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Do they make a cedar stain?

Cedar is a popular wood choice for many outdoor projects like decks, fences, and outdoor furniture. Its natural oils make it resistant to rot, decay, and insects. However, left untreated, cedar will turn gray as it weathers. Applying a cedar stain helps maintain the warm, reddish-brown color of new cedar while still allowing the wood to breathe. There are several options when it comes to choosing a cedar stain.

Types of Cedar Stain

Cedar stains are available in oil-based and water-based formulas. Each has advantages and disadvantages:

Oil-Based Cedar Stains

  • Penetrate deeply into the wood grain for long-lasting color
  • Enhance the natural grain of cedar
  • Provide longer-lasting protection from weathering
  • Require solvents for cleanup
  • Emit strong fumes during application

Water-Based Cedar Stains

  • Low odor and easy soap and water cleanup
  • Less color consistency than oil-based
  • Don’t penetrate as deeply into the wood
  • More prone to peeling and wearing off

Transparent vs. Semi-Transparent vs. Solid Color Cedar Stain

Cedar stains also come in different levels of pigmentation:

Type Color Shows Wood Grain?
Transparent Very light color Yes
Semi-Transparent Medium color Partially
Solid Color Heavy pigmentation No

Transparent cedar stains provide minimal pigment, allowing the wood’s natural color and grain to show through clearly. Semi-transparent stains offer more color while still allowing some of the underlying wood grain to show. Solid color stains deeply color the wood grain and obscure it.

Tips for Applying Cedar Stain

Proper preparation and application technique helps ensure the cedar stain performs well:

  • Allow new cedar to weather 2-3 months before applying stain. This helps the wood absorb stain more evenly.
  • Clean the wood surface with a brush and/or power washer. Let it dry completely.
  • Use 80-120 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the wood. This opens the grain for better stain absorption.
  • Apply stain in the shade with no direct sun. Avoid staining on very hot or humid days.
  • Use a high-quality natural bristle brush to apply the stain liberally and evenly.
  • Maintain a wet edge as you apply the stain to prevent lap marks.
  • Work the stain into the grain, brushing parallel to the wood.
  • Apply two coats for best results, allowing proper drying time between coats.
  • Let the stain dry 72 hours before exposing to weather or heavy use.

How Often to Apply Cedar Stain

On horizontal surfaces like decks that get heavy foot traffic, reapply the cedar stain every 1-2 years. Vertical surfaces like fences and siding may only need re-staining every 4-6 years. Signs that it’s time to re-stain include fading color, graying wood, and slight cracking or peeling. Weather exposure, amount of use, and quality of the stain impact how often you’ll need to re-stain. When re-staining, do a thorough cleaning and light sanding before applying a fresh coat of cedar stain.

Popular Brands of Cedar Stain

When shopping for cedar stain, look for brands known for quality and performance. Here are some top options:

Brand Product Key Features
Behr Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Cedar Stain Advanced nano-technology, scuff resistant, waterproofing agents
Thompson’s Thompson’s WaterSeal Semi-Transparent Stain Water-repellent protection, fade resistant, mildew resistant
Olympic Olympic Maximum Cedar Naturaltone Stain Dual-action sealant, deep color and protection
DEFY DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Cedar Stain Zinc nanoparticles for durability, resistant to mold and UV damage
Timberlox Timberlox Deep-Penetrating Transparent Stain Ideal for vertical surfaces, extremely durable and long-lasting


Cedar stain helps maintain the rich color of cedar while allowing the wood’s natural beauty to show through. Oil-based stains offer deeper penetration and longer-lasting color but require more cleanup. Water-based options are lower odor and easier to clean but don’t last as long. Transparent cedar stains provide a light tone while allowing the wood grain to show clearly. Semi-transparent and solid color stains provide more pigment for richer color. With proper prep and application, a quality cedar stain provides durable protection from weathering to keep your cedar looking its best.