Can Cedar Be Painted White? — Sidings, Posts, Boards, Furniture

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Cedar is known for its beautiful natural look, and some might argue that adding paint could hide its unique grain. However, if you’re considering painting cedar white, especially for decking and siding projects, you’re not alone in your curiosity.

In this article, let me discuss the qualities of cedar as a woodworking material and provide some valuable advice on the art of painting it effectively.

Is It a Good Idea to Paint Cedar Wood White?

While some may argue that cedar’s wood grain gives a more natural feel, it’s not wrong to paint its surface different colors. The color tone you can apply to this material can range from the whitest of whites to dark brown.

The only catch is you need to execute this procedure correctly. You may not know, but these lumber types include tannins. Because of this component, the paint has a higher chance of bleeding.

Concerned about white paint peeling or cracking on your surface? A pro tip: go for thick coats when applying it. To further ward off any potential issues, consider using an oil-based primer before you start – it’ll help keep that paint in check.

painted cedar wood to white

What Kind of White Paint to Use on Cedar

The application should stick well if you use 100% acrylic latex paint. However, you must apply an oil-based acrylic primer suited for outdoor projects before painting the surface.

Primer and latex paint in the acrylic category should complement well and help you avoid compatibility problems. If the cedar materials are outdoors, exterior-grade products should help protect the cedar’s surface from moisture and other elements.

Exterior-grade painting products also include stain blockers, allowing them to withstand white paint on cedar surfaces.

How to Prepare Cedar Wood Surface for Painting

Just like any other type of wood, cedar needs some preparation before you paint it. It’s important to remove any old paint that might be on the surface first. 

I highly suggest doing this before moving on to the next step. Once you’ve taken care of that, applying two coats of acrylic primer should get your cedar wood ready for a top-notch paint job.

preparing to paint cedar wood

If you don’t want to encounter issues later, don’t forget to buy the primer and paint from the same brand or manufacturer.

Cedar is a highly porous material [1], so it’s very paint-absorbent. Although you can spray or roll the primer and paint over the surface, brushing it by hand should help you level pigments better and provide the best results.

Best Way to Paint Cedar Wood White in 3 Steps

Tools and Materials

Step #1: Sanding

The paint pigments will only adhere to the material if it has a smooth surface, so sanding is a necessary process to execute.

Whether working with old or fresh cedar lumber, you must ensure the wood is free from mold and mildew. Missing a few spots with these substances can cause potential damage in the long run. It’ll also hinder the priming and painting process from yielding a smooth finish.

testing orbital sander

You don’t need to put so much pressure into sanding because light scrubs should be enough to eliminate dust particles and debris.

If you don’t want to paint with an uneven surface, the sanding pressure should remain the same in every spot you run through. After that, wipe the material with a clean cloth to ensure no particles hinder the priming process.

Step #2: Applying the Primer

3 best steps to paint cedar wood

Next, you must brush the acrylic primer on every inch of the surface. All the spots should have equal priming application, or you’ll witness yellow and brown paint patches bleeding through the wood.

A single coat of primer is typically sufficient to prevent any potential chemical reactions caused by the tannins present in cedar wood. 

Tannins are natural compounds found in cedar that can cause discoloration or staining when they come into contact with certain finishes or paints. However, it is essential to choose a high-quality primer specifically designed for use on cedar to ensure optimal results.

It’ll only take around 8 hours for the material to dry, but I suggest checking the product’s label for the recommended waiting time.

brushing white to cedar wood

Step #3: Applying the White Paint

After the recommended drying time, it should be fine to start painting the cedar material. First, you must soak the brush with white paint. From there, start brushing along the wood’s grain.

You must keep painting in that direction to ensure the paint will adhere to the surface well. Don’t be stingy with the application. Paint as generously as possible because cedar is highly porous.

However, if you’re using a solid white paint color, ensure each coat is thin enough to avoid moisture buildup. If not, the trapped water vapor will result in blotching and show obvious signs of yellow or brown patching.

Can Cedar Wood Be Stained White Without Any Problem?

Yes, you’ll have no issues staining cedar materials white. And unlike applying white paint, it doesn’t require the priming process before application.

Although you don’t need to worry about bleeding because wood stains don’t penetrate the surface, you must clean and sand it to eliminate signs of previous paint coatings, dirt residues, or grime.

staining cedar wood before white

You should also find staining products with UV blockers. Through this, the applied surface can stand against sunlight exposure and prevent paint discoloration and fading. It also features water-repellent attributes that avoid potential water damage.

If you don’t want your staining process to end in disaster, don’t execute this procedure under direct sunlight or high humidity.

How About Painting Very Old Cedar Wood White?

You can paint cedar white, regardless if it’s old or new. However, you must ensure the surface is free of molds, dust particles, or mildews. It’s also best to remove previously applied paint films and coats by sanding them to create a smooth material to which the paint can adhere.

On top of all that, don’t forget to use high-quality paint products instead of regular ones. It may seem trivial, but these old surfaces need coats with extra durability and flexibility.

You should also ensure the surface undergoes priming before applying the white paint. Remember that these materials have weak adhesion, so primers should help the paint stick to the wood better.

painting old cedar wood

As previously discussed, cedar lumber has tannin compounds. Because of these substances, you must ensure the surface is sealed correctly. If not, it’ll turn into discoloration or bleed through the material.

Lastly, you should know that the natural cedar color won’t be present once you paint it. Painting is a good restoration process; it’ll cover the grain. 

Applying a clear protective finish should do the trick if you don’t want that aesthetic for your project. In this case, check this list of the best clear cedar finishes for outdoor use

Does White Cedar Turn Gray?

Unlike other variations of this wood specie, white cedar has lignin substances. And while this component gives the lumber its white color, it can also break down over time and turn into a silver-gray tone.

If you’re using white cedar for outdoor applications like fences and decks, you must know that exposure to external elements can speed up this process. The presence of direct sunlight, moisture buildup, and harsh climate are the primary triggers for this occurrence.

cedar wood turning into gray

You may think turning gray will render the wood useless, but trust me, it doesn’t affect the material’s condition. Although it won’t be as aesthetically pleasing as before, you can count on its durability and strength. It can still be an excellent material for outdoor projects.


How long does painted cedar last?

A painted cedar can last more than ten years if the material undergoes proper sanding, priming, and prepping. You must apply exterior-grade products to protect the surface from external inhibitors like mold and mildew. But is cedar really a strong wood? Find out next!

Can you paint red cedar white?

Yes, you can paint red cedar white. However, you must prep its surface by sanding and applying primer to ensure the painting will yield an aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting finish.

More about cedar wood here:


Now that you’re aware that cedar can indeed be given a white coat of paint, it’s time to gather your supplies and put this knowledge into practice.

You might wonder if all the sanding and priming steps are worth the effort, but take it from our seasoned woodworking specialists – they’re essential for ensuring the longevity of your creation. Mastering these crucial steps will save you valuable time and resources on your upcoming project.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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