Best Primers for Cedar Siding: Top 5 Picks for 2023

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

When you pick cedar wood to cover the outside of your home, you’re choosing something that’s not just good-looking but also tough against weather and bugs. Cedar is also a friend to the planet because these trees grow quickly and are easy to replace.

Cedar comes in different shapes and styles. Some look like long boards laid over each other, and others are cut into fancy shapes like shingles. You can make it look even nicer by using stains or paints in all sorts of colors to fit what you like.

One little problem with cedar is it has natural oils that can make stains appear through the paint, making it look like it has brown spills or spots. To stop this from happening, you need to use a special first coat called primer before you paint. Primer makes sure the wood’s oils don’t come out and ruin the look.

What is Cedar Siding?

Cedar siding is a popular choice for the outside of homes because it is made from cedar trees, which are strong against rot, decay, and bugs. This wood is also great for keeping your home warm or cool, helping you save on heating and cooling bills. Plus, cedar has a nice smell that keeps pests away. This siding comes in various designs, like lap siding, clapboard, and shingle styles, which can be colored or painted to look just right on your house. Cedar siding is also not too tricky to put up, so people who like to do home projects themselves often pick it.

Types of Primers for Cedar Siding

Primers help cover the cedar’s natural oils that can cause blotchy stains. Three main primers work well on this type of wood: oil-based, water-based, and stain-blocking.

Oil-based primers: Oil-based primers are great at keeping stains from showing up. They create a strong barrier but can be a bit of a hassle to put on and take off your tools. They also have a strong smell, so it’s best to use them in places with lots of air coming in and out.

Water-based primers: Water-based primers are much simpler to use and won’t bother your nose as much. However, they don’t cover up the wood’s natural oils as well as oil-based options do. This means you might see stains later, and the primer might not stick to the siding as long, which means you could have to do the job again sooner.

Stain-blocking primers: Stain-blocking primers are the middle ground. They are water-based but are made to seal in stains better than regular water-based primers. They go on easily and don’t smell too bad, making them a handy choice.

Sherwin-Williams Cover-Stain Primer

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Dry Time: The Sherwin-Williams Cover-Stain Primer is ready for a second coat in just 4 hours, helping you get the job done in a single day.

Sherwin-Williams has crafted the Cover-Stain Primer as an oil-based solution specifically aimed at tackling the common issue of tannins bleeding through cedar siding. This primer stands out not only for its efficiency in sealing off tannins but also for handling various other stains such as rust, smoke, and grease spots with ease. It is formulated to be user-friendly, gliding smoothly on the surface and requiring minimal time to become touch-dry. One of the added perks of this primer is its availability in multiple colors, making it a breeze to find the perfect shade that will seamlessly blend with your chosen topcoat paint.

With a generous coverage of 400 square feet per gallon, this product is sold in 1-gallon and 5-gallon containers, catering to both small touch-ups and larger projects. Its rapid drying time of 4 hours for recoating ensures that your siding project keeps moving swiftly.


  • Superior blocking of tannins and various stains
  • User-friendly application and rapid drying time
  • Color options to match your topcoat


  • As an oil-based primer, it may require more involved cleanup and has a stronger odor compared to water-based options.

Zinsser BIN Primer

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Dry Time: This primer necessitates a longer dry period of 16-24 hours before recoating, demanding more patience during the application process.

The Zinsser BIN Primer is revered for its outstanding adhesion and its prowess in blocking stains. Its shellac-based formula gives it the strength to seal surfaces and lock in stubborn odors. This versatile primer is compatible with an assortment of materials including cedar, wood, metal, and even masonry.

Despite its slower drying time, Zinsser BIN Primer promises a solid and reliable foundation for your paint. It delivers a coverage range between 100-150 square feet per gallon, offered in quart, gallon, or 5-gallon sizes, making it adaptable to the scale of your siding task. Its thorough stain-blocking nature makes it a go-to for professionals seeking to ensure a flawless finish.


  • Exceptional adhesion and stain-blocking performance
  • Versatility across multiple surface types
  • Reliable odor-blocking


  • Slower drying time requires extended wait between coats
  • Shellac base may pose a challenge for cleanup and can be less user-friendly for amateurs.

Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Stain-Blocking Primer

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Dry Time: With a recoat window of 2-4 hours, the Benjamin Moore Fresh Start allows for quicker project completion.

Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start Stain-Blocking Primer presents a water-based option tailored for cedar siding, ensuring that common issues like tannin bleeding are addressed effectively. Alongside tannins, it combats smoke, graffiti, and water stains, delivering a clean slate for painting. Its ease of application is a standout feature, enabling both professionals and DIY enthusiasts to use it with little hassle. The primer dries to the touch in a short span, facilitating swift progression in painting tasks.

This primer covers an impressive area of 300-400 square feet per gallon and is sold in three sizes: quart, gallon, and 5-gallon, thus fitting various project scopes. Available in an array of colors, it allows for a seamless transition to the final paint layer.


  • Water-based composition reduces odor and simplifies cleanup
  • Efficient tannin and stain blocking for a fresh start on cedar siding
  • Quick drying and ease of application enhance user experience


  • May not be as effective at stain blocking as oil-based counterparts
  • Water-based formulas could require more frequent reapplication over time for best results

KILZ Original Primer

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Dry Time: This primer needs a longer dry time of up to 4 hours before applying the next coat.

KILZ Original Primer is recognized for its solid adhesion and its ability to hide stains on a multitude of surfaces. Its water-based makeup means it’s not only effective on cedar but also on wood, metal, and masonry, making it a versatile pick for various home improvement projects. Its formulation is also designed to neutralize odors, creating a more pleasant working environment.

Despite its slower drying time, KILZ Original Primer is a workhorse, preparing surfaces for a flawless painting with a coverage range of 300-400 square feet per gallon. It is available in quart, gallon, and 5-gallon sizes, providing options for different project sizes.


  • Water-based for easier cleanup and less odor
  • Excellent at sticking to surfaces and hiding unsightly stains
  • Versatile use across different material types


  • Slower drying time can slow down project workflow
  • Water-based nature may lead to more frequent maintenance costs over time

Rust-Oleum Zinsser Perma-White Interior/Exterior Wood Primer

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Dry Time: Expect to wait 2-4 hours before adding another layer after using this primer.

When prepping wood surfaces like cedar for painting, Rust-Oleum Zinsser Perma-White Primer comes forward as a reliable option. It’s crafted to conceal stains from tannins, smoke, and water spots, giving you a consistent base for your chosen paint. Besides being stain-resistant, this primer combats mold and mildew, ensuring the longevity and cleanliness of your surfaces.

This oil-based primer guarantees an even layer for painting, which is a boon for achieving a professional look. With its user-friendly application process and quick-dry formula, it supports a swift and effective workflow. The product is also formulated to be low-odor, addressing common concerns associated with oil-based primers.

Available in sizes of 1 quart and 1 gallon, it provides a respectable coverage of 200-400 square feet per gallon. Moreover, it comes in several colors, offering flexibility to match your topcoat.


  • Oil-based for superior stain-blocking
  • Quick-drying for efficient project management
  • Mold and mildew resistance adds durability


  • Oil-based primers generally require stronger solvents for cleanup
  • May not adhere as well to non-wood surfaces as specialized primers

How to Paint Cedar Siding

Step 1: Clean the Cedar Siding

  • Grab a power washer or hose and a sturdy brush.
  • Wash off all the dirt from the siding.
  • If there’s any paint peeling off, scrape it away.
  • Use sandpaper to smooth out any splinters or rough areas.

Step 2: Prime the Cedar Siding

  • Choose a primer made for cedar wood.
  • Apply the primer to cover the wood’s natural oils and colors.
  • Make sure the whole surface gets a nice, even layer.

Step 3: Paint the Cedar Siding

  • Select an exterior paint suitable for cedar.
  • Paint a layer over the primed siding.
  • Wait until it’s totally dry.
  • Go for a second coat to ensure full coverage and protection.


Cedar siding is a popular choice for homeowners because of its natural beauty, durability, and resistance to rot and decay. However, cedar is also a wood that is prone to staining, especially when it is new. Tannins, the natural oils in cedar, can bleed through paint and cause unsightly brown streaks and blotches. The best way to prevent tannin staining is to prime the cedar siding before painting. A good primer will seal the cedar and block the tannins, preventing them from bleeding through the paint. This will help your paint job last longer and look its best.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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