How can I tell if my cedar siding has to be replaced?

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Cedar siding has great curb appeal, can withstand the elements and last for decades with the right maintenance.

This home, left, created by Sandie Hume-Tharp, ASID, and Renaissance Homes, capitalizes on the wealth of home building products available in Western Red Cedar—wavy edge bevel siding, board and batten, clear tongue and groove paneling for soffits, shingles and trim. [Photo by Rick Keating of RK Productions, courtesy of Western Red Cedar Lumber Association]

Cleaning and re-staining can prolong the life of cedar siding, but there may come a time when it needs to be replaced. One of the telltale signs is when the boards start to separate and/or curl—they no longer lay flat, but rather curve along their length and look bowed—or they start to gap at the seams. Cosmetic problems can often be corrected, but other serious issues like deep-penetrating fungus and swelling may mean that replacement is a must.

Cedar Replacement

If you need to replace your cedar, it will typically cost more than vinyl siding, but it adds a beauty and richness unequaled by other materials, especially if you have it stained. The right stain has more than cosmetic appeal—it helps protect the wood from the battering of snow, ice and rain. Keep in mind that your local “covenants, conditions and restrictions” may limit your choices for replacement. For instance, some communities mandate cedar siding and nothing but cedar siding.

When you’re figuring out your budget, remember that your contractor will need to add a new moisture barrier before new siding can go on. He or she should also make any needed repairs to the house’s underlayment. Depending on the size of your home, re-siding could take one to two weeks, and then allow a few days for sealing or staining, depending on the weather conditions.

Cedar Maintenance

A professional should be able to tell you if, rather than replacement, all you need is maintenance and/or repair work to correct any moisture or other damage.

Manufacturers often suggest giving cedar siding a yearly low-pressure water wash to remove any accumulation of dust and dirt. If your siding shows any signs of mold or mildew, a mild bleach solution may remedy the situation and preserve the life of your wood.

Note that you don’t want to have your siding power-washed unless the intention is to strip the wood bare so that it can be re-sealed or re-stained differently.

When it comes to how often you should have cedar siding re-stained or re-sealed, the answer depends on how well it weathers the elements.