Can Cedar Wood Be Stained?

Cedar is a very useful wood for fencing, paneling, siding, flooring, interior, and exterior furniture among other woodworking projects. If you are using your cedar wood for exterior structures especially, you need to protect them from harsh weather elements like sunlight, moisture, and more. There are different finishes that you can use on cedar but can cedar wood be stained?

Yes, cedar wood can be stained, and cedar stains pretty well. because the natural fibers in cedar absorb the stain, preserving it for a longer time than if you painted. When you stain cedar, the stain penetrates deep into the cedar fibers to provide a waterproofing properties against rain, snow and or ice. Most cedar stains are available in semi-transparent or solid-color finishes.

Before staining, sand and apply a wood conditioner; cedar receives stain nicely, thus improving its beauty.

Cedar has four staining options: opaque, semi-opaque, semi-transparent, transparent, or natural. This article will explore whether cedar wood stains well, is suitable for staining, and how to stain it.

I have to stress that the natural preservatives in Cedar make it more durable than other types of wood thanks to their natural resistance to deterioration. Cedar wood’s open-cell structure makes it less dense than most other softwood. The less-dense structure of this softwood makes it easier to move from place to place.

Uses of Cedar

  • Can Cedar Wood Be Stained?
    Image of Cedar Wood

    It is used in interior paneling since it adds beautiful touches to different designs. It lasts long, does not require much maintenance, and has great density.

  • Used for preparing cedar oil through the process of steam distillation. Perfume, cosmetics, and agents used to control insects are made from cedar wood chips and sawdust through that process though it might be slow and causes oil decomposition.
  • Used in making musical instruments, boat building, decking, wood fencing, siding, and many more. The red and yellow Cedar are the ones that are mainly used on musical instruments.
  • Since Cedar has a permeable surface, it absorbs sound, making it the best for musical instruments like a guitar. It can be used on guitar strings because it’s soft and not stiff.
  • Used for clothes storage, Cedar is the best when it comes to storing clothes since it protects moisture from touching your clothes. It also has a lovely smell that makes the clothes smell fresh since the scent protects them. However, the scent may disappear with time, requiring you to sand it after three or two months.
  • Cedar has a type of oil that prevents pests but can stain your cloth. Sometimes the scent might be too much. You can just place a cedar block where you will keep them or avoid the cedar wall touching the clothes.
  • It’s used for making ceilings since it is resistant to mildew, making it a better choice in bathrooms and areas with high moisture. It also has a natural aroma meaning it’s safe and has no chemical sits very natural. The eastern red Cedar can be best for this.

Like any other type of wood, cedar wood has pros and cons. Let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros of Cedar
  • It’s famous worldwide and can be found anywhere in the market and has been a common choice for fencing since it’s durable and can withstand climatic conditions. This makes it a better choice than the others.
  • Cedar wood is more durable than most type of wood since it has natural resistance and repel attacks insects or rot. This makes it best for using outdoors.
  • It’s light in weight but very stable and soft that it can be used in building things that can be used for different reasons. Cedar wood, like redwood cypress, is soft and light and can last long, protecting itself from water damage.
  • It has excellent workability since Cedar wood can easily withstand high temperatures and has a low flame-spread rating.
Cons of Cedar
  • Cedar is very sensitive since it’s soft and can quickly get scratched. It can also break if you drop a considerable weight on it.
  • Due to chemical reactions, the color can fade away. For instance, if it was light, it might darken, and if it was dark, it might turn to a light color.
  • Cedar requires regular maintenance. Cedar is a penetrable wood that may have to be cleaned to avoid mildew or molds, depending on the climate.
  • Unfortunately, it fades to weathered grey over the years, which may not please some people and has to be well maintained to avoid this situation.
  • It can be more expensive than other woods because its demand is high. When the demand is high, prices tend to rise. Sometimes different factors can cause the wood to be expensive, for example, seasons like summer and winter.

What Is Wood Stain?

A wood stain is a type of paint used to color wood or a collection of liquid or gel products meant to color and protect the wood.

You can also say that: wood stain is a coating or formula that changes the appearance of the wood by changing its color through the addition of a thick-protective coat that recovers from damage and ensure longevity.

They come in different types, such as water-based, gel stains, and oil-based, and could be more depending on the condition. These types are often combined to create a very unique product.

Not all woods soak up one type of stain entirely. Every wood stain has four essential ingredients: additives, resins, and pigments. These products are thick and used to re-decorate defective areas in wood furniture.

Wood stain is usually applied during the finishing process, and its color variations mostly resemble a block of natural wood like oak.

They are different types of wood stains. Let’s have a look at them with their pros and cons.

Water-Based Wood Stains

They are most commonly known as latex stains though they contain no latex.

Other types of stain wood usually use harmful binding agents to ensure adhesion and the chemical integrity of the stain itself, but water-based stains use substances that cause little to no harm to the environment. They are perfectly safe to have in contact with your skin.


  • They are easy to clean and require no solvents.
  • They dry very fast.
  • They are cheap compared to other types of stains for wood.
  • They are easy to use and easy to work with for beginners.


  • It cannot be used outdoors.
  • It’s not as durable as other wood treatments and does not provide the level of protection as other stains.
  •  It requires a sealer to protect the wood surfaces from damage.
Gel-Based Wood Stain

They are strange to look at and even strangers to work with, but they are effective in their application. It’s oil-based paint, thicker than standard wood stain, and it’s meant to stay on top of the wood and not soak in. It’s easy to apply with a brush and does not need much preparation. Gel-based stain gets dark as it dries.


  • They can be applied to surfaces without sanding.
  • They are versatile and easy to use.
  • Protects against moisture and heat damage.


  • They are difficult to correct errors
  • Does not penetrate wood openly.
  • It can be challenging to clean up.
Water-Soluble Stains for Wood

They are commonly used by smaller woodworking businesses and quickly penetrate the wood, giving different colors with just one coat. It’s easy to clean since it only needs soap and water and is not flammable.


  • They are easy to use and very affordable.
  • They are versatile, and color can be manipulated.


  • Consistency is challenging to maintain.
  • There’s no protection from moisture, heat, or insects
  • The smell can be overwhelming.

The wood stain has a lot of benefits, including

  • It prevents the wood from rotting.
  • Protects the wood from sun and moisture.
  • It highlights the beauty of the grain.
  • The wood’s color and texture remain visible.

Pros of wood stain

  •  Certain woods do not hold stains well.
  • It only lasts a few years; postponing restaining your wood surface for a long time can cause the job to become more complex and requires a lot of labor.
  • It’s less predictable than paint.
  • It requires a more experienced applicator.

Is It Better to Stain or Paint Cedar?

Since Cedar is flexible enough to take paint, stain, or be left natural, you get to decide what to do with your structure. Even so, staining cedar wood will always be the best choice if you were to add a protective formula over it.

Painting Cedar can change its appearance with a few layers of paint, bringing your structure back to life. However, the paint might only last three to five years before beginning to peel off as soon as twelve months; you will be committing yourself to new paint every three or five years.

If you really like the natural look of Cedar while tweaking the dominant color of Cedar, then staining is a good option for you since it allows you to display the natural beauty of the wood grain.

Without compromising the natural wood look, staining gives you control over the color of your house. However, the stain will begin to peel as the wood adjusts over time, but the stain might last a bit longer than paint.

Many factors will determine what lasts longer, whether paint or stain; here are some factors.

  • Weather conditions and exposure this is the primary factor. If you have intense sun on your cedar wood siding, using a semi-transparent stain and not paint will be best.
  • Moisture can lead to the coating lifting and ending up peeling.
  • Higher traffic areas near the siding.
  • Sprinkler patterns hitting cedar siding.

If you want to maintain the beauty of a cedar grain, use a high-quality stain, thus repelling moisture and water beading up. If you decide to paint Cedar best if you use a high bonding primer first.

Before making a decision, you should consider a few things; painting cedar siding will give it a more uniform look, while staining will allow the wood’s natural grain to be visible.

Painting is a better option if you want your home to have a unique design or color. However, staining is easier to touch if it gets scratched or chipped, and it doesn’t require as much maintenance as painting.

So is it paint or stain? Well, it all depends on your home’s current cedar condition. Before deciding, it’s best to walk around your home with your painting contractor to determine the best way.

Choosing whether to use paint or stain to enhance depends on your taste and the suitability of the surfaces you cover.

Your painting contractor should help you check for the following before deciding; here is the checklist to help you.

  • Examine the Cedar to assess repairs and discuss the type of Cedar you would like to use. Note that newly installed Cedar would have less grain than old Cedar; it will not look the same and will not absorb stain or paint.
  • Check under the eaves and in shaded areas of your home to discover the original material applied. Old cans of paint or stain can sometimes be found in basements and garages, to gain. Do a test cleaning to see how well the current paint or stain will come off worn or protected areas.
  • Discuss if you want to see the wood’s color variations or a solid color.
  • Remove the cable, phone lines, and old brackets that are not in use.
  • Cedar is meant to breathe when it’s installed correctly. Some of the cedar homes are caulked while others are not, discuss the caulking needs. If you do not have caulk currently, it’s better not to.

Popular Stains Brands for Cedar Wood

Here are some popular stain products for cedar wood.

  • DEFY Extreme Semi-transparent Stain

This water-based wood stain is easy to maintain; it has zinc that helps the wood against sun rays. Without the zinc, the wood surface might turn gray or lose color. It has resins that protect the surface from being dark or fading,

It’s very easy to maintain and can last for a long time compared to other types, making it one of the best.

  • READY Seal Exterior Stain

It’s an oil-based stain and can be applied on different wood surfaces; the best thing about this stain is that it doesn’t need any primer. You can apply it using a sprayer, roller, or brush, which is very easy. It makes the texture of the wood seen as it raises the natural look of your wood.


Unlike other stains, this stain does not drip when applied, making it easy to use. It can be afforded easily and has different colors that are durable. This stain is resistant to mildew and UV rays, making it durable.

Types of Stains for Cedar

They are four different types of stains you can use on Cedar.

  • Opaque stains
  • Semi-opaque stains
  • Semi-transparent
  • Natural or clear stains
  • Opaque Stains on Cedar

It means a solid color that protects cedar wood from water, mildew, and UV light, thus increasing the durability of the wood. It also gives a shiny glossy look to your cedar wood surface by entirely covering the wood’s natural grain.

Opaque is not the same as paint because when you cover the wood grains, you can see some details, unlike paint which covers 100% completely.

  • Semi-Opaque Stains on Cedar

It covers the entire Cedar just like the opaque wood stain but does not hide the wood grain completely; after applying semi-opaque, we can notice details of the grain through stain layers. After every four or five years’ semi-opaque stains should be reapplied.

  • Semitransparent Stains

This is the best stain for Cedar if you want to emphasize the natural color of cedar wood with just a little amount of hue with good protection from environmental elements. It also does not hide the wood grain entirely.

It prevents water from getting into the wood fiber but dries it entirely after the application. It prevents getting a blotchy surface.

After three to five year’s semi-transparent stains should be reapplied.

  • Natural or Clear Stains on Cedar

This technique is helpful If you want to improve the natural color of the wood with protection from moisture and UV rays.

The natural stain gives a shiny, smooth look to the cider furniture or wood works without affecting the wood’s original color. But they are not as durable as opaque stains. Clear stains should reapply at least once per year.

Note: Manual brushing is the best option since spraying results in blotching.

How to Stain Cedar?

To stain Cedar, you must understand the preparation of the wood first. You must also understand the staining technique, the best brushes, and the cleanup process.

Stain your cedar siding properly, adding value, durability, and beauty to your home. So here’s how to stain Cedar.

Clean The Wood

Cleaning the wood is an essential step in wood finishing as it eliminates debris and dust from its surfaces. If you skip the cleaning step, the dust will get trapped inside the wood stain, and you will end up with a blotchy surface which is very hard to recover.

Use a clean rag, soak it in water, and wipe down the entire cedar wood surface; let it dry completely before moving on.

Sand and Remove Saw Dust

To avoid the wood from scratching, sand along the direction of the wood grain. Grit the wood surface with sandpaper without missing any spots.

Don’t use higher-grade sandpapers because they can ruin the grain of Cedar since it’s a softwood. Clean the entire surface to remove sawdust once you are done with sanding.

Apply Wood conditioner

Although this is an optional step, it’s highly recommended to use wood conditioner because not every cedar wood works the same with all stain types.                                                                                                     Apply wood conditioner before staining Cedar to accept wood stain evenly throughout the wood.

If the wood doesn’t go well with the stain type, it can lead to a tacky and blotchy surface, and you will have to remove the remaining stain and start over.

  • Dry the Wood Completely

Let the wood dry completely after applying the wood conditioner. Drying helps the wood to gain a beautiful and excellent finish. It may take 2 hours to settle the wood conditioner layer.

  • Apply Wood Stain

Using the paintbrush, apply wood stain along the direction of the cedar wood surface. Apply thin coats of paint for better absorption and spread the stain evenly over the wood.

When staining Cedar, work in the shade. This is to allow the stain to sink deeper into the cedar surface.

One of the best ways to help them dry is to properly set them on sawhorses, thus keeping them off the grass, soil, and sand, making your work much more manageable.                                                                                                                            

How to Paint Cedar?

Before painting Cedar, it’s necessary to use the prepping process step by step without skipping any step. Skipping any steps during your prepping could damage the cedar siding or poorly adhering paint.

With the proper technique and preparation, you can create a beautiful exterior. Here are the steps

  • Step One: Examine Your Cedar Siding.

Check your cedar siding and look for specific types of damage to note if the siding has unrestrained peeling on the coat painted earlier.

Remove and clean any mold and mildew. If there’s peeling on the existing paint on your cider siding, that’s probably due to improper painting, priming, and preparation of the previous work.

  • Step Two: Power Wash, Scrape, and Sand the Old Paint.

You must remove all the paint before moving on, especially if the existing paint is old and peeling. Use a power washer to get the majority of the old paint off, and if there’s mold or mildew present, you can use a siding cleaner together with the power washer. This will remove mold and mildew quickly.

Using a paint scraper and sander, scrape any paint the power washer could not remove. Although this is a lengthy process and requires a lot of exertion, the end result is fantastic.

  • Step Three: Prime the Ceder Siding for Good Paint Adhesion.

Natural woods, like Cedar, must be primed before they are painted, or the paint will have trouble adhering. A two-coat priming system works best using latex-based paint that contains stain-blocking properties.

The suitable primer will trap in tannins and prevent such stains from appearing since Cedar is notorious for its tannins, ’ the sap that seeps through the paint, ‘This seeping can lead to ugly stains that expose themselves, even through layers of paint.

  • Step Four: Choose the Best Paint for the Job.

Use the paint that protects the cider from weathering and other damage. In this case, acrylic-based paint is recommended.

Acrylic-based paint looks excellent on cedar siding and offers natural wood the protection it needs. Acrylic paint is a perfect fit since it is mildew-resistant, has a strong adhesion ability, and is mildew-resistant.

  • Step Five: Start With Simple Strokes.

Rather than rolling or spraying the paint, hand-brushing is recommended to paint the siding.

Cedar is so porous it requires more paint to ensure complete coverage, achieved by hand-brushing.

Do You Need to Prime Cedar Before Staining?

A primer is a preparatory coating applied to surfaces before painting to allow the paint to adhere to the surface better. Priming will make you achieve the desired color, even though you don’t always need to prime surfaces before staining.

Priming and staining maintain the wood’s natural properties and sustains its performance. It’s crucial to prime and pre-stain western red Cedar for exterior applications if you want it to weather naturally into grey.

Since Cedar has tannin, a sap that sips out through the paint, a stain-blocking primer will help prevent this tannin bleed, after which you can cover it with 100% acrylic paint. If not covered with a primer, the tannin can lead to exposed awful stains seen through coats of paint. It can also discolor the surface of the wood.

Only after priming western red cedar shingles, shakes, and sidings can you stain the wood surface. It’s risky to prime and stain western red Cedar after installation. This can compromise the performance of stains and paint, especially when the overlap is part of the installation.

The best time to prime Cedar is before installation, use oil primers on cedar siding, and you will always get a satisfactory outcome after pre-priming the wood with a stain-blocking primer. Always allow lumber to dry before priming.

Choosing a good primer for your Cedar will create a beautiful paint job.

Do You Have to Sand Cedar Before Restaining?

We must first sand Cedar before staining to smooth the surface; every inch of old stain must be physically removed. Sanding is required to treat a surface before applying a stain.

Sanding off the old stain is another way to strip a deck. This should be step number two after cleaning the wood. You should only sand enough to remove the old stain to avoid grinding down the wood too much.

Avoid using higher grits of sandpaper since they can make the pore too small to absorb paint in case they are stubborn areas. A stripping disk on an angle grinder might speed up the work. A finer sandpaper can smooth the wood surface and prepare it for finishing, while rougher sandpaper can be used to remove material.

Sanding might be a long process, but the result is impressive.

You may want to use chemicals to remove the old stain, but this method uses toxic chemicals that are bad for the environment. Chemical strippers don’t penetrate well enough, thus leaving an uneven appearance.

Sanding may slightly alter the Cedar’s appearance but restores the deck surface to an attractive, splinter-free condition. You must sand to smooth the surface.

Sanded Cedar should be treated with a wood brightener to condition the wood for finishing. Sand along the direction of the wood grain to prevent the wood from scratching. Clean the entire surface to remove sawdust once you are done with sanding.

Note; excessive exposure to sand amounts has an irritant effect on the eyes, nose, and throat.

Things you will need to do when Restaining

  • Do not soak the wood. Just clean the siding with a mixture of bleach and water. Wash the surface with a dampened cloth and remove any traces of dirt revealing the wood finish. You then rinse the surface with a second damp cloth and pat the siding dry with a dry cloth.
  • With a power sander or 220-grit sandpaper, remove the existing finish. Remove the protective finish in small circular motions. Sand the wood until all the coating is removed and the natural grain is revealed fully. The surface of the Cedar should be smooth to the touch. To remove sawdust, wipe the sanded surface with a clean cloth to remove any sawdust.
  • Brush the stain into the siding and use multiple layers for an even coating. Do not allow the stain to pool, as this will have visible brush marks. Follow the grain of the wood. While doing so, allow the stain to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and then apply a second coat if a deeper stain color is desired.
  •  Lastly, seal the siding by brushing on a coat of clear polyurethane finish. Follow the grain of the wood as you did when applying the stain. Allow the finish to dry according to the manufactures instructions.

When Should I Stain My Cedar?

You just installed a new cedar deck and are wondering when you can stain it?

What will happen if you don’t stain or paint the wood? If the wood is new, it will have an attractive natural appearance, but for a short time, the sunlight will turn the wood gray.

Some people intentionally let cedar weather give it an aged look, but the disadvantage is it won’t last long. Stain soaks into the pores and attaches to the wood fibers to keep out moisture and stop organics from taking hold.

Before even thinking of staining, you should first consider the weather and the ideal time duration. It’s best to stain cedar wood during the springtime because the stain will dry soon after staining because of the temperature.

The best or ideal time to stain Cedar is when it gets ready and dry. To check if the cedar wood is dry, you need to penetrate the semi-transparent stains, and if they absorb, that’s when you know it’s ready. If it pulls on the surface’ do it later.

Consider staining your wood within a 2 – 3-month period of its drying. That might be as soon as the wood feels and looks dry. This is to avoid the wood peeling and cracking.

By staining your cedar wood early, you provide UV and water protection. Stain helps the wood to improve its lifetime and prevent deterioration.


In conclusion, staining and painting help the cedar wood to improve its lifetime. With the proper procedure, both painting and staining can be helpful. Staining sustains the wood’s performance, but still, the question remains….

Can Cedar Wood Be Stained?

The answer is yes. Cedar wood can be stained if you apply it using the correct procedure and steps. The stain protects the wood from damage.

It’s important to mention that you should inspect your Cedar every spring for water and sun damage.

Areas under gutters and around dormers or roof lines may need a touch-up. To avoid costly repairs, your painting contractor can touch-up areas that wear out quickly.

Cedar wood can be stained and painted. However, the final and most crucial decision is definitely yours. Thank you for reading this article. I hope it has answered all the questions that you had about wood stains.

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