Way way back, almost a year ago now, we purchased cedar clapboards for the tiny house. Sheesh, was it really that long ago? Yes, Instagram tells me it was last February. We got the clapboards delivered with the intention of staining them over the course of the winter so that we could install them in the spring and summer.
Time ran away from us, and it was a while before we got the siding up and running. As per usual, the research phase made up the bulk of the delay. We wanted to find an eco-friendly coating for the siding, one that would bring out the beauty of the wood, protect it from the elements, and be ok for the environment and for people with chemical sensitivities, especially as we were planning to paint the siding in an enclosed space over the winter.
We came across the PolyWhey Exterior Penetrating Wood Stain by Vermont Natural Coatings in our internet trawling, and picked up a small can of the Caspian Clear to test it out. It went on beautifully. It was everything we wanted… almost. Apparently, clear coating on cedar means your cedar will still turn silvery gray over time, and after much discussion we decided we wanted to put off the weathering of our cedar as much as possible.
We spoke with the folks at Vermont Natural Coatings. Ok, scratch that: we bombarded them with questions. And their answer was to choose a coating with pigmentation, which would impede the sun’s UV rays thereby reducing the silvering of cedar as it ages. Of their coatings, we picked the Lakeside Cedar color in an attempt to make our Eastern White siding look like Western Red. Same wood family, natural look — we hoped. To sweeten the deal, Vermont Natural Coatings gave us a discount on their pricing in exchange for a blog post about our experience, which was a huge help for our budget. Eco-friendly coatings are not cheap, and we were glad to have made such good friends!
Ok, so you want the truth?
I hate to say it, but our first attempt at painting on the red cedar coloring kind of made our eyes water. The Lakeside Cedar color is quite orange, and was made more so by the fluorescent lighting of our workshop, and also by the rough cut of our siding, which soaks up more product than a smooth cut. (On a side note, you want the rough cut side of your siding to face outwards for that very reason: more product soaked into the wood means less chance of water and UV damage to your wood. Sometimes we are smart!)
After more deliberation, and with our budget in mind, and once again speaking with the friendly team at Vermont Natural Coatings, we decided not to switch to a different product altogether but to mix the Lakeside Cedar color with the Caspian Clear color to thin it out and make it more palatable to our apparently fine-tuned aesthetics meter. Vermont Natural Coatings said that mixing the colors was fine in any ratio so we experimented a bit and decided that a 50/50 mixture looked good and would still provide some UV protection.
My part in this saga ended here, but Seth created two spray racks to make the coatings go quicker, and then he sprayed all of the siding over the course of a week with a handy dandy spray-gun. He used the 50/50 mixture on the rough cut side of the clapboards, and then did the straight Lakeside Cedar on the smooth side, which is the side against the house. Always spray both sides of your clapboards, folks! Remember, only you can prevent water damage.
I’m done channeling Yogi the Bear now
The coatings went on well. Seth says he was pleased by the process and the amount of coverage he got with the cans of PolyWhey. The gun didn’t clog, the spray racks worked like a charm. The coloring looks quite natural, if I do say so myself. And to top it off, we’ve had numerous friends ask us why we didn’t use a coating for our clapboards, and then we laughed with glee when we told them we had.
I must say, the clapboards have been one of the joys of our tiny house. The wood itself is beautiful, local, and was cut to our specifications by a small company in Maine with excellent customer service, short lead time, and good pricing. The coatings were easy to apply and they look great. And clapboards go on relatively quickly and make a big impact. Our house went from blue box to tiny house in the course of a week. We still have some siding to put up around the diamond windows and the porch light, but I think it’s safe to say our cedar siding is substantially complete. And that’s a very good thing.