3 Of The Best Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture To Know Of

When you are working on cedar wood for the first time, you will be amazed by the beauty of the grains and the easy way you can manipulate the wood to do what you want. However, after a few days in the rain, you may quickly notice that all your hard work is crumbling and cracking into nothing.

The best three finishes for outdoor cedar wood furniture are oiling the wood with the right oil, using wax to seal the wood, or applying a sealant. These three treatments will repel the water and prevent the cedar wood from soaking any water that may fall on them. 

Just knowing what the best three finishes are will not help you choose the perfect one for your needs, with each one having its own best use cases. We need to look at all the benefits of each finish and how you can choose the best finishes from your hardware store. 

What Are The Best Three Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture?

Knowing the best three will not immediately tell you which ones you should be getting for your outdoor cedar finishes. Each one has its advantages that you should know when you want to ensure that the cedar wood won’t absorb water when exposed to the weather. 

We are looking at each one and how they work to seal your cedar wood furniture, ensuring that not even a drop of water can damage the wood. When used correctly and regularly applied, the right finish will ensure that cedar furniture can last several lifetimes. 

Oiling the Cedar Furniture

This is the most common way of sealing any wood, and outdoor cedar furniture is not an exception. When applied right and with the proper layering, the oil is absorbed into the wood, preventing water and anything else from absorbing it, saturating it. 

3 Of The Best Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture To Know Of

This is why you will have to apply several layers of oil when you are busing finishing the cedar furniture. Most often, the oil will linger on the surface of the wood for a few weeks afterward, showing that it has been applied properly, preventing moisture and liquids from damaging the wood.

Waxing the Cedar Furniture

One of the more difficult ways to finish cedar wood furniture is by applying wax to the wood; this technique creates a layer of wax. Preventing everything from actually damaging the wood; however, there are a few downsides to this technique. 

The wax takes longer to apply than other finishes and will require more work in the short term to ensure a permanent layer is applied. Further, hot cups and other hot things can cause the wax to melt, causing rings and other types of damage to appear on the wood. 

Applying a Sealant Finish to the Cedar Furniture

A sealant is not an oil or a stain; instead, it is a varnish applied to the cedar wood that creates a sealed shell around the furniture. A sealant finish will be perfectly smooth and clear when appropriately applied, creating the perfect protection around your cedar wood furniture.

This is one of the most labor-intensive ways to seal your cedar furniture, as it has a few downsides until you need to fix it or if you want to replace it. Unlike oil or wax, you need to remove most of the varnish from the wood and then reapply the new varnish to get the best possible finish. 

What To Look For When Choosing Cedar Wood Finishing?

Now that you know which types of cedarwood finish to look for, we need to look at how you can choose the best possible one. You will often find yourself walking through the hardware store, looking at hundreds of options, unable to choose the best possible finish. 

We recommend that you remember these when choosing the type of finish you want to apply to your furniture. Knowing why something works will usually help you choose alternatives or find options that may work better than what would have been used traditionally. 

How Resistant The Finish Is To Water

Different types of finishes have different levels of water resistance, which is one of the most significant factors you have to consider when building outdoor cedar furniture. Oil finishing may wear out within a year when left in the rain and sun the whole year long. 

3 Of The Best Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture To Know Of

However, wax and varnish may last several years without showing any sign of aging or wearing. The wax usually lasts in the best way. This is because varnish can become sun-bleached when exposed to the sun, while wax may gather dust but will otherwise stay intact.  

How Long The Finish Takes To Fade

When we consider how fast a finish may start to fade, we need to look at how it will react to water. Wax causes water to slide off but can be worn down; oil prevents the wood from soaking up water but eventually gets fully absorbed or expelled by the wood. 

However, even when sun-bleached, the varnish will never be worn away by rain and can never be fully absorbed by the wood. Creating a solid barrier that protects the wood if the varnish has been applied fully to the wood, as wood often begins to swell from areas that were not treated. 

How You Can Apply The Finish

The best way to apply any finish is by doing so in layers, which is why it is important to remember how many layers you may need to apply to properly waterproof the furniture. Wax and varnish will be perfectly fine with only having two or three layers applied to the furniture. 

However, when using oil to finish your cedar furniture, you may have to apply five to six layers to create a waterproof piece. Doing so will ensure that the wood has absorbed the oil to such a level that nothing else can be absorbed; however, we recommend letting it stand in the sun for a few days before using the furniture. 

How Long The Finish Will Last

This is the most important part about choosing the finish for your cedarwood, with each one only able to last a limited amount of time. Theoretically, varnish can last forever. It is a much hardier way to seal the wood than other finishing methods. 

Wax and oil will need to be refinished at least once a year to ensure that the wood does not start absorbing wood from an unexpected location. We recommend giving the entire piece a light sanding and then reapplying the same type of wax or oil on the furniture to ensure the best results.

How Do You Protect Outdoor Cedar Furniture?

While outdoor furniture has been built to withstand the weather and rains that will constantly bombard them, we recommend that you take a few steps to help. Many people assume that because something has been finished, it should somehow last forever through the worst storms.

3 Of The Best Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture To Know Of

However, the truth is that just putting the pieces somewhere in the shade and keeping it somewhere it can quickly dry will greatly increase its life. Most of the time, the wood only starts to absorb water if left in a puddle or when the water pools on it. 

Further, if left in the sun, the wood becomes damaged and dried out, causing cracks to form, creating spots for water to touch untreated lumber. We recommend that the cedar wood furniture be moved to a location where it won’t have to withstand the worst from mother nature. 

How Do You Keep Cedar Looking Natural?

The best way to keep cedar looking natural is to either apply a varnish or wax, as these will make the wood’s natural colors much brighter. This is why you may often see that people prefer to varnish pieces made out of expensive woods. 

Natural oils can also help the wood keep its natural beauty; you will have to ensure that it is a clear oil. Most often, oils are used to stain wood, so it may be hard for you to find an oil that does not change the color of the wood to something it is not. 

Stains should never be used if you want to keep the natural beauty of cedarwood in your outdoor furniture. Instead, it is best to use stains when you have pieces of inexpensive wood that you may want to change the color of, creating pieces that look much better than they would naturally look. 

Can You Use Polyurethane On Cedar?

Yes, cedarwood can and should be coated with polyurethane; it will protect the cedar from oils, waters, and scratches. However, the wood will need to be completely dry before you can start applying the polyurethane; otherwise, the wood may begin to rot from the inside. 

To apply the polyurethane, you can use a synthetic brush to apply the first coat, sanding with a light grain once the polyurethane has dried completely. Once sanded smooth again, you can apply two to three more coats to create a perfectly smooth finish on your cedar furniture.

Polyurethane is the most common type of varnish that you can find, and clear polyurethane will significantly deepen the color of your cedar furniture. Giving the wood a deep dark color with the grains of the wood lifted for you to enjoy along with the other pieces in your collection.

How To Apply Wax To Cedar Outdoor Furniture?

To apply wax, we recommend using two tools: your brush and a clean rag with no oils and no other types of liquid. The wax comes in a liquid and will dry to be clear, darkening the natural colors of the cedar slightly but leaving an overall light color to the wood once fully applied. 

3 Of The Best Finishes For Outdoor Cedar Furniture To Know Of

We recommend brushing on the wax using the brush and then using the rag to spread the wax into every nook and cranny of the cedar furniture. Overall, we recommend applying at least three layers of wax on your outdoor furniture to ensure that you get the best possible results. 

We recommend considering using wax in colder or more temperate countries where the heat does not get too high. Wax may melt or be damaged in desert climates, becoming sticky and uncomfortable to sit on at the hottest parts of the day. 

What Oil Is Best For Cedar Wood?

We recommend using natural tung oil on your cedarwood as this will have the most impactful effect on the wood. With light tung oil being used without when you want the natural colors of the cedar wood to shine through, dark tung oil causes the wood to go a darker color which many people prefer. 

When applying either of these oils, we highly recommend that you apply between four to five layers on your cedar wood if it has to be used only outdoors. Ensure that the space is dry and not too humid when applying the oils to the wood; otherwise, it may not be absorbed properly. 

Applying wood to cedarwood can cause the oils to leak or bubble out of the wood if not dried properly. This is why many artisans are delayed on rainy days. They prefer not to apply oils and other finishes when the weather prevents everything from drying properly. 


The three best finishes for your outdoor cedar wood furniture are oil, varnish, and wax, as these three can completely seal your wood. Ensuring that even in the worst rainstorms, the wood will perfectly repel the water that may damage it if the wood has been left in its natural state. 

Whatever you do, please ensure that the wood is not left in the sun while the finish is drying; this will only ever cause tears of frustration! 


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