How to Finish Cedar Wood for Outdoors: A Complete Guide

Greetings, Reader!

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on how to finish cedar wood for outdoor use. Whether you’re working on a cedar deck, fence, outdoor furniture, or any other cedar project, we’re here to help you achieve a beautiful and long-lasting finish. In this article, we’ll walk you through the best techniques, products, and tips for finishing cedar wood, ensuring its protection against the elements and enhancing its natural beauty.

how to finish cedar wood for outdoors

Understanding Cedar Wood

Why Finish Cedar Wood

Before diving into the finishing process, it’s crucial to understand why finishing cedar wood is essential for outdoor applications. Cedar is a popular choice for outdoor projects due to its natural resistance to rot, insects, and decay. However, without proper protection, cedar wood can still be susceptible to weathering, discoloration, and deterioration over time.

Finishing cedar wood helps seal the surface, preventing moisture penetration, UV damage, and mold or mildew growth. Additionally, a quality finish enhances cedar’s innate beauty, providing a rich color and highlighting the wood’s unique grain patterns.

Preparing Cedar for Finishing

Before applying any finish to your cedar project, proper preparation is crucial. Start by ensuring the wood is clean and free from dirt, dust, and any previous coatings. Use a stiff brush or a pressure washer with a low-pressure setting to remove debris effectively.

If there are any stains or discolorations on the wood, you may need to use a wood cleaner or brightener to restore its original appearance. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific product you choose. Once the wood is clean, allow sufficient drying time before proceeding with the finishing process.

The Staining Process

Choosing the Right Stain

When it comes to finishing cedar wood for outdoors, selecting the right stain is crucial. Consider factors such as the desired color, level of transparency, durability, and ease of application. You’ll find various types of wood stains, including transparent, semitransparent, and solid stains.

Transparent stains allow the natural beauty of the cedar to shine through while providing minimal UV protection. Semitransparent stains offer some color and UV resistance while still allowing the wood grain to show. Solid stains provide the most color and protection but tend to hide the wood grain.

Applying the Stain

Before applying the stain, it’s important to protect any adjacent surfaces or plants by covering them with plastic or drop cloths. Ensure good ventilation during the staining process, as some stains may emit strong odors or fumes.

Start by stirring the stain thoroughly to mix any settled pigments. Use a brush, roller, or sprayer to apply the stain evenly, following the wood grain. Avoid applying the stain too heavily, as it may lead to pooling or blotching. For optimal results, you may need to apply multiple thin coats, allowing each coat to dry completely before proceeding.

Tips and Maintenance

Sealing and Waterproofing

In addition to staining, it’s often recommended to apply a sealer or waterproofer to further protect the cedar wood. Sealers and water repellents help prevent water damage and slow down the natural process of wood expansion and contraction. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific product you choose.

Regular maintenance is also vital to extend the life of your finished cedar wood. Inspect the surface periodically for signs of wear or damage, and reapply the finish as needed. Additionally, clean the wood with a mild detergent solution and a brush to remove any dirt or grime.

Furniture and Outdoor Accessories

If you’re finishing cedar furniture or outdoor accessories, consider using a finish specifically designed for these items. Look for products that provide protection against both UV rays and moisture while retaining the natural look and feel of the wood.

For added durability, you can also consider applying a clear topcoat or varnish on top of the stain. This will provide an additional layer of protection against scratches, stains, and other potential damage.


Congratulations, Reader, on becoming a cedar wood finishing expert! You now have the knowledge and tools to finish your cedar projects with confidence and achieve stunning outdoor spaces. Remember to choose the right stain, follow proper application techniques, and maintain your finished cedar for long-lasting beauty and protection.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out our other valuable resources on wood finishing, design inspiration, and DIY projects. Happy finishing and enjoy the beauty of your newly finished cedar wood for many years to come!

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