Let's talk a little more about "pecky" cypress, shall we?
It seems that we are in need of some education about this beautiful and versatile wood. Please be advised, that no trees were recently cut down in order to provide me with this pecky for the Cypress Cottage. Some of these cypress trees, as old as 300 years, can sit on the bottom of a river or bayou after having strayed from the lumbermen. In the case of this wood, The Miller, husband to DS, finds old cypress trees that were felled by natural causes and pulls them out of the river. He then mills them into usable lumber.
But let’s talk about the cypress on the wall where someone pointed out that the old wall can be seen through the holes. I could have painted the wall a brown color first, but I am very lazy, so I didn’t do that. The Miller tacked the boards up and told me I could remove them, paint behind them, and put them back. I’m way too lazy for that. So, Heather Here and I took the lazy gals’ way out, and we painted the wall behind the holes with little paint brushes!!
Now, EPB, you can’t see the blue walls peeping out through the holes. I should have waited and posted photos after we had done that step, but I was so anxious to post them, that I jumped the gun! Forgive me!
The only thing I am going to do to all of these raw boards is put a clear satin poly something or other on them to protect them and bring out the grains a little more. There will be NO PAINT applied to these boards.
So, this is what we call “pecky” cypress. This effect is produced by nature and has widely been misunderstood.
This eating away of the wood, giving it a three-dimensional look–is caused by a fungus called “polyporus amarus”. I don’t quite understand it, but supposedly the fungus enters the living three through some sort of damage–broken limb or burnt bark from lightning perhaps. It is said that the pocketing and striations occur while the tree is alive; and once it is cut down, the fungus can no long survive or cause any more of these formations in the wood.
Now, this is a closeup of the wood on the bar. This is also pecky cypress, but this wood does not have as many striations in it as the wood on the wall.
Cypress was used in South Louisiana for home building years ago because of its natural ability to repel insects, like the termite that is prevalent here in our humid climates. The wood has a very close grain, and even in its natural state after milling (meaning no paint or varnish) it can remain solid without rotting for many years. This is true, because the Cypress Cottage is at least 80 years old. While recently pressure washing it, the old paint blew right off, leaving bare wood exposed, and it looks like it might have just been nailed up.
And then there’s cypress planks like these, which are in the back bedroom on one wall. This wood is a lighter color with beautiful grains running throughout. There is only slight pecking in a couple of places.
And then there is cypress that is totally solid that can be either stained or painted. Cypress was used for the beams, sills, rafters, the siding, flooring, cabinets, tongue and groove beadboard for the walls, and more. I guess you could say it was a wood for all purposes back in the day.
But over the past 50 years, we’ve come to realize what a valuable resource cypress swamps are. We no longer harvest them as in the days of old. They are valuable to the swamp and marsh eco-systems. They also help protect us from hurricane-driven tidal surges and wind. They are anchored deep into the bottom lands by their very sturdy and intricate roots called “cypress knees”, which can be seen in my banner photo. More about that another day.
I hope this helps clear everything up.
Stay tuned for photos of the Cypress Swamp Room!!!!!!
VERY clever how you came up with the idea of painting through the knots. Funny! I adore all the wood in the house. Y’all are working like mad dogs in this heat. Be careful.
Thanks, K! We are working hard, but the AC is working, too!
I need to clarify that these trees were not cut down by anyone at one time or another. They were all put down by Mother Nature from winds or high water causing the land around them to erode. When the water comes up they will go anywhere that the current takes them.
That is the case with these particular trees. However, there are many reclaimed logs that were cut and strayed from the lumbermen. Thanks for clearing that up, DS!
I love your blog. I learn something new every visit! You could also argue that you are buying local, making a smaller carbon footprint in your remodeling!
Thanks, Emilie! I was thinking about you the other day. Don’t you have wee ones at home? In diapers, maybe? I was thinking of how frugal I had to be when mine were tiny, and I even learned to make my own baby wipes, as I had two in diapers and we went through them like crazy! And I wondered if anyone who reads my blog is interested in that sort of thing these days! Everything is so easy and disposable now, but it doesn’t mean that those conveniences are cheap!
Luv your cypress and the story. We have pecky cypress wainscoting in the living room and as cover for our fire place. Cypress boards came from an old general store we tore down. It sure gives a lot of character to a room.
Now isn’t that interesting? Cypress reclaimed and recycled from an old general store. Was it in Houma? Tell me more!
The old store was Savoie’s General Merchandise located on the corner of Bayou Blue (Hwy 316) and 182. The store was built around 1910. It closed around 1975 and a few years later we, along with some others, tore it down. A Mobile station took it’s place, that closed, and now its another type gas station.
The boards were so dirty, our sons sand blasted them before we put them up. Three coats of poly dressed it up and it’s been on our walls since 1987.
That old store was a piece of history for this community. Many area high school boys had their first after school job in that store including my husband.
Thanks for the history lesson, Cyn. This is so good to know, and you have kept a piece of that history alive in your home. That is so cool!
I saw your add and want you to know that I Have lot of peckey on hand now, if anyone is looking to buy you can call me at 7one6 seven1 three seven4 seven5 jim
I have 4 pecky cypress barn doors ( 4’x8′)they have been painted over for probably 80+ years. Any thoughts on how to remove the paint and get down to the wood?
Ahoy Greg! I know just the stuff, “Circa 1850” – designed for removing paint & varnish from antique furniture and the like. Had some experience with it when I had to remove 50+ year old paint from a 100+ year old textured glass window! The company makes two versions o’ this, regular and “soft strip” – both are biodegradable without the usual harsh chemicals.
https://is.gd/dmvicX check out the rest of their 1850 products: http://www.swingpaints.com/brand/circa
In my experience with using reclaimed Pecky cypress that has been painted is that it is very difficult to remove the paint from Pecky cypress because the grain is so porous and the paint pretty much absorbs into the grain. You would never be able to send the paint completely off. I also doubt that any kind of paint removing products would restore the lumber either.
Girl, you are the consummate professional of cypress! So lemme ask this: I’m eyeing a 1970s mid-century brick house with an exterior pecky cypress accent wall. It must have been hugely popular during that time period as I’ve seen three mid-mod soft contemporaries in this area all sporting pecky. Tragically, the former owners painted it. It looks pretty horrible and I won’t even consider the house if I can’t restore it. Since the paint was applied somewhere in the last 30 years, is it a candidate for power washing? If so, what precautions must I take to keep from wrecking it?
Hi Kathy and welcome. I hate to dispute you, but I’m far from a professional of cypress! I just really love the stuff! If you would scroll up in this comment thread, you will see an exchange between Greg’s comment and replies by me and a Capt. John Swallow. Capt. Swallow recommends a product he’s used in the past. I have no experience with those products, but I think it’s worth looking into. In my opinion, you must consider just how “pecky” the cypress is. The bigger the striations and the more open the grain, the more difficult it will be to remove paint from the crevices. I think the least invasive thing to try first would be pressure washing, but it’s only a semi-educated guess, because I also have no experience with pressure washing pecky. I think experimenting with a small, discreet section would be advisable. If pressure washing removes the outer layer of paint, then maybe a power sander would then take the siding down to the wood grain. Again, just how “pecky” is it? As I stated, I am NO expert, and I’ve put a call into my “reclaimed cypress” expert and waiting for his answer. He has about 30 years experience with reclaiming cypress of all kinds, and I will defer to his knowledge. So, if you can wait a bit, I will come back here and tell you what he advises or email you privately. How does that sound?
Hey, BW–thanks for the prompt response! Re the peckiness of the wood, crevices are deep and probably deeper than I realize, given that there is paint in ’em. Might Capt. Swallow’s treatment followed by gentle power washing do the trick? But no hurry on your reply, luv; I’m just grateful for your help! Thanks so much for calling your expert. My email is (edit: included when posting)
BTW, have you ever see pecky with partially removed paint? I have to wonder whether this looks trendy and hip or SAD–the house is, after all, mid-century modern and that period treasures unpainted surfaces. I’m inclined to think the answer is SAD!
Ahoy Kathy! While I don’t have specific experience with Pecky Cyprus and the Circa 1850 product, I did happen to use the product on surface with many bumps & crevices and it worked well. I believe your idea would work well, with one (or two) additional thoughts…I would give it a quick powerwash first to remove any loose bits of paint/dirt. Then use a rough sponge or brush to apply the Circa 1850 so that it better seeps into the pecky bits. Ye can even brush it a bit once it’s on the boards to make sure it makes good contact (perhaps a ‘shop broom’ would be best for this).
As BW mentioned, I would still try it on a small area, cover it in the product, let it sit for a bit (it’s reasonably thick), then powerwash it. At least the powerwash will get into the cracks!
Cap’n John, it all sounds good! Still debating the property purchase; worried that I will leave the pecky looking worse than before. But hey, nothing is worse than paint on pecky, right? I’ll definitely post pix if the purchase and restoration come to pass. And many thanks!
We purchased a home built in 1958; one of the bedrooms is paneled with pecky cypress. The wood is natural with maybe a protective coat of poly or something similar. I don’t think it has ever been cleaned and all the little nooks and crannies are dusty. Any recommendations on how to clean the paneling?
Hi Linda and welcome to the bayou. I’m sure you tried a narrow nozzle on a strong vacuum? A toothbrush, either damp or dry. It will be tedious! I know, it’s hard to clean, but I wish you the best of luck with this. Thanks for stopping by! BW
I need to know how to wash dust and dirt out of pecky cypress boards inside house? Never been stained of treated with anything. In den and beams on ceilings
Well, you’re not the only one to ask this question. Nobody knows for certain, but if the wood is sturdy, I’d used some kind of bristle brush. If they’re fragile, try a stiff paint brush! Good luck!
Do ye have a “shop vac”? Most o’ these have a reverse option (usually involves plugging the hose in the “exhaust” end). That with a nozzle attachment (and safety goggles…maybe a face mask or bandanna) usually gets little bits out o’ tight areas…ye can then sweep/swiffer up the debris.
The great room in my home, originally built by my uncle in the 1950’s (can’t get more mid-century)is paneled with pecky cypress, with cathedral ceiling beams wrapped in it as,well. My uncle pickled the wood way back when, and the result 60 years later is lovely. The grain, the holes, the pale honey gray is truly besutiful. Funny thing is that my house, which gives the feeling of a hunting lodge in the mountains, is about 35 miles from New York City. We’ll be selling the house soon to retire mid-Atlantic & we truly hope the next family will appreciate the beauty of this cabin in the woods feel and the beauty of the pecky cypress. Thank you for telling its’ story.
Welcome to the bayou, Susan, and thank you so much for reading about my experience with pecky cypress. However, if you’d have asked me if I thought they had this in NY, I would have thought a second and said no!! How special that your uncle saw the beauty in this raw resource and used it in his home. I’m sure you’re sad to leave it behind but also certain you’ve enjoyed it all the while being there. All the best to you in your relocation and retirement. BW
Does Pecky Cypress siding and termites get along with each other. I have heard that termites don’t bother pecky cypress…true?
I have a large living area that has Pecky cypress walls. I removed some pictures and the cypress behind the pics is much lighter. Other than sanding, any ideas on how to match the cypress? Thanks!
Hello Hopefully you can help me, We live in a beautiful home built in 1938. I have picky cypress wains coating half way up the walls plus very big wall above the fireplace.Just this year i have seen a few of the worm holes look like some thing is eating at it? Do you know of any bug? I have been researching and haven’t found any thing. Thinking it could be a bug I have been wasting a Organic pesticide on them. I live in Bangor Pennsylvania.
Hope you will have some Idea for me
would appreciate guidance on my pecky Cyprus tongue and groove paneling. Stain darkened over time.Have sanded starting with 80 and fished with 320. Lovely! would like to keep it like it is. Very light! What product to you recommend that won’t darken to properly seal it ? Thanks much in advance!
Hi Mary. I put a clear satin polyurethane on mine, but I am in no way an expert on this. Maybe a pro at a paint store could be of more help? Best of luck to you! BW
Hi.. we just purchased a home in south florida that has beautiful pecky cypress cathedral ceilings. Wish I can post a pic of it. I have been trying to find info if it can be stained or sanded? I don’t think it has ever been stained or clear coated. Any help would be great! Thanks!
I have a house with pecky cypress. It is finished and sealed with I don’t know. The house has set vacant for 10 years and smells how can I clean it.
Hi Dawn and welcome. I wish I knew what to tell you. Are you sure it’s the pecky cypress that is holding odor, as this isn’t common, especially if it’s been sealed. Sorry I wasn’t able to help you with this, but thanks for stopping by. BW
Hi – glad to have found this long running thread. We are renovating our 1930’s basement with pecky cypress paneling that has been left untreated. It’s nice warm golden/red color but has a dry greyish haze. I spent a few days cleaning the boards with a mild soap solution and would like to enhance the grain a bit. I’d prefer not to polyurethane. Could i use something like Howard’s Feed and Wax or my mom’s favorite, Scott’s liquid gold? I’m not really worried that it will start to look dry a year or so down the road. I just don’t want to ruin the finish or be compelled to have to keep it up in the future.
Hi Christine and thanks for stopping by. I’m really not an expert on how to rejuvenate old cypress, but the least invasive sounds like the wax or liquid gold. I’m thinking that it will absorb the oil very quickly if it’s still unfinished surface, so you might have to do it more often than a poly. I chose a matte poly so that it would retain natural color and not have an unnatural shine and so that I wouldn’t have to do it again. So best of luck, whichever route you take! BW