Choosing The Right Paint For Revitalising Old Wooden Siding

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Few choices of exterior house cladding have the timeless charm of new wooden siding - and few choices look quite as worn-out and dilapidated as old, neglected wooden siding. However, if the wooden siding on your house is looking past its best, it may not be necessary to tear it down and replace it. Providing the wood hasn't fallen victim to extensive decay or insect damage, a fresh coat of paint can spruce up your house, and leave your siding looking new at a minimum of expense.

However, not just any old paint will do. To make sure your newly rejuvenated siding looking fresh for as long as possible, you should choose a paint suited to the particular stresses that wooden siding undergoes. When shopping around for the right paint, remember to keep the following factors in mind:

Choosing when to paint

Though it may seem like a small detail, the day you choose to repaint your siding can make the difference between a proper job and a disastrous one. Paint always dries quicker and more evenly in warm, dry weather -- while this may suggest that you should wait until the height of summer to paint, the excessive humidity caused by high pressure and summer storms can cause significant drying problems. For the same reason, you should also paint as early in the day as you can while avoiding early morning moisture and dew.


Any half-decent siding paint job starts with at least one coat of primer, to smooth out minor surface imperfections and provide a base the topcoat of paint can readily adhere to. Two types of primer are best suited to priming wooden siding:

  • Oil-based primers - With a base of natural or synthetic oil, these primers are excellent for use on wood as they penetrate deep into the wood's pores, reducing the likelihood of peeling and cracking. However, they are unsuitable for use on tannin-rich woods such as redwood or red cedar, as they tend to leave unpleasant streaks that may show through paint.
  • Latex polymer primers - These primers are suitable for use on almost any wood, but may leave an artificial 'plastic' feel to your wood, and tend to start cracking and peeling after many years of intense sunlight exposure.

As a general rule, the primers and paints you use together should always come from the same manufacturer. This is because different brands contain different base oils and polymers that may not mix well.

Matte or gloss?

Besides the obvious aesthetic differences, gloss and matte house paints generally perform in subtly different ways. Matte paints are ideal for the house that takes a beating, as it adheres strongly to wood and can weather the deleterious effects of wind and rain. A coating of matte paint is also flexible enough to endure wood expanding and contracting at different humidity levels without cracking  However, any stains that it suffers have a tendency to remain permanently, which can be particularly frustrating if you choose a light coloured paint.

Gloss paints are somewhat less durable and long-lasting, and do not allow as much moisture to escape from the wood beneath after wet weather, potentially provoking the development of mould. However, they are much favoured for wooden siding in particularly hot and sunny areas, as the tough, slightly reflective coating is supremely resistant to damage caused by sunlight.