How to Stain Redwood

Freshen up redwood with a coat of stain.
Freshen up redwood with a coat of stain. (Image: Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Redwood has an attractive, warm, red color but, with exposure to the elements, it can darken and look worn out. You can restore the wood by applying a redwood stain after you seal it. Although redwood resists deterioration from moisture and insects, the wood will swell and contract if it becomes overly wet, increasing the risk of cracking. Sealing and staining will protect your redwood so you can enjoy it longer.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
  • Nylon-bristle brush
  • Wood sealer
  • Paintbrush
  • Redwood stain
  • Stain applicator pad

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Clean old redwood by brushing a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP) and water, mixed as directed on the TSP box. Scrub with a nylon-bristle brush, focusing on stained spots but washing the entire item. Rinse off the TSP solution with a water hose and let the item dry completely.

Sand down any rough spots on the surface of your redwood with 220-grit sandpaper, unless you want a coarse finish, such as on a fence or on redwood siding. Most redwood furniture and handrails should be smooth.

Brush on a stain-blocking wood sealer. Also called a sanding sealer, this liquid is absorbed into the grain of the redwood and prevents the wood’s natural resin from seeping out and discoloring the newly stained item. Apply as directed on the container and allow the solution to soak into the wood and dry.

Apply redwood stain with a paintbrush or a stain applicator pad. Use long strokes in the same direction as the wood grain. Unlike other stains, redwood stain is semiopaque and you will not wipe it off. Coat the entire item with one application.

Repeat the staining process if you want more coverage after the first application of stain dries to the touch.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a penetrating waterproof sealer on new redwood to protect the wood's natural look. Reapply the sealer annually for the best protection.
  • Apply redwood stain only in well-ventilated area or outdoors.


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