Tips for Re-finishing Your Western Red Cedar

For the best results, thoroughly inspect your Western Red Cedar siding, trim and/or decking first for any damage, mildew and dirt.  Make any necessary repairs, then clean the Cedar with warm water and phosphate free soap.  If necessary, a stiff bristle (non-metallic) brush can be used.  If there is mold or mildew (brown or black spots) it needs to be killed with a commercially available mildew killer/cleaner or warm water and oxygen bleach.  Should water staining be evident, scrubbing the wood with an oxalic acid solution can be effective for removal.

Western Red Cedar Siding Cleaning Tips

If there is old paint or solid color stain that is peeling and cracking, you will likely need to remove the old finish prior to removing any mold or mildew.  First, scrape away all loose, cracked or peeling finish.  In severe cases, all the of the old product must be removed and must be done so with extreme care as to not damage the wood underneath.  Should old paint or solid color stains not require full removal, you can feather the edges of the product to the bare wood that has mold or mildew on it by careful sanding.   Clean it thoroughly, then rinse with clean water and allow to dry completely.

A pressure washer may be used for cleaning your Western Red Cedar, however, great care should be taken. Use a low setting so that the grain is not raised or damaged is caused to the wood.

If your Wester Red Cedar lumber has greyed and you would like to restore it back to its original color, that can be done fairly easily using commercially available wood brighteners following the manufacturer’s directions after you have sanded the exposed surface of the Cedar.

After you are certain your Cedar is completely dry after it is cleaned, it is time to refinish.  When choosing a product for refinishing, it should be the same type as the original finish.  Old latex should be replaced with latex, and old oil based finishes should be replaced with new oil based finishes, with the exception of latex being able to be put on top of old oil based finishes.  Always follow the manufacturer’s directions no matter which product you choose and make sure that it is specifically formulated to help control extractive bleeding and is approved for use on Western Red Cedar.

how to prep to stain western red cedar

Caution:  Film forming finishes such as lacquer, shellac, urethane and varnish are NOT recommended for use on Western Red Cedar in exterior applications and should be removed with great care.

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3 comments on “Tips for Re-finishing Your Western Red Cedar

  1. […] For help and tips to re-finishing your Western Red Cedar, please visit our blog on that subject by clicking HERE […]

  2. Terry Schwefel says:

    I replaced the deck boards on my deck last year with new red cedar. Last fall I sealed it with Thompson sealer to find it not to penetrate in most areas. I was told that it was possibly too early to apply the sealer/stain??
    This year I used my pressure washer to try to remove the sealer/stain from the new red cedar before trying to seal /stain it again.
    After pressure washing, in order to remove the remaining sealer, appears that it removed some places and not others, and raised the grain.
    I can send picture if you send me your email.
    Need to know how I can get this deck ready for the sealer/stain.
    Hoping to be able to use transparent so grain shows through?
    Terry
    920-427-5796

    • Hi Terry. You may need to sand the areas that have raised grain. We recommend using a penetrating oil on Western Red Cedar to preserve color. Something with a little pigment in it helps protect it from UV exposure. Now that the deck has seasoned, it will likely absorb more than previously, especially if the decking was not a kiln dried product. Good luck!

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