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Author Topic: Clear finish for cedar  (Read 1336 times)

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Offline WLC

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Clear finish for cedar
« on: April 25, 2021, 04:29:11 PM »
We built a new house, and were not able to do the exterior painting because winter caught up to us before I was able to do it.  It's finally starting to warm up and my mind has turned to getting this house done so I can turn my attention to other things like flower beds, walkways etc.  We used cedar to trim the windows and as trim above some metal siding accents on the front of the house.  

What would be the "best", longest lasting CLEAR sealer for my cedar trim?  There are so many products on the market now that I have no clue.  Thanks for any advise.
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Offline Stephen1

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2021, 04:38:59 PM »
I would be tempted to use an oil stain.. I seem to remember being told to never seal cedar with a varnish or such. It has it's own oils in it that hinder a clear sealer. 
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Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2021, 05:57:48 PM »
Something like Sikkens Cetol door and window stain.  
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Offline alan gage

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2021, 10:50:16 AM »
I'd use stain too. In comes in a variety of opaqueness which will determine how often you have to reapply. The less opaque the more UV exposure and less time between applications (every couple years) but it will look just like cedar. Stain is quick and easy to apply. Unlike paint there are no runs to worry about and no scraping.

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Offline Kindlinmaker

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2021, 09:52:52 AM »
Be Careful.  Be Careful.  Be Careful.  It is almost impossible and always expensive to fix missteps in finishing cedar.

I am no pro but I do have a couple cedar covered houses (one in great shape and one a disaster) and I have worked on rehabbing a few other disasters.  And dont count on expert professional painters because most are neither.  I have quoted work to numerous painters through the years and found two that know more than I do that I would consider professionals. I have used one for over a dozen years at a premium rate that is well worth the investment.

But none of that answers to original question.  Cedar is not a finish loving wood; especially new (1 yr.) wood.  Also, different cedars have different degrees of tolerance.  Western Red is much easier to finish than New Englands White Cedars.  Initial finishing success is subject to several potential detrimental factors including mill glaze, internal chemical secretions, atmospheric moisture at application, surface dryness and temperature.

Preparation is the key to starting correctly.  Only buy lumber that has been stored indoors and store indoors before usage.  Open the surface pores.  This can be accomplished by sanding, chemically etching or allowing to weather exposed seasoning for one year (wood will turn gray).

The best finishes by far are not stains or paints but soaking preservative processes.  They tend to leave the wood with a slightly aged natural appearance.  They are rather nasty to apply but work extremely well.  As they do not cover, I have always questioned the impact to wood longevity because of limited UV protection.

As a rule, cedar does not like anything that forms a solid film and it will generally fail and peal at some point; this includes solid stains.  Semitransparents that allow for two coats will cover nearly as well as solids without the pealing problems.   I have had decent success using external paint primer to paint trim.  It finishes flat but is very attractive and it breathes. Dont use the high-end primers as they form a film finish and will peal just like paint.  Test first.  It should have a flat chalky appearance when it dries.  The primers I have used seem to last about as long as the semitransparent stains.  As with most finishes, water base seems to work better than oils but dont last as long nor have as vibrant colors available.

As I said at the beginning, I am no pro.  But we have a home, on the Maine coast, that was done incorrectly and we still have to scrape and touch-up to the tune of a few thousand dollars every year and have been for the past 25 years (should have resided years ago). And we have a home in upstate NY with very tolerant neighbors that I have used as a paint laboratory for years.  I have spent untold hours talking to paint manufacturers, retailers and service reps so I have been recruited by a few friends to rehab messes their professional painters left them (people would be amazed at the percentage of disasters in the cedar community).   Most solutions come with very high price tags (think tens of thousands on decent size homes).

It should also be noted that mistakes generally dont show up for a couple years or just long enough to escape the builders warrantee period.

Good luck.


Offline Stephen1

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2021, 10:36:07 AM »
Kindlinmaker, A great report except the part of letting the wood weather for 1 year so it turns grey. Everything I read from the US forestry service on coating, staining, wood was not to let the sun hit your unpreserved wood as UV damage starts within 24 hrs of sun exposure. The pores then close and your preservative will not bond into your wood.  
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Offline PoginyHill

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2021, 10:40:33 AM »
Finish for cedar must be oil based. I have used Cabot Australian Oil with success on Eastern/northern white cedar.
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Offline Kindlinmaker

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2021, 12:54:52 PM »
I knew this post would generate feedback.  Good conversations and I hope to learn from them.

Stephen1 - The UV graying is noted in the post.  There are 2 problems with not treating raw wood.  1)  Mill Glaze is very prevalent with cedar and will not stick permanently to the wood.  When it releases, the finish sitting on top of it goes as well creating the never ending pealing effect which goes on for years and years in little bits.  2)  Those wonderful chemicals that give cedar its durability are going to cook out (same stuff that glazes in the sawing process).  When they want to come out of the wood, no finish is going to hold them in.  There are mechanical and chemical solutions beyond natural aging as mentioned but the wood has to be prepped somehow.

PoginHill - Old school always said oil.  I lived with that for years.  I started playing with and testing water based stains 20 years ago and have had great success.  I have not had the same success with water based preservative products. We need to continue working though as oil based products are already banned in many states.  I have a preservative product that I like but I cannot buy it in most New England states.

I agree with Cabot Australian Oil

Offline boonesyard

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2021, 04:32:28 PM »
The timing on this thread is perfect. I have been contemplating how to finish the sawmill/lumber shed we are currently building. I am sawing all of the WRC siding and putting it up rough sawn. Being rough sawn, I know it will take a lot of product, but didn't know the product and application was this tricky. What would you recommend in this application?



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Offline Walnut Beast

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 03:58:44 AM »
Looking pretty sharp 👍. Nice concrete 

Offline kantuckid

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2021, 08:29:56 AM »
I doubt anyone will keep UV off any outer wood surface?  ;D
I've used the Cabot's AU timber oil too with good results. It does come in two versions VOC wise, know your source. 

 I try very hard to avoid ANY!!!!! low VOC finish!!!! 
 AK is an unknown to me VOC wise and a somewhat unique climate situ as well. 
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Offline alan gage

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2021, 09:54:12 AM »
The timing on this thread is perfect. I have been contemplating how to finish the sawmill/lumber shed we are currently building. I am sawing all of the WRC siding and putting it up rough sawn. Being rough sawn, I know it will take a lot of product, but didn't know the product and application was this tricky. What would you recommend in this application?
I've been using Cabot oil based stain for my rough sawn spruce B&B and also used it on rough cedar lap about 10 years ago. It's worked well in both applications. I've been slapping it on with a brush but an airless sprayer should would be nice. I used semi-transparent on the cedar and it needed re-application after a few years. I used semi-solid on the spruce and we'll see how long it lasts, should hopefully be longer.

As for the rough sawn you're correct that it will take a lot of stain. I'm now doing my house in spruce B&B to match the shop I put up a couple years ago. These spruce boards really seem to fuzz and tear and make for a very rough surface. What I'm doing now on the house is sanding them before applying the stain. Not sanding them smooth by any means but just a quick buzz with 80 grit to knock off the worst of the fuzzies. I do the whole wall after the boards are up and then hit the battens after they're up, also knocking down the sharp corners. Goes very quick with a ROS and makes a big difference in feel as well as stain coverage.

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Offline Kindlinmaker

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2021, 10:02:03 AM »
I hope other ideas keep popping up on this post.  Its all good stuff and might help minimize frustrations and expense we have all encountered.

I assume you want to keep that natural wood look against the green metal.  It is a very nice look.

You have 2 good products listed on this post already, Sikkens Cetol and Cabot Australian Timber Oil.  Both products claim the same useful wear life of 2 - 4 years although you will find folks who may be experiencing better results than guaranteed by the companies; especially in shaded areas.  Clear finishes just don't last as long as tinted finishes.  I'm sure most folks have a preference but I'll keep those thoughts to myself to avoid animated discussions.  You might find some homemade recipes that will last much longer but are "homemade" for a reason; I quit using my personal favorite when I learned that every ingredient was on the suspected or known carcinogen lists.

Prep will be critical to success each time you apply finish.  Rough sawn will use more finish as you noted but it will hold finish much better than smooth milled.  I would still thoroughly scrub the surfaces with something to remove bleeding chemicals and mold.  Sozzle it up good with a mold killer as you have to kill the imbedded mold spores which are not visible or they will return in all their glory within a year or two and will prematurely ruin the finish.  

Chlorine products will work but have to be continually wetted for a several minutes as the chlorine dissipates at warp speed in air.  Borax products work better on mold and retain mold killing properties after they dry on the wood but unfortunately, they will also kill everything where they are rinsed on the ground; weeds won't even grow well for a year or two.  I normally use store brand bleach to save a bunch of money and just figure out how much is required to reach mold killing concentrate based on the concentration declared on the label.  I might consider using a commercial paint prep wash for this first application if the prep contained TSP.  TSP might help remove the chemicals that are initially leaching from the wood.  Whatever you do, make sure you test the cleansers washing over the metal siding and keep in mind that many cleansers, especially chlorine, bleach painted surfaces and oxidize metal - rinse thoroughly.

Do not power spray.  When you see a painter with a power sprayer near wood products, it is time to look for a new painter.  Power spraying just tears up wood and cleans the surface; it does nothing for the mold spores which are all imbedded in the wood.  The finish will look good just long enough for the painter to say "you have a mold problem here which is very common and I can fix it by power washing and repainting".  Kind of like the gator catcher that moves old Charlie from one canal to the next for next weeks call.

Offline boonesyard

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2021, 10:39:16 AM »
Thanks. I would not have considered the pretreatment for killing mold spores in the wood. Sounds like a good treatment of a bleach solution will be required before the finish.
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Offline kantuckid

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2021, 12:05:17 PM »
Go on a log home supply house website and read up, ask questions on wood finishes. There are several good brands, Sikkens, Q8 and more. Prices vary a bunch.
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Offline firefighter ontheside

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2021, 09:53:05 PM »
I used Cetol 1 and Cetol 23 on my log home.  It is not cheap to say the least, but it is very good.  The Cetol 1 is an oil penetrating stain and the 23 is more of a film forming finish.  All of it has UV protection.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #16 on: May 01, 2021, 11:03:37 PM »
TSP is a great cleaner but unfortunately it is also VERY corrosive. 
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Offline Barndobuilder

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2021, 10:34:01 AM »
I hope other ideas keep popping up on this post.  Its all good stuff and might help minimize frustrations and expense we have all encountered.

I assume you want to keep that natural wood look against the green metal.  It is a very nice look.

You have 2 good products listed on this post already, Sikkens Cetol and Cabot Australian Timber Oil.  Both products claim the same useful wear life of 2 - 4 years although you will find folks who may be experiencing better results than guaranteed by the companies; especially in shaded areas.  Clear finishes just don't last as long as tinted finishes.  I'm sure most folks have a preference but I'll keep those thoughts to myself to avoid animated discussions.  You might find some homemade recipes that will last much longer but are "homemade" for a reason; I quit using my personal favorite when I learned that every ingredient was on the suspected or known carcinogen lists.

Prep will be critical to success each time you apply finish.  Rough sawn will use more finish as you noted but it will hold finish much better than smooth milled.  I would still thoroughly scrub the surfaces with something to remove bleeding chemicals and mold.  Sozzle it up good with a mold killer as you have to kill the imbedded mold spores which are not visible or they will return in all their glory within a year or two and will prematurely ruin the finish.  

Chlorine products will work but have to be continually wetted for a several minutes as the chlorine dissipates at warp speed in air.  Borax products work better on mold and retain mold killing properties after they dry on the wood but unfortunately, they will also kill everything where they are rinsed on the ground; weeds won't even grow well for a year or two.  I normally use store brand bleach to save a bunch of money and just figure out how much is required to reach mold killing concentrate based on the concentration declared on the label.  I might consider using a commercial paint prep wash for this first application if the prep contained TSP.  TSP might help remove the chemicals that are initially leaching from the wood.  Whatever you do, make sure you test the cleansers washing over the metal siding and keep in mind that many cleansers, especially chlorine, bleach painted surfaces and oxidize metal - rinse thoroughly.

Do not power spray.  When you see a painter with a power sprayer near wood products, it is time to look for a new painter.  Power spraying just tears up wood and cleans the surface; it does nothing for the mold spores which are all imbedded in the wood.  The finish will look good just long enough for the painter to say "you have a mold problem here which is very common and I can fix it by power washing and repainting".  Kind of like the gator catcher that moves old Charlie from one canal to the next for next weeks call.
Hello all,
First time poster here, and someone with zero wood knowledge. I've been searching for answers on what to do with my rough sawn tulip poplar boards that I got for Board & Batten siding on my new house build. Our build has gone through several delays and the poplar we bought has started to develop mold as it waits for installation. I'm liking the advice here from Kindlinmaker about using a bleach or borax treatment and then using a clear oil-based sealer of some kind for moisture and UV protection. I have many questions about the process. Can the bleach or borax treatment be sprayed on with a regular garden pump sprayer? And then would it be rinsed off with just a regular garden hose? How long would it have to dry before we could apply the sealer? And would you recommend the bleach/borax treatment be done on both sides of the boards before hanging? We are doing all of the work on our build by ourselves on the weekends and we live two hours away from our build site, so the fewer steps in the process the better for us. Our goal is to have the siding keep its natural poplar color for as long as possible. We are fine with having to re-apply a sealer every year or so. I should note that the house is in the mountains of Virginia, so we get lots of hot, direct sunlight on three sides of the house during the course of a typical summer day. 
Thanks in advance!



 

 

Offline kantuckid

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2021, 12:09:30 PM »
Well it needs to be on sticks pronto until applied to the build! Either Timbor or Solubor on it too. Lots of info here on both here- spray as you stack it. 
I've posted before that I still have and use the dairy barn brush I bought to use on our log homes wall logs in 1980. It's an oval plastic head with stiff nylon bristles. After it goes on the wall I'd personally use sodium percarbonate but TSP is sold in box stores, hardware's, etc.. If VA is a low VOC state I'd buy whatever you end up as a final weather finish from someplace else. 
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Offline Barndobuilder

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #19 on: July 26, 2021, 08:46:13 PM »
Thank you for the advice! So I mixed up some Solubor with water and some propylene glycol as one member recommended and did a brush/bath on the boards, while hubby and FIL hung the boards up.  Next step will probably be a spray with a bleach solution, with a soft wash rinse. As for the final finish, I'm still trying to decide between TWP, Sikkens, and Cabot Australian Timer Oil. Trying to find a way to source the non-VOC compliant stuff. Wish me luck!


Offline kantuckid

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Re: Clear finish for cedar
« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2021, 06:59:42 AM »
Both TN & KY are non low-VOC states. A hardware or log home supply from there is a likely source. Corr-Tenn in Knoxville-> ask for the log home supply sales guy. They have great prices and sell finishes. I prefer using sodium percarbonate powder mixed in water vs. bleach. In the beginning I chose bleach, no longer. Ebay in any bulk amount. Dilution is on the web. 
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