Ask the Carpenter: No siding is maintenance-free … really

Ask the Expert Home Improvement

Q. I really enjoyed your articles about the benefits of factory-finished cedar siding, which is what we have on our house. My question is regarding maintenance. Our builder told us this finish would “last forever’’ and would require no maintenance. Ours is about 12 years old now, and I’m wondering whether we need to think about restaining or painting. Also, do you think it’s best to restain, or can we paint it to introduce a new color?


A. Your comments mention cedar siding, but the factory-finish, non-maintenance, lasts forever remarks lead me to believe you have fiber-cement boards. Regardless of the product, your builder should never have made that claim.

Is the siding fading? Does the finish look dull? Does it simply need to be washed? Try washing it first; it’s the least expense approach. I would then reach out to local reputable painters and ask for an inspection, particularly of the caulk joints.

Find out the manufacturer/brand and look up the warranty, requirements, and information on longevity. In most cases, you’ll find a warranty on the factory finish of fiber-cement board of roughly 10 years. This means that you don’t have to worry about the paint or stain fading, chipping, or peeling for at least 10 years after installation. Regarding what finish to use, I prefer stain, but you could use latex.

If you have cedar clapboards, you will definitely have to restain or repaint them at least every six years, depending on how well it was done the first time and how exposed to the weather your house is.

Do you know whether the builder primed the end cuts when he or she installed it? When all of the exposed surfaces of the siding are machine finished, expansion and contraction are significantly reduced in the field. To continue this protection, all field cuts need to be primed prior to installation. The net result is a superior long-lasting finish that greatly reduces future maintenance and provides long-term curb appeal.

Dear Rob

From Glenn R. Mills of Millwork Inc. Builders: I read your column about the blackened medicine cabinet mirror (“Ask the Carpenter: How to keep algae off your roof,’’ Dec. 10), and I have some insight to share with you. I’m a builder based in Winchester and have been doing residential construction for 30 years now. A representative from a mirror company I have worked with once told me that the deterioration like Pam from Newton asked about came from the ammonia in glass cleaners reacting with the film behind the glass that provides the reflective finish. He said the ammonia would break down the material at the edges and cause the blackened look. Since then I’ve always shared this with customers. Enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.

Rob Robillard is a general contractor, carpenter, editor of, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business. Send your questions to [email protected] or tweet them to @robertrobillard. Subscribe to our newsletter at