How to Paint Cedar Shingles

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Painting shingles before installation will save time, money and work.
Painting shingles before installation will save time, money and work. (Image: typical cape cod shingles image by Rob Hill from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

The most efficient way to paint cedar shingles is to do it before installation. After the shingles already are on the house, the difficulty increases. That’s because one of the reasons people choose cedar shingles is their rustic, irregular look. Prepping and painting once they’re on the side of a house means not only more labor, but poor coverage (one side) of the shingles and the danger of water coming into contact with unpainted surfaces. Painting beforehand ensures uniform coverage and savings in time, materials and elbow grease.

Things You'll Need

  • 8-by-4 sheet of plywood
  • Cinder blocks
  • Circular saw
  • Paint
  • Spray-paint gun
  • Cardboard or plastic sheets
  • Clothesline
  • Clothespins

Create a holding device in which the shingles can rest and dry after you’ve painted them. Using a circular saw, cut a series of grooves into a standard 8-by-4-foot sheet of plywood. Make the cuts about 1/4 inch wide, or large enough to accommodate your shingles, and cut them the length of the sheet. Cut as many as the sheet permits while allowing 6 inches between rows (about seven rows). Set the sheet on a couple of cinder blocks to keep it off the ground. This will be your shingle holder in which the painted shingles will be placed to dry.

Create a barrier of plastic or cardboard around the plywood holder. This will contain paint when you spray the shingles. If you have a garage, tape the sheeting or cardboard on the walls and on the floor in a corner of the garage. If you’re outside, a clothesline works well. Just drape the plastic over the lines and secure with clothespins. Use cardboard or plastic sheeting to cover the ground.

Insert shingles into the plywood holder slots. Allow enough room between the shingles so that you can cover all exposed areas of the shingles with paint.

Cover one side of all the shingles, using a spray-paint gun. Apply a thin, even coat. Use an oiled-based or alkyd-based paint. Either move the plastic/cardboard booth you designed to the other side of the plywood holder or rotate the plywood with all the shingles 180 degrees. Paint the opposite side of the shingles. Allow the shingles to dry.

Flip the shingles over in the plywood holder. Repeat the painting process, applying a second coat to each shingle and covering the narrow strip that had been unexposed while in the holder.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some people prefer “dipping” the shingles to spray-painting them. Fill a plastic, Tupperware-like container with paint. The container should be deep enough to accept the shingle size, but use a narrow container to minimize the amount of paint you need to keep the container filled. Some people recommend using a 5-gallon pail but, although this works well, you’ll need a lot of paint to fill the pail and, afterward, the paint probably will contain debris and not be reusable. Just dip the shingles and brush off the excess with a paintbrush, and use the plywood holder to allow the shingles to dry. You’ll need to apply a second coat, dipping the shingles the opposite end first to cover the strip you missed while holding the shingles on the first dip.

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