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How to Refinish Cedar Shingles

Robert Howard

Cedar shingles are a traditional building material that have been used for hundreds of years in parts of the eastern United States. Properly maintained, cedar shingles can protect and beautify your house for decades.

In order to maintain the color and to prolong the life-span, periodic cleaning, brightening, and refinishing of cedar shingles is essential.

Cleaning and Brightening Cedar Shingles

  1. Hose down the shingle siding with a garden hose to remove any dirt and residue.

  2. Mix a solution of wood cleaner in a plastic bucket. Wood cleaner is generally sold in a concentrated form. A mild solution will work well for a routine cleaning, and a heavier concentration will break down and remove old coatings. Follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding the dilution of the wood cleaner.

  3. Apply the wood cleaner to the siding and let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Then scrub the siding down with a nylon scrub brush.

  4. Rinse the siding thoroughly with water.

  5. Mix the wood brightener according the the manufacturer's instructions and apply it to the still wet wood.

  6. Allow the brightener to sit for 45 minutes, then rinse the siding thoroughly with water.

  7. Allow the shingles to dry for at least 24 hours before applying a finish.

Refinishing Cedar Shingles

  1. Mix the wood stain thoroughly with a stick. The pigments in stain tend to sink to the bottom of the bucket, so as you mix, scrape the bottom with your stick.

  2. If you are using several different 1-gallon cans of stain, mix them all together in a single 5-gallon bucket in order to ensure consistent color throughout.

  3. Mix periodically as you work in order to keep the pigment particles suspended.

  4. Apply the stain with a brush, roller, or sprayer. Transparent stain can reveal lap lines, so as you work, maintain a wet edge and stain an entire row of shingles at a time.

  5. Feed the wood as much stain as it will absorb, but don't over-apply. The stain should penetrate into the wood's surface within 15 minutes. Check the job a half hour after staining, and use a dry paint brush to remove any excess product that has not completely penetrated the wood's surface.

  6. Most penetrating stains cover with a single coat. In rare cases, if the shingles are aged or extremely dry, a second coat may be necessary. If, after applying a coat, the shingles look blotchy or lack color, apply a second coat. Just be careful not to leave excess product on the surface of the wood. Oil based stains will not dry hard; over-application can lead to a tacky surface.

  7. Tip

    The protection from the sun's damaging ultra-violet (UV) rays in stain is derived from the pigment. The more pigment a stain has, the longer it will tend to last before you need to refinish. If you are concerned about longevity, choose a darker stain color.


    Wood cleaner and brightener contain chemicals that cab be harmful to skin and eyes. Wear protective clothing, eye wear, and gloves when working with these products.