Q&A: What Can I Do With Old Cedar Siding?

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Q: What should I do about the cedar siding on my house? It’s 40 years old, peeling, and we’re getting conflicting advice about what to do. One contractor says we need to strip back to wall frames, add insulation, then install vinyl siding. Another says we can put new siding right on top of the old cedar. The zero-maintenance aspect of vinyl is appealing, but the look won’t be as nice.

A: Unless the siding is cracked a lot and letting in water, you might consider a careful stripping, filling of cracks and restaining job. Even old cedar siding offers better physical strength than vinyl siding, and as you mentioned, the look will certainly be different with vinyl.

Have you sought the opinion of someone who’s into refinishing exterior wood? The process would include stripping the old finish, filling cracks and gaps, then applying a new finish that’s got a proven track record. Polyurethane caulking is an excellent option for filling cracks in outdoor wood. It sticks well, it remains flexible forever, and it’s paintable. A Canadian-made product called Rhino Wood Repair is the best I know of for fixing areas of rotten wood, if you find any.

Many building professionals are more into removal and replacement than they are into restoration, but that doesn’t mean restoration is second-rate. And the nice thing is, you could also tackle the job of stripping and refinishing on your own, if you wanted to trade some of your spare time for money saved. Unlike removal and replacement, you can take time with restoration.

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