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Community and Q&A

How to keep pine siding from greying

tech1234 | Posted in General Questions on

I will be using vertical shiplap pine siding (local) on my house build in a couple months. I have used this pine siding before and love the way it looks for the first 2 years (warm wood tones and varying colors, grains) but then it greys out. Any products that anyone would recommend for greying protection that won’t change the initial look too much? or should I just learn to live with the greying

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  1. onslow | | #1


    Postponing the gray can be done with top quality oil finishes. I would caution that it is probably best to get at least one coat on all sides before applying the siding, if at all possible. Cupping will be reduced as moisture shifting in and out of the wood will be a more balanced event. Second big advantage will be reduced ( if not eliminated) shrinkage banding. If you finish the ship lap after installation, any shrinkage or shifting will allow a small strip of under finished wood to peek out. This will gray unless treated. If you have ever dealt with panel doors that were spray stained after assembly, you will be familiar with the halo around the panel edges that appears when the panel shrinks.

    Others will most likely be able to direct you to trustworthy oil finishes. Sikkens is one well known brand. I have used the Minwax Helmsman exterior urethane for deck tables made of red oak. (Not usually a good idea) I was very impressed that it took three years for the sun and rain to finally get through the finish. For a house this wouldn't be long enough and more to point - polyurethane is a film that sits on the surface. For maintenance reasons you only want an oil finish which penetrates and can be re-coated with much less prep work. Again, others hopefully will chime in with real time experience.

    One thing to avoid at all costs are the water based stains sold mostly for decks. I got suckered into the idea while trying to be environmentally responsible. The product touted how it became water repellent when dry. It sure did! It became water repellent so quickly that keeping a wet edge going ( in the evening without sun on the deck) was virtually impossible. Trying to lap over previous work resulted in the finish beading up because it is, of course, water based. If others have had better success, they will say.

    If you want to go with the natural flow, my builder has used a water based that is supposed to be very benign to earth and humans. I can find out what it is if you decide that picking a tint for the siding in advance is easier than gambling on fighting sun and time with penetrating oil finishes.

    By the way, where are you that pine can survive for two years before it changes?

  2. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #2

    Can you tell us your name?

    If you are wealthy enough to afford to hire a crew to regularly touch up the finish on your house, or if you like the idea of spending every other summer on a ladder, you can probably keep your siding looking brand new -- by meticulous touch-up, sanding when necessary, and re-application of a clear finish.

    It's a little like owning a wooden sailboat. Boy, is it ever beautiful -- but get used to the sound of a power sander, because that's how you'll be spending every sunny day in summer.

    In short, you can do it if you want to -- but aren't there better ways to spend your summer days? Let it go gray.

  3. Expert Member

    Martin is right. You can do it, and there are products that do it quite well, but there goes your summer. A useful exercise when building is to list all the periodic maintenance the house will need, see what it amounts to in terms of your time, and decide if there are things you might consider substituting for those that require less care.

    As an aside: I wish FHB would do a follow-up on the decks they have featured over the years. Perhaps a time-lapse showing how they deteriorated from the pristine state the builders left them in.

    If you do go ahead, in general finishes with higher pigment levels (semi-transparent stains for instance) give better UV protection than clear ones. I'd suggest picking a finish not only on how it initially protects, but on how easy it is to re-finish when that is necessary. Solid colour stains mimic paint, but rather than peeling wear away making re-coating easier.

  4. Andrew_C | | #4

    Periodic maintenance -
    I agree with Martin - you'll likely regret trying to fight the elements. Gray is a nice natural color.
    One of the problems with things that require maintenance is that most people don't do maintenance, lacking time, money, knowhow, physical capability, and/or drive. And Malcolm has a great idea: make a list of all the periodic maintenance that your property needs, or would need if you select certain things while building.
    I think I may follow up on Malcolm's exercise and create a list for a certain relative of mine. It might help convince them that they can't, in fact, afford the place they currently own. Or at the very least, that they are going to have to hire some help, because they can't do everything that's needed to prevent the property from degrading.

  5. tech1234 | | #5

    Hey guys thanks for the insight. Here is a pic of my current house and its current siding condition. (house 4.5 years, porch 2 years) (PERSIST house in southern NH) I am still happy with the look of it but I know a full grey-out is just around the corner... I hate yearly maintenance so I think I'll just have to live with it on the new house.

    Any of the designer types on here have a better siding choice that will also "match" this existing house on the property. (it's actually 2 properties but it reads as 1 because of a shared driveway)
    New house is a net zero double stud wall house. Green standing seam roof. Front elevation attached below

  6. Expert Member


    I wish I could say I came to the idea from thinking it up, rather than from experience. I have been replacing high-maintence materials on my own house as the maintenance becomes too onerous.

    Tech 1234,

    To me proportionally your house calls out for two cladding types, separated horizontally at the second floor level, to break up the large vertical expanses, and bring the scale down. That gives you an opportunity to choose a low maintenance material above, and still maintain the wood feel where you can more easily re-finish it close to grade.

  7. JC72 | | #7

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