Home Fix: Dwight Barnett answers home-improvement questions. This week's topic covers the basics for cleaning and maintaining cedar siding.
Q: We are negotiating to buy a house with cedar siding. It has a fairly new paint job, but the paint is peeling badly. What’s the best way to remove the peeling paint? The siding appears to be in good shape.
We have heard that you never should pressure-wash cedar siding. Any truth to that?
This dilemma will slow down the buying process until we learn how much it will cost to fix and are satisfied it can be resolved.
A: Cedar is an excellent choice for appearance, ease of maintenance and longevity. Cedar contains natural oils and acids to protect the wood from insects and the weather, so although there are chemical strippers available for use on cedar, I do not recommend using them for paint removal.
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Your problem is caused by accumulated dirt and grit that should have been removed before painting.
Power washing can be used to clean cedar as long as the sprayer is set at a low pressure to prevent damaging the wood’s soft surface. Once cleaned and allowed to dry, the wood can then be painted using a urethane-acrylic house paint.
What you are likely seeing are long strands of dried paint that did not adhere to the wood but rather to the grit in the wood’s grain. As the paint dries, it curls in long strands until they are long enough to break off under their own weight or a strong wind tears off the loose strands.
It is unsightly, but the cedar has not been damaged. This also means some of the paint did adhere to the cedar and will have to be removed before painting.
For cedar siding with a smooth surface, scrape the paint and clean the cedar before painting. For rough-sawn cedar, you can try to remove the paint using a stiff wire brush, being careful not to damaged the cedar.
If you are not successful, you will need to have the paint removed by a professional using either a dry ice blaster or a soda blaster.
Both systems are copied after the sandblasting method used to clean steel and other hard surfaces.
Sand blasting removes the surface paint and some of the substrate. Soda or dry ice will not do as much damage as sand blasting. By using dry ice, which vaporizes upon impact, there is no cleanup except for the loose paint.
Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at d.Barnett@insightbb.com. Sorry, no personal replies. Always consult local contractors and codes.