Can You Paint Cedar? Comprehensive Guide to Painting Cedar Surfaces

Bob Thomas


Cedar is a popular choice for outdoor structures and siding because of its natural resistance to rot, decay, and insects.

However, you may be wondering, "Can you paint cedar?" The answer is yes, but it's essential to follow the proper steps to achieve a long-lasting, beautiful finish.

In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about painting cedar, including preparation, choosing the right paint, and expert tips for a professional finish.

Quick Summary

Painting cedar is possible and can yield beautiful results when done correctly.

Key steps include proper preparation, selecting the right paint, and using a high-quality paintbrush to achieve a smooth, long-lasting finish.

The Importance of Proper Preparation

Before you start painting, it's crucial to prepare the cedar surface.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Clean the surface: Remove any dirt, mildew, or loose paint using a soft-bristle brush or pressure washer. Allow the surface to dry completely.
  2. Sand the surface: Sand the cedar lightly to remove any rough spots or raised grain. Use a fine-grit sandpaper (120-150 grit) for best results.
  3. Repair damaged areas: Fill any holes, cracks, or imperfections with exterior-grade wood filler. Allow it to dry and sand it smooth.
  4. Prime the surface: Apply a high-quality, oil-based primer designed for cedar. This will help seal the wood and prevent tannin bleed, ensuring a uniform finish. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Choosing the Right Paint for Cedar

Selecting the right paint is crucial for achieving a long-lasting, beautiful finish on cedar surfaces.

Here's what to consider:

  1. Use high-quality, 100% acrylic exterior paint: This type of paint offers excellent durability, UV resistance, and flexibility, which is crucial for withstanding temperature fluctuations and weather conditions.
  2. Choose a paint with a flat or low-luster finish: These finishes allow the cedar to "breathe" and release moisture, preventing paint failure.
  3. Opt for a lighter color: Lighter colors absorb less heat and are less likely to cause the paint to blister or peel.

Expert Tips for Painting Cedar

To achieve professional-looking results when painting cedar, follow these expert tips:

  1. Use a high-quality paintbrush: It's strongly recommended to use a high-quality paintbrush for applying the final coat. This will provide better control and allow the paint to penetrate the wood more effectively.
  2. Apply multiple thin coats: Applying multiple thin coats of paint will yield a smoother, more durable finish than one thick coat.
  3. Paint in the right weather conditions: Avoid painting in direct sunlight or when temperatures are below 50°F (10°C) or above 90°F (32°C). Ideal painting conditions are mild temperatures, low humidity, and overcast skies.
  4. Follow the grain: When applying paint, follow the grain of the wood to achieve a more natural-looking finish.

Maintaining Your Painted Cedar

To keep your painted cedar looking great for years, follow these maintenance tips:

  1. Inspect regularly: Check for signs of wear, such as peeling, cracking, or fading, at least once a year.
  2. Clean the surface: Gently clean the painted surface with a soft-bristle brush and mild detergent to remove dirt and mildew.
  3. Touch up as needed: If you notice any areas of paint failure, sand the affected area, prime if necessary, and apply a fresh coat of paint.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Why is cedar considered difficult to paint?

  A: Cedar is known for its natural oils and tannins that can bleed through paint, causing discoloration and affecting the paint's adhesion.

Additionally, cedar is highly porous, which can lead to uneven paint absorption.

This is why proper preparation is essential when painting cedar.

Q. How long should I wait before painting new cedar?

  A: It's generally recommended to wait at least 2-3 weeks before painting new cedar.

This allows the cedar to dry out and helps the paint to adhere better to the surface.

However, it's important to check the moisture content of the wood before painting to ensure it's sufficiently dry.

Q. Can I paint cedar without using a primer?

  A: It's not recommended to paint cedar without using a primer, as the natural oils and tannins in cedar can bleed through the paint and cause discoloration.

Using a high-quality primer specifically designed for cedar will help block these substances and provide a solid base for the paint.

Q. Can I use a paint sprayer to apply the primer on cedar?

  A: Yes, you can use a paint sprayer to apply the primer on cedar.

However, for the final coat, it's strongly recommended to use a paintbrush to ensure even coverage and avoid lap marks or streaks.

Q. Is it necessary to apply a sealant after painting cedar?

  A: Applying a sealant after painting cedar is not necessary, as high-quality exterior paint will provide adequate protection from the elements.

However, regular maintenance, such as cleaning and touching up any areas with chipped or peeling paint, is essential to maintaining the painted cedar's appearance and durability.


Painting cedar is not only possible but can result in a stunning, long-lasting finish when done properly.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you'll be well-prepared to tackle your cedar painting project with confidence.

Remember, proper preparation, choosing the right paint, and using a high-quality paintbrush are crucial for achieving the best results.

With a little effort and attention to detail, you can transform your cedar surface into a beautiful and durable feature for your home or outdoor space.

Lastly, don't forget to maintain your painted cedar by inspecting, cleaning, and touching up as needed to ensure its longevity and continued beauty.

Suggested Products:

  1. Zinsser Cover Stain Oil-Based Primer: This primer is specifically designed for blocking cedar's natural tannins and oils, providing a solid base for painting. It has excellent adhesion and dries quickly. It can be applied using a brush for precise and even coverage.
  2. Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Acrylic Latex Primer: This water-based primer is suitable for cedar and offers excellent adhesion and stain-blocking properties. It's a great alternative to oil-based primers and can be applied using a brush.
  3. Sherwin-Williams Emerald Exterior Acrylic Latex Paint: This high-quality exterior paint is durable, provides excellent coverage, and is resistant to fading and mildew. It's an excellent choice for painting cedar surfaces using a paintbrush.
  4. Purdy XL Series Glide Angular Trim Paint Brush: This high-quality paintbrush is perfect for applying primer and the final coat on cedar surfaces. The bristles are designed for smooth, even coverage, helping to avoid lap marks and streaks.
  5. Wooster Brush Ultra/Pro Firm Lindbeck Angle Sash Paintbrush: This professional-quality brush is ideal for painting cedar surfaces. Its firm bristles provide excellent control, allowing for a smooth and even application of paint.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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