Cottage Q&A: Staining cedar shakes

A man's gloved hand holding a can of stain By Pamela Au

I just spent days stripping clean the cedar shakes on our cabin. Do I now leave them alone or protect them? If it’s the latter, can you recommend a product?—Vicky Pedwell, via email

As long as you don’t mind the shakes weathering to grey—this happens to all cedar left bare—leave them alone. “Cedar doesn’t need any protection,” says David Monteith, the manager of Pacific Cedar in Freelton, Ont. “It can last a very, very long time.” If you don’t want the shakes to turn grey, however, he’d suggest an oil- or water-based stain (even a clear product will give some UV protection, one of the main culprits when it comes to weathering). You’ll have to re-apply the stain periodically; how often depends on the weather. Wind, rain, and sun all play a role in how soon the stain will wear off.

Cottage Q&A: Staining cedar, yes or no?

If your cottage is somewhere with a wet climate or a very humid climate, you could run into problems with mould and mildew, warns Marty Obando, a technical consultant with North America’s Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau. “The shakes will start to look green.” In that case, protecting them might be the better choice. Look for a product that contains ingredients designed to fight mould and mildew (check the label).

This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Got a question for Cottage Q&A? Send it to

Featured Video