What Are the Best Practices When Installing Western Red Cedar Siding or Cladding?

"Western red cedar is a great material choice for exterior siding—but there are do's and don'ts to be aware of before you embark on a project. So, we asked Mr. Cedar himself about the best practices he recommends when installing Western red cedar siding."

Jim Coshow


When it comes to understanding the world of cedar, there are few people we trust more than “Mr. Cedar” himself, Paul Mackie. Paul is known as the “voice of the cedar industry” and has been with the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association for more than two decades, working to represent quality cedar producers and educate others on all things cedar.

In this series, he’ll share everything cedar-related, from what exactly Western red cedar is to the differences between kiln- and air-dried lumber and installation best practices.

In today’s video, Paul walks us through his recommendations and best practices for installing cedar siding (also known as cladding).

Siding should be pre-finished on all six sides before going on the wall

Pre-priming or pre-finishing each side (and end) of the siding helps to balance the absorption of moisture, creating a more stable product that is more likely to stay flat on the wall.

Use ring shank siding nails that are high quality and corrosion-resistant

Using a high quality (preferably stainless steel) nail is always the best option. The nails should be long enough to penetrate solid wood by a minimum of 1 ¼ inch.

For vertical siding, always fasten panels to a nailing framework

Simply put, vertical siding won’t perform as expected if nailed only to the wood sheathing. You can either block the wall between the studs or create a furred-out system on top of the sheathing to fasten to (always be mindful of drainage with this approach).

All butt joints should meet on solid framing

For example, a horizontal butt joint should meet at the stud, and a vertical butt joint should meet at the horizontal blocking. This ensures the nails are embedded into solid wood.

Field cuts must be sealed or stained

The end grain of cedar will absorb up to 250 percent more moisture than the other surfaces. Failure to seal the end cuts means that they are exposed to moisture, which will cause adhesion problems for any primer, solid stain, or paint applied thereafter.

Hand-nail whenever possible

Heavy nailing can distort the wood and compromise its performance. If you need to use a gun, we recommend using one that is adjustable so that you can turn down the pressure enough to leave the siding nail proud, then tap it flush.

For bevel siding, install the nail at the proper angle

Adjust your nail angle to be perpendicular to the face of the bevel siding (not the wall itself). This allows the nail to be flush with the surface of the wood (if you drive your nail perpendicular to the wall, the nail will end up half countersunk).

Never nail through two layers of wood siding

This primarily applies to bevel siding and board and batten applications (a design that combines wider vertical planks with narrower strips of material that cover the vertical joints).

Be sure to watch the full video for all the details. For more tips and best practices from our trusted friend Mr. Cedar, check out how to maintain Western red cedar siding and the benefits of using Western red cedar for trim or siding.

mr cedar paul mackie