How to Sand and Stain Cedar Furniture

Cedar can provide years of use in outdoor furniture if it is properly maintained. After you sand and stain cedar furniture, the result will depend on good preparation.

Sanding and staining cedar follow the same procedure whether you are preparing lumber for furniture or patching blemishes on the fence.

Cedar can be finished with indoor or outdoor-type finishes, but should never be painted. Despite its name, cedar is actually a softwood (like pine) that is prone to warping if exposed to moisture in freeze-thaw cycles, and it is also susceptible to rot.

Therefore, it should not be used outside if left untreated.

Cedarwood is one of the most popular woods used in outdoor furniture due to its natural resistance to mildew, rot, and insects. Cedar is commonly available as pressure-treated lumber or raw un-milled boards available from natural product companies.

Why Cedar is a Great Wood for Furniture?

  • Durable – Cedar is an extremely hard, durable wood that resists decay, insect attack, and rot.
  • Works well with many types of finishes – Cedar generally accepts most finishes such as oils and varnishes.
  • Warm and earthy – Cedar has a natural light golden brown color which works well with most colors of furniture.

Sanding Cedar

To sand a cedar, you need a sanding block and sandpaper. Use 120-grit or 320-grit sandpaper. Sandpaper is commonly used for uneven or exposed wood surfaces, removing knots and scratches.

If the surface is smooth, sanding with light, regular pressure may be sufficient for the job without damaging the finish. If the surface has small chips or chips of wood debris, sanding with high pressure is required to ensure that the wood grain preserves itself over time.

Cedar is known for its durability and ability to withstand the test of time. But too much damage can even weaken it.

This guide will show you how to sand and stain cedar furniture to bring back that beautiful finish and keep your Cedar patio furniture like new!

Staining Cedar

Staining wood is ideal for both interior and exterior decoration. Stain alder and pine are natural choices for stain color. Cedar stains are best used with sandpaper or when the wood is carefully prepped using natural materials like shellac and beeswax.

If stain is to be applied to hardwood, be sure to choose a paint that stays hard for a long time, and use medium strength oil-based stain.

Applying a strong stain to a single layer of wood may not do much good as the wood will not stand the intense heat of a direct flame, and most natural fabrics hide stains rather than adding color to them.

After the stain is applied, fans of stained furniture often sand chairs, tables, and desks to remove any spots that remain and allow for airflow. Sanding extensively will create no chips or scratches that would otherwise be created by hard use over time.

Related: Best Stains for Cedar

Repairing Your Cedar Furniture

The very best way to restore a look is to sand and stain and then apply a wax finish. Apply a coat of candles, oils, or wax on the new hardware, then let dry.

Sand off surface imperfections with 400-grit sandpaper and wipe dry with a damp cloth. Wax is the best type of finish to use on wood furniture.

Tips on How to Avoid Sanding Swirls in the Finish

The key to applying stain without sanding swirls is to use a fast-drying, low-movement brush for the first coat of stain. Avoid roller or heavy brushing motions. You’ll be delighted at how much easier the second coat of stain goes on after the first coat gives things time to dry and level out.

Always remember to follow the instructions on the can when you are staining wood. This will give you the best results. Always apply a sealer coat before staining wood, and let it dry for at least 24 hours.

Can You Varnish or Lacquer Cedar?

Cedar can be sealed or stained by either varnish or lacquer. You can also use water-based paint over a stain on cedar, but you will need to apply several layers to ensure the wood is covered well. When using water-based paint on cedar, it is best to use a semi-gloss or gloss finish.

What Type of Brush Should You Use When Staining Cedar?

A good brush to use when staining cedar is a natural-bristled brush. The bristles are stiff enough so that the wood can be easily coated with a shiny, even finish. Don’t use a paint roller. The wood fibers will be dragged across the finish, which leaves unwanted marks and lines in the finish.

What Kind of Sandpaper Should I Use for Staining Cedar Siding on my House?

It is important to use the right sandpaper for the task. Use soft paper in a coarse grade. You can try sanding with wet/dry or use commercial-grade sandpaper. For example, 220 medium green 3M Paper would work well for rough surfaces. While homeowner grades like 100 might be used for general purposes.

Can You Use Polyurethane On Cedar?

Cedar is a durable wood that is often used for outdoor projects such as decks, fences, and siding. While cedar is naturally resistant to rot and decay, it is still susceptible to damage from UV rays, dirt, and debris. For this reason, many people choose to protect their cedarwood with polyurethane.

Polyurethane is a clear coating that will create a barrier between the cedar and the elements. It is important to note that polyurethane should only be applied to clean, dry wood. If your cedarwood is dirty or damp, it will need to be cleaned and allowed to dry completely before polyurethane can be applied.

Once the polyurethane has been applied, it will need to be allowed to cure for 24 hours before the area can be used.


Staining cedar furniture is a great way to protect it from the elements and keep it looking its best. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your cedar furniture will last for years to come. Thanks for reading!

We hope this guide was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Happy staining!