Reuben's Home Inspection Blog


Peeling Paint On Redwood Siding: What To Do?

I've seen it happen at countless houses, and now it's happened to me... my paint is peeling (again).  I have a Minneapolis home that was built in 1939 with redwood siding, and I can't get the paint to stay on.  I've tried almost everything and nothing has worked so far.  The photo below shows what my siding looks like today.

Peeling Paint

I'm not a paint expert, but I think I've figured out why my paint keeps peeling.

I first painted my house during the summer of 2004, and the paint began to crack the very next year.  By 2007 it was peeling so much that I had to re-paint.  I had a good friend help me with the project, and we felt like we pulled out all the stops and spared no expense to make sure the paint wouldn't peel again.  This project consumed a huge portion of our summer - we spent so much time working on my house that summer that the 'Google Streets' view of my house even caught us in action.


Here's what we did during the summer of 2007:

  • Scraped with carbide paint scrapers.  We scraped the existing paint all the way down to the wood in many areas.
  • Sanded a good portion of the siding, especially at the front.
  • Washed the siding with Trisodium Phosphate (TSP).
  • Tested the siding in many areas with a moisture meter to verify that the wood was bone-dry before proceeding.
  • Peel Bond Primed the siding with Peel Bond, an expensive primer that has the consistency of runny glue.  This stuff was supposed to be the greatest primer ever... maybe it is, but it still wasn't enough.
  • Painted with Hirschfield's Platinum Exterior paint.  My friend assured me that it's top-of-the-line stuff.

So here I am, not even three years later, and the paint is cracking and peeling all over again.  It's worst at the east side, but it's still peeling everywhere else.  Some rooms in my house have vapor barriers on the inside walls and some don't, but it doesn't make a bit of difference to the paint.  It peels off the same.  Both the original paint is peeling, and the new paint as well.

So what now?

My suspicion is that with so many layers of paint, the house walls have basically become 'sealed'.  Instead of the siding being able to 'breath', where moisture can escape between the laps of the siding, the laps have been completely sealed shut with layer after layer of paint.  In the areas where there is still a gap between the layers of siding, the paint still looks perfect - not even a hint of a crack or a flake.

Sealed Siding Laps

I've been told that the fix for this is to install siding shims - small wedges that would ensure a small air gap at every lap.  I would need to install these every sixteen inches at every piece of siding.  This should fix the peeling paint, but it might also allow bugs to use my siding as their home.

Bad times.

If you're having problems similar to mine, check for an air space between the laps of siding.  Let me know what you find.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections


Comment balloon 15 commentsReuben Saltzman • May 18 2010 07:03AM


Maybe a little Louisiana Pacific siding upon replacement?

Just kidding - my understanding of redwood is that it should only be stained.  The natural oils continue to exude even years later.  That causes the paint surfectant to release and peeling is the result.  Solid hide stains look very much like paint.  A semi-transparent is even better.  No peelo...

Probably NOT what you wanted to hear...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 9 years ago

Oh man, that's not what I wanted to hear at all!  Thanks for the tip.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

Interesting read. I have a post on my house that molds, maybe I should not have painted it? We learn a lot here on AR.

Posted by Diane Williams almost 9 years ago

Diane - I wish I could tell you for sure.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

One of the best paints on the market that goes on like glue is Duration by Sherwin Williams. The stuff is awesome!

Posted by Bill Gassett, Metrowest Massachusetts Real Estate (RE/MAX Executive Realty) almost 9 years ago

Thanks for the tip, Bill.  I should have tried this stuff three years ago.  Maybe I'll try it next time.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 9 years ago

I live in the land of STUCCO. But thanks for the heads-up on the info, Good Luck Reuben.

Posted by Steve Sandoval over 8 years ago

Steve - do people ever paint stucco in your area?  

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

this siding should never have had paint on it to start with. solid hide stained would be perfect for this siding. the only solution now is to remove all of the paint down to the wood and stain it with an oil base solid hide stain. if you don't put paint on the siding to start with it can never peel off. stained wood siding is about as maintenance free as wood siding can get-just give it another application of stain about every 10-20 years. you will never have any cracking, blistering or peeling.

The old saying-do it right or do it over

Posted by tony over 8 years ago

I've heard the same thing, Tony.  Stripping all the paint off doesn't sounds like any fun. 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 8 years ago

Most contracters use the same thing. <a href="http://www.Paint Within" title="Painting Company Minneapolis">Painting Company Minneapolis</a> 

Posted by Matt over 8 years ago
25 year old home with all heart vertical grain siding approx 4000sq ft home.It has always been done with sikens and looks great but needs to be redone every 4 years or so.I am getting 2 opinions from painting companies.One says paint it with oil based paint after prepping and the house will have consistent color all over.The other guy says I live in a high end neiborhood and all the homes are custom and special and if I paint it it will look the same as any other house.He strongly suggests sikens because of the siding we have and says it's important to keep that unique finish.He said painting over the clear redwood would be like the reverse of putting lipstick on a pig.Does anyone have a comment-Help,
Posted by John mcmillan over 7 years ago
4000 sq ft home with all heart vertical grain siding 25yrs old.Always had sikens treatment now one company is suggesting I use oil base paint to get same color all over the other guy says it would be crazy to paint over this beautiful siding and I would lose the deep rich finish we get with the sikens product. I must say the painting over the sikens idea sounds like a too good to be true solution.Anyone have any comments Help,
Posted by John mcmillan over 7 years ago

Sorry, I don't have any great advice for you.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

I would look I to Penofin a penetrating stain for your redwood siding

Posted by shay over 4 years ago