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Is my siding pine or cedar?

My wood siding needs repairs, and a couple of contractors who looked at it were not sure whether it was pine or cedar. It is not painted, just stained. How do I determine whether the siding is pine or cedar so I can make sure that the new boards match the old?

Asked by Moya Mim
Posted Oct 31, 2012 4:49 PM ET
Edited Nov 2, 2012 8:14 AM ET


13 Answers

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When stumped (pun intended) I use a couple of reference books that focus on using the end grain to identify the wood. This involves cutting the wood with a fresh blade and then examining with a 10x eyepiece.
Not everyone has the book http://www.amazon.com/Identifying-Wood-R-Bruce-Hoadley/dp/0942391047 or a magnifying glass around so check out this site. Hope it helps.

Answered by Dave Cummings
Posted Oct 31, 2012 8:14 PM ET


If the siding is painted, it's hard to tell. However, if you can remove a piece of siding, look at the back. The difference in grain and color should be fairly obvious to any woodworker familiar with white pine and red cedar. When in doubt, use some sandpaper to rough up the back, and then smell the wood. This test only works if the tester already knows the smell of the two species, of course.

Answered by Martin Holladay
Posted Nov 1, 2012 4:36 AM ET


The wood is not painted, just stained (and the stain is pretty worn).

I think it's not red cedar for sure, but thought perhaps they used some other species of (white) cedar.

Answered by Moya Mim
Posted Nov 1, 2012 5:16 AM ET


Moya, do you have any idea how old the siding is? Around here (Maine) sometimes spruce or western hemlock have been used for siding. Spruce more in the old days, hemlock more in recent years.

While you're looking at the grain, check whether it's vertical grain (growth rings more or less perpendicular to the face of the board) or flat sawn (growth rings more or less parallel to the face of the board). Most siding is available both ways, and it will make a difference to the final appearance--especially if you're leaving it stained.

Answered by Michael Maines
Posted Nov 1, 2012 7:50 AM ET



The siding is 20 years old. It's in eastern NY state (Mid-Hudson area).

Answered by Moya Mim
Posted Nov 1, 2012 8:52 AM ET


Probably the only way to tell for sure will be to do a little "destructive" testing.
See if you can remove (or have removed) a small piece of siding from somewhere high up under the roof overhang.

Answered by Lucas Durand - 7A
Posted Nov 1, 2012 9:17 AM ET


post a picture!

Answered by erik olofsson
Posted Nov 1, 2012 1:05 PM ET


Here are two pictures of different areas of the siding.

1 of 2.jpg 2 of 2.jpg
Answered by Moya Mim
Posted Nov 1, 2012 1:58 PM ET


Probably not red cedar, as you said Moya. Looks like flatsawn white pine to me but it could be white cedar, spruce or another softwood. Following Martin's or Dave's advice would be wise.

Answered by Michael Maines
Posted Nov 1, 2012 5:11 PM ET


For the repairs, should I just use White Cedar for its resistance to decay and insects? Or would the mixing and matching just look awful with the semi-transparent stain?

Answered by Moya Mim
Posted Nov 1, 2012 5:18 PM ET


Go with white cedar. use a couple of sample cutoffs to get the stain match right.

Answered by shane claflin
Posted Nov 1, 2012 5:36 PM ET


Take a piece shopping to the suppliers. Back prime new work.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Nov 1, 2012 8:19 PM ET


Moya, it's not hard to remove a piece of siding, and you can replace it when you're done. Just use a flat bar to wiggle the nails loose on the board you're removing and the board above (technically the nail in the board above shouldn't go through the board you're removing, but it looks like yours probably does). Then you can see the un-weathered back side and have a better chance at determining the grain. If the nails won't wiggle loose, use a nail set to punch them through the board.

I personally wouldn't mix and match species if you're using a semi-transparent stain, unless it was for a utilitarian outbuilding or a junk house (a house built with discarded material). But unless you live in a historic district the house police probably won't come after you for doing so.

I've never seen white cedar clapboards but I'm sure they exist. White cedar is usually quite knotty and decay resistance is ok but not amazing--better than pine and spruce but not as good as red cedar. Any wood clapboards will last longer with a solid paint or stain, and backprimed as AJ said, and ideally, installed using a rain screen detail.

Answered by Michael Maines
Posted Nov 2, 2012 8:10 AM ET
Edited Nov 2, 2012 8:14 AM ET.

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