best stain for cedar decks

Best Stain for Cedar Decks, Fences, Sidings, and Shingles

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Brenda Nyawara

Brenda Nyawara is an editor at Archute. She is a graduate architect with a passion for edge-cutting ideas in design, fashion, art and modern world interests.
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Having a cedar deck is a great experience. You get to enjoy sunrises and sunsets on the deck with your loved ones. However, if you don’t use the best stain for cedar decks to protect it, you won’t be enjoying those moments for long.

So, what should you protect your cedar deck from? The protection is mostly from elements such as snow, rain, strong wind, insects, falling leaves, and other results of the changing seasons. 

Staining your cedar wood ensures that it will always remain intact over the decades. Therefore, whether you use oil or water-based stains, we’re here to guarantee that you get the results you seek.

Best Stains for Cedar

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We've rounded up the best stains for cedar, no matter the type of surface you're working with.

We'll consider stains for cedar decks, cedar sidings, cedar posts, cedar fences, and cedar shingles.

Let's begin.

1. Best for Cedar Deck - Ready Seal 512 Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood

Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior...
  • Requires no primer. Ready Seal is darkest when first applied. It...
  • May be applied using sprayer, roller or brush onto the woods...
  • Requires no back brushing and will nerver leave runs, laps, or...
  • Requires no wet-line application, the product will blend itself...
  • Requires no diluting or thinning prior to spray applications.

We put this best stain for cedar decks as number one for a reason. First, it comes in 10 different colors allowing you to choose the best one for you. We enjoyed having options to choose from, and we think you will too.

Another reason is that it comes in a 5-gallon container, which means you’ll have more than enough for your wood surface. 

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Another thing we enjoyed or liked about it is that we didn't need to use a primer when using this cedar stain. This is thanks to its design, which allows you to use it in any temperature range.

We found that the best way to apply this stain to your cedar deck is by using a sprayer, brush, or roller. All of these options give you a smooth finish.

Another great thing about this cedar stain is that it is easy to maintain. You won’t have to sand down your surface if you are reapplying. We like this option because it lessens the work you have to do in the case of a renovation.


  • Easy to maintain
  • Comes in 10 colors for your cedar surface
  • You don’t need to use a primer


  • Takes 14 days to completely cure
  • You can’t get it in quantities of less than 5 gallons

2. Best for Cedar Deck - #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks,...
  • BOTH A DECK STAIN & DECK SEALANT IN ONE - #1 Deck Stain Is a...
  • ALLOWS THE WOOD GRAIN TO SHOW THROUGH - Available in 5 Beautiful,...

This semi-transparent wood stain protects your cedar from graying and color fading. We loved this feature because it means that your cedar deck will always stay intact no matter how long you use it.

In addition to being used on cedar, you can also use this stain on pine, redwood, fir, and other types of wood.

Another reason we picked this product is that it is a dual-purpose stain and sealant. This means that you can think of it as a stain and sealant all in one. The sealant part ensures that no water penetrates and ruins your wooden surface.

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Because it is semi-transparent, this stain allows the beauty of your wood to shine through it. We love how natural our deck looks after applying this stain.

You'll notice that all the 5 different colors that it comes in enhance the beauty of your wood after they dry to a flat finish. 

Finally, we chose this stain because it is environmentally friendly with a VOC content of less than 50 g/L. It is also really easy to clean. You need some clean water and soap, and you’re good. 


  • Easy to clean
  • Works on damp wood, which allows you to clean your cedar and immediately stain it
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Acts as both an effective cedar stain and a sealant


  • Unsuitable to use on new wood

3. Best Stain for Cedar Shingles - DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood...
  • EASY TO MAINTAIN – When it’s time to do a maintenance coat,...
  • 100 VOC COMPLIANT - Ships to all states including California

Here's another stain we loved for its environmentally-friendly nature.

This semi-transparent wood stain acts as a sort of sunscreen for your wood in addition to being VOC-compliant.

We recommend using this stain if you live in an area with strong sunlight. Of all the stains we tried, this one stood out as being the "sunscreen" of the group.

The Zinc Nano-Particle Technology reflects back damaging UV rays and ensures that they don’t damage your wood. 

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Another feature we loved is the stain's ability to allow the wood's beauty to shine through. Therefore, if you still want to have that natural and rustic feel of wood while still protecting your cedar from the harmful UV rays, we recommend this pick.

You'll also find that this stain is very easy to apply and maintain, which can save you hours. Feel free to choose between the 7 available colors. You can even choose more than one for variety.


  • Easy to apply and maintain
  • Comes in 7 various colors
  • Protects your cedar from harmful UV rays
  • Allows the natural beauty of the cedar wood to shine through
  • VOC compliant 


  • Requires you to strictly follow the instructions for the best results

4. Best for Cedar Fences - THOMPSONS WATERSEAL Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain

THOMPSONS WATERSEAL TH.042851-16 Semi-Transparent...
  • Color: Woodland Cedar
  • Semi-Transparent
  • Wood sealer and stain, all in 1
  • Prevents water damage, applies to freshly cleaned damp or dry...
  • Use on decks and fences, outdoor furniture, exterior wood

Our fourth pick is this semi-transparent waterproofing cedar stain is made from advanced polymers and is great at resisting water. 

In addition to protecting your wood from harmful UV rays, we like that this stain also protects against mold, mildew, and weathering. This feature is thanks to the advanced polymers that are integrated into the product.

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This affordable cedar stain is great if your deck is constantly exposed to strong winds, sunlight, and more. 


  • Affordable
  • Great for protecting your cedar from the elements
  • Has good waterproofing qualities 


  • Only comes in 1-gallon quantities 

5. Best Stain for Cedar Siding - Cabot Semi-Solid Low VOC Stain

Cabot 140.0003002.007 Wood Toned Deck & Siding Stain,...
  • A translucent oil finish that protects and beautifies wood's...
  • Water repellent; deep penetrating
  • Ideal for decks, siding, fences and trim
  • Available in 5 wood toned colors
  • Not intended for interior surfaces

Finally, we picked this stain because it comes with 10 different colors to choose from and the fact that it has a low VOC content.

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We also liked the fact that this stain is deep-penetrating and water-resistant. This can work superbly if you want to protect your wood surface specifically from water.

One thing we noticed that this stain stands out from the rest is that it has extra pigmentation. This pigmentation gives your wood a rich color enhancing the overall look.

Nonetheless, it won't cover the natural beauty of the wood because it is translucent in nature.


  • Water-resistant and deep penetrating
  • Has a low VOC content
  • Comes with 10 colors to choose from
  • Has a translucent nature that brings out the natural beauty of the wood


  • Only comes in 1-gallon quantities

Considerations When Choosing Stains for Cedar Decks

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Whether you're staining a cedar decking, cedar siding, or any other cedar surface, having these considerations in mind will help you choose the right pick.

1. Type of Cedar Stains

The type of stain you'll use on your cedar deck, cedar siding, or other cedar surfaces affects the process you'll follow during application. There are two main types of cedar wood stains. These include oil-based and water-based cedar stains.

Let's look at these two in a bit more detail.

a) Oil-Based Cedar Stains

When looking for the best stain for cedar decks, you'll find that many of these are oil-based. Oil-based cedar stains are the typical way of staining cedar surfaces.

Most oil-based cedar stains protect the wood surfaces from Ultra-Violet (UV) rays, water damage, mildew, and mold.

Some advantages of oil-based cedar stains are that they are very preservative, deep penetrating, and durable.

b) Acrylic/Water-Based Cedar Stains

Water-based cedar stains are similar to oil-based ones, although they are more environmentally friendly and less toxic.

Therefore, consider acrylic cedar stains if you are into saving the environment and applying more eco-friendly options.

2. Presence of Discoloration

Another thing to look at is if there's any discoloration on the wood fibers. Check for any graying issues before you start applying the stain.

Another thing to consider is if the cedar has been previously stained. If you find any discoloration issues, try fixing them before applying the wood stain.

Applying something to prevent future discoloration will also help.

3. VOC-Compliance

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. Some states ban the use of certain products because they are harmful.

VOC compliance measures how toxic certain products are. Therefore, if your cedar deck stain has these products, you may not be able to use them.

4. Protection Needed

What protection does your wood surface need before you apply the stain? This could be protection from UV rays, mildew, water, and more.

5. Transparency Level

Do you want to enjoy the great beauty of the wood, or do you want to see a different color? The answer to this will dictate what type of cedar stain you get.

For example, a solid-color stain covers the wood grain and changes the color of your cedar deck. On the other hand, semi-transparent stain leaves the natural beauty of the wood behind.

You can opt to use a durable solid color stain if you don't want to apply the best deck paint on your cedar.

Therefore, choose the right stain to allow you to enjoy your deck with your loved ones. You can even add some outdoor deck lighting for a better experience.

6. Type of Cedar

There are various types of cedars, and knowing what you're going to stain will allow you to choose the right pick. For example, cedar decks, cedar shingles, cedar fences, and more.

Now that we've considered what to look at when choosing the stain for you let's look at the supplies you need to get the job done well. After all, a man (or woman) is only as good as their tools.

Supplies to Use When Staining Cedar Surfaces

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Using the right supplies will allow you to have a proper finish to your cedar deck and enjoy it for years to come.

So, what are these supplies?

1. Stain Applicator

You can use a staining block brush, paint roller, or a high volume less pressure (HVLP) paint sprayer to apply your wood stain. The good thing about the HVLP paint sprayer is that it produces a finer finish that will make your cedar deck the envy of your neighbors.

2. Masking Supplies

These allow you to protect the surfaces that don't need the deck stain.

Some masking supplies you can use include drop cloths and masking tapes. Ensure you take measurements of the places you want to cover to protect them properly.

3. Cedar Deck Stain

This will be the pick you choose from the above list. After that, armed with the right stain and the knowledge of how to stain your cedar, there'll be no stopping you.

4. Sandpaper

Sanding the wood surface allows it to absorb the deck stain properly. It also helps remove any gross spots or rough edges on the cedar deck.

5. Cleaner

You can use a pressure washer or deck cleanse to clean the surface

n ore you apply the wood stain.

6. Safety Essentials

Last but not least, we have the supplies you need the most. These protection supplies ensure that you can continue with your life well after you're done protecting your cedar deck and other cedar surfaces.

Some of these safety essentials include the following:

a) Safety Glasses

These are arguably the most important safety supplies to have. A good pair of safety glasses will protect your eyes from any wood stain splashes.

Wearing safety glasses also ensures that you still have your eyesight when you're done with your deck stains.

b) Respirator

A cotton mask will ensure that you don't breathe in any harmful fumes from the wood stains. You may be tempted to use deck stains without a mask, but try to resist that urge to avoid respiratory complications.

c) Leather Gloves/Nitrile Gloves

Nitrile gloves work wonders to protect your hands against oils. Therefore, if you are working with oil-based stains, consider getting a pair of these.

These gloves are also puncture-resistant and great if you have a latex allergy. Because they are made of synthetic rubber, these gloves are durable and won't tear like their latex counterparts.


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Have you found the best stain for cedar decks you want to use? We selected the best stains in the market that can be used for more than just your deck. This means that if you have cedar shingles, fences, or sidings, you'll still be able to use the product.

The two types of stains to consider include water-based and oil-based stains. You should also consider if you want the natural appearance of the wood to remain or if you want to paint over it. This will allow you to choose the right stain for you.

If you want to cover up the natural color of the cedar, consider a solid-color stain. Alternatively, if you want to see the natural color of the wood, get a semi-transparent stain.

Whether you are building your own deck and want to protect it or plan on staining an existing deck, one of these products we'll do a great job.

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About the author

Brenda Nyawara

Brenda Nyawara is an editor at Archute. She is a graduate architect with a passion for edge-cutting ideas in design, fashion, art and modern world interests.
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