I'm getting ready to paint my cabin this summer and I was hoping to get a reality check on the order of sequence. I've painted houses inside and out before but they were new, and this is a bit different.

The cabin has old stained t-111 siding with untreated graying Pine (or maybe Cedar?) siding on the chimney, (the chevron pattern in last photo). Its heavily weathered but not cracked or rotted so I think its ok to refinish. The previous owner didn't do much maintenance and the forested location means it gets very little sun, so it has some mold/mildew growth. I'm planning on a dark gray/black stain on chevron pattern siding and charcoal gray paint on the rest of the house (however part of me wonders if this is a bad idea: a dark color camouflaging future mold/mildew). Anyhow here's what I'm thinking:

  1. Nail down any loose trim.
  2. Seal seams in areas to be painted with latex caulk (house is stained so nothing is caulked)
  3. Scrape/scrub/wash siding to remove mold/mildew. Power washing worries me since houses are not flashed to handle jets of water shooting up. Plus my entry eave has a ton of nooks and crannies. I was thinking of following this guidance.
    How do I clean vinyl siding without a pressure washer?
  4. Let it dry for a week (its 88° and dry up here this summer)
  5. I assume I'll need to apply a wood conditioner before staining the chimney siding since its so weathered?
  6. Stain chimney siding (If it turns out like crap I can always just caulk and paint over it).
  7. Prime with something like Zinnser Kilz2 to get a good bond.
  8. Mask and spray exterior paint (I just prefer airless sprayers).

Since my lot is level I'm thinking I may rent a lift a couple times to speed things up

I'll likely replace the roof next season so when that happens I'll likely take the opportunity to touch up the fascia paint before the new drip edges go on.

Thanks in advance for any feedback on my plan.

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  • Thanks @FreeMan. I definitely take your point about having clean surfaces to bond to. The only reason I though of caulking first is I’d be worried the siding will leak like a sieve if I washed the siding as is. I was imagining water getting trapped between the siding and building paper, and then inadvertently sealing moisture in with caulk. Am I overthinking it? Maybe the heat would allow any moisture to evaporate through the porous siding.
    – mattp
    Jul 6 '20 at 16:10
  • Pressure washing is pretty stupid especially to weathered wood. Wood conditioner is made like a tea, not of just some finish you would use. Weathered wood is more fragile as the years move on, the wood gets weaker & separates slowly, like it's starting to split apart along with the color the wood on takes. Thompson sealer would be a good choice. Wood is better handled from the start of things. But once it's had enough of the elements, it will be hard to keep it looking new, you can't rewind wood unless you add other materials & take from the wood & cover it up with paint!
    – Eric
    Apr 13 '21 at 7:41
  • Were you able to clean and fix this up. What worked for you? If different than the answers write it up and accept so others will know what worked.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 13 '21 at 13:50
  • Hi Erik, Ed, I have not done the refinishing yet but I hope to this summer. I agree with you and others that recommend against power washing. I think I’ll use a mildew cleaner then wood conditioner. Then depending how it looks maybe stain but it’s it’s looking bad I can always just caulk and paint. I’ll write up a summary and post photos after. Thanks for the replies.
    – mattp
    Apr 15 '21 at 3:06

I agree with others to clean prior to calking. I do not like pressure washers on stained or almost bare wood it really can tear the soft grain up and leave it looking like crap.

I prefer cleaning the wood with deck cleaners or hydrogen peroxide. The hydrogen peroxide will kill the mold and brighten the wood (sometimes people don’t want bright)

I purchase gallons of ~12% hydrogen peroxide online. I used to get ~30% the stuff smoked when you opened the bottle From a chemical warehouse.

I use hydrogen peroxide at +3% , AAA for safety (always add acid to water) this is stronger than the store Stuff I mix small batches and test.

usually the weakest solution I will use is 3% like what you get at the store, going stronger can really brighten the wood but needs to be rinsed off. I like putting it on wood with an automotive type scrub brush on a pole. I work it quickly and evenly into the wood.

I start at the bottom work up and if I notice it is getting back to the color I want I rinse it off and continue working up. If you start at the top the wood below gets wet from rinsing and in my case had a uneven look that required an additional little scrub , by starting at the bottom I found rinsing did not affect it so much, peroxide probably cost as much as many deck washes. for mold only 3% is needed to kill it, around 7+% starts brightening the wood and it did not stink like some of the chemical washes. You might try 3% a quart from your store and sponge some on straight if you don’t like the results you have only wasted 2$ But it will kill the mold.

As far as your concern about color and mold after once you clean and paint the wood will be sealed and less prone to becoming moldy.

I live in Oregon and after finding out about hydrogen peroxide while working in a hospital have used it extensively to not only take the mold color out but to take the musky smell associated with mold and mildew out without the bleach or other harsh chemical smells.

Just don’t get the stronger hydrogen peroxide on your clothes as it will turn them white. And AAA.

  • Good tip with the peroxide solution (AAA) to kill the mold. I'm going to take your advice and skip the power washing. However I'm assuming it will still require a lot of scrubbing to get the mold out and was considering one of those battery powered rotary scrubbers (some even run water through them) that go on an extension pole to speed things up. Is there a better tool for the job?
    – mattp
    Jul 7 '20 at 15:51
  • I think I know what you are talking about A water powered brush. No scrubbing really needed with hydrogen peroxide I checked my last bottle of was 35% my note reminding me was 7-12% for bleaching wood no scrubbing really. There was only a bit left but it was dead H2O2 only last ~3 years sealed up shorter once opened it converts back to water. Looks like it’s time for me to find a new gallon I use it for mold inside and out, you can make your own Lysol spray and when mixed with dish soap is the only thing that will remove skunk spray (have had a couple of dogs and myself sprayed.
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 7 '20 at 17:35
  • That’s great news. Maybe this will be easier than I thought. Thanks for the feedback Ed.
    – mattp
    Jul 9 '20 at 4:23
  • I've used pressure washers on wood like this but i have set it really low, like 1200 PSI. I'll have to try hydrogen peroxide. +1
    – JACK
    Apr 13 '21 at 12:19

That's a nice lookin' place! Well worth the effort to spiff it up!!

Swap steps 2 & 3. Caulk will peel off when any loose material under it gives way. You want a good, solid, well attached substrate before any caulking, staining or painting.

If you're renting a lift, you can apply the pressure washer pointed down from above, just get more hose and a longer extension cord (make sure it's heavy duty to handle the voltage drop over the distance you need to run it). Be aware, though, that pressure washing the grey off that chimney is going to be hit 'n miss. Literally. I just pressure washed my deck after 2 years of sun, and it was very difficult to get an even finish. We applied a sealer only to our deck, so the unevenness is very obvious. It may be less so with a dark stain, but I'd imagine that some of it will show through even a black stain. If you paint it, the paint should cover without an issue.

"Wood conditioners" are usually just thinned versions of whatever finish you're going to use, and are of limited value. The main issue you'll see is that your really dry, weathered wood will suck up a lot of whatever finish you're applying. If you're painting, you may need to apply a couple of coats, the first one or two to quench the wood's thirst while later ones will actually sit mostly on top. If you're staining, keep applying until you get the color you're after. If you have more questions about wood conditioners, pop over to Woodworking and check out the [finishing] and [staining] tags.

Finally, I'm not sure why you wouldn't caulk all joints, whether you're staining or painting. The purpose of the caulk is to seal gaps to prevent air and moisture infiltration. If you're staining, maybe use a colored sealant to get close to the final color you're after, or use a clear silicone so it's not too obvious. Either way, you don't want either air or water leaking under your siding.

  • Thanks for the feedback. I'll check out the woodworking section for more on conditioning and staining. I get why you recommend caulking on a clean surface. Even if I forgo the power wash and just scrub and rinse, you wouldn't be worried about moisture getting in to the exposed and (currently) uncaulked seams?
    – mattp
    Jul 7 '20 at 15:44
  • TBH, I've only power washed once, and that was my deck, so I wasn't really worried about it. The power washer will, most likely, get water into every seam, crack and crevice - water does that pretty well on its own, put it under pressure and it'll only do better.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 7 '20 at 16:49

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