Best Exterior Finish For Western Red Cedar

Best Exterior Finish For Western Red Cedar


Giving you best exterior finish for Western Red Cedar. Realizing there are many stain colors available to you, and why some are better today. Also recommending best clear sealer finishes for Cedar outdoor stained structures.

Best finishes will not only enhance your valuable Western Red Cedar, but protect, keeping it from turning gray. Your ideal Cedar finishes continues to repel moisture, not allowing mildew to grow, turning black overtime.

All different finishes now have additives included, to protect from harmful UV rays as well. Speaking to someone just yesterday regarding this. Client from Boulder, CO. inquiring about different stains fading, as that is what he's experienced in the past, especially using brown colors. They were very happy to hear improvements have been made across the board. (no pun intended).

Great news! Different paint manufactures heard what their purchasers had to say, using their stain finishes. A common consensus was stains in general faded too quickly. Today, stains used outside, lasting much longer.


Coming straight from the lumber mills, Red Cedar can have red tones, to outer layers having blonde looking colors. Most sought after Cedar of highest of grades, being select tight knot. But even with highest wood grade, most outdoor woods require some sort of protection keeping it pristine, lasting for generations. Makes perfect sense putting on the right finish, the first time.

Best Western Red Cedar Stain Finishes

  • Will seal wood grain
  • Keep water out, not discoloring
  • Looking like it did when it was brand new
  • Preserving wood from deteriorating
  • Now having UV protection, not fading nearly as quick
  • Come in a variety of color choices
  • Easy to apply, spray, brush, or roll
  • Allow additional maintenance coats
  • Can be sprayed, brushed, or rolled
  • Easier cleanup using household cleaners, solvents

Best Western Red Cedar Stains

Best_Western_Red Cedar_Stains

  • Super Deck®
  • Woodscapes®
  • BEHR™
  • Olympic™
  • Flood®

Each brand allows a water-based, also oil-based versions.  Very easy to apply, and cleanup is a breeze.

Western Red Cedar is one of the best exterior woods available in North America. Cedar has a very limited area of growth in the Pacific north west. States of northern California, Oregon,  Washington, Idaho, Montana allow Cedar growing naturally.

Western Red has specific weather conditions of high humidity, common rain showers, with cooler temperatures. Limited amounts of Cedar is main reason why Western Red Cedar is as expensive as it is, increasing like a thermometer or precious metals.

What Are Best Finishes For Western Red Cedar

  • Oil-based Transparent, or Semi-transparent Are Ideal
  • Your Are Best Served, Sampling Finishes First
  • Allows Additional Maintenance Coats
  • Will Keep From Wood Turning Black or Gray
  • Best Finishes Will Properly Protect From Moisture & UV Rays

Your best stains for Red Cedar are oil-based, which will darken the wood at first, even clear natural types. This will make wood look wet at first, taking several days to dry to the touch. Even if a light rain happens to fall on it before completely drying, that's OK. Water will just repel off like an umbrella or a duck's back.

Should be noted, even clear natural transparent oil based stains will give Cedar wood a slightly darker finish, once dried. However, the closest thing to natural you can find, putting some sort of sealer on it. If you chose using something closer to actual Cedar, various manufactures have their Cedar tone pigment, in a semi-transparent oil based stain.


What ever you decide going with, it is highly recommended to sample your chosen stain first on a non-conspicuous place outside, on your Cedar. Reason for this is two-fold. First being, a sample in the store may not look the same as out in the field, on your actual exterior wood.

And second, samples shown on a brochure, may not actually be on Cedar to begin with. An in-house lab may use a variety of different woods, sampling their stains.  You would best served taking a small piece of foam, putting the stain you believe you want to use on a piece of Cedar siding you bring in to your local paint store is great.

Finally third, every square inch of Western Red Cedar's grain is uniquely different, just like fingerprints are. Very similar, but different. Some areas are darker than others, some being from different parts of the tree.

So knowing that a sample will need a few days to dry for you to actually see what it will eventually look like, choosing the very best finish you could ask for.

Best finishes for Cedar wood are those which allows additional maintenance coats 24 to 36 months later. Keep in mind, you really can't rush this process though. Putting too much oil based stain may not thoroughly soak into the wood, leaving a thick gooey mess on top.

Also your best choice of Cedar finish will protect any wood from discoloring over time. Keeping wood protected from harmful UV rays from the Sun. Not only that, but allows wood to quickly dry out after a rain storm, as water is just beading up, not penetrating into the wood's grain.

Many Stain Colors

There is a wide spectrum of stain colors to choose from. Many stains are custom tint-able, getting something closer to what you may need. While others are not customizable, in either oil-based or water borne, you'll just need to check with a local paint store.

It is always best to pick a stock color. That way if you ever need an additional amount, you can go to any same type store, getting the same. They all have same stain color names, numbers on hand.

Just make sure you remember if your stain is either transparent, semi-transparent, semi-solid, or solid paint stain. Paint staff will put color in correct base for you.

Giving you many choices of stain colors & finishes to enhance your exterior.


How To Keep Cedar Looking Natural


This home above, Cedar was neglected many years, almost nearly black every square inch. Using best home-made wood cleaner, removed all black & gray out. After drying back out, looking natural once again. Also this cleaning mixture saved paint crew a tremendous amount of time & labor. Not only that, but not harming wood nearly as bad without needing a close, forceful water jet spray.

Once Western Red Cedar is properly cleaned, a regular maintenance program of same stain finish is required. In doing so, never needing to clean black mildew again, looking as natural as possible.

Regularly applying a transparent or semi-transparent stain on your Cedar every few years, is how to keep Cedar looking as natural as possible. Best way to know if you need to re-stain, giving another coat is seeing if water beads up on the surface.

Simply taking a garden hose, spraying water on Cedar wood siding, observing if water is beading up, or soaking in. If water soaks in, it's time to apply another coat of stain.

However, if you have let Cedar age, not protecting it for several years, and it has discolored, you must clean that back to almost like-new first.

Easiest way to clean Cedar we've found, which by the way is best for the wood itself is applying Oxi-Clean laundry detergent. Mixing several cups into a 5 gallon bucket, with tap water, stirring up like a washing machine. Swabbing solution on wood's surface either by a garden sprayer, or siphon from a power washer is easiest.

Keeping surfaces wet with cleaner for several minutes, you'll be able to see the black and gray ooze out of the wood, dripping down. Now that is the time to rinse your Cedar back off either using a high pressure power washer, or garden hose with jet spray nozzle.

Careful not getting too close, as that would harm the wood. Letting Cedar properly dry, normally over 36 to 48 hours depending where you live.


Areas out of the way, not in direct Sun or harsh weather will stay closer to natural as the day it was purchased. This is why it's so important to care for your Cedar more exposed, having everything looking the same all over.

Home below in Highlands Ranch, we painted exterior back in 2012, also stained bead-board ceiling above upper deck same time. Our client called us back in 2019 to repaint exterior, as it started showing wear up near top of chimney.

This time using best exterior lifetime paint, Sherwin-Williams™ Emerald®. Painting very similar, bottom is newest color, darkening paint scheme up just a bit.



However, stain on deck ceiling looked just as good as when we originally did it.

Hand brushed Sikkens SRD stain in Cedar tone color. PPG™ now owns Sikkens label, available at PPG™, & some Benjamin-Moore™ stores.

With this Western Red Cedar out of harms way, rarely getting any unforeseen moisture, applying a quality nearly clear stain, this looks as new as the day it was finished.


Once dried, your Cedar will look as natural as it did when it was new! This is the best time to apply a stain finish with it's description Cedar Natural Tone.

Normally a good quality oil-based stain will last 2 to 3 years on exposed wood, before you need another maintenance coat, looking like it did when it was brand new.

Our clients of 2012 originally wanted a more solid bodied paint stain, but suggested Sikkens SRD. Since then, they've never looked back, extremely glad we told them about this Cedar finish. So glad, they remembered us, calling out doing more work seven + years later.

Best Clear Cedar Finish For Outdoors


Your best clear Cedar finishes for outdoor structures are those which will last several years, not months like Thompson's Water Seal.

I rarely write about what not to use, but seeing so many making the mistake painting or staining themselves, using Thompson's, I must warn you. Thomson's is indeed clear water borne finish for Cedar, but in every case, this product stops protecting quicker than leather conditioner for work boots. Seeing this firsthand in so many cases.


Typical instance, a person calls us, asking for a quote to re-stain their Cedar deck. Having toiled only a couple months ago, applying Thompson's Water Seal on their structure, brushing into wood's grain, spending several weekends. Only to see it not protecting, wood starting to turn colors of age immediately.


I was told by upper management of Sherwin-Williams™, just last month during a lunch, the reason why they have it on their shelves. Sherwin-Williams™ purchased the company which also manufactures MinWax®, and must provide all products within their stores.

However, senior official told me, "You'll never see our staff suggest Thompson's, as we know it's inferior, but we must have a place on the shelf for it."


That's not to say a water-borne clear Cedar finish is inferior. Many choices including Super Deck®, Woodscapes®, & BEHR™. All of which have their water-based versions of clear exterior wood finishes for outdoor structures, lasting 5 times as long as Thompson's.

All clear stains easy to apply, cleanup is a cinch.

Best Sealer Finish For Western Red Cedar Siding


SuperDeck® has by far highest concentration of boiled linseed oil to any common stains, generally found at your local Sherwin-Williams™ paint stores, making it ideal for Cedar siding. So much linseed oil in this mixture, it is imperative using caution with rags fully saturated, not using. As these cotton rags can ignite, catching fire, until fully dried.


The best sealer finish for Western Red Cedar siding you could ask for are those which does not turn gray, discoloring, allowing moisture into wood's grain over time. The longer a sealer protects wood's interior grain, the better it is. Doing just what the name implies, sealing out moisture.


How To Protect Cedar Wood For Outdoors

Not to repeat myself, but a linseed oil-base stain is by far your best sealer to protect Cedar wood. How do I know this? Going way back to 1998, making the discovery.

Being invited more than two decades ago for a walk-about up in Yellowstone National Park, looking over potential work with management companies architect, giving them our pricing to refinish Old Faithful Inn.


Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn is one of the largest wooden structures for it's elevation in North America. Having extreme weather conditions especially during winter months.

We as a group of contractors were told what has been done protecting the exterior Cedar siding, keeping it just like new, well over 100 years. The secret? Boiled Linseed Oil.

Keep in mind, applying boiled linseed oil straight out of the can to your Cedar siding can and will darken over time. This was much lighter toned when newer, but over time has gotten darker with multiple coats of linseed oil, over the years.

Extreme caution must be used, using linseed oil.

Caution Using Linseed Oil



Extreme caution must be used, dealing with linseed oil, mainly during cleanup. All rags soaked, sopping wet with linseed oil can and will ignite if wadded up. Must stretch them back out, like on a cloths-line after using. Just laying cloth rags out on the ground until they've dried out. Another good way would be placing rags in a bucket of water when fully saturated with in oil, is very safe.

Some of the best sealers require caution though, reading product's Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) before opening the can is highly recommended. MSDS sheets will not only recommend proper application techniques, but safety procedures as well, insuring best experience, properly sealing Western Red Cedar.

Best Stain Finish For White Cedar

We've only been talking about Western Red Cedar. Not wanting red Cedar, but wondering if Western Red Cedar can be painted white?


Opaque is most common term describing best stain for making Cedar white. Various paint manufactures have their version of white-wash stain, all being that of a light off-white color, typically referred to as opaque.


Light colored, opaque stains can be found either in water-borne or oil based, as well as semi-transparent, or solid body paint stain.

Reminds Me Of A Situation, Choosing Best Finish For Cedar

Saving the best for last. Best knowing your finish before buying bulk of it. Because let's face it, surprises are probably not what you were expecting.


As a seasoned painting contractor here in Denver, have always recommended sampling paints & stains first, for all of our clients. Once a paint or stain is chosen, we at no extra cost, apply that paint sample on, so our clients can approve. Paint colors, also stains can look quite different out in the field. Roof colors, brick, & landscape can give paint samples a different hue.

However, this particular situation proves how important it really is, to sample on your actual Cedar first, and not a different type of wood.

Getting a call from a potential customer, who lived in Kansas City, MO. Owning a home in Denver, wanting deck stripped, pergola, lattice, also handrails stained. Emailing each other, we agreed on price, but never personally meeting, (that should've been a clue).

Asked which color they wanted, suggesting we sample on their wooden structure. Response I got was they've already decided, sampling on their own. What I did not know that their sampling was conducted in Kansas, not in Denver, on their outside structure.


Coming to understand later, they had not actually sampled their stain, only looking at a picture on a brochure in Kansas. Ouch! They chose and we purchased semi-transparent 2100 Weathered-Gray stain, applying after stripping, & cleaning all wood deck surfaces.

What resulted was indeed, the very best looking weathered gray stain we've ever seen. However, opposite what they were thinking. Looked weather beaten right out of the can!

Small sample of it's brochure was certainly not what our client had envisioned. Brochure did have the exact gray hue, matching exactly. Coming to the defense of paint company, any small 1'' sample on a brochure can only give a person a good idea what color will be, but not exact details, what it'll do on any piece of wood.

So, even though we have been a huge advocate of sampling before-hand, we now know to actually sample on the wood you intend sealing, tinting, staining, and coloring.

In Closing

Glad to provide you top outdoor finishes for Western Red Cedar available today. Knowing several selections of stain colors at your fingertips. Understanding why some are better, than those of yesterday. Hope you find our recommendations of  best clear sealer finishes for Cedar exterior stained Western Red Cedar very beneficial.

Thanks taking time to read & like to hear from you, with a Like, Share, Ping, or Comment below;

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