Cedar wood siding is far and away the most popular type of real wood siding. Redwood siding, engineered wood siding and log siding are other options to consider but we’re going to focus here on cedar. In this buying guide we will take you through the pros and cons of cedar siding compared to vinyl and fiber cement, and show you the many shapes, styles and grades available. We also discuss cedar siding maintenance which should definitely be considered, no matter how in love you are with cedar shake and shingle siding. Finally we review some of the best cedar siding manufacturers. If having read this buyers guide you think cedar siding is right for your project then visit our cedar siding cost guide to get an idea of material and installation prices.
Some homeowners won’t be happy without the natural wood look, feel and smell of real cedar while others prefer the lower maintenance requirements of cedar’s imitators, cedar-look vinyl and fiber cement siding.
This comprehensive list of cedar siding pros and cons will assist you in deciding if the upside of natural wood siding is worth the extra TLC it demands.
Attractive profile options enhance cedar’s appeal, whether we’re talking about standard siding, shakes or shingles. Here are the profile styles available in horizontal and vertical cedar siding and cedar shakes and shingles.
Bevel cedar siding: This horizontal cedar siding is the most popular of all profiles. A single board is cut diagonally resulting in two planks each with one edge thicker than the other. As a further option the surface can be saw-textured for richer character or made smooth. In addition to a plain bevel edge, rabbeted bevel and wavy edge bevel options are available from some manufacturers.
The most common thicknesses of beveled siding are 1/2″, 5/8”, 11/16”, 3/4″ and 7/8”. Board width options are 4”, 6”, 8”, 10” and 12”. Boards are cut to various lengths from 8’ to 14’.
Clapboard cedar siding: Boards used for clapboard siding have a uniform thickness, and they are overlapped to leave no exposed gaps. Horizontal installation is most common, but clapboard siding can be used vertically too, and diagonal installation in gables and other locations produces interesting aesthetics such as a sunburst design.
Clapboard siding is typically 1” or 5/4” thick. The most common board widths are 6”, 8” and 10”. Available board surfaces choices are saw-textured or smooth depending on the look you want to achieve for your home.
Lap/ Shiplap/ Channel cedar siding: Lap siding creates a very similar look to tongue and groove siding bu,t instead of a thin shadow line between boards, in lap siding the partial overlap of each the board leaves a wider gap or channel that creates deeper shadow lines. It can be installed vertically, horizontally or even diagonally.
Lap siding is most usually supplied in unseasoned knotty cedar and the surface is saw-textured. The sizes that are most readily available are 1″x6″, 1″x8″, and 1″x10″.
Tongue and groove cedar siding: This siding is most often installed horizontally, but vertical and diagonal application is possible too, giving you more design options. Both rough and smooth faces are offered too. The joints can be v-shaped, flush, reveal-shaped or cut with a radius, each with distinctive shadowing that adds character to your home’s exterior.
Board and batten cedar siding: This is a vertical siding product. Wide boards are installed side by side, and thin battens cover the joints. One common combination is 10” wide boards with 3” wide battens, though there are many combinations you can choose for the look you want. Boards range from 2” to 12” typically, and battens 1” to 4” wide are common. Board faces and edges are milled both textured and smooth to give you appearance options.
Cedar log siding: Horizontal, hand hewn cedar log siding can be installed on an existing home or a new build. Your options include thicknesses from 2” to 4” and widths from 6” to 10”. Many lengths are available including tree-length siding to span the width of the exterior or interior wall.
Cedar trim boards: Trim boards are installed around openings – windows, doors and garages – and used on soffits and fascia to give your siding a finished look. Boards are available from 1/2″ to 5/4” thick with widths from 2” to 12”. Both rough-sawn and surfaced/smooth textures are available to match the rest of your siding or to introduce contrast.
Cedar shake siding and cedar shingle siding is the look most buyers crave when they consider real wood siding. Shakes and shingles can be used to cover the entire exterior or be installed in gables and other areas to complement wood or stone siding.
Cedar Shingles: Traditionally and currently, shingles are cut from a block of wood. The sawn edges and face create a more finished appearance than shakes have. Shingles range from about 3/8” to 1/2″ while shakes are thicker. Shingle widths vary from 4” to 12” or more. Lengths are 18” to 24”. Shingles can be installed so that the butt ends of all the shingles are even – creating a straight row – or staggered to add dimensional interest to the home. Corners can be mitered too in various designs.
Cedar Shakes: Traditionally, shakes were split by hand off a block of wood using a mallet and a blade called a froe. Currently, the vast majority of cedar shakes are machine-cut but also textured to give them a hand-split appearance. Shakes are typically 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Shingle width ranges from 4” to 12” or more with lengths 18” to 24”.
Cedar siding is available in clear and knotty grades. Clear cedar is considered premium cedar, so it is more expensive and a good choice for an upscale project. Knotty cedar is more affordable and produces a more rustic look.
There are several grading agencies in the US and Canada, and each uses slightly different terminology. A complete list of grades includes these or similar terms:
Clear Heart Cedar: The best of the best cedar shows few growth characteristics such as knots and receives this grade
A Clear Cedar: It provides a very fine appearance with slight growth characteristics such as visible rings but no large knots.
B through D Clear Cedar: As you’d expect, the appearance gets less clear from B to C to D, and the siding gets more affordable. Not all manufacturers use B, C and D grades.
Rustic Cedar: Milled with a rustic saw texture, this grade is typically used on the sides of homes rather than on the front exterior wall. It’s an affordable grade of cedar siding.
Select Knotty Cedar: This siding contains knots that are “sound and tight,” in the words of one producer. Your options are rough or dressed edges and smooth or saw-textured face.
Quality Knotty Cedar: This is a slightly inferior grade with more knots, open knots and/or streaks. It offers the most rustic look.
Genuine cedar siding is going to require washing and staining/sealing or painting on a regular basis. Your climate and landscape will determine how often these processes are required.
Power-wash every two to four years: Dusty climates will require more frequent washing. A mild, non-phosphate detergent is recommended. Wet climates can produce mildew which must be cleaned away with a mild bleach solution using oxygen bleach.
Stain or paint as needed, usually every three to five years: Walls that are exposed to sun and high heat will fade faster than those that are not, so they’ll require more frequent staining or painting to protect the wood from damage.
Extractive bleeding: This is a staining of the wood caused by tannins in the wood, water or iron. You might be able to rinse it away with a hose. Otherwise, a mild oxalic acid solution should be effective.
Iron stains caused by iron fasteners: Cedar should be installed with hot-dipped galvanized, aluminum or stainless steel nails to avoid staining. However, if iron nails were used and rust stains occur, the staining can be removed with a commercial cleaner prior to staining or painting the siding.
Chalking: This is a sign that the paint on the cedar is failing. The siding should be washed and repainted.
Peeling, flaking or blistering: These issues are signs that the wood behind the paint is wet, causing the paint to lose adhesion. It is recommended that you contact a siding professional or home inspector to locate the source of the moisture so that it can be remedied before the siding is scraped and stained or painted.
Note: For natural beauty cedar wood can’t be beat, but it comes at a price. Ongoing maintenance of your siding is essential to keep it looking its best. If caring and cleaning for cedar siding sounds like a drag then take a closer look at vinyl siding and fiber cement siding which both offer wood-look siding with much less aftercare.
This information on six leading producers of cedar siding will assist you in researching wood siding and deciding what type you’d like for your home.
LP Building Products: This company is part of LP Inc., a global supplier of siding, lumber and engineered wood products. LP makes a complete line of cedar products from siding to shakes to trim.
The LP website includes a Design Planner for homes and sheds. The planner uses the LP SmartSide Visualizer to assist you in picking your style and colors. If you upload a picture of an existing home, the Visualizer will show you what it would look like clad in cedar siding with your choice of colors.
The site’s Idea Gallery is loaded with pictures of gorgeous homes as well as information about what LP SmartSide cedar siding products you’re seeing in each picture. Choose the application such as a new home or home remodel and the type of siding you prefer, and the slideshow of homes that you can take at your own pace will open.
Boston Cedar: Based in Massachusetts, Boston Cedar supplies a wide range of building materials to retailers including premium Western Red Cedar siding products. In the site’s menu, select Siding, and you’ll find information about the brand’s main siding products for exterior and interior use. When you choose a siding type, such as the Bevel in a Box siding, you’ll have the chance to explore features, benefits, installation instructions and more. There are small galleries on the Clapboard page and Cedar Verticals page, but more pictures would certainly make the site more appealing.
Western Red Cedar Lumber Association: This is a network of cedar siding producers in the US and Canada. The site, RealCedar.com, is well worth exploring. It is packed with information for homeowners about your cedar options including siding, decking and more.
The Inspiration Gallery features 22 pages of beautiful photos to peruse. The photos appear dull; hover over any of them, and they brighten to full color. Click on any of them, and a slideshow will open that you can navigate at your own pace. The gallery lives up to its name, and you’ll find plenty of wonderful ideas for your home building or remodeling project.
Real Cedar also offers a wealth of additional information on the Resources page including US publications, FAQs, Western Red Cedar Glossary and CAD Drawings. Siding and decking calculators assist you in determining how much material is required for your home. The Real Cedar Blog includes many interesting and informative posts.
Heartwood Mills: This Northern Michigan company manufactures cedar log siding. It produces stunning exteriors and interiors without the need for full-log construction. This company’s site provides product details for log siding, tongue & groove siding and trim. You can find out how the logs are harvested in a sustainable way, milled, kiln dried and machined.
A comprehensive Resources page explains the differences between Northern White Cedar and Western Red Cedar, provides FAQs and much more. Take a look at the Past Projects page to see what’s been done and to imagine the possibilities for your home. The Staining Dos and Don’ts is a must-read for DIY homeowners who wish to save money by staining their siding.
Maibec Siding: This Canadian company specializes in Eastern White Cedar shingles and non-cedar wood products. The site’s Photo Gallery of 30+ projects will get your creativity flowing with ideas for your home. The Cedar shingle page has a nice selection of pictures from 11 projects to show you how the shingles can be used effectively as the only siding or in combination with other siding types. From that page, select the Individual Singles option and you’ll be taken to a page showing the pros and cons of Maibec cedar shingles as well as color, style and size options. On the Samples page, there’s a request form for ordering samples and a phone number you can call too.
Cedar Valley: The maker of handcrafted shingle panels, Cedar Valley is located in Hollister, CA, near San Jose. The panels contain a course of individual shingles on a plywood backer. They are assembled at the factory and installed at your home as a single unit. This reduces installation time and cost. Western Red Cedar is used in the panels. Free samples are available by request.
The Cedar Valley Standard Shingle Page under the Products tab includes the products available with several close-up pictures to show texture. The Photo Gallery is lovely and will inspire thoughts of exactly what you want your home to look like. A Technical tab appeals to contractors and DIY homeowners who plan to install their own cedar shingle panels. Pages under the tab include application videos, installation information and specification sheets.
For our complete exterior home siding guide, where you can discover other siding types and ideas, click here.