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How to Stain Rough Sawn Wood

Easy Application Tips for Staining Rough Sawn Wood

Rough Sawn Deck Trim

Rough Sawn Deck Trim

Rough textured wood also known as “rough sawn” is wood that is used as originally cut. It has not been smoothed out or sanded in most cases. Wood like this is a bit more difficult to stain than smooth textured wood but it does not have to be an overwhelming task. Rough sawn wood is commonly used for exterior wood fences, decking trim, and house trim. Typical wood types are cedar and pine.

Using the right stain and tools can make the job much easier when it comes to rough sawn.

When dealing with rough sawn wood it is important to prepare the wood prior to staining. Use a wood cleaner to break loose any dirt, grime, and gray fibers. Then wash the wood surface with a stiff brush or pressure washer. Be careful not to use excessive pressure that could damage the wood surface. After using a wood cleaner, a wood brightener should be applied to neutralize the pH level and brighten the wood back to its original appearance.

Note: If the wood is new, no prepping is needed and staining can be done right away.

Once the wood dries following cleaning it is time to stain. Check your local weather and make sure there is no rain forecasted for the next 12-24 hours. It is also best to apply wood stain in temperatures between 60-80 degrees. It should not drop below 32 degrees within 8 hours of staining.

Choose a wood stain that is specifically designed for rough sawn porous woods. You want to use a good penetrating stain that states it is best for rough textured surfaces. Stay away from hardwood stains and film forming type of stains.

For rough sawn wood you can use a brush and/or roller. A brush is good at getting into corners and cutting in along edges. If you use a roller a ¾” nap is best for pushing stain into the rough surface. Try not to stain in direct sunlight. Mask off any areas you do not want stained. Stain one board or section at a time to eliminate lap marks. If the wood seems really thirsty, you can apply two “wet on wet” coats if the stain you are using allows.

You can also apply stain to rough sawn wood using a pump or airless sprayer. Spraying the stain can allow it to get into the rough texture of the surface with less effort than brushing or rolling. Just be sure to mask of any windows, siding, concrete and other surfaces in the area.

Note: Our favorite method for staining rough sawn is to lightly spray on the first coat with a pump sprayer. This will absorb deeply, giving a nice base coat. We then follow up with a stain pad or brush to apply a second coat right away. This will ensure a nice even coverage.

Always follow the instructions on the label of stain you are using. Wear the proper personal protection. Depending on the stain you, use mineral spirits or soapy water to clean up all your equipment and tools after staining. Keeping rough sawn wood maintained can be easier by following these simple guidelines.

Have a Question on Staining Rough Sawn Wood? Ask Below!

67 responses to “How to Stain Rough Sawn Wood”

  1. Steve C. says:

    We have a new cedar covered deck with a tongue and groove cedar vaulted ceiling, cedar lap siding on the house and cedar shake shingles on the exposed outside gable. What is the best stain and method of applying, especially for the vaulted ceiling? Is this something that would be better off hired out to a professional?


  2. Kris P says:

    Just bought new cedar fence panels. Any brand recommendations for a semi-transparent stain?

  3. Kris P says:

    We live in northern Indiana, lots of winter snow/ summer humidity. Fence is in partial shade.

  4. Seattle says:

    Cedar rough sawn wood fence 'shadow box' style that is about 60ft long. Need a little help…want a stain that is easy to apply (pump spray and ideally only one coat). Available options (no time for a delivery) are TWP, Penofin, Flood, Olympic. Thanks!

  5. David Perdue says:

    Just installed new cedar rough sawn fence in Alice Texas (south tx). Can stain be applied right away? Is cleaning wood required before staining? Will one coat stain work or will need to apply second coat? Is TWP best for this app? Thanks. David

  6. jason moore says:

    I have 1200 square foot of virgin rough sawn hickory that I am using for walls in my mancave I'm building. I have picked out a Minwax stain that looks great on this wood….until it dries. Then it looks dirty and you can't see the wood grain anymore. How do I keep it looking like it does when it's wet? It also looks great sanded down, but not the rustic look I'm going for.

    • Sorry but no idea for this as minwax is an interior stain and does not dry to a wet look. If you want an exterior product then look at something like TWP 1500 or Armstrong Clark.

  7. John Morabito says:

    I have an outdoor grill table made out of rough sawn cedar. It's all vertical surfaces and will be covered when the grill is not in use. What's the best available stain & sealer?

  8. Steve Gross says:

    I am installing a new paver sidewalk and am considering using rough sawn cedar 4 x 6 timbers for a frame. Do the timbers have to be sealed? If I want to keep the original tones and not have it gray what type of stain or sealer should be used. I live in Iowa so it can be rainy in the spring, hot and dry in the summer and really cold in the winter.

  9. peter davis says:

    I have rough sawn cedar siding needing a re stain (20 years old)
    my contractor wants to sand it instead of power washing prior to staining
    is this a recommended procedure?

    • We have never sanded rough sawn and that may not work that well. Seems it will be hard and a lot of work. He could be correct though if an experienced contractor. Do not have the proper experience to say yes or no on this question.

    • JPT5000 says:

      Sanding on cedar, if done correctly can work very well. Power washing typically etches the soft portions of the wood and leaves grooves in the wood. Sanding goes very quickly if it is very dry…. Not sure that it is suitable in every application, but I've had really good results with sanding using a fairly coarse paper.

  10. Phyllis says:

    After much stripping and final bleaching on rough sawn cedar planks on exterior house walls, I am looking for a water based stain/coat that lets the cedar show through as natural as possible yet protect the boards. They are about 50 years old and we like their natural look. We live in Alaska and have been told that water based stain works best. Any recommendations and or opinions on a product and water versus oil based?

  11. Lynn says:

    I need to stain the deck railing which has not been done in 10 years. They are rough sawn fir and the tops of the railings have no stain left while the posts are fairly stained still. Can I sand/brush these? Do I have to get all the stain off the posts to be able to match the tops of the rails which have no stain on them? Also, what kind of stain should I use, all acrylic because of the harsh weather (7,000 feet, direct sun, 300 inch snow/year)

  12. Capt T says:

    I don't want to stain my new cedar trim I just want to protect the wood from sun and rain damage. Would Tung Oil be a good choice of applications or perhaps Teak Oil. . Is there something better to use?

  13. Tami says:

    I need to restrain my rough pine exterior log trim. What type of sanding should I do prior to restraining. And what type of stain is best for lots of sun exposure as well as cold weather.

  14. Meg says:

    To match our cedar sided house I asked my contractor to use cedar for our front deck. He made it entirely out of rough sawn cedar. As good or bad a decision as that may have been, what would be the best stain for a deck of this sort in an extreme weather climate? I do like the color of the cedar as is (it is quite close to the the color of my stained cedar house) and don't want it to turn gray.

  15. Joyce Hollars says:

    Is Armstrong Clark transparent stain a good choice for staining a new rough sawn cedar fence? Does it go on well with a brush or should I use a stain pad? Thanks

  16. Mark says:

    We just had an oak, rough cut, pergola built. It's about 15' x 30'. It's built over our back patio and connected to our brick house. We have waited about 4 months now to get the grey, weathered look. We also used the same rough cut oak for our dock. What do you recommend, if any, for treatment? I believe it is white oak.

  17. Darrin says:

    Would you recommend using a gel stai vs. a typical stain when refinishing a rough wood garage door?

  18. andrea says:

    Have a rough sawn pine pergola that I was going to paint and changed my mind. Whats the best stain instead? Do I need to do anything else to protect it? I live in Southern California so weve got heat but no other extreme weather.

  19. Bill says:

    We want to stain 8×8 treated .8 level treated dock posts…what is best product for being in the water and what is best process?We have 40+ 30 foot posts

  20. Lydia says:

    Renovating our sunroom into a four season. Getting fresh rough cut lumber next week for the ceiling and walls. Would like to stain for a muted grey/brown look to achieve a more weathered old barn board look. Could you recommend a stain? Thank you!

  21. Amber says:

    My business is moving into a new(to us) location that has a rough sawn cedar facade, think dark stained, western town look. Our business is far from anything western and we would like to get away from that look as much as possible without actually replacing the facade. Is it possible to stain dark cedar a gray color? In my mind I'm imagining a gray building with white trim. Would it be easier to paint to achieve that look? Also, a previous tenant attempted to stain a portion of the building and the top is a few shades lighter than the bottom, what would you recommend doing to achieve balanced, even color? Thanks! Your article is very informative and helpful!

    • You cannot stain over it with a semi-trans unless you paint it with a solid color. It may be possible to strip, brighten and stain with a semi-transparent gray stain but that depends on what is currently on the wood right now as far as stain type and brand. Feel free to post a picture of the wood in our forum so we can help with the proper direction.

  22. Kafka says:

    Our front porch beams are rough wood. The parts that are in direct sunlight are now almost white while the rest of the beams are still a lighter shade of brown. How would I stain The entire beam to have a uniform stain?

  23. Beth says:

    We would like to revitalize our rough sawn basement walls, any suggestions?
    oil based sealer?

  24. Gaileen says:

    I mistakenly oil stained some rough cedar, but my husband was planning on sanding it first. It now gums up the sandpaper extremely quickly. Oops. Any solution to sanding stained wood? The other pieces were sanded first and this should match the rest of the stair treads.

  25. Mary Jane says:

    We recently converted a screened porch into a four season room. The exterior is rough sawn which adjoins our kitchen.
    The kitchen, built 15 years ago, is also rough sawn. We've treated it with Flood's CWF (Clear) so it is now an amber color.

    What is your advice for how to best match the new and older rough sawn structures?

  26. Ralph Winestock says:

    Had a small area bleed through latex-based primer coating from recent paint job adjacent to pre-existing sikkens coated rough-cut wood. It was coated in natural oak cetol. How do I repair it? Tried a wire wheel to remove primer. Went to re-apply sikkens natural oak and it didn't change the color of the rough-cut. What will I need to do? How aggressive will I need to prepare the wood to take the sikkens?

  27. Melissa says:

    How long to you wait to stain new rough cut lumber?

  28. diane says:

    I want to aply a clearcoat to make it easier to clean..its interior rough sawn wood…can I just clean it, and then apply the clearcoat?..I don't want to stain it, the color is good as it is..but I want it easy to clean….

  29. Maggie says:

    I have a cedar beam covered patio outside and the beams have been either clear stained or oiled but I dont know which. How would I find out what they are covered with?

  30. Veronica says:

    I have just installed 8"x8" rough cedar posts and 6"x6" smooth cedar upper deck posts with cedar rails. I want to keep the cedar looking as natural as possible. What type of product do you recommend. We get all day sun…

    Thanks – Veronica

  31. Julie says:

    We have new rough sawn pine timber frame surrounding the windows on a house we are building. We just had the house stuccoed and they did a sloppy job, dripped stucco on my frames and sills. It looks like they then poured water on some of them. Now I have stain rings from the stucco and water. We will be staining them, but wanted to decide on the house color first. We were assured they would cover them beforehand. Any advice on how to clean them is appreciated. Thanks. Julie

    • Sorry, but no idea on how to clean stucco stains. Never seen that before.

    • Al Nunke says:

      Never assume a contractor will cover and protect surrounding surfaces UNLESS it is written into their contract.

      Fixing it might involve a little hair of the dog. Subject the areas arround the stain to similar involvement and blend into natural looking wood variations.

  32. Bob says:

    I have a rough sawn ceiling which had experienced some water stains from leaks through the roof. I would like to clean up the ceiling, remove the water stains and then apply new stain to my ceiling. Do you have any suggestions?

    • You cannot remove deep water stains from wood. I am assuming they are deep as they went through the wood. If a surface water stain, then a wood brightener will help. Stain with Armstrong Clark or Defy Extreme when done.

  33. Deanna says:

    Can I pickle or whitewash rough sawn cedar

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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.