How to Stain Cedar Boards

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Things You'll Need

  • Iron-free bristle brush

  • 50- or 60-grit sandpaper

  • Paint brushes

Stain cedar lumber to protect it from fading in sunlight and from moisture erosion. Western red cedar has beautiful colors at all stages of fading, but the wood deteriorates if it's not protected from the elements. Use a quality semitransparent wood stain on cedar siding, exterior trim, fences, decks and sheds to preserve the integrity of the wood while maintaining its natural color.


Step 1

Prepare the surface. Clean textured cedar and new cedar lumber with an iron-free bristle brush. Scrub away stains with a mild detergent, rinse the wood thoroughly and allow it to dry before staining. Scuff flat-grained cedar lumber with 50- or 60-grit sandpaper to allow the stain to absorb.


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Step 2

Choose an oil-based, semitransparent penetrating stain, which is best at protecting the cedar from water and sunlight. This type of stain will soak into cedar lumber without leaving a vulnerable film on the surface.

Step 3

Apply stain to cedar boards that are in the shade. Choose appropriate times of day to finish all sides of cedar structures while they are shaded.


Step 4

Use a brush to apply stain for optimal penetration. Use a back-brushing stroke on stain applied with a sprayer or roller to enhance its penetration. Spread the brush along the inside lip of the can to remove excess stain before bringing it to the wood. Use caution to avoid drips while applying thin and runny oil-based stains.


Step 5

Spread wood stain across one length of cedar lumber at a time. Finish staining a board completely before any section dries to avoid lap marks.


Outdoor decks and fences are vulnerable to sunlight and rain. Protect these cedar surfaces by applying a water repellent that contains a mildew killer once or twice a year.



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