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The Ultimate Guide to Cedar Decking: How Often Should You Stain It?

The Ultimate Guide to Cedar Decking: How Often Should You Stain It?

Cedar is an exquisite choice for decking and railing, boasting natural beauty and durability. Yet, with the beauty comes responsibility—how often should you stain this natural wonder to keep it in prime condition? From the wood's inherent qualities to the elements it faces, there's a lot to consider. Stick with us as we unpack this topic comprehensively.

How often should I stain my cedar decking and railing?

Cedar, while robust and naturally resistant to decay, still requires regular maintenance to maintain its color and prevent greying. On average, cedar decking and railing should be stained every 2-3 years. However, this frequency can vary based on several factors that we'll explore further in this article.

Why Cedar is a Premier Choice for Decking

  1. Natural Beauty: Cedar possesses a rich, reddish-brown hue that exudes warmth.
  2. Durability: Known for its inherent resistance to decay and insects.
  3. Sustainability: Cedar is a renewable resource, making it an eco-friendly choice.

The Importance of Staining Cedar

  1. Protection Against UV Rays: Staining deflects harmful ultraviolet rays, preventing your deck from turning grey.
  2. Moisture Resistance: A good stain shields cedar from rain, snow, and ice, preventing rot.
  3. Enhanced Longevity: Regular staining ensures your cedar deck lasts longer and looks fresher.

Factors Influencing Staining Frequency

  1. Climate and Exposure: Decks in areas with harsh sun or frequent rainfall might need more regular staining.
  2. Deck Usage: High traffic can wear out the stain faster.
  3. Quality of Previous Stain: A high-quality stain job can last longer than a rushed, low-quality one.

Types of Stains Suited for Cedar

  1. Transparent Stains: Offers a clear or slightly tinted finish, revealing the wood's grain.
  2. Semi-Transparent Stains: Gives color while still showing some wood grain.
  3. Solid Stains: Fully opaque and covers the wood grain but offers maximum protection.

Preparation Before Staining

  1. Cleaning: Ensure the surface is free from dirt, mildew, and previous flaky stain.
  2. Drying: Wait for the wood to be completely dry before applying the stain.
  3. Sanding: For a smoother finish and better stain adherence, lightly sand the surface.

The Staining Process Simplified

  1. Choosing the Right Brush: A natural bristle brush is typically recommended for oil-based stains.
  2. Application: Apply stain using even strokes, working on one board at a time.
  3. Drying Time: Follow manufacturer recommendations; usually, 24-48 hours is sufficient.

Maintaining Your Stained Cedar Deck

  1. Regular Cleaning: Use mild soap and water for periodic cleaning.
  2. Check for Wear: High traffic areas may require touch-ups.
  3. Re-staining: Monitor the deck's appearance and protection levels, re-staining when necessary.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Staining Too Soon: Newly installed cedar should be left to weather for a few weeks before staining.
  2. Over-Application: Applying too much stain can lead to a sticky deck.
  3. Ignoring Maintenance: Even after staining, regular check-ups and cleaning are vital.

Benefits of Hiring Professionals

  1. Expertise: Knowledge of best products and techniques.
  2. Time-saving: Faster than DIY, especially for larger decks.
  3. Guaranteed Results: Most professionals offer guarantees on their work.


How long should I wait before staining my new cedar deck? It's best to wait a few weeks to allow the cedar to weather, ensuring better stain absorption.

Can I stain my cedar deck in any weather? Ideal conditions are dry and cool, not in direct sunlight. Avoid staining if rain is forecasted within 12 hours.

Do I need to strip the old stain before re-staining? Yes, for best results, remove old, peeling stain before applying a new coat.

What's the best way to clean my cedar deck? A mild detergent and water should suffice. Avoid power washing as it can damage the wood.

Is it necessary to sand before staining? While not always required, sanding can provide a smoother finish and better stain adherence.

How do I choose the right stain color? Consider your home's exterior, the natural color of the cedar, and your personal preferences. Test a small patch before fully committing.


Staining your cedar decking and railing is an investment in its longevity and beauty. Regular maintenance, informed by factors like climate and usage, ensures that your cedar structures remain a source of pride and enjoyment. Whether you opt for DIY or professional services, consistent care is the key.