Right Time to Stain Cedar Deck- How to Stain Cedar Deck In 4 Easy Steps

Are you looking for the best wood for decking? Cedar is your answer. It is a versatile and durable softwood. There are many cedar trees, but the most commonly used ones are Eastern and Western Red Cedar. Cedar grows on both the East and West coasts of the US.

Cedar wood is considered the best wood for a deck as its beauty is remarkable and naturally repellent to bugs and insects.

It is imperative to stain your new cedar deck for long-term preservation. However, the staining process is not simple; sometimes, it can get a little complicated. So when is the right time to stain cedar deck?

Regarding weather, it is better to stain your cedar deck in temperatures between 90 and 50 degrees F. 

In staining, the temperature has a considerable role to play. Spring is the best season to stain your deck because the stain will dry soon after staining.

In terms of time, it is better to stain your cedar deck as soon as it is ready. You need to take a test check by penetrating semi-transparent stains to check if it is ready. If not, then do it later.

If you wait longer, the cedar wood will probably suffer from chipping or cracking. Staining within 2 to 3 months is ideal.

What Is a Cedar Deck?

Right Time to Stain Cedar Deck
Image of Cedar Deck

Cedar trees grow principally in the Pacific Northwest forests. They can grow up to a height of 200 feet. These forests are precious and require centuries to mature. 

Most old cedar forests have been restricted to logging to protect them from exploitation.

Cedar is the best choice for deck-building material because of its unique properties.

It is stable, meaning it can stay straight and lays flat. It also has an even grain and consistent density, making it less likely to warp, cup, or twist. 

Cedar has a delightful fragrance and dark-colored heartwood that makes it resistant to rot and insect infestation in outdoor environments.

Cedar has a rich and warm offering of natural hues, soft texture, and tight grain patterns. Freshly cut cedar will come in peach shades of light brown. When it is later exposed to weather, it will change in color to silver grey.

Cedar is very soft, making it easier to work with, and it readily accepts protective stains. Its sawdust, however, can be irritating to the skin and lungs. 

Types of cedar 

Western Red Cedar

Western Red cedar is the most common cedar type. It is originally from the Pacific Northwest. It is more resistant to rot than eastern varieties.

Western Red Cedar is soft and lightweight. Its heartwood is exceptionally resistant to decay and exhibits slight shrinkage. It is also straight-grained and has a uniformly coarse texture.

The heartwood of this type of cedar is reddish brown to dull brown, and its sapwood is nearly white.

Eastern White Cedar

Eastern White cedar is not as common as Western Red Cedar. It is found in Eastern Canada and the north-central and eastern parts of the United States. In the late 1800s, most of the giant trees were harvested.

The heartwood of Eastern White Cedar is light brown and turns darker on exposure. The sapwood is white, tinged with yellow. The tree is lightweight, moderately soft, and naturally resistant to rot and insect infestation.

It has a uniform texture and is easily worked with tools .it shrinks a little but has a high nail-holding ability to stay in place. It is straight-grained, accepts glue and stains, and finishes nicely.

Atlantic Cedar

Atlantic Cedar is native to the Coastal Plain of the eastern United States. Atlantic white cedar has an aromatic odor when freshly cut and has a bitter taste.

Its sapwood is white and narrow, and the heartwood is light brown with a reddish tinge. It has a fine texture and a straight grain. It is lightweight and moderately soft.

Atlantic White Cedar is weak in bending and endwise compression. It is low in shock resistance. It shrinks, but it finishes smoothly. It also holds the paint well and splits easily. It is also resistant to decay, and it works efficiently with tools.

Incense Cedar

Incense cedar is from the mountains from Western Oregon to southern California. Also, the northern Baja Peninsula of Mexico. It can grow to and reach up to the age of 500.

The sapwood of incense cedar is creamy white, while the heartwood is light brown or reddish brown. The heartwood has a sweet, spicy odor and is decay resistant even in the wettest conditions.

It is low in strength, resistance to shocks, stiffness, and hardness. It has an unusually straight grain and high dimensional stability. It holds paint well and works well with hand tools and machines, forming smooth surfaces. 

It also works well in structures subjected to temperatures that keep fluctuating. It also glues and nails well, but you should not use blunt nails to splinter the wood.

Port Orford Cedar

It originates from the narrow zone near the Pacific Coast from southwest Oregon across northwest California. The sapwood of Port Orford Cedar ranges from almost white to a pale yellowish brown, and it is 1-3 inches wide.

The heartwood is yellowish white or pale yellowish brown. When it weathers it turns to a light gray with a silvery sheen without checks.

It has a fine and even texture. Cedar’s grain is even and straight. It has a ginger-like odor and a spicy, bitter taste. It is also light in weight and is hard, solid, and stiff. It is shock resistant.

Port Orford Cedar shrinks slightly when dried, with little tendency to warp. Its heartwood is slightly resistant to decay. 

It is used chiefly for mining timbers and making matchsticks. It also works with tools, holds paints, and polishes very well.

Northern White Cedar

It is found chiefly in eastern Canada and northern, central, and eastern parts of the United States.

It has a fine texture, an even grain, and the lowest density of any commercial, domestic wood. Northern White Cedar makes it very useful in building canoes.

It is soft, and it does not bend. It has hard, stiff, and compressive strength. It can absorb shock, and it is split resistance. It is low in nail and screw-holding ability.

The sapwood of the Northern White Cedar is white and very thin, while its heartwood is light brown. This wood is stable and holds paint very well. 

It has an aromatic spicy, or pencil-like odor. The heartwood, on the other hand, resists subterranean termites and decay.

Southern Red Cedar

It is originally from the Coastal Plain of the eastern United States. It stretches from northeast North Carolina south to central Florida and west to southeast Texas.

Southern Red Cedar has a light red heartwood. The wood is light with straight grains, which are soft and weak. It is very aromatic and repels insects. Additionally, it also works and finishes very well.

Your next decking project can be striking and fun when done with cedar, but you can choose whether you want to use cedar or composite decking depending on the goals and the priorities you would like to achieve.

Pros Of Using Cedar For Decks

  • Durable

Cedar is a durable wood that is naturally resistant to decay, rot, and insect attacks, and it resists moisture absorption and lasts longer. Cedar also needs less maintenance and does not twist or split easily.

A cedar deck can last more than 15 years, depending on the environment and maintenance. That is why cedar has a long history of use in housing and decking.

  • Attractive 

If you are looking for wood that has a beautiful finish, then cedar can offer you precisely that. It has strong color tones consistency that can be sanded and stained, thus making your deck very attractive.

  • Versatile 

Cedar is pitch and resin free; thus, it is good at accepting and holding many different bleaches, stains, colors, and translucent finishes.

 It is the best decking because it comes in many dimensions, grades, and textures.

  • Environmental friendly

Cedar and other natural woods are environmentally friendly compared to synthetic products. It removes greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. It is renewable and biodegradable.

It is produced from sustainably managed forests, so it does not degrade our natural forests.

  • Affordable 

Cedar is not the least expensive material, but it is an affordable wood because of its many advantages.

  • Stable

Cedar decking will twist less and warp than other wood. Any wood will naturally absorb and expels moisture. When it rains, the boards on your deck will automatically become wet and dry quickly when the sun comes out. 

The problem occurs when part of the wood remains wet, and the other part quickly dries. The problem will make the deck warp and twist.

Cedar is also more stable, and it will shrink less.

  • Workability

Cedar is stable because of its low density, and it shrinks less than other materials. stability of cedar makes it easier to work with

  • Softer Underfoot 

Cedar is a softwood, and the cedar deck is more pleasant underfoot than many other types of wood used in decking.

  • More Fantastic On Bare feet

On hot summer days, the cedar deck will stay cooler. Cedar will be great for you if you enjoy being barefoot.

Con of Using Cedar for Decks

  • Sensitive 

Cedar is a softwood. Using cider for decks means it can easily be dented or scratched by furniture.

  • Requires Maintenance

Cedar always has to remain sealed or well-stained. You can have the option of an unstained, rustic look, but you will have to seal it after every few weeks.

  •  Deterioration Concern

Even though cedar lasts long under ideal conditions and treatment, it will deteriorate faster when used on ground-level decks and slowly dry out if it is shaded.

Resealing and simple maintenance solve these problems.

What Happens If You Stain Your Cedar too Early?

Staining your cedar deck will make it beautiful and even last longer, but it needs to be done at the right time.

If you stain your cedar wood too early, the stain won’t take. The wood needs must be porous for the stain can soak in and reflect the color you choose; if the stain does not take, the color will fade in the sun and wash out in the rain.

The best time to stain your cedar is when it is adequately weathered and scorched.

How to Prepare a Cedar Deck for Staining

Rotten or warped and damaged cedar decks are usually without a good finish. Leaving your home cedar deck unfinished will result in damage and premature weathering. 

Stain the deck immediately following installation. Staining will prolong the life and beauty of the cedar wood.

The following is how you will prepare your cedar deck for staining.

  • Sanding Cedar Wood

If your new cedar deck is installed, you must sand the cedar board lightly with fine grit sandpaper or an electric sander before staining. Only roughen the surface lightly. You do not want to erode the deck.

The cedar boards usually go through a process at the mill that will make the boards have a transparent or semi-transparent layer of paint. The boards will then have an oily surface that will prevent the wood stain from penetrating the wood.

For an existing deck, sanding is necessary to remove loose wood fiber.

  • Inspection

Inspect the deck thoroughly for screws and warped boards that are sticking up. Replace the damaged boards and tighten the screws.

Warping usually occurs on older decks that require fresh stains.

  • Sweeping the Deck

Sweep the deck to remove dirt, dust, and sawdust. Get to the cracks and corners of the cedar board as you sweep because the dust in these crevices can get into the stain and cause uneven application.

  • Washing 

You will need to wash your existing cedar deck before staining it. This process helps in removing dirt, mildew, and impurities that have built up from the element over the years. 

You can use a hose, a deck brush, or a power washer for cleaning. The deck surface needs to be thoroughly dry before moving forward with staining.

  • Drying

Allow the deck to dry completely before staining. Moisture remaining in the wood cab cause uneven coverage and shortens the life of the stain.

  • Picking the right day

The most important thing to do before staining is to pick the day you will stain. Cedar wood stain needs to be applied on a sunny day. Take a look at the weather forecast and plan your staining day accordingly.

How to Stain Cedar Deck

Cedarwood certainly adds an element of beauty and luxury to your outdoor deck space. Nevertheless, it is costly, so you would not want to see it lose its elegance and glory anytime soon. Staining your cedar deck is essential to preserve and protect it from rot and premature aging.

Types Of Stains

The following types of stains you can apply on your cedar deck.

Opaque Stain

It is a type of stain containing opaque pigment for staining and painting or opaque material. It protects the cedar wood from water, UV light, and mildew. It also increases the durability of the cedar wood.

Opaque stains give a glossy look to your cedar deck surface by entirely covering the wood’s natural grain, but you can still see some details of the wood grain.

You should reapply the opaque stain after 4-5 years.

Pros of using opaque stain

  • Protect from UV light.
  • Protect from water
  • Cover up imperfections on the surface

Cons of using opaque stain

  • The stain covers up almost the entire wood grain.

Semi-Opaque Stain

This type of stain is semi-opaque and covers the entire surface of cedar wood without hiding the grain. It is a delicacy in its texture.

You should reapply the semi-opaque stain once after every 4-5 years.

Pros of using semi-opaque stain

  • Protect the wood from UV light.
  • Protect the wood from water.
  • The stain does not entirely hide the wood grain of the wood.

 Cons of using semi-opaque stain

  • The surface of the wood becomes blotchy if not dried enough.

Semi-Transparent Stain

This type of stain is used in staining cedar wood that has a small number of pigments.

Semi-transparent stains are the best for cedar wood when you want to bring out the natural color of the wood with a small amount of hue while protecting the wood from environmental elements.

It does not hide the grain of the wood completely. It prevents water from getting into the cedar wood fibers. Make sure the wood dries entirely after application to prevent getting a blotchy surface.

Semi-transparent stains should be reapplied once after every 35 years.

Pros of using a semi-transparent stain

  • It protects the wood from water.
  • It does not ruin the natural look of the wood.
  • It does not hide the wood grain entirely.

Cons of using a semi-transparent stain

  • It makes the surface blotchy if not dried well.

Natural or Clear Stains

A natural stain is a stain that is complete without pigments, and it provides a natural look. They are evident in quality and form.

Natural or clear stains give a shiny, smooth look to your cedar deck without affecting the color of the wood, but they are not as durable as opaque stains. It needs constant maintenance to remain on the cedar wood surface.

 It would be best if you reapplied your cedar deck with natural or transparent stain at least once a year.

Pros of Using Natural or Clear Stains

  • It protects the wood from water.
  • It gives a warm feel to the wood
  • It does not hide the grain.

Cons of Using Natural or Clear Stains  

  • It is not durable
  • It needs regular maintenance
  • The surface becomes blotchy if not dried enough

Note: the best stain for the cedar is water-based because it helps prevent ultraviolet rays and natural radiation so that the stain does not lose its quality or even fade away. 

Advantages of Water-Based Stain

  • Easy to clean with the help of soap or detergent.
  •  Water-based stains are easy to remove compared to oily ones
  • you can renew the stain by staining it again.

Here’s how you stain a cedar deck

  • When applying for the cedar deck stain, you will want to use either a paint roller or a paintbrush.
  • Apply the wood stain with the grain of the cedar wood instead of against it.
  • Lastly, Take your paint brush and fill in any corners, joints, seams, and edges with the stain.
  • A paint roller can miss some areas, so you must go back over them with a paintbrush to ensure they are fully coated.

Here’s How to Stain Cedar Deck:

How Long Does Unstained Cedar Last?

Cedar is naturally durable wood resistant to rot, decay, and insect attacks and resists moisture absorption. It needs less maintenance, and it does not warp or split easily.

An unstained cedar deck can last 15-20 years, depending on the environment. Stain helps the wood to prevent deterioration and improve its lifetime.

How Do You Keep Cedar Deck Looking New On The Outside?

A newly installed cedar deck always looks beautiful before fading over time. Although this is completely normal, you do not want your cedar deck to fade and grow old quickly.

Cedar decks are easy to maintain since they require minimal upkeep.

It is essential to perform regular inspections of your cedar deck to check for the areas that need a little tender loving care. Check out for warping boards and popped nails or screws.

Replace any missing screw or nail immediately because when water continually pools in the little holes, it can cause the wood around them can rot.

You must also remove debris between the boards on your deck to allow proper drainage throughout the year.

 Please change the location of furniture and planters to prevent color patches caused by harsh UV rays and water potentially sitting underneath them. 

Be careful when moving the objects because cedar is a soft wood, and dragging the furniture and the planters across your deck will leave marks and scratches. So always remember to lift.

Avoid using rugs made from natural materials. Rugs are beautiful and will make your outdoor space attractive, but rugs will absorb and hold water and perpetually wet the cedar boards underneath.

Placing rugs on your cedar deck will lead to premature wood rot and can also cause mildew. Alternatively, you can opt for a rug made from plastic or synthetic materials because water will run off the plastic and synthetic rugs.

Sweep your deck regularly, preferably every one to two weeks, or even more, depending on the number of trees in your yard. 

It is an easy way to protect your deck. It also makes your deck look much tidier and more pleasing. 

Pay extra attention to areas around the deck post. Rot can occur where they connect to the decking.

In seasons where the leaves are falling at a heightened rate, one damp or rainy day can cause them to stick. They can even stain your cedar deck if you let them sit long enough.

Use a stiff bristle brush to sweep your deck. Use a leaf blower, you can.

Deep cleaning once a year to remove surface dirt will help extend your deck’s service life. In most cases, soap and water will do, but if there are any signs of mildew, you must use a diluted oxygen bleach solution.

After a deep clean, ensure you sand rough, fuzzy, or uneven spots. You can use a belt sander to smooth out uneven spots or cedar deck boards that are slightly warped. Ensure your deck is smooth and flat to avoid pooling water.

Wood furring is entirely normal with the cedar decks. They occur due to the damaged wood cell escaping through the board’s surface. 

Sometimes wood furring can be caused by the buildup of cleaning solution residue left behind on the wood. Ensure you always rinse your deck thoroughly after cleaning to prevent wood furring from continuing.

Finally, to make a cedar deck last for years, you should apply the new stain as often as possible.

Cedar decks are easy to construct and can look great for years as long as you regularly perform regular care and maintenance.

Giving your deck a deep cleaning will give it a nice weathered look. Choosing to apply a stain will make your deck look beautiful and elegant. 

Does Cedar Deck Need to be Sealed?

Cedar is naturally resistant to rot and will last long with little maintenance. Sealing your deck is necessary as it will extend its life. 

It should be done immediately before summer to protect the wood from damaging UV rays, rot, water damage, and insect infestation.

The best time to seal your deck is when the temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees. Occasionally, the late summer and early fall are the best times.

Types of sealers

  • Water-based sealers
  • Oil-based sealers

Advantages of water-based sealers

  • They are safe to apply over damp, though not on wet cedar wood.
  • They emit fewer toxic fumes, making them less irritating to the eyes and lungs during application and better for the environment. 
  • Easy to clean as you can using soap and water.

Disadvantages of water-based sealers

  • Not durable, especially if the weather is extreme. Water-based sealers flake and chip over time.
  •  Very expensive

Advantages of oil-based sealers

  • Less expensive compared to water-based sealers.

Disadvantages of oil-based sealers

  • Applying it can be tricky, especially when the deck is not completely dry. It will likely develop tiny bubbles or spots as the moisture tries to escape.
  • They emit more toxic fumes that are irritating to the eyes during application.
  • It is difficult to clean as it requires a similar solvent to the sealer to clean, brushes, and tools.

Materials Needed When Sealing Your Cedar Deck

  • Broom
  • Power washer
  • Combination of stain and sealer
  • Paintbrush or rags 

The Procedure for Sealing Your Cedar Deck

Check that your deck needs to be sealed. Check your cedar by cleaning your deck area, then sprinkle some water and wait for it to form a compact wood surface. 

If the water beads up, it shows that your deck has water resistance and does not need to be sealed. If your deck absorbs, then this shows that your deck needs to be sealed as soon as possible.

Secondly, you must clean your deck by sweeping the deck to wipe loose debris such as leaves and dirt. Then wash your deck using a power washer. You can also scrub down your cedar deck with a soft bristle brush and oxygen brush if you don’t want to wash your deck. 

Mix oxygen bleach and warm water in a bucket, then dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution. Gently scrub down the cedar wood on the deck using the brush, and focus on the growing mold or mildew parts.

The next step is to allow the deck to dry. Give the deck at least two days for it to dry. Make sure you clean your deck in a season or time when no rainfall is predicted in the weather focused.

Lastly, stain and seal the deck. Buy a quality stain and sealer to ease your job. You need a paintbrush to apply the sealer. 

Be sure to apply the stain to all surfaces of the wood.

Be thorough with your application, as this will help in protecting your deck throughout the year.

Difference Between Staining and Sealing a Cedar Deck 

There is a difference between sealing and staining a cedar deck, even though they protect the cedar wood from the element.

A sealer goes clear or transparent to show the grain and natural wood color. It prevents water from being absorbed and causing rot. Stain, however, will do the same as a sealer but has added pigment that blocks UV rays.

In conclusion, cedar has a rich history of use in the decking industry. It is beautiful and long-lasting. It is versatile because it takes stains very well. 

Cedar smells and looks good. It feels like natural wood. You can also apply an evident seal on cedar and capture the natural wood of the elegant wood.