How to Finish Rough Cedar

If you need to finish rough cedar, you'll find it much easier than staining smooth hardwoods like walnut and oak. Rough softwoods such as cedar are well-suited for inexpensive liquid wood stains. By properly preparing your work area, you can avoid permanent unwanted stains. Prepare the cedar to keep the finish from drying unevenly.

Things You'll Need

  • Pressure washer

  • Wide-angle tip

  • Canvas drop cloths

  • Semi-transparent water-proof oil-based stain

  • 5-gallon bucket

  • Wooden stirring stick

  • 3- to 4-inch natural-bristled paintbrush

  • Shop rags

  • Mineral spirits

Step 1

Clean the rough cedar using a pressure washer. Focused water from one of these units can destroy soft cedar. Prevent this by taking the proper precautions. Equip the unit with a wide-angle spray tip and move the spray in the direction of the wood grain at all times. Let the rough cedar dry for 24 hours.

Step 2

Place two layers of canvas drop cloths beneath the cedar. Liquid stain may soak through a single drop cloth and stain the floor you are working on. Overlap two drop cloths to be safe.

Step 3

Pour 2 gallons of semi-transparent water-proof oil-based stain into a 5-gallon bucket. Stir the stain for 60 seconds to ensure that the tannins are evenly distributed.

Step 4

Brush the stain onto the rough cedar, using a 3- to 4-inch natural-bristled paintbrush. Brush in the direction of the cedar wood grain. Wipe excess finish from the cedar with shop rags.

Step 5

Allow the rough cedar dry for three hours. Add a second coating if you'd prefer a deeper finish.


Refinish the rough cedar every year or two.

Stop to stir the stain every 10 to 15 minutes, or the tannins will settle near the bottom of the 5-gallon bucket.


Don't use polyurethane on rough cedar, as the wood's coarse nature will prevent the sealer from bonding properly. Semi-transparent water-proof oil-based stain will adequately seal rough cedar against wear and water-based rot.