How to Finish Cedar for Outdoor Use: Expert Tips for Lasting Beauty

Hello Reader! Are you searching for the perfect finish to protect and enhance the natural beauty of your cedar outdoor furniture or deck? Look no further! In this article, we will guide you on how to finish cedar for outdoor use, ensuring longevity and a stunning aesthetic that will withstand the elements. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dive into the world of cedar finishing!

Cedar is a popular choice for outdoor projects due to its natural resistance to rot, insects, and decay. However, without proper finishing, cedar can still suffer from weathering, discoloration, and deterioration over time. That’s why it’s crucial to choose the right finish and apply it correctly to ensure your cedar stays protected and beautiful for years to come.

how to finish cedar for outdoor use

Choosing the Perfect Finish

The Benefits of Oil-Based Finishes

When it comes to finishing cedar for outdoor use, oil-based finishes are often the best option. These finishes penetrate deep into the wood, nourishing and protecting it from within. They also provide excellent water repellency and enhance the natural beauty of the cedar grain.

One popular choice is a high-quality, penetrating oil finish that contains UV inhibitors. These inhibitors help to minimize the effects of sunlight exposure, preventing the cedar from fading or turning gray over time. Look for finishes specifically designed for exterior wood and choose one that is clear or tinted to match your desired look.

Considerations for Water-Based Finishes

While oil-based finishes are usually the top choice for cedar, water-based finishes have their own advantages. Water-based finishes are more environmentally friendly and dry faster than oil-based finishes. They also offer good protection against water damage and UV rays, although they may not provide the same level of depth and warmth to the cedar grain.

If you decide to go with a water-based finish, make sure it is suitable for exterior use and provides UV protection. It’s also essential to follow the manufacturer’s drying and recoating recommendations to achieve optimal results.

Preparing Cedar for Finishing

Sanding and Cleaning

Before applying any finish, it’s crucial to properly prepare the cedar surface. Start by sanding the wood with progressively finer grit sandpaper, starting with 80 or 100 grit and finishing with 220 grit. Sanding not only smooths the surface but also opens up the wood pores, allowing better penetration of the finish.

After sanding, thoroughly clean the cedar to remove any dust, dirt, or other contaminants. Use a mild detergent mixed with water and a stiff brush or sponge to scrub the wood. Rinse with clean water and allow the cedar to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Applying the Finish

Brushing vs. Spraying

When it comes to applying the finish, you have the option of using a brush or a sprayer. Both methods can achieve excellent results, but each has its pros and cons.

Brushing: Using a brush allows for better control and precision, ensuring that the finish reaches all areas of the cedar. It also allows for better penetration into the wood pores. However, brushing can be more time-consuming and may leave brush marks if not applied carefully.

Spraying: Spraying the finish can be faster and more efficient, especially for larger projects. It provides a more even coverage and can help avoid brush marks. However, overspray and the need for proper equipment can make spraying more challenging for some DIY enthusiasts.

Whichever method you choose, it’s essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply the finish in thin, even coats. Make sure to coat all surfaces of the cedar, including the undersides and any hidden corners or joints.


Now that you have the insider tips on how to finish cedar for outdoor use, you’re ready to transform your cedar projects into stunning, long-lasting pieces. Remember to choose a high-quality, oil-based or water-based finish that provides UV protection. Take the time to properly prepare the cedar surface through sanding and cleaning, and apply the finish using the method that suits you best. With these expert tips, your cedar will stand strong against the elements and continue to showcase its natural beauty for years to come.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out other fascinating topics on home and garden at From tips on seasonal decorations to creating a motivating fitness space, there’s something for everyone!

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