This post was updated on November 1, 2022
Working with rough-sawn lumber is a little bit different from staining and preserving smooth wood, but in either case, it’s important to follow the proper steps to get a long-lasting finish. At DeckStainHelp.com, we’re experts at wood deck restoration, and we’re always glad to help homeowners with their exterior wood projects. Read our tips for staining rough-sawn wood and you should have no trouble with the task! But if you have any questions, feel free to leave us a comment and let us help you.
What Is Rough-Cut Lumber?
Rough-textured wood, also known as rough-sawn lumber, is wood that is used as originally cut: It has not been smoothed out or sanded like most lumber is. It’s becoming a more popular type of wood for homeowners and is commonly used for exterior wood fences, decking trim, and house trim. Typical wood types used are cedar and pine.
Can You Stain Rough-Sawn Wood?
Yes! Rough-sawn lumber is a bit more difficult to stain than smooth-textured wood, but it does not have to be an overwhelming task. Just make sure to choose a wood stain that is designed specifically for porous woods: Stay away from hardwood stains and film-forming-type stains.
How Do You Finish and Protect Rough-Sawn Wood?
A penetrating semi-transparent deck finish is the best choice for rough-sawn wood because it will soak into the wood better, penetrating and sealing its pores.
What’s the Best Way to Stain Rough-Cut Lumber? Application Tips
- When dealing with rough-sawn cedar or pine, it’s important to prepare the wood prior to staining. If the wood is new, you can skip this step. Otherwise, start by using 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 the cleaning, it’s time to stain. Check your local weather forecast and make sure that it’s not supposed to rain for the next 12 to 24 hours. It’s also best to apply wood stain when temperatures are between 60 and 80 degrees. It should not drop below 32 degrees within 8 hours of staining. And try not to stain in direct sunlight.
- To stain rough-cut lumber, 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. Mask off any areas you do not want stained, and 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 it.
- 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 any windows, siding, concrete, and other surfaces in the area.
- Our favorite method for staining rough-cut cedar or pine is to use both approaches. First, 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 nice, even coverage.
- Always follow the instructions on the label of the stain you are using.
- Wear proper personal protection.
- Depending on the brand of stain you use, use mineral spirits or soapy water to clean up all of your equipment and tools after staining.
Rough Sawn Wood Stain Colors
Have a Question on Staining Rough Sawn Wood? Ask Below!
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Stain Reviews & Comparisons
As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites.
All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.
We have the typical red cabin with green roof and trim. Even the Anderson window trim is green. I’m tired of this look.
can the red be stained a different color without sanding the entire cabin? It is rough sawed siding with knots.
We would need to see some pics to answer this properly.
I have a tall cathedral ceiling that is covered in rough cedar and over the years I just got sick of the orange look and I want to have it painted. Can this be spray painted by a professional?
Yes, but do not use a paint. Use a solid color deck stain. See here for the best options:
Hi! I want to install natural wood, put stain and two coats of oil-based in my house.
My question is! Can I do it for interior floors or not?
Hi, we only work with exterior stains and coatings. Interior is much different.
Hi I’ve built a barn out of old hand hune beams, I would like to stain my new rough sawn pine boards with a grey stain that has the look of weathered grey , having a hard time finding a product that has the right tone , question I I stain with a light grey ,either oil or preferably water based will the pine weather or darken with time? I t+ g all the boards so would like to stain them before installing
No, they should not darken over time. Try the TWP semi-solid for more color options:
How do you suggest removing water stains on interior cedar tongue and groove ceiling boards? my roof leaked and now I have water marks. I would prefer to keep the would its natural cedar color vs staining it to cover up the water marks. Any suggestions? I realize you have been discussing decks, but thought I would ask.
You can try a wood brightener but in many cases, the water stains are throughout the entire board. This means it cannot be removed fully.
Help! We stained are rough cut pine beams with SW oil based semi transparent in 2017 with the color Yankee Barn. We like the red color then but want a more dark walnut or espresso look to it and get rid of the red color. We have over 3,000 sq of decking around the whole house and really dont want to have to sand but don’t like the look of solid stain either. Can we use a darker oil based stain in maybe a semi solid? SW only had water based semi solid, would that matter? Please help!
Whenever you switch brands or bases of semi-transparent stains, you need to remove the old coating first. You will need to strip and brighten for prep. Try the Restore a Deck Stripper/Brightener kit with both additives: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-stain-stripper-booster-thickening-gel-review/
Once prepped, use any top stain brand that you like: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
Wanting to stain bandsawn pine beams Have tested a few water based stains but it’s coming out way to dark and looks like paint. Wanting a light color of grayish brown. Any ideas?
You want a semi-transparent stain: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
Try Armstrong Clark or TWP stains.
Is it acceptable to sand rough sawn barn board just a little to get rid of the loose fibers which give a rougher look than I would like and make it difficult to brush on stain. I will be installing Board and Batten to my whole house.
Hand sanding lightly to remove splinters and loose fibers is okay.
I am having a shed built and am looking for the proper stain product for the door. The door is made from T1-11 and is rough plywood. I need a deep, rich chocolate brown color. I live in Colorado at 7300 feet so need it to protect from sun, wind and snow. I have looked at all kinds of products and just can’t make a decision because there seems to be no consensus. TWP got good reviews I think, but you can’t buy it in a store and I don’t want to take a chance buying it online. Cabot, Penofin, Messmers, Ready Seal are all products I’ve come across. I can’t get the workers in the stores to be of real help either. They don’t seem to really know. I bought Old Masters from a paint store because the guy said it was great for my needs. Got home and read the label….it’s a interior stain. Ugh!! I appreciate any help!
The best options would be the TWP 1500 series in Dark Oak or Armstrong Clark in Espresso. We would not use any of the other brands you suggested.
Says best to stain rough lumber (cypress & pine) 60-80°. It won’t be that for couple months. What temp can I do it and still get good results?
That would vary based on the brand of stain you are using and what they suggest for temp range. They are not all the same.
Hi Scott- what a great resource!
I am planning to rebuild a mantle area in home in Colorado and lust looking at my DIY options. I found some pretty affordable true 2″ by 12″ rough sawn cedar beams but they are sort of dirty and I am not sure if I can get them into good shape… from reading other responses here, I’m thinking I could pressure wash them and then use the restore A deck products to clean and brighten them up?
Yes, that would work fine. Post some pics when installed.
I have rough sawn pine mantle and fireplace sides. We put Minwax semi-transparent oil based stain on. It’s been 4 days and there are still spots that look damp/tacky. We had fans on it trying to get it to dry, but still the same issue. Is there any way to speed up the process?
Sorry but no idea. We only work with exterior stains. Minwax is interior use only.
building a rough-cut hardwood log beam cabin, (ash & oak) looking for a stain and preservative product.
Try TWP Stains or Restore A Deck Stains.
spoke with TWP tech support, they said to age the cabin 4 months before applying, seems like a long time with no protection. How does woodrich timber oil compare to TWP
3-4 months is normal for all new wood to weather and then be prepped if the wood is smooth. Rough sawn cut can be stained right away if clean and dry.
TWP and new wood: https://twpstainhelp.com/prepping-new-wood-for-twp-stains/
I just had a 4 season room installed on the. Ack of my house. They wrapped the beam with rough sawn cedar. Do I need to seal it or can I just leave it? Being it won’t be in weather will it turn gray or black over time?
Can you upload a picture of it?
We bought a house with cedar siding on parts of the exterior… we don’t know what kind of stain, seal or conditioner has been applied. We just finished using a cleaner and pressure washing it, which removed a lot of dirt. It looks dry and old still, what can we do to freshen it up and give it a healthier look?
Post some pics.
My house has rough sawn cedar siding and the stain has gone in the sunny spots, can you help me find the right process and product to restore it where it is sun damaged?
Strip and brighten all with Restore A Deck Products. Stain with TWP Stains or Restore A Deck Stains.
Help! Part of our home is rough sawn cedar which was painted with a semi transparent acrylic stain by previous owner (our best guess – we do not have the can). A contractor power washed it to remove the stain with limited success. About 50% of the stain is gone; some of the remaining stain is peeling in thin ribbons. My husband says if you sand the rough sawn cedar it will destroy its character. However, he would like to coat this with a semi transparent Oil base stain for easier maintenance going forward. Everything we’ve read said you have to completely remove the old stain first. How can we successfully remove the old stain before coating the rough sawn cedar with a semi transparent oil base stain?
Here’s a photo
Try the RAD Striper with both additives: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-stain-stripper-booster-thickening-gel-review/
Apply stripper and wet for an hour making sure it does not dry out by misting if needed. Pressure wash off. Repeat if needed. Brighten all when done.
Great advice! The RAD stripper works well. However, after stripping the railings around the deck, we realize this is a labor-intensive, expensive job. But we have roughly 500 ft.² of the cedar siding to go. Can I lightly sand the loose stain and apply a solid, water-based stain over this to avoid stripping it all?
Hello! I’ve built a western red cedar deck, I live in the northwest were it is very rainy but decks also suffer from a lot of UV. I’m really struggling to decide on the best coating to keep my cedar looking like natural cedar but still protecting it 🙁 I would love for it to look just like wet cedar. I’m happy to pressure wash and reapply something every year if that’s what will give me the desired result. Any recommendations?
See this about new wood: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/how-long-should-you-wait-to-stain-a-new-deck/
As for color, let us know which stain brand you are leaning towards and we can offer help with a color similar to a wet look.
We are building a rough cedar pergola above the garage. I’d like a sunbleached or white. What stain would you recommend?
You would need a solid stain like this: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/what-are-the-best-solid-color-deck-stains/
or a semi-solid stain like this: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/twp-semi-solid-pro-series-wood-and-deck-stain-review/
Hello – My son used a water-based stain on a rough sawn lightly planed old oak wood mantle. The water-based stain raised the grain quite a bit more than desired or expected. We don’t want a glossy finish but also feel like the grain is raised too much and will trap dust and a cleaning cloth will snag, stick, or leave lint on the surface. I was thinking of burnishing the wood with hard maple or using a scraper plane on a very fine setting and then reapplying the stain. Or perhaps to use more stain as a lubricant while I apply stain using denim with medium-hard pressure and/or rubbing with hardwood to flatten some of the elevated wood fibers. I fear if I burnish the surface stain will not penetrate evenly or well and if I plane it the newly cut wood will not color as well as the recesses. I do want to preserve most of the saw marks but don’t like the rough feel of the elevated grain after using the water-based stain. Once I get the highest rough elevated grain down and re-stained for even color, I thought I would just use 100% natural tung oil thinned with orange oil. It will be exposed to some heat from the gas fireplace so leaving it natural and unfinished concerns me. Advice?
Sorry, but we have no idea about this. We work with exterior wood stains and they cannot be top coated or burnished.
Hey, our home is sided with rough sawn cedar. We got hail last year and it left divets in the Siding. My insurance company wants to sand the rough sawn siding down and re-stain. I am saying that changes the appearance and effect of the siding as it won’t absorb stain the same as the undamaged sides and make the appearance different. Do you have an opinion on that? They obviously don’t believe me as the homeowner.
You are right and you cannot spot redo, you would have to redo all sides so it stains evenly.
Thanks, would you also agree that your rough sawn siding would now be smooth cedar Siding? The appearance would be different than rough sawn?
Yes, it really should be replaced to have the same look.
We purchased rough sawn pine boards from our local saw mill to make faux beams for the interior of our home. The pine is a Florida pine. We have played around with stains, even mixing them, but the boards absorb and they become way too dark or going light they look Orange. Is there a way we can get a medium brown tone?
Try a stain that is medium to dark brown.
Will do. Thank you
Our contractor installed rough sawn north white pine barn panels on our opened covered deck. We are on the water so it will be exposed to salt water spray. What should I use to seal and protect the natural color? Thanks!
Try TWP Stains or Restore a Deck Stains.
I bought rough Cyprus 8in post with deep black saw marks for my front porch. Tried sanding but no end. Is there anything I can do to hide or may these post look nice.. thought I was getting a deal.. please help.
There is no way to get the black “burn” saw blade marks out besides sanding.
If I’m using rough sawn wood on my dock should I put a wood preservative before I stain
I’m curious to what color stain was used in the attached picture from your website?
We have had such a hard time finding a stain color we like. Everything we think we like ends up being too dark.
We will be staining our 10×10 rough sawn post along with our knotty alder doors and shutters.
All and any help would be greatly appreciated.
Looks like a basic cedartone color on rough sawn cedar. Colors will vary from wood species so it may not look the same on your wood.
I have a Pergola that has been stained with a Semi transparent stain and this past year it did Need it again so we lightly sanded it and restained it as shade darker . Over this past winter it seems to have darkened so much . I really want to lighten this up a little.i wish I had used a transparent oil stain . What do you recommend ?
I am also building a deck with rough cypress post . What type stain do you recommend ? My issue with this pergola has scared me from the semi transparent because it started lookin solid . Can u give me some advice?
You will need to remove it fully to lighten it up and start over with bare wood. Post some pictures for help with removing.
You need a proper semi-transparent penetrating stain that does not mask the wood like the cheap versions from Home Depot or Lowes. Look at TWP Stains or Armstrong Clark.
We have a rough sawn red cedar that’s original to the house. It’s downstairs in our bi level house that was built about 45 years ago. It makes the room dark and we’re trying to figure out how to lighten the room. Is it possible to stain it a lighter color?
No, you would have to paint it if you wanted it lighter in color.
We just installed cypress post on the front of our house. Before we could stain them they started mildewing. Do I need to do something before I stain?
You should weather, prep, and then stain:
How about using same product (TWP dark oak) on an entry door? FIR species.
Would it need to be too coated with a polyurethane or some other product?
TWP should not be used for entry doors and you cannot top coat it with a poly or any other sealer.
What brand again is shown as dark oak ? 3rd from top
Hello, we have a very slow siding replacement project that uses rough cut cedar boards for window and door trim, as well as for porch posts and trim. The 20 year old cedar siding that we just tore off was stained black and badly sun damaged from the Oklahoma heat. Our new cedar wood trim is now a variety of ages (1-8 months), colors, and textures because the work has been so slow.
I can’t figure out what stain to apply. The painter plans to pressure wash the older, grayed boards then stain but stain newer boards with no prep. Painter likes oil based stains but is willing to apply water based. My main consideration is longevity, because I can’t reach the second floor windows myself and I don’t want to hire someone to maintain the trim more often than necessary. We would like to maintain a rustic, lighter/natural toned cedar look if possible. Thanks for any help!
Try TWP 1500 Series or Armstrong Clark Stains.
We bought a home that has rough cedar front porch (beams and handrails). The original stain is reddish brown and worn, can we re-stain over the existing with a
solid white stain?
Give it a good pressure wash first to remove and loose or peeling stain then you can cover it.
Hi. I have rough cut cedar that I’m going to use for a mantle. I want it to look aged like dark barnwood. Any advice on stain or pre stain. Thanks
No, you cannot age the look of wood with exterior wood stains.
I am replacing several rotten cedar vertical boards on my deck railing with new cedar wood that is rough sawn on one side but is smoother on the other side. Is this board considered rough sawn that can be stained right away or do I need to wait before staining. I plan on staining with TWP Semi-Solid Pro-Series Stain.
Depends on what side you are staining?
I am staining both sides of the deck railing.
If one side is smooth then you have to wait 3+ months and prep.
What product do you recommend for staining roughsawn cedar (exterior)? I want to seal the inside of my flower box.
Try Restore A Deck Stain: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/restore-a-deck-wood-stain-review/
I have dark rough exterior beams that are in need of restaining. Do I have to sand the old stain off to redcoat them to make the color uniform?
Strip and brighten for prep is the correct way. Use the Restore A Deck Kits.
Help, please! I need to stain our rough-cut pine studio/shed, but need to clean it first. It’s brand new (well, it was back in December last year), not been treated in any way yet, I kept waiting for better weather, plus we’ve been working on finishing it inside first, but I don’t want to leave it for winter. The bottom on two sides is majorly discolored from all the mud that the thunderstorms splashed onto it, so I need to clean that up before staining. I read that water-based stains are better than oil for a number of reasons. I’ll gladly take any advice on how to tackle this project.
Clean and brighten all wood with Restore A Deck Prep products. Stain with the Restore A Deck Semi-transparent stain. It will look great!
Help! We have beautiful timber work on the exterior of our new home. We wanted to keep the beams natural — rough sawn cedar — and just do a clear coat as a sealer. However, the painter used a product with parafin in it and the beams are now a red color and much darker. It’s terrible and doesn’t go with our house at all! How can we get back to the natural cedar color? I need a solution, please!
Post pictures and what brand of stain did they use? BTW, a clear will give zero UV protection from graying. It must be tinted for UV protection or wood will gray in months.
I have PA Amish scheduled to install rough cut Hemlock for interior wall (currently walls are OSB ) inside a heated pole barn. Hemlock will be “green” – would it be possible to stain Hemlock boards prior to installation? Thanks!
If rough sawn, then yes.
We have fresh rough cedar cut from the mill. This wood is for fencing and on our deck. We told the paint store and they sold us exterior paint varnish which takes forever to dry. I feel like we were sold the wrong product. We have a ton of lumber to stain. Would we be better off to use oil stain or this varnish for the protection?
Never use a varnish on exterior wood, it peels and blisters. Use a penetrating stain: https://www.deckstainhelp.com/the-5-best-deck-stain-reviews-and-ratings/
Hi I just done my house in bat and board pine the wood is dry I cut the trees and boards 1 1/2 years ago what would you recommend me to use to stain and what’s the best stain
Try the Restore A Deck Semi-transparent stain or the Armstrong Clark Stains.
Hey, I have a question! We have rough beams in a vaulted ceiling of the great room in our house. They are painted white. We’d love to stain them a dark walnut color to match the fireplace. Everyone tells me this “will be a lot of work” because the white painted beams need to be sanded down first. Is there an easier way? Is there a faux stain – paint that we could put on top of the white painted beams?
No other way besides power sanding and that will be hard and messy.
Ok any product you like most for painting over white beams to give it a more natural walnut type finish? I keep seeing gel stains…
Sorry but no idea.
We have a cabin in northern Michigan that was sided with rough-sawn live edge spruce about 15 years ago. While it has slowly turned several shades of gray, I’d like to stain it a semi-transparent or semi-solid tan color. Would this even be possible considering 15 years of weathering, and if so, would we have to powerwash it first? What other intermediate steps would we need to do? What brand of stain would work best?
Yes, it is possible. Use the Restore A Deck Cleaner/Brightener kit while pressure washing and then the TWP Semi-Solid stain. It will look great! Post some pictures when done!
I have installed 3/4 inch by 7 1/4 inch wide rough sawn pine. It was freshly milled from an Amish mill. It will be in direct sun for half the day. How long do I wait for it to dry before using oil based stain.
You can stain rough sawn wood right away as long as it is clean.
Hello – I just had a new rough sawn cedar fence, arbor, and deck railings put up a couple months ago. They are all completely untreated with anything so far. I want to maintain the original color of the cedar and protect the wood from UV, mold, and other problems. Am I correct in assuming that oil based products will protect better? Since I want the color to be as close to it is now (new, natural) or maybe slightly darker, what product would you recommend using on these areas? Thanks!
Oil or water-based is fine as long as it is a high-quality stain. Not possible to maintain current color, has to be a stain for UV protection. Try Restore A Deck Stain in Natural or TWP in Honeytone. Both are light tinted.
Thanks, appreciate the info!
I recently had a fence built with rough sawn redwood. I want to maintain the natural look. I live in southern California where it’s warm and dry most of the year. I have read that untreated redwood will eventually change color. What product do you recommend to keep the natural color but will also work with rough sawn redwood?
You must have a tinted stain for UV protection from graying. Try Armstrong Clark or Restore A Deck Stains.
I’ll look into it. Thank you!
After staining our pergola in white stain a few days later we see brown little circles coming through the white stain. What causes this? And what do I do?
That is tannin bleed. Cannot be prevented but you can add another coat after it dries out.
Hello, we have these beams going up on our house first time working with Rough Timbers and would like to clean them up and stain them. They are located on our future new porch. i have attached a picture of the timbers and the possible end result
Try TWP Stains or Restore A Deck Stains. Both are excellent and will highlight the natural wood grain.
Is Cabot solid color stain good for rough sawn for siding?
No, Cabot stopped making quality stains when they sold the company and the new company changed all the formulas for the worse.