Longterm Cedar Maintenance

Long Term Maintenance and Protection of Western Red Cedar

Cedar is a very durable material that will last many years in an outside environment. However, the choice of treatment for Western Red Cedar will determine exactly what kind of finish retention the cedar keeps.

Untreated Western Red Cedar will, over time, naturally weather to a silvery grey colour. This is due to the bleaching influence of prolonged exposure to UV sunlight. This silver gray layer usually transforms only the very surface of the cedar, usually the first 1-2mm.

Western Red Cedar can accept a range of exterior finishes. The type of exterior finish you should select depends on a number of factors; these include budget, life time and aesthetic finish of the timber you require.

Cedar should ideally be treated within two weeks of exposure to the outdoors environment. After this time period the surface of the cedar starts to denature, lowering the adhesion and longevity of the applied finish .

With all finishes it is recommended that you use a fine sandpaper such as 50-60 grit to gently scuff the surface. This will remove any surface dirt and workshop contaminates -silicone, glue etc. Rough sawn cedar does not need any prior preparation work.


Paint provides the best protection for Western Red Cedar by creating an external skin. The paint stops an erosion through prevailing weather or standing water. Although the paint reduces the cedar's exposure to standing water, the paint does not act as any kind of preservative.

Western Red Cedar accepts many types of paint – water based, acrylic/latex, acrylic enamel or solvent-based paints. Micro-porous paints are recommended, as these allow the cedar to breathe. This also stops moisture bubbling under the paint which can lead to chipping and failure of the paint protection.

The best way to apply paint on Western Red Cedar is to first apply a stain blocking primers. The cedar should also be of a moisture content below 20%, if the water content is any higher, the water will start to leech out of the timber and form pockets between the paint film and the timber surface.

Transparent Stains

Transparent stains are available that do not alter the natural appearance of Western Red Cedar. The chemical composition of transparent stains is very similar to that of blocking stains, but contain very few pigments.

Many transparent stains include pesticides and fungicides, which help to protect the cedar from the local environment. Transparent stains give very little protection against the impact of UV radiation from sunlight, and surface leeching would occur at the same rate as that of unfinished Western Red Cedar.

Semi-transparent Stains

Semi-transparent stains are usually oil based and penetrate the cedar material. The stain is porous and lets the cedar breathe. This make the stain more suited to climate that cycles between hot and cold cycles and exposure to sub-zero temperatures.

Transparent, rigid finishes such as lacquer, shell and urethane, and varnish are not suitable for use with Western Red Cedar. The sunlight still bleaches the surface of the cedar and damages the wood. Sunlight may also denature the finish, which  can start to crack and become brittle.

To apply stains, it is recommended that the stain is applied vertically to a board to stop lapping stains occurring from the uneven distribution of the stain. Working in the shade stops the stain from drying too quickly so the whole stain layer has the opportunity to dry uniformly.

Woodpecker Timber Imports recommends and uses stains manufactured by Barretine. This brand of wood stains suits cedar well and boasts excellent preservation against pests and fungus.


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