption.

The porous nature of cedar wood enables it to absorb the paint better. Therefore, generously apply the paint over the wood to achieve a solid white color.

PRO TIP: In your latex paint selection, go for a thin one that would not trap moisture underneath. Otherwise, moisture trapped in your paint will give you a blotchy finish with yellow and brown patches bleeding through the painting.

Appropriately preparing your painting surface is the key to a perfect finish. The preparation stage dramatically influences the outcome of your finished painted surface.

Is There a White Stain for Cedar? Can You Stain Cedar White

Staining is also a protective measure for your cedar wood against external elements. So, in the same way you can paint your cedar white, you can also stain it white.

How to Stain Cedar White

Just like painting, staining Cedar can also be an uphill task. The wood is highly absorbent, so you likely have uneven patches or blotchiness on your finish. However, the proper preparations will leave you with a great and unique finish. Here are some tips to go by:

  • Begin with a light sanding. This is essential for any wooden surface you want to stain. It doesn’t matter if it is old or fresh from the company. Sanding will help you achieve a

uniform finish.

  • Contrary to popular opinion, priming your wood before staining is essential. The primer will seal in oils and resins that would otherwise interfere with your stain color.
  • Since cedar has a natural resistance to rotting, a water-based stain would work best. Oil-based stains are effective in protecting wood against moisture wear. On the other hand, water-based is effective if you want to maintain color consistency.
  • Before applying your stain, test it on a hidden area to ensure the color matches your expectations. You can also test it at your hardware store, where you purchase it before carrying it home.
  • Apply multiple thin coats. The secret to a perfect stained finish is using thin coats. Apply thin and even stain coats repeatedly until you achieve the desired color. Use a brush or a roller to apply stain on broad areas. A foam brush will work best on tight spaces or intricate details.

When applying, begin from top to bottom. Ensure that you work towards the direction of the grain. Be sure to keep a wet edge while staining for a uniform finish.

  • Also, allow your stain coats to dry in between. Failure to do so will leave you with a blotchy surface and a generally uneven finish.
  • Once satisfied with your color, seal the surface with a quality finish for extra protection against moisture and wear.

Staining your cedar white is a great way to keep up with the contemporary looks. It allows you to create a perfect contrast level between the natural wood grain and the bright white hue. This appearance will work perfectly for both indoor and outdoor applications.

How Do You Whitewash Cedar?

Whitewashing is a painting technique that will enhance the grain f your cedar wood. It gives a beautiful appearance that complements the final touch of your woodwork.

Before whitewashing your cedarwood, clean it with a bleach mixture, allow it to dry, then apply an oil-based primer; follow the whitewash by mixing paint and water. Here are the steps:

Step 1

Examine your cedar wood surfaces, particularly on the lower floors where the shingles are most likely to collect water. Apply a 1-3 bleach water mixture on any mildew you notice and scrub it in. Let it soak there for about 20 minutes.

Step 2

Rinse the bleaching solution with a garden hose. Once done, let it dry thoroughly for about two weeks.

Step 3

Condition the entire surface to eliminate old and weathered wood fibers. Begin working the bristles into the overlapping edges at the bottom of each course. Pull the brush down on the shingle’s face using a firm scrub brush.

Remove dust using an old four-inch paintbrush.

Step 4

Apply a stain-blocking primer with the help of a four-inched brush. If you use a roller for your application, ensure you brush back and forth to achieve full coverage. Let the primer dry thoroughly before painting with high-quality acrylic latex paint.

Step 5

After thoroughly drying your primer, paint the row’s face in different directions and between the shingles.

Use downward vertical strokes to smooth the application throughout your cedar wood surface. Work as you move towards a moist edge and finish it.

How Long Does Painted Cedar Last?

Painting cedar effectively prolongs its lifespan and shields it from external elements that may damage it. High-quality paint on your cedar will last about five to seven years, with others going up to ten.

The weather conditions in your area and how well you maintain your cedar will also determine the lifespan of your painted cedar.

How Long Will Painted Cedar Last Outside?

While it is hard to confine the longevity of your cedar within a given lifespan range, cedar is known to last about twenty to forty years. However, if you maintain it properly, it will last up to 60-70 years.

Painted cedar will last you about 5-7 years. However, if repainted and maintained as recommended, it should last between 12-15 years outside.

Final Thoughts

Cedar is a versatile wood that you can use for your indoor and outdoor projects like fencing, siding, decking, etc.

You can paint your cedar white; however, use an oil-based acrylic exterior primer before applying the solid white paint.

Acrylic latex paint will give you the best results on your cedar siding. Remember to sufficiently prepare your cedar wood surface before painting or staining, as this stage highly determines the outcome of your finish.

Do you have any questions about painting cedar wood that you would like addressed? Let me know in the comments.

Also, good luck with applying white paint to your cedar!

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