Cedar Fence Stains & Sealers


To prolong the life of your cedar fence and to enhance its appearance, the boards should be treated with a penetrating, oil-based wood stain and sealer. Oils in the stain provide the wood with water resistance, and the pigments protect from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Stains and sealers range from transparent to a solid-color finish. The right stain depends on the look you want and the amount of maintenance you are willing to perform.


  • A quality wood stain and sealer will contain a combination of natural oils and pigments. The pigments are the most expensive ingredient in the stain, and the pigments are also what provide your fence with UV protection and longevity.


  • A penetrating oil-based stain is typically a one-coat application. Use a paint brush to apply as much stain to the wood as it will absorb, but be careful not to overapply. Penetrating stain should soak into the wood completely. A solid-color stain is applied more like traditional paint; generally manufacturers recommend two coats of solid color finish be applied over a single coat of exterior primer.


  • The longevity of a finish varies depending on the amount of pigment in the product used and the amount of sunlight the fence is exposed to. A light-colored or transparent stain will last between one and two years, while a darker stain or a solid color finish may give you five years of life or more between applications.

Solids Content

  • A penetrating oil-based stain contains the essential ingredients—oils and pigments—as well as mineral spirits to help the stain penetrate. The “solids content” represents the ratio of essential ingredients to mineral spirits. Look for a product with a solids content around 60 percent.


  • A transparent stain will provide color to the wood while leaving the underlying grain pattern and detail completely exposed. A semitransparent stain will reveal the grain pattern but will mask some of the finer features of the wood. A solid-color finish will completely obscure the wood’s grain pattern.

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