Rough cut cedar is a durable building material that can give your house a rustic look. Typically, homeowners use a transparent finish on rough cut cedar in order to highlight the natural beauty of the wood. This can present difficulties because rough cut cedar has a very dense grain pattern and tends to repel penetrating stains. The homeowner with rough cut cedar siding should be prepared to put some work into the finish over the first couple of years until the wood starts to become more absorbent.
Understanding Rough Cut Cedar
Rough cut cedar is a striking natural siding. Because it isn't milled and planed like other cedar siding, the pores in the wood can be closed. Often rough cut cedar has an almost glossy look to it. This type of surface makes it extremely tough for penetrating stains to absorb down into the wood. Still, if you want to show the natural beauty of the wood, a penetrating stain is probably your best strategy.
Stain Selection and Application
It's the pigment in a penetrating stain that affords the wood its protection from the sun's ultra-violet (UV) rays. As a result, the darker the stain, the longer it will tend to last. When you are selecting a stain, choose as dark a color as you can stand in order to increase the lifespan of the finish.
A brush is the best method for applying penetrating stain. It gives you the most control and the least risk of over-application. Feed the wood as much stain as it can absorb, but no more. Use a dry paint brush to remove any excess stain from the wood's surface.
Stain rough cut cedar with the understanding that the initial application probably won't last longer than a year or so. Over the course of that year, the wood pores should open up a little bit, and subsequent applications of stain will last longer as more product is able to soak into the siding.
When the stain starts to fade, wash it down with wood cleaner. Cedar can turn dark as a result of tannins in the wood. Use a wood brightener with oxalic acid in it to remove the tannins and lighten up the wood.
Let the wood dry completely before you apply a stain to it. At least 24 hours is recommended.
You can apply a urethane over the top of the stained wood. This will form a film over the surface of the siding and give a glossier look than you'd get with a stain alone. A urethane can last quite a bit longer than a penetrating stain; but understand that when a urethane fails, it will peel and lift. Re-applying urethane will generally entail some sanding and potentially stripping of the coating.