What is the Best Exterior Stain for Cedar Siding? (2023)

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Cedar is a beautiful and durable wood, but choosing the wrong exterior stain will make it more susceptible to weathering, moisture, and UV damage.

So, I have tested the best exterior stains for cedar siding to prevent these issues and keep the cedar looking beautiful for years.

Premium Option
Ready Seal 512
Editor’s Choice
Defy Extreme Wood Stain
Budget Option
General Finishes ‎Exterior 450
Ready Seal 512
Defy Extreme Wood Stain
General Finishes ‎B287-L
• Semi-transparent
• Low VOC
• Stain and sealer
• Brush included
• Works on damp wood
• UV protection
• Low VOC
• Mold protection
• Water-based
• Inflammable
• Good for old cedar
• Semi-transparent
Premium Option
Ready Seal 512
Ready Seal 512
• Semi-transparent
• Low VOC
• Stain and sealer
• Brush included
Editor’s Choice
Defy Extreme Wood Stain
Defy Extreme Wood Stain
• Works on damp wood
• UV protection
• Low VOC
• Mold protection
Budget Option
General Finishes ‎Exterior 450
General Finishes ‎B287-L
• Water-based
• Inflammable
• Good for old cedar
• Semi-transparent

Reviews of the Top Exterior Stains for Cedar Siding

1. Defy Extreme Wood Stain

In my experience, the Defy Extreme Wood Staine excels with its innovative use of Zinc Nano-Particle Technology, acting as a reliable barrier against harmful UV rays—think of it as sunscreen for your cedar wood siding or cornhole boards. This is one of the few wood stain options I came across that provides multiple layers of protection against mold, mildew, and decay.

You can use this semi-transparent wood stain to finish cedar wood fences, playsets, decks, siding, and any exterior furniture you may have, from the balcony railing to the modest garden bench.

When it comes to outdoor wood stains with a low VOC content, I like this stain best. The cedar siding on your home will maintain its luster for many years.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

2. Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer

Ready Seal 512 is a stain and sealant in one, which is semi-transparent and oil-based. This is the best stain for cedar siding that can sustainably protect and preserve it without altering its original color or beautiful wood grain pattern.

Application is a breeze; I used a brush, and it spread easily without requiring a ton of prep work or multiple coats. The one-step application saved me a lot of time, and the results were consistent and reliable.

Having put it through its paces, I can vouch for its water- and UV-ray-resistant capabilities. If you’re looking to protect and preserve the natural beauty of your cedar siding or other outdoor wooden structures, I’d highly recommend giving Ready Seal 512 a try.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

3. General Finishes Exterior 450 Water-Based Wood Stain

After applying General Finishes Exterior 450 to some outdoor wood projects, I’ve come to appreciate its quality and efficiency. This water-based wood stain comes in a variety of trendy colors that not only protect the wood but also enhance its inherent beauty.

By incorporating mildewcides and UV absorbers into the stain, the wood’s longevity and fresh appearance can be effectively prolonged. 

These additives serve a dual purpose: firstly, they hinder the growth of mildew and mold, which can cause unsightly discoloration and deterioration. Secondly, they act as a shield against the damaging effects of UV rays, which can lead to fading, graying, and overall degradation of the wood’s surface.

I’ve applied this semi-transparent stain with a variety of tools—sprayers, rollers, and brushes—all with excellent results.  It’s also simple to clean, so you won’t have to worry about that. If you don’t want to spend much, this General Finishes 450 Exterior Wood Stain is the best choice.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

4. Thompson’s Waterseal TH.041831-16

Thompsons Waterseal is an affordable cedar stain and sealer which is easy to apply and resistant to the effects of the sun, age, mold, mildew, and the elements.

Thompson’s is superior to conventional waterproofing because it is made of modern polymers that are chemically engineered to withstand the harshest environmental conditions. It’s perfect if you want your furnishings to complement your cedar siding. 

I really like how well this stain for cedar siding sticks to moist wood, making it an excellent choice for areas with consistently wet weather throughout the year. In addition, the Thompson’s Watersearl TH.041831-16 also shields pieces from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

5. Storm Protector Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector

In my experience with different types of wood stains, penetrating stains like Storm Protector offer a different kind of protection. They get deep into the wood’s pores, protecting your deck or siding from the elements.

The Storm Protector Penetrating Sealer and Stain Protector in one is ideal for preserving the natural look of cedar wood siding. It’s simple to use and brings out the wood’s inherent elegance. It is the best outdoor stain to prevent damage from termites and mold by keeping the elements out.

Storm Protector is a semi-transparent oil-based wood stain that offers superior protection for any wood surface. When applied, it removes some common headaches tied to outdoor wood maintenance—such as splinters, chipping paint, or fading color—off the list of concerns.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

6. Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer

This marine formulation can shield your wood from a particularly humid setting. Your  wood siding and furniture will be better protected from decay and water damage in addition to it being like other stains.

I like that it can lengthen the time patio, docks, retaining walls, piers, and outdoor furniture maintain their pristine appearance. Seal-Once Marine Waterproofer is the best exterior stain if you want to avoid the high cost of replacing your deck.

The Seal-Once Marine Premium Wood Sealer is versatile enough for any project, whether it is the construction of new office space, the installation of exterior siding, the repair of weathered porch flooring, or the redesign of an entire outdoor area.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

7. SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

When it comes to prepping fences, decks, or paneling for the elements, I found SaverSystems #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Deck Stain to be highly effective. Suitable for cedar, most softwoods, and pressure-treated pine, its application scope is broad.

This deck stain will protect your deck for years against the elements, including fading, water, graying, and UV radiation. It will also keep the wood dry and safe from fungi.

It’s a high-quality exterior wood stain that ranks among the best on the market. Staining cedar wood siding, fences, or siding is a good idea if you want the stain to wear off soon.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

8. Olympic Maximum Wood Sealer

This crystal-clear, ultra-waterproof sealer will keep your wood looking great for years. The Olympic stain ensures you can stain on any day regardless of the weather because of its weather-independent application.

This wood stain comes in two-gallon containers, which should be plenty for a long fence or a standard deck. You’ll be pleased with the outcomes, and the coverage is superb.

What also impressed me was the quick drying time; you can use your deck or other wooden structures just eight hours after application. The Olympic Maximum Wood Sealer is also the best exterior stain for cedar siding in terms of versatility since you can utilize it in any weather condition.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Why Stain Your Exterior Cedar Siding? + Pros and Cons

There are several advantages to using an exterior stain for cedar.  For starters, it will maintain the wood in pristine condition for a long time.

The siding will deteriorate much faster without any kind of protection.

If you use a good stain, your cedar siding will appear better. You may dye it any color you like, which will hold up well against the sun’s rays. These stains don’t persist forever but can be easily touched up.

Staining is relatively easy to apply. Most stains require neither priming nor even extensive sanding before application. They can be applied quickly using a sprayer or brush. Staining your cedar siding is a no-brainer.



Exterior Stains for Cedar Siding Buyer’s Guide

Water-Based or Oil-Based?

It’s essential to consider whether you need an oil- or water-based stain product before purchasing.

The color of water-based stains is richer than oil- or latex-based stains. It’s nonflammable and doesn’t give out any unpleasant odors. You can use merely water and soap to clean most water-based goods.

mixing Defy Extreme Wood Stain

An oil-based stain is more weather-resistant because of the oils inside them.

They dry slow and hold their sheen, so you won’t have to worry about maintenance for long. Likewise, oil-based stains last much longer than their water-based counterparts.


Solid Color Stain

To achieve a different shade, apply a solid stain designed for cedar siding. Due to the stain, the wood is unrecognizable. It’s a more robust defense against staining than anything else out there.

But even the best exterior solid stain can be hard to work with due to its thickness and inherent difficulty.

Regarding how much it soaks into the wood, an exterior solid stain is between paint and a semi-transparent or solid stain. Solid stains give the wood a uniform coating of color without fully covering up the natural wood grain.


A semi-transparent stain is a wiser option if you’d like to paint your home’s exterior differently while still revealing the wood below.

When protecting against the elements, this stain is far superior to the transparent and solid varieties.


It is essential to verify what comes with a transparent stain, as some brands provide tinted stain hues in addition to the clear variety.

painting pergola with Defy Extreme Wood Stain

Nonetheless, the original color and elegance of its wood grain are highlighted in both, making them suitable for individuals who desire subtle adjustments to the overall tone.

Area Coverage

It would be a shame to get the sidings about 90% stained before realizing you’re out of stain. Staining might only sometimes dry uniformly if you wait too long, leading to less-than-ideal results.

While specifics vary per stain, you should expect one gallon to treat between 200 and 300 square feet. Before staining the siding, getting a ballpark estimate of the space, it will cover is a good idea.

Consider how many layers will be required as well. Using simply one coat of stain for many projects may be more cost-effective. If you want to make a big difference in the hue, you may require an additional coat of stain.

VOC Content

Low-VOC content stains are preferable since they provide the same degree of performance without damaging or staining your surface.

spraying Thompsons Waterseal TH.041821-16 on fence

When using a stain for cedar siding with low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, I don’t have to bother with gloves or a mask, and that saves me a bit of cash and a lot of hassle.


Environmental factors, including temperature and humidity, significantly affect the rate at which a stain dries. Even the best exterior stain can take three times as long to dry if it’s damp or chilly outside.

The stain or paint will still be wet until the relative humidity or temperature rises.

But if the temperature rises too much, the stain may dry too rapidly, possibly leaving lap lines or uneven penetration behind.


Stain is used primarily to prevent damage to the underlying wood. Depending on several factors, your level of security will vary. Most may also be used as a sealer, which is a handy dual function.

staining deck rails with #1 Deck Stain

Considering the local weather conditions is also essential. Use a darker stain in a harsh climate, as it will fade less quickly. It can save you the trouble of regularly repairing your siding.

Personally, I gravitate toward darker stains. More pigment means they’re like little UV-ray bodyguards for your siding.

But don’t get me wrong, lighter colors have their charm and can look beautiful, too. Just know that they may not offer quite as much UV protection.


A stain for cedar siding can alter the wood’s natural color, so it’s essential to consider which shade will work best for your project. 

I’ve experimented with everything from mimicking redwood tones to sticking with cedar’s natural hue.

Thompson water seal benefits

Cedar is available in a variety of light to mid-tone to dark hues. Many prefer leaving it in its original, unaltered coloration because of how striking it can be. There are many alternatives for those who prefer a different hue.

Although cedar is already a light wood, you may want to go even lighter by selecting a light oak or golden pine for the exterior sidings.

Nevertheless, selecting a darker color can give the sidings a warmer look. Stains like mahogany, burnt hickory, and dark walnut will completely transform the look of your cedar.

There is generally the option to alter the color to something utterly strange when working with semi-transparent and solid color stains.

What you decide to do is entirely up to you. You can choose from several solutions appropriate for the siding. Most brands offer stains with a broad color spectrum.

staining with #1 Deck Stain

It’s important to remember that achieving a dramatic color shift may require several coats and more time and effort. Especially when transitioning from a dark to a light environment, this might be a significant consideration.

Cleaning Up & Application

I’ve been through a number of stains in my time, and water-based formulas are my go-to. They’re user-friendly and a cinch to clean up.

If it’s your first time using a stain, it is helpful if the stain you choose is easy to apply and clean regardless of how much stain layers you put. 

Before diving in, I always read reviews and double-check the manufacturer’s guidelines. That way, I know exactly what I’m getting into and can make sure I’m fully equipped for the project.

Cedar Pattern

You should highlight the unique grain pattern of your cedar if it has one. Choices between solid, transparent, and translucent stains are common. 

Read more about cedar:

Cedar wood grain pattern

Use a semitransparent stain if the wood’s grain is beautiful, but the color is worn. A translucent stain can be the ideal coating if the texture and color are both fashionable. 

On the other hand, if your wooden structure has a poor appearance, a good finish can cover it up.

Drying Time

A product’s ability to dry quickly is always a significant consideration. Moreover, drying periods vary depending on the material. So, it is essential to have an idea of what to expect.

But, you risk further damaging the surface if you attempt to work on it before thoroughly drying it. So, being aware of the product’s drying time is preferable.

staining deck with paint roller

Here’s my rule of thumb: shorter drying times get you back to your project sooner. But remember, patience is key. Rushing to work on a surface that’s not completely dry can set you back more than just time—it can cause damage you’ll have to fix.

Should You Paint or Stain Cedar Siding?


While painting sidings protects them from the elements, it also wholly masks the wood’s aesthetic value. If you cannot restore the cedar siding’s color, you should consider painting instead. Paint lasts longer and needs less upkeep.

But paint can make the siding look fake, and it’s also expensive.

Stains, unlike paint, rarely chip or flake. The protective and aesthetic benefits of staining are enhanced. Staining cedar is a better option than painting them because it is less expensive.


The best exterior stain for cedar siding can do a better job of bringing out the siding’s natural beauty. The wood’s natural appearance is preserved and protected from moisture and UV rays. 

staining with Olympic Maximum Wood Sealer For Decks

Use a semi-transparent or transparent stain if you want the grain to still show. Additionally,  stains are also considerably less expensive than paints.

Staining Exterior Cedar Siding in 4 Steps

Step #1: Prepare and Clean the Wood

Have the wood ready first. If it has been stained in the past, you should strip it. Use a wood cleaner on bare wood instead of coatings or stains.

Use slight pressure to start cleaning the wood. When you use strippers and cleaners, the cleaners will handle most of the work, so you won’t have to scrub as hard.

Step #2: Neutralize the Wood

Use a wood brightener that also acts as a neutralizer. To ensure the stains penetrate the wood, the wood must be neutralized to a pH of 7. [1]

Let it dry first. Depending on the conditions, this may take many days.

Step #3: Make Sure to Dry the Wood

Use a high-tech moisture meter to check the wood’s surface moisture content.

General Finishes Oil Base Gel Stain

Step #4: Start Staining the Cedar Sidings Using an Airless Sprayer

Stain the siding regularly and liberally so it may be painted with a thick, even layer.

Oil-based stains can protect the wood from moisture, such as it won’t chip or peel when exposed to snow and rain.

The wood can only be shielded from the sun using a protective stain. To make the wood last for decades and look great the whole time is to maintain it clean and protected from stains.

How Long To Wait for the Stain to Dry After Application?

Several variables affect how long it takes for a stain to dry after being applied, such as the type of stain used, the surface it is being applied to, and the weather.

Oil-based stains often dry more slowly than water-based ones, and damp or chilly weather might further prolong drying times. 

wood stained with Olympic Maximum Wood Sealer For Decks

In my experience, it’s a good idea to give stains at least 24 hours to dry, but sometimes, I’ve had to wait longer for particularly stubborn formulas.

Before applying a finish or using the surface, it is crucial to wait the recommended amount of time suggested by the manufacturer to ensure the stain has been appropriately set.

And, until it’s dry, keep your hands off the project. I’ve ruined a pair of good gloves—and a morning’s work—learning that lesson.

How Often Should You Stain Cedar Siding? Should You Seal It After?

 Cedar siding isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. I usually find myself re-staining every 3-5 years. However, this can vary depending on various factors.

The frequency of staining or treating cedar sidings depends on factors such as the type of stain or coating used, the climate and weather conditions in your area, the level of sun exposure, and the amount of moisture in the air.

If the color of the cedar siding is fading or the wood is becoming rough or cracked, it may be time to re-stain or reapply a protective coating. 

Inspecting your cedar siding regularly for signs of damage or wear and tear and addressing any issues promptly to prevent further damage is essential.

Proper maintenance and regular cleaning of cedar sidings can help extend the lifespan of your stain or coating and reduce the need for frequent reapplication.

How Long Does Cedar Siding and Exterior Stain Last?

The lifespan of an exterior stain can vary depending on several factors, including the stain type and quality, the condition and type of wood or surface being stained, the level of exposure to elements, and the climate and weather conditions in your area.

In my experience, a quality stain can stick around for a good 5-10 years, but that’s under the best conditions. However, exposure to harsh sunlight, extreme temperatures, moisture, and other weather conditions can cause the stain to break down or fade over time, shortening its lifespan.

It’s important to note that proper preparation and application of the stain can also impact its lifespan. 

staining old deck

If the surface is not adequately cleaned and prepared before applying the stain or is not used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it may not last as long as expected.

Regular maintenance and cleaning can also help extend the lifespan of your exterior stain. It’s essential to regularly inspect your stained surfaces and reapply the stain as needed to maintain its protective qualities and prevent damage to the underlying wood or material.

Tips for Cedar Siding Maintenance

Maintaining your siding should be simple after an excellent stain has been applied. Plants and branches are best kept at least a few inches away from the siding surface since they can provide moisture and may scrape it.

Cleaning the siding regularly and adding a new layer once a couple of years will keep it free of dust and debris. If you don’t have access to a pressure washer, soap and water will do the trick.

Let’s not forget the routine checks. These inspections are your early warning system for any potential issues—think wood damage or areas that are wearing away too quickly. Oh, and keep an eye out for unwelcome visitors like termites and woodpeckers. Trust me; you don’t want them making a home out of your beautiful cedar siding.


Should You Remove the Old Stains on Cedar? And How Do You Prepare Old Cedar?

For optimal results, I recommend that the previous stain be removed first. This is crucial if the stain is flaking and worn. Using tape can help you determine if an old stain must be stripped. Apply it to any section, pull it off, and if you see an existing stain on the tape, then replace it.

Can you paint over the cedar siding that’s stained?

You can, and many people do, so that the wood looks even nicer once it has been stained. But before you put on a new coat of paint, you need to make sure the existing stain is completely dried.

Why cedar sidings are losing color?

Weathering is the primary culprit behind the gradual graying of cedar wood. Untreated wood suffers severe damage from weathering. When cedar is left out in the elements, it quickly loses its reddish hue and turns a drab gray.

Can you apply stain on newly painted cedar siding?

Staining a freshly painted wall is not a good idea. Waiting several months and letting the siding weather is the most effective strategy. After that, stain it according to the instructions. If your stain is unsuitable for the existing one, remove the old stain entirely before application.

My Top Pick For an Exterior Stain for Cedar Siding:
Defy Extreme Wood Stain

After considering all the products I tested, I can confidently say that the best exterior stain for cedar siding is the Defy Extreme Wood Stain

It is a highly effective and durable wood stain well-suited for use on exterior wood surfaces such as decks, fences, siding, and outdoor furniture. Its superior protection and ease of application make it a popular choice among homeowners and professionals. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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