Household Tips: How To Prevent And Treat Ceder Stain

Prevent and treat cedar stains. Clean and restore cedar that shows signs of weathering and extractive bleeding. Maintain the natural beauty of cedar through prevention.

Does the distinct smell of cedar explain its allure, or is cedar's innate beauty responsible for its popularity? Cedar evokes childhood memories of rummaging through old cedar chests in the attic, but that cannot explain the popularity of one of the world's most expensive woods. Cedar is not only a beautiful wood; it is one of the most durable woods. It is rot, termite and decay resistant. It does not warp, shrink or expand. Aesthetically and functionally, it is ideally suited for structural and decorative exterior uses such as siding, roofing, decks, fences, furniture, bird feeders, etc.

Cedar lasts for years, even outdoors, particularly when used for siding. In fact, western red cedar can last 50-75 years when used as an exterior siding. Eastern white cedar lasts even longer, often with a lifespan of 100 years or more. Expect a shorter lifespan for a cedar deck or roof. The horizontal surface of a deck will incur the most extreme exposure to the elements""wind, rain and sun--the worst enemies of cedar. The roof is similarly exposed to UV rays, and wind exposure is more direct and extreme than in the case of a deck or siding.

Weathering and decay are the two enemies of any wood, and preventing these is the first order of business in preserving wood, regardless of the type of wood. With proper prevention, you will not have to worry about repair. Trapped moisture beneath the cedar's surface is the culprit responsible for causing decay, and UV rays from sunlight cause the weathering. Accumulated debris can also trap moisture.

What is Cedar Stain?

While you may consider weathering, a natural function of wood that is exposed to the elements, weathering that occurs in cedar can be classified as cedar stain. If you notice any discoloration, you have cedar stain. The presence of organisms such as mildew, algae, moss is also considered cedar stain. A properly prepared and sealed cedar will not change colors. Fortunately, anything that causes cedar to change colors, detracting from its natural beauty, can be easily prevented. Because of cedar's composition and inherent strength, the changes caused by cedar stain are usually cosmetic. You can repair the damage and restore the cedar to its original beauty.

The naturally protective oils found in cedar account for its durability. These same oils, however, can cause extractive bleeding, one form of cedar stain. Cedar contains naturally occurring chemicals, called extractive chemicals, which make it weather resistant and add to its durability. These chemicals are water-soluble; they dissolve in water. When the oils break down and dissolve, they leave a discernible stain. If a blue-black stain seems to originate from beneath the surface, it indicates that water or condensation has formed beneath the wood and resulted in a visible stain on the outer surface of the wood.

Preventing Cedar Stain

Note: Preventative measures in this section do not apply to roof shingles. Do not add any aesthetic finishes such as stain or paint to cedar roofing. The exposure to the elements will cause the finish to erode quickly, and some finishes may not comply with local fire retardation ordinances. Direct your cedar roofing questions to a professional who is well versed in fire retardation and local ordinances.

Paint or stain help safeguard the wood from cedar stain. Opaque paint can completely block the UV rays from reaching the wood; stains are slightly less effective, but allow the natural beauty of wood to remain visible. Properly sealed and finished wood also inhibits organism growth.

Whether you stain or paint the cedar, the key to preventing cedar stain is preparing dry cedar before applying the stain or paint to the wood. This decreases the wood's exposure to the elements. If you paint cedar, prime the wood before painting. The primer acts as a sealer. Seal cedar before applying a stain. Be sure to prime or seal the cut ends of the cedar as well as the finished areas. The cut ends are the most porous part of the wood where moisture easily becomes trapped inside the wood. Properly sealing the wood not only prevents staining, but it also prevents the wood from blistering.

Extractive oils, in combination with UV rays, create a dual problem. UV rays react with the extractive oils once they surface and cause polymerization, a process in which several small molecules combine to create a larger molecule. If you notice a stain around a nail head, the extractive chemicals have interacted with the iron in the nail to form the stain. To prevent this type of staining, use galvanized or steel nails. Finish the wood as soon as possible after installation. In addition to ensuring that the wood is completely dry, be sure to seal the wood on a day with low humidity.

Repairing Cedar Stain

Repairing cedar stain requires a three-step approach.

1. Clean the affected area, and allow the cedar to dry completely before proceeding.

2. Seal or prime the cedar as soon as possible after it dries.

3. Apply stain or paint to the cedar.

Safety Precautions

When cleaning the wood, you need to take several common-sense safety precautions.

* Use a plastic bucket to mix chemicals to avoid chemical reactions.

* Wear protective gear, including long pants and long sleeves, goggles, gloves, and a mask.

* Avoid breathing the chemicals.

* If the chemicals spill or splash onto any part of your body, flush the affected area with water, and seek medical attention immediately, if necessary.

* Keep the chemicals away from plants and pets.

Cleaning Cedar Stain

Note: If the cedar stain occurred around iron nails, remove or loosen the nails enough to expose the wood under the nails before cleaning. After cleaning, replace the iron nails with galvanized or steel nails.

1. Remove any finish""paint or stain.

2. In a plastic bucket, add 1 cup of trisodium phosphate and 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.

3. Wash the affected area, rinse, and allow the wood to dry thoroughly.

4. In a plastic bucket, create a new mixture: add 4 ounces of oxalic acid crystals to 1 gallon of warm water.

5. Wash the affected area and allow the mixture to dry on the wood.

6. Rinse thoroughly with water, and allow the wood to dry completely before applying a sealer or primer.

Note: If you do not allow the wood to dry thoroughly after washing, you are creating an environment for trapped moisture to find its way to the surface once again, causing extractive bleeding.

Priming the Cedar

Now that you've restored the cedar to its natural state, it's time to add an ounce of prevention to eliminate the possibility of any future cedar stain. This is the most important step in preventing cedar stain on new or restored cedar. Apply a paint primer or sealer appropriate for cedar, and allow it to dry before adding the final finish. You may want to apply two coats to the cut ends.

Adding a Finish to Cedar

Three types of finishes are appropriate for cedar:

* Transparent stains that allow natural color and texture to remain visible

* Semi-transparent stains, sometimes called semi-solid stains

* Solid stains

* Opaque paint

Apply one or more coats of the finish of your choice, allowing the finish to dry between coats. Select a water-repellant finish or add a coat of clear water repellant after the finish has dried. Ask for help at a local building center to determine the best finish for your wood.

Yearly Cedar Maintenance

At a minimum, you need to loosen and rinse any debris each spring and add a new coat of water repellant. If you follow this regimen each spring and fall, it is unlikely that your cedar furnishings will suffer cedar stain.

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