Cedar Deck Finish Recommendations

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Forum topic by Russell Eck posted 07-10-2018 02:21 PM 1019 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Russell Eck

178 posts in 2200 days

07-10-2018 02:21 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cedar deck stain finish

I have a cedar deck that I put a stain/finish combo on and it hasn’t even been a year and it looks terrible. Can someone recommend a good finish for a cedar deck? I am more than fine with a clear coat version, it doesn’t have to be a combo stain/finish. Thanks!

14 replies so far

View clin's profile


1113 posts in 1771 days

#1 posted 07-10-2018 02:55 PM

Not sure how this would work over what you have, but I like Penofin for outdoor things. It is mostly oil with some resins in it and is available in several tints. It has very good UV resistance. But anything like this won’t hold up for years. It’s also been my experience that the wood sort of sucks it in in the first year. So might even need a second coat in less than a year. Then recoat every year or two.

It goes on like water and you wipe the excess off after a short time. So is quick to put on. Especially recoats where hitting every nook and cranny isn’t necessary.

It’s just the nature of finishes that don’t coat and seal like paint that they need frequent touch up when used outdoors.

-- Clin

View Russell Eck's profile

Russell Eck

178 posts in 2200 days

#2 posted 07-10-2018 03:43 PM

Thanks for the reply Clin! I am more than okay with having to reapply every year or two. This last one I used was just unacceptable though, zero durability or wear. I am going to look into that Penofin

View Russell Eck's profile

Russell Eck

178 posts in 2200 days

#3 posted 07-10-2018 03:44 PM

There are quite a few products by Penofin recommended for decks, do you have a particular version you like?

View clin's profile


1113 posts in 1771 days

#4 posted 07-10-2018 04:04 PM

Within their “Exterior Finishes” products, I’ve used the Ultra Premium Red label and the Blue label. Not sure the red is better. Probably is, but I didn’t record data on it. I think most everything else is for specific applications like for use on pressure treated wood. Though certainly look at those. If they have a more specialized product that fits your application better, you should probably go with that. I’d give them a call and see what they suggest.

Not sure how it will behave on what you have already put on. This is where a call to Penofin might be a good idea. They also have some preparation products for stripping, cleaning, etc.. I’ve not used those. But might be appropriate in your case.

It is not cheap, ~$30/gal. So you’ll want to make sure you do it right as far as preparation. You’ll use a lot more on the first coat than you will in future coats. So you won’t be spending as much for future coats.

Also, Penofin is one of those things where the oily rags can catch fire if not properly disposed of. I’ve proven this, intentionally, by wadding used rags up and putting them in a safe space. A few hours later they were burning. So take the oily rag/spontaneous combustion thing seriously in this case.

-- Clin

View LesB's profile


2556 posts in 4218 days

#5 posted 07-10-2018 04:12 PM

I have fought with the problem for over 20 years on a very large deck (over 1200 ft). As Clin stated, nothing holds up outdoors form very long. The durability also depends on the exposure such as a lot of sun or in my case a lot of rain (Oregon). Oil based products seem to be no better than the water base and water base is easier to apply. The least expensive is linseed oil diluted 50% with paint thinner (apply two coats) but it will need re-coating every year and stripping every 3rd or 4th time. I would carefully power wash before each re-coating to remove dirt and grime.

The best product I have found is Behr’s deck finishes; either clear or stain. Even that needs to be stripped and re-applied every 2 to 3 years and possibly a light cleaning with a power washer or light brush scrubbing every year. Behr has a number of products including Behr Premium Transparent waterproofing wood finish which claims 4 years used on decks but I never got more than 3. I would NOT recommend using a product with color in it until you need to start covering or blending the discoloration in the wood that won’t come out any more with the brightener. That would be Behr Deckplus which can be custom colored.

I would suggest getting a stripping product and take your current finish off (read instructions). Then use a “brightener” to refresh the color of the wood. Those are two different products. Allow it to dry for a few days and put a new finish on.

One more thing. Brand new cedar decking often needs to either be sanded or left to age for a year without a sealer because the process of planing it smooth at the mill leaves a hard or compressed surface that does not accept a finish well. That may be why yours looks so bad after just one year.

Eventually…..maybe 15 years down the road you may need to rent a commercial deck sander and totally refinish the deck. Depending on how you attached the deck boards it may involve counter sinking the nails or screws first.

-- Les B, Oregon

View ralbuck's profile


6546 posts in 3041 days

#6 posted 07-10-2018 04:36 PM

Mr. Les B. lives in Oregon, now here in Oregon (Portland area) the weather is harder on outdoor finishing than even the North Dakota winters- that I lived in for many decades- were.

I do think with his experiences his advice will be excellent. I have some cedar things with 5-6 years of weathering here that still look good, but ornaments, not deck—gets a lot less abuse. They were coated with a marine quality spar varnish!

Good luck on the project.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View Russell Eck's profile

Russell Eck

178 posts in 2200 days

#7 posted 07-11-2018 07:16 PM

Thanks for all the input guys! I really appreciate it!

View Knockonit's profile


675 posts in 977 days

#8 posted 07-11-2018 07:46 PM

big problem is, coat and or treat deck before you put it down, applying stain or finish once its down doesn’t seal it properly,

we do a lot of decks here in Az, where the uv just eats everything alive, IF we use wood, we treat it completely before sticking it to the joists, we also paint and or seal the joists, completely, all cuts are resealed, then after we screw itdown or concealed fasteners, we give it another bath, and it does help the longevity of the finish, jsut saying, only took me a gaggle of years to figure out.

we mostly do composite decks and railings nowadays, however we get someone who wants a redwood, or another wood deck product, we do our best to help it lsat a long time
Rj in az

-- Living the dream

View Richard's profile


11309 posts in 3808 days

#9 posted 07-22-2018 04:49 AM

I’ve built MANY Decks. We always used Olympic OIL BASED Stain, but any good oil stain is okay.

We NEVER applied any kind of a Sealer (Oil Or Poly) on top of that. Nor did we ever use Water Based Exterior Stain (PAINT)!

The Oil Stain Nourishes and Soaks into the Cedar. If if needs Refinishing, minimum work to clean up and apply a new coat.


-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

View BurlyBob's profile


7619 posts in 3041 days

#10 posted 07-22-2018 02:40 PM

Russ, I’m over in Baker and we’ve been using superdeck on a cedar fence for the last several years. Seems we only have to restain every other year now. This thing gets full sun all day long. Seems to be holding up quite well.

View Woodword's profile


2 posts in 592 days

#11 posted 03-30-2019 04:06 AM

Russ, I’ve heard good things about both the Penofin and Superdeck products. Another one that I recall Woodcraft carrrying, not too long ago, is a product called “Onetime”. It was even more expensive than the Penofin products but the lady that bought it said she had been reapplying it every 5 years (Mfr recommends every 7 years) and she was buying it for her 28-year old deck, so it was doing a good job for her. I’m not sure, though, if it would work over what you’ve already put on the deck.


View HackFabrication's profile


168 posts in 487 days

#12 posted 03-30-2019 10:58 AM

My experience with a large wood deck and two gazebos all done in cedar: Penofin. The horizontal surfaces take the most abuse from the sun/rain/snow. I had to re-do my deck surfaces every year, which was a couple of days labor. The gazebos held up much better. But they needed to be freshened up every 5 years. The interiors of the gazebos never needed anything other than the original application.

The real answer is Trex for long term durability and low maintenance. I had my deck re-designed a couple of years ago, removed the gazebos, and all the exposed surfaces were covered with Trex. Yes, it was expensive to have done. But maintenance is only yearly washing. I would never build a deck with cedar or womanized decking again.

-- "In the end, it's all Hack..."

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5803 posts in 3084 days

#13 posted 03-30-2019 02:34 PM

Deck are maintenance whores. I have 900 square feet of decking. After fighting them for years I now just let them gray out. I guess old age has taken the fight out of me. You might what to research “flood deck” products. I have a friend who has a painting Co, he swear by the flood stuff.

Side note. I know of a neighbor who put some kind of clear coat on her deck (don’t know what it way) and now its slicker than snot when it get rain or snow on it.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Kazooman's profile (online now)


1491 posts in 2727 days

#14 posted 03-30-2019 02:45 PM

I would never build a deck with cedar or womanized decking again.

- HackFabrication

I got a chuckle out of what spell check did to your text. I agree, I prefer macho types of wood over that womanized stuff. What a difference an L makes!

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