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How to Properly Finish and Care for Your Cedar Wood Projects

Timber Knowledge
18 July 2023 min read

How to Properly Finish and Care for Your Cedar Wood Projects

Cedar wood is a favourite among woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts with its rich colour, pleasant aroma, and excellent durability. 

However, to truly unlock its potential and ensure its longevity, it's crucial to understand how to finish and care for your cedar wood projects properly. 

This article will provide the knowledge and skills to keep your cedar wood looking its best for years.


Understanding Cedar Wood

Before diving into the specifics of finishing and caring for cedar, it's essential to understand what sets this type of wood apart. Cedar wood has good natural resistance to decay and insects, making it an ideal choice for outdoor furniture, decking, and fencing. 

However, despite its durability, cedar wood requires proper finishing and regular maintenance to prevent it from drying out, cracking, or fading.


Choosing the Right Finish for Cedar

When it comes to finishing cedar wood, the choice of finish can significantly impact your project's final look and durability. Here are some popular options:


Oil-Based Finishes

Oil-based finishes, such as linseed or tung oil, penetrate deep into the wood, enhancing its natural colour and grain pattern. What’s more, they provide a layer of protection against moisture and UV rays. However, they require regular reapplication to maintain their protective properties.



Varnishes create a hard, clear finish that protects the wood from scratches and moisture. But they are ideal for indoor projects or outdoor furniture not exposed to harsh weather conditions.



If you prefer a more colourful finish, paints can provide a thick, opaque coating that protects the wood from UV rays and moisture. However, they can obscure the natural beauty of the cedar wood.


The Process of Finishing Cedar Wood

Now that you've chosen your finish, it's time to apply it. Here's a step-by-step guide:


Step 1: Preparation

Start by sanding the wood to create a smooth surface. Use fine-grit sandpaper and work in the direction of the grain to avoid scratches.


Step 2: Application

Apply your chosen finish according to the manufacturer's instructions. This usually involves applying it with a brush or cloth, allowing it to penetrate the wood, and then wiping off the excess.


Step 3: Drying and Reapplication

Then, allow the finish to dry completely before assessing whether another coat is needed. Multiple coats may be necessary for optimal protection.


Caring for Your Cedar Wood Projects

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity of your cedar wood. Here are some tips:


Regular Cleaning

Frequent cleaning with mild soap and water can help prevent the build-up of dirt and grime. Make sure to avoid using harsh chemicals, as they can damage the finish.


Periodic Refinishing

Over time, the finish on your cedar wood may wear off. So, regularly inspect your projects and reapply the finish as needed.


Protection from Extreme Weather

While cedar wood is naturally resistant to decay, it can still be damaged by extreme weather conditions. Make sure you protect your outdoor cedar wood by covering or moving them indoors during harsh weather.


Troubleshooting Common Cedar Wood Issues

During the lifecycle of any wooden piece, such as wooden furniture, there may be instances when the wood shows signs of wear or damage. Understanding these issues and how to troubleshoot them will go a long way in maintaining the wood’s structural integrity.


Dealing with Discolouration

Over time, cedar wood may develop a grey patina due to exposure to the elements. As you may know, this is a natural ageing process; some people find this silver-grey colour appealing. However, a wood brightener or cleaner designed explicitly for cedar wood can be applied if you wish to restore the original colour. 

After cleaning, remember to reapply your chosen finish to protect the wood.


Addressing Cracks and Checks

Minor checks are not a cause for concern, as they do not affect the structural integrity of the wood. However, for aesthetic reasons or if the checks are substantial, using a wood filler that matches the cedar's colour can address the issue. So, apply filler according to the manufacturer’s instructions, sand the area smooth after the filler has dried, and then apply the finish.


Caring for Indoor Cedar Projects

Indoor wood projects require different care compared to outdoor ones. What’s more, cedar wood used indoors tends to dry over time due to controlled climate conditions. So regularly applying a light coating of furniture wax or oil can help keep the wood from drying out and retain its lustre.


Inspecting for Insect Damage

Despite cedar wood's natural resistance to insects, it's essential to regularly inspect your projects for any signs of infestation, especially for outdoor items. Unfortunately, small holes or sawdust around the wood may indicate an insect problem. If this occurs, you may need to treat the wood with an appropriate insecticide.


Storage Tips for Cedar Wood

Proper storage of unused wood is also key to its longevity. Storing cedar wood off the ground in a cool, dry place is important. Also, use stickers (small pieces of wood) between each layer of boards to allow for good air circulation and to prevent warping or twisting.


Cedar Wood Safety Measures

Working with wood does require some safety measures. Cedar dust can irritate, so always wear a dust mask and safety glasses when cutting or sanding. Additionally, always work in a well-ventilated area when applying finishes, as some can release harmful fumes.


Experience the Finest Cedar Wood with Woodshop Direct

Cedar wood is a beautiful and durable material that can last many years if properly finished and cared for. 

So, by understanding the unique properties of cedar wood, choosing the right finish, and following a regular maintenance routine, you can ensure that your cedar wood pieces continue to look their best.

Woodshop Direct supports your woodworking journey, whether you're a woodworker or a homemaker. With our extensive range of high-quality wood, tools, and finishes, we can help you bring your vision to life. So why wait? Browse our cedar wood products today, and let’s create something beautiful together.