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Should You Paint or Stain Cedar Siding?

Cedar siding is a beautiful addition to any home. Not only does it add charm, but it’s also environmentally friendly and offers great insulation value. Proper installation and care can extend the life of your cedar siding and help it maintain its appeal for many years to come. 

However, cedar siding will turn gray and must be coated to protect it from the elements. The question then becomes whether to use paint or stain. Let’s discuss the differences between paint and stain to help you decide which option is best for your project.

Understanding Cedar Siding

A close up image of aged cedar siding.


Cedar siding is a beautiful choice for your home exterior, and cedar is also a popular material for decks, fences and outdoor furniture. It’s important to know that cedar siding requires more maintenance than other types of siding, such as vinyl or aluminum. 

There are two main types of cedar siding: Western red cedar and Eastern white cedar. Western red cedar is the more popular of the two because it’s more dimensionally stable, meaning it won’t warp or shrink as much as Eastern white cedar. Western red cedar is also more resistant to rot and insect damage. If you’re considering cedar siding for your home, it’s important to ask your contractor or retailer which type of cedar they recommend for your area.

Regardless of the type, cedar siding should be painted or stained to protect it from the elements. The method you choose depends on your familiarity with each technique and the final look you desire.

The Difference Between Paint and Stain

Paint and stain both offer years of protection, but there are important differences in the application and results.


A close up of a white wooden wall partially painted blue.


The main contrast between paint and stain is the way it clings to cedar. Paint is a pigment-based, opaque coating that usually comes in any color imaginable, to form a layer over shingles. It fully conceals old wood while barely letting any grain show through. Because paint sits” on the surface of shingles instead of seeping into them, it will eventually peel and have to be scraped off and reapplied — this can be a costly process. 

Once shingles are painted over, they can no longer be stained unless the paint has either been sanded down or completely worn off.


A wall with cedar plank siding and green ivy growing up the wall.


Stain has less pigment and is more translucent than paint, which allows some of the wood’s natural color and grain to show through. Cedar siding is ideal for staining because the natural fibers of the wood will absorb the stain, making it last much longer than if you were to paint it. Stain penetrates deep into the cedar fibers to waterproof them and protect them from rain, snow and ice.

Stains come in semi-transparent or solid-color formulas. Semi-transparent stains have a light pigmentation, which enhances existing colors in the wood while still letting some of its natural beauty shine through. Solid-colored stains offer much heavier coverage and resemble a flat paint that is one color throughout.

Should Cedar Siding Be Painted or Stained for Best Results?

There are a few things to consider when making your decision. First, painting cedar siding will give it a more uniform look while staining will allow the natural grain of the wood to show through. Painting is also more customizable, so it may be a better option if you want your home to have a unique color or design. However, staining is easier to touch up if it becomes scratched or chipped, and it doesn’t require as much maintenance as painting. 

Ultimately, the best choice for your cedar siding depends on your personal preferences and the needs of your home.

The Best Stain to Use for Cedar Siding

A gray bucket of ZAR® Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain in the shade Barnboard.


If you want to protect the original look and texture of your cedar siding, using a clear deck and siding sealer like ZAR® Deck & Siding Clear Waterproof Wood Sealer will provide the best results. However, cedar siding will take on a slighter, darker and warmer shade due to the nature of the sealer.

Adding some color to your cedar siding, while still allowing the beauty of the wood to show through, is possible with ZAR Deck & Siding Semi-Transparent Stain. It offers subtle color that highlights the beauty of the wood texture and grain and is available in eight shades:

  • Barnboard

  • Black Walnut

  • Cedar

  • Oak Brown

  • Rustic Brown

  • Sedona Red

  • (New) Cordovan Brown

  • (New) Emerald Gray

Our easy-to-apply oil-based pigment blend creates deep, clear colors and features fantastic adhesion, abrasion resistance and superior durability. This product not only revitalizes old cedar siding, but it also keeps new cedar — and other types of premium wood products — looking great for years to come.

A person with a blue paint brush applying ZAR® Water Base Poly Exterior HP to wood.


The Best of Paint and Stain — ZAR’s Solid Color Coating

A gray bucket of ZAR® Deck & Siding Solid Color Coating in the shade Purely White/Tint Base with imagery of a deck on the side.


Combining the best qualities of paint and stain, ZAR Deck & Siding Solid Color Coating provides the long-lasting, deep sealing benefits of stain with the opaque richness of paint. Our solid coatings come in 20 colors and can be used on cedar siding, as well as:

  • T‑111

  • Fiber-cement

  • Composite decking

  • Masonry

  • Metal

In addition, it is manufactured with a broad-spectrum preservative for outstanding mold and mildew protection.

A person in a white mask spraying ZAR® Deck & Siding Solid Color Coating on wood siding.


Choose the Best Stains from ZAR for Cedar Siding

ZAR has been producing interior and exterior stains since the early 1980s and has developed a reputation among paint contractors as the best product to use when professional results are desired. 

We offer a wide selection of stains for decks and siding in clear, semi-transparent and solid colors. Contact us today for more information and the location of the dealer near you.