Western Red Cedar in its natural unfinished state has a richly textured tactile grain combined with a glowing palette of warm, mellow tones ranging from light amber to deep honey brown. No man-made material can duplicate the depth of cedar’s natural luster. Western Red Cedar remains subtly aromatic, and the characteristic fragrance of Red Cedar just adds another dimension to its universal appeal.
Because of the inherent nature of Western Red Cedar to withstand insect attack and the outdoor elements Cedar does not require a finish to keep its structure over the years.
Many folks prefer to allow their cedar furniture to “naturally age” outdoors without a stain or finish. Over time the colorful tones of the wood slowly weather to a handsome silver-grey and the grain of the wood will become slightly raised.
Left completely natural this silver-gray color will eventually be highlighted by darker streaks formed from the reaction between the Cedar Resin and the zinc hardware. If the dark streaks are not for you we suggest using a simple wood sealer as described below.
Western Red Cedar Finishing Options and Treatments
A good wood sealer such as Thompsons Wood Sealer is useful by blocking the pores of the wood. This inhibits the grain from becoming raised yet allows the natural fading of the wood to a gentle silvery-gray color.
If you would like to preserve the colorful tones of the freshly sanded cedar any number of finishes can be used on cedar furniture. The types we have tried and recommend are good quality penetrating sealers and transparent or solid exterior stains. There is a wide variety of colors to choose from which makes it easy to match your existing decor.
We recommend a single coat of a semi transparent stain with a UV inhibitor such as Sikkens Cetol 1 (natural), or Thompsons Stain to preserve the handsome look of your furntiture. Every 3rd year you might re-apply a coat of stain to freshen the finish. Little or no sanding, preparation or primer is needed when you use a stain.
We do not recommend using oil finishes on your western red cedar outdoor furniture.
Paint will work fine but as on any exterior surface, over time will begin to flake and will eventually need scraping and refinishing. Stain, however, is “breathable” and will not trap moisture, therefore – no blistering, no peeling. Stain really is the best choice here, there are many colors to choose from in semi-transparent and solid finish.
Western Red Cedar should be preservative treated if intended for use in applications where it is dug into the ground. i.e. Fence Posts, Landscape Ties or Garden Arbor Posts.
About Dan Eskelson
Dan has had his hands in the soil for most of his adult life as a gardener, landscaping contractor, golf course superintendent and landscape designer. When the ground freezes, he builds websites, produces video and plays the hammered dulcimer. Full bio here.