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Best Stain for New Cedar Deck

New Cedar Wood Decking stains

New Cedar Wood

What Stains Work Well a New Cedar Deck

There are many different types of cedar used for exterior surfaces with Red Cedar being the most common. Unlike some types of wood that need to dry out, new cedar should be cleaned and stained as quickly as possible to avoid water damage and sun fading (Always follow the stain brand’s directions though).

Many wood stains have difficulty penetrating new dense woods like cedar. If a stain does not penetrate the wood it will remain on the surface and become susceptible to peeling and flaking. The best wood stains for new cedar are deep penetrating paraffinic oil based stains that are thinner in viscosity. Stains for new cedar wood should dive deep into the wood to condition the wood cells and provide protection from UV fading and moisture damage.

We like a couple of different stains for new cedar wood. One is Armstrong Clark Wood Stain. It is composed of both drying and non-drying oils that break apart from one another throughout the application process. The non-drying oils dive into the new cedar to condition the wood’s cellular structure while the separated drying oils cure on the exposed surface to not only lock in the conditioning oils, but to protect the surface from natural weather exposure.

Another similar stain best for new cedar wood is Timber Oil Brand. This is a paraffin oil based wood and deck stain that penetrates deep into new cedar wood and decks. This cedar stain conditions the wood cells while providing water and UV protection. The Timber Oil brand promises ease of application of good penetration into new decking.

Prepping new cedar wood is important to stain life and performance. New cedar wood should be cleaned using a sodium percarbonate wood cleaner to remove mill glaze and other contaminants that may have infiltrated the wood during construction.

Once the new cedar wood has been cleaned the wood will appear darker. While the wood is still wet, apply a wood brightener to restore the cedar wood’s original color. Brightening wood after it has been cleaned will also open the wood pores to allow the conditioning oils to penetrate better.
Proper cleaning and brightening will ensure the best stain for new cedar wood will perform as expected and provide lasting beauty.

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335 responses to “Best Stain for New Cedar Deck”

  1. Mn_Dan says:

    I am building a western cedar deck in the spring. Would it be a good idea to buy the wood now and season it in my garage (in Minnesota, so install in 5 or 6 months)? Would I need to prepare the wood before staining it if I go this route? Do you have a stain that you think works best in very cold climates?

  2. Tricia says:

    Thanks for all the info. I have a cedar pergola designed and built about a month ago. The cedar is rough sawn. Does it still need to be cleaned and brightened? I live in Mississippi – hot and humid in the summer. Should I stain now to prevent fading? If so, what do you recommend?

    Also , I have a wooden deck underneath built from pressure treated lumber. I think it would need to be cleaned and brightened before staining. Right? How long should I wait to stain it? Thanks!

  3. John says:

    I am building a new home, wanting to side the house with cedar board and batten. What is the proper way to prep the cedar and can you recommend a stain that will best put up with the elements as we have southern exposure so there will be a lot of sun/heat.

  4. Ken says:

    I am about to build a pergola with eastern cedar I cut from my property just 5 days ago. How much dry time do I need before using? The wood is very beautiful & red now and I DO NOT want to change the color. What is the best way to seal and protect to preserve the color and prevent graying? (Product type plus manufacturer)

    • You cannot prevent graying without changing the color. The tint is the UV blocker. Clear sealers with no tint will not provide UV protection. You should wait a month to dry before applying.

  5. Rich says:

    First this is a great web site. Very helpful. However, even though I am more informed, I am also a little confused. I read the one article that says it is very important to let the deck board age and weather before they are cleaned and stained and I understand the reasons why. But now in this article it says; “new cedar should be cleaned and stained as quickly as possible to avoid water damage and sun fading.” So exactly what does that mean? I am about to start to resurface my deck. I have a cedar deck I installed 25 years ago. I am replacing all of the deck boards with new cedar. I live in the Southern part of NJ. I was thinking that I should Install the new decking now and then clean, brighten and stain in the early fall. Is this the correct treatment? Also, would your suggest the Armstrong or TWP product for my area? I like the idea of the separate drying oils in the Armstrong product.
    Thank you.

    • Rich, yes it is confusing and sorry for this. It really comes down to which stain you want to use and their suggestions for Cedar wood. They are not the same. For example TWP wants 4-12 months of weathering no matter the wood type. AC wants 2-3 months. Defy says you can stain cedar right away, but says to wait 3+ months for PTP. Timber Oil or Ready Seal can be applied right away as well. If you want to use the AC, wait a few months, lightly clean and then apply one coat this year. Lightly clean in 12-18 months and apply a light coat again to the horizontals. After that you should be good for every 2+ years.

  6. Mary says:

    I just had a cedar deck installed 2 weeks ago. I love the color it is now. If I use Timber Oil brand if I use a clear coat will it keep it from greying? Also how often will I have to treat the deck?

  7. Allison says:

    What is the best stain to use on a cedar deck that has aged for over a year (is now very grey). Ideally we would like a nice redish cedar colour and long lasting through Canadian weather.

  8. mike says:

    Will you be testing Sansin dec?

  9. Katie Schwab says:

    I have a cedar deck that is maybe 10 years old but very sturdy and I used some bear deck over on the floor of the deck (bad decision ) it bubbled and peeled, I plan on sanding it down and going over it with a light tinted stain / sealer in hopes of keeping the gray at bay and I have a question , how soon can I stain after sanding and what stain do you suggest

  10. Eileen says:

    We installed a new cedar deck last summer. We cleaned the mill and then stained it using Sikkens. I believe the directions on the Sikkens was 1 coat only. The finish is rather uneven with darker spots and shine in some areas. We just cleaned it with an Olympic Cleaner and it looks better but still uneven. What should I do before staining again and should I switch products? I do not want to use a solid stain; I want the cedar to look as natural as possible

    • You need to remove the Sikkens. Try the Restore a Deck Stain stripper and a good pressure washing to remove as much as possible. Sand the rest if it does not all strip off. Brighten the wood when done and rinse well. Stain with a penetrating stain that is semi-transparent. TWP or Armstrong Clark.

  11. Roger says:

    I'm thinking of installing cedar decking on the floor of a screened porch. The floor will get diffused sun and some rain. What is the best way to finish the decking so it maintains the look of new fresh cedar. I plan to buy planks from a supplier with indoor storage and can put the finish on the planks before installation.

  12. Maxime says:

    What prep should I do on western red cedar bought from the store before I stain it ? I want to stain before I build the deck and a pergola. Should I stain both sides ? Can I stain it right when I receive it and install it a few days later ? I'm planning to use an oil based translucent stain from arborcoat.

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      Well the Arbor coat will most likely peel. see the reviews here and on the internet. Prep with a deck cleaner and wood brightener to remove mill glaze. No need to stain all sides and we would not prestain. Install, prep, and stain according the stain manufacturers directions for new wood.

    • Maxime says:

      Thanks. I read your arborcoat review, although unfortunately after I bought the stain. However, it seems that in the review, what was used is the water based solution. Also, the picture seems like a solid stain. Surely there is a difference for peeling between a water based solid stain and an oil based translucent one ?

      • Maxime says:

        Also, does it make a difference for staining the under side if the deck is close to the ground ? It will be 14 inches to the ground. The vendor at the store said that with a low deck, it is best to stain the under side as well.

  13. Carol says:

    We had new stairs and railings (cedar) replaced to our deck in Sept./Oct. 2014. (Floor was existing) Living in MN we were told to wait until summer 2015 before applying a stain. We put two coats on the entire deck in June 2015. After this winter we now have a horrible looking deck with tons of flaking and peeling all over even on the floor. We used Pittsburgh stain which they now have reimbursed us 3 gallons due to our trouble but we don't know what to do fix the problem before staining. Everyone has different opinions. Do we: power wash the entire deck? Add a cleaner? Strip off the existing stain? Or, what? Advice please.

  14. Michael says:

    We built a new cedar deck last summer 2015 and were told to wait to stain it. Now we are at the point of selecting and not knowing what to do. How to prepare the floor. Do you sand it or not? What is the best stain to use? How often do you stain it? I live in Minnesota if this plays into the decision. Advice please.

    • Prep with a wood cleaner and wood brightener to restore the color and remove the oxidation. Use a penetrating stain that is semi-transparent. This will still show the grain, but enhance the color. Also less likely to peel. Penetrating stains are easier to maintain down the road every 2 years or so. Try the Armstrong Clark or TWP 100 Series.

  15. John sode says:

    Looking for the best performing translucent stain for new cedar deck 3000sq ft do not want to make any mistakes , you seem partial to TWP what any other brands. In northern il

  16. John sode says:

    Thanks for response other brands than twp,not that I have anything against this brand ,just looking for best performer as I mentioned 3000 sq ft deck,also th is deck is a wrap around porch so it has roof with 2'overhang.along with the two you recommend throw in cabots Australian timber your thoughts on the three and which do you think would be best suited cost is not a factor since this has been a very long project just want quality materials (sort of a perfectionist ) thanks

    • The Cabot ATO used to be a great stain until they changed the formula. Not the same and we do not use it anymore. Look at the AC as it does penetrate better. Semi-transparent or semi-solid color.

  17. Treaty says:

    Very much appreciate this helpful forum! I purchased a floor model Dundalk red cedar barrel sauna that has been on display outside in the elements of northern Ontario for about a year and a half. It will soon be moved a few kilometres to my cabin site in the woods. Any advice on how to treat the outside of the sauna to enhance/preserve the integrity of the wood? Thanks so much for any advice you can provide!

  18. Albabbie says:

    Tremendous website, you are a god send!

    Anyways, I recently bought a house with a 1000sq-ft deck which encompasses an above ground pool. I bought the house during the winter and didn't realize the previous owner had coated the deck with the crap Rustoleum Restore which flaked and peeled to holy hell. I am in the process of replacing all the decking boards with cedar.

    I am not partial to any particular product, I just want best results and hopefully something that I will not have to be continually stripping. Armstrong Clark and Timber Oil both look like good options. I live in upstate NY, with full sun during the summers and pretty tough winters (a deck's worst nightmare). I'm leaning towards Restore-A-Deck for my cleaning/brightening.

    Thoughts on best course of action?

    • We would let the new wood weather until the Fall, prep with the RAD kits, and apply one coat of the AC. Apply another coat after a light cleaning in 12-19 months or as needed. Every 2 years after that.

  19. Marie says:

    Should you stain a new cedar deck right away or just wait a year. Do you do anything to it the first year


  20. Kyle says:

    Thanks for the great knowledge of prepping/staining cedar. We are finishing up a new deck and are going to be using cedar 4x4s and 2×4 for our railing. Just so we do this right – we should use wood cleaner and then a semi-transparent stain to keep the color of the wood? Do we need to lightly use sandpaper to very gently rough up the surface before or after the wood cleaner?

    Thank You!

  21. Lori says:

    I have a client looking to stain a cedar pergola an ebony color. I'm not seeing a close color on either the Armstrong Clark or Timber oil brands. Any suggestions?

  22. Ann Marie says:

    I have cedar spindles I want to use on my deck. They have been sitting outside on a concrete slab under a tarp for 4 1/2 years. Do I have to anything to prep them for staining?

  23. Timothy Guy says:

    Looking to build a kiln dried cedar deck. Lumber yard that specializes in western red cedar says I can sand it and then stain, no need to wait. Also no need to brighten. Etc If I sand. If that is true, what grit should I use. They also recommend staining all sides before installation. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  24. Lauren says:

    We're going to stain a patio set that my husband built. He used cedar and he sanded every inch smooth. Can you recommend anything different from what you would do for a deck?

    Thanks in advance!

  25. Tina says:

    Used non beach deck clearner my cedar looks bleached. What do I do?

  26. Jessica Chen says:

    Hello! The Article n comments are very useful. For my situation I had installed a new cedar deck 3 years ago raw n unstained. Right now I'm planning to do some major work – staining! Please advise what's the best step to follow and the best product to use. Thanks :)

  27. pokescouts says:

    A question. We had a new cedar deck built that supposedly, from the deck installer, should be stained right away. Does this still need to be cleaned/brightened? While I can get that done quickly, the stains recommended aren't sold at Home Depot, Lowes, or any other place I can find around here. We live in MN and am looking for a good stain that can be picked up locally. We are looking for a darker red wood color. We found Armstrong Clark line (Red Sierra), but can't find anyway to get it but shipping it in. Would love to get it done sooner. Thanks in advance!!

  28. Amy says:

    Is the timber oil stain you recommend for new cedar the Woodrich brand?
    Which products do you recommend to clean and brighten before we use the Timber oil?

  29. Ryan says:

    Have a new cedar deck that was installed in Nebraska in mid June 2016. Looking to stain with TWP Dark Oak 103. Would love to have stained before the winter months. When would be the best time to stain. What needs to be done in advance of stain? Sand? Wash? Cleaner and Brightener?

    • TWP wants the new wood to weather for 4-12 months. Prep first with their Gemini Cleaner/Brightener Restore Kit and only apply one light coat this year. Next year you would need to light wash/rinse to remove any dirt and apply another light coat to the horizontals. After this, you will need to redo every 2 years, maybe 3 depending on your weather.

  30. Jay says:

    I want my cedar deck to maintain it's original cedar color. WIll a clear waterproofer do this and keep it from going grey and old looking ??

  31. Sandra says:

    We are just finishing installing an 800sqft western red cedar deck. The lumber yard recommended and sells TWP 1500 series and with the positive reviews here we will probably go with that. We will probably stain with Cedartone shade. We haven't even finished building the deck and the boards are already graying. I understand that TWP wants us to wait to stain. So, just to be clear, I am supposed to let the wood go gray? Will a cleaner and brightener easily return it to its natural color when I go to stain in a few months? You recommend the Restore a Deck for that? Then when I go to stain it's just a 3 step process…clean, brighten, stain with TWP? Last question- if we finish the deck in the next week or so (mid September 2016) when would you recommend we should stain? We live in Atlanta, GA with full afternoon sun on the deck. Our last deck staining experience was an absolute catastrophe. We want to make sure we get it right this time! Thank you so much…this website has been so helpful!!!

    • Yes you want it to go gray first. The prep will remove the gray later. RAD makes very good products for this. Might want to read their directions for the wait and the prep when using TWP. They suggest 4-12 months and only one coat after the prep.

  32. Sherry says:

    Hi, my husband just installed a new cedar deck, within a few weeks after some rain, there are some dark grey spots throughout. We would like to remove these spots and then stain the deck. I tried the bleach test to see if it was mildew/mold but nothing happened. I would like some recommendations for wood cleaners, wood brighteners and the best stain to use that doesn't flake or peel. Some people say we should stain the deck right away, some say we should let the wood weather anywhere from 3-12months. We live in NY and our deck gets direct sun for about 6 hours a day. Thanks so much for any help you can give, we are desperate.

  33. Phil says:

    I just had a new kiln dried cedar deck installed on 10 Sep 2016. I live in Colorado at 7,300 feet elevation and the deck gets a lot of sun because it is south facing (8-10 hours, 300 days a year). The deck will also get 3-7 feet of snow each winter. Should I stain the deck right away or wait three months to stain. Your site suggests an Armstrong Clark semi solid stain (for UV) and that the deck should be cleaned and brightened with the restore a deck kit. Is this the best way to go and again, should I stain it immediately or wait? We may have snow as early as October.

  34. Rob says:

    I am just about done framing a new deck for the home owner, and has taken me longer than planned. He is trying to keep cost down, buy doesnt want to have high maintenance so wants it to last. He yends to follow my suggestions… The first of which is to not use the knotted deck boards. The price on alaskan yellow cedar seems to be pretty good and it has a nice look. Can you please advise me on the proper stain, and prep procedure/time for both yellow and red to get it right the first time? Deck is in backyard under a large cedar in the puget sound region of washinhton. We are not far from the rainy season so weather may force us to stain in weeks or wait till next spring. I dont expect him to get kiln dried, so wonder about dry time for the lumber itself, and how that will play into it. Would like to keep the original board color. Thank you in advance for the site and help.

  35. Spencer Bishop says:

    Have. New cedar deck with Windows customers wanting to let it go gray I'm worried going gray will crack the cedar around the Windows ???????

  36. Joe says:

    Just installed a new cedar deck. The deck gets direct sun exposure all day, but I live in Canada, so I am expecting snow in 2 months ;(

    So I leave it untreated through fall and winter, and then sand and seal in Spring? Or should I seal it now? If so, what do you recommend that will not flake? Oil?

    Awesome Website, thanks!

  37. Peter A Hebert says:


    I'm a little confused. I'm installing a new cedar deck in October/New England. At the top of the article, it states, "new cedar should be cleaned and stained as quickly as possible to avoid water damage and sun fading." However, a lot of responses in the comment section say to wait until the spring? Please help, as I am about to install. Thanks

  38. Anthony T. says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post articles like this. I just installed a 16'x16' floating deck using cedar deck boards. I live in San Antonio, TX so very mild winters and long, hot summers. The deck will not get any relief from the sun. My question is, how long should I wait to stain my deck and what product do you recommend. Also, if I follow your advice above to clean and brighten the deck, how long after doing that do I wait to stain the deck? Appreciate the help.

  39. Greg K says:

    This is a great resource for people working with cedar decks. I have resurfaced our deck with new cedar and want to protect it. I want the weathered light grey look to match the house but wod like to apply a good penetrating oil type coating that would only need to be reapplied in the future without sanding or power washing. I'm in Toronto and it might snow in the next 8 weeks.

    What product do you recommend available in Canada and do I need to prep?

    • Deck Stain Help says:

      Not sure what you can buy there. If you want it gray naturally, you will need a clear sealer with no tint/UV protection. You could also use a semi-transparent that is gray tinted to have this look.

      • Greg k says:

        Thanks very much. This is very helpful.

        Does tinting (UV protection) extend the life of the coating?

        If I go the way of a clear coating, would you recommend Timber Oil, Armstrong Clark or Defy Extreme for my application? When would I recoat and would I need to remove the gray film before recoating?

        If I go with the tinted semi transparent, does it have the same characteristics of the clear coating? (i.e. Is it the same chemical composition and therefore have the same resistance to peeling for example?) Is semi transparent available in TO, AC and Defy? Could I just apply clear over the gray or would it need to be removed?

        The products you mention sound superior to what I can buy in the big box hardware stores in Canada. I think I would just order it from the U.S.

        • UV protection does help with the longevity.

          AC and Timber Oil do not come in a clear. Defy does. You always have to prep when reapplying. Typically just clean and recoat.

          You cannot apply a clear sealer over gray oxidized wood. All those stain brands are semi-transparent. Clears with no tint have the same chemical makeup if they are tinted colors. They just take out the colorant.

          • Greg K says:

            Great thanks. Last questions…

            So if I understand this correctly, if I then go with Defy, the lack of UV protection will allow the cedar to gray which I want. Then when I clean and recoat in the future with the same Defy product, does the underlying grey color stay the same or continue to gray?

            I guess my other option would be to use a product that already has a tint similar to oxidized grey cedar. If I go that route, what would you recommend as the best overall product for protection for a new cedar deck?

            Thank you in advance for your help.

          • When you prep down the road you will clean or remove some of the gray oxidation.

            If you use a tinted gray color, look at Armstrong Clark in Driftwood Gray.

  40. Dave says:

    Sorry took a bit to figure how to post pics from iPad
    Here’s what the old wood looked like before I started and it appx. 13-15 years old

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*This is first and foremost a help site from our experience as wood restoration contractors. All stain and prepping manufacturer directions were followed with our reviews and ratings. We offer no guarantee of similar results. Take inconsideration that wood and deck stain results may differ due to prepping procedures, different wood types, exposure to UV radiation, natural weathering, etc.