How To Stain Douglas Fir For Outdoor Use: A Quick Guide

There are numerous reasons woodworkers love Douglas Fir, from its durability to its natural appearance. Douglas Fir is also naturally resistant to water, rot, and insects, making it an ideal timber to use outdoors. To do this, you’ll need to stain the Douglas Fir you plan on using outside! 

To stain Douglas Fir that will be used outside, the timber first needs to be sanded. Once this has been done, wood conditioner will need to be applied. When this has dried, a gel stain can be applied. Finally, a sealant will act as a protective layer to protect the Douglas Fir for outdoor use. 

In this piece, we’ll be breaking down everything you need to know about staining Douglas Fir for outdoor use. With our simple ten-step guide, you’ll be able to easily and effectively stain and protect your Douglas Fir for outdoor use! 

Your Guide To Using Douglas Fir Outdoors 

There are numerous reasons woodworkers love using Douglas Fir wood. For starters, Douglas Fir timber is more robust and more durable. This means that Douglas Fir can withstand a higher weight load and stronger impacts without sustaining damage. We haven’t even mentioned the beautiful appearance of this wood! 

How To Stain Douglas Fir For Outdoor Use: A Quick Guide

Naturally, these properties make Douglas Fir a popular choice for indoor furnishings and flooring. Another fantastic benefit of using Douglas Fir is its wide availability, especially in North America. This timber is also cheaper than those that have been treated. 

While there are certainly many ways to use Douglas Fir inside your home, you may be wondering whether this wood’s properties allow it to be used outside. Of course, to answer this question, we need to consider whether this wood can withstand the elements. You’ll be relieved to find out that Douglas Fir is excellent at withstanding extreme weather. 

This timber is also naturally resistant to rot and insects – especially when you compare it to other types of wood. Of course, this makes Douglas Fir an excellent choice for outdoor use. However, there are two crucial factors to keep in mind when considering this. 

Firstly, you’ll want to ensure that you use authentic Douglas Fir timber. Many woodworkers are misled to purchase Hem-Fir, a timber manufactured through crossbreeding. While Hem-Fir shares many similarities with Douglas Fir and is considerably cheaper, it will not be suitable for outdoor use. 

Hem-Fir, unfortunately, does not share the same naturally resistant properties as Douglas Fir. This means that Hem-Fir timber that is used outdoors will be more susceptible to rot, insects, and water-related damage. For this reason, you want to ensure you use real Douglas Fir wood outside.  

Secondly – despite being naturally resistant to the elements, rot, and insects – your Douglas Fir will not be impervious to damage when exposed for extended periods. Of course, there are methods to mitigate this, like waterproofing and staining the Douglas Fir timber you intend to use outdoors. 

Staining Douglas Fir For Outdoor Use

In the first section, we briefly mentioned the natural beauty of Douglas Fir. Of course, this timber’s beautiful appearance is part of its appeal, in addition to the many other benefits. Many woodworkers agree that the beauty of Douglas Fir lies in its coloring and veining. 

If you’ve seen Douglas Fir timber, you’re sure to have noticed these visual aspects. That’s partly because Douglas Fir is notoriously bad at holding paint. Due to this, many woodworkers avoid painting this material, instead opting for its natural beauty. 

How To Stain Douglas Fir For Outdoor Use: A Quick Guide

However, just because it doesn’t hold paint well doesn’t mean you don’t need to treat the wood at all. If you’re considering outdoor use, treating the wood is even more crucial to protect it. While both Coast and Pacific Douglas Fir timber have water-resistant properties, they are not fully waterproof. 

If you’re looking to utilize Douglas Fir outside, you will need to adequately treat the wood. Generally, staining and waxing are considered the best methods of protecting your Douglas Fir from sustaining damage outdoors. In this article, we’re specifically looking at staining the wood. 

Ultimately, staining is the best method to protect Douglas Fir timber that will be used outside your home. However, you’ll want to ensure you use the correct type of stain. Some types are known to set before you’ve had a chance to apply it evenly. Before we guide you through the staining process, let’s look at the best stains to use for Douglas Fir! 

The Best Stains For Douglas Fir 

Douglas Fir can be more costly than cheaper alternatives, which means you’ll want to protect your investment. As we discussed above, one of the best methods is staining Douglas Fir timber that will be used outside. Of course, one of the products you’ll need to do this is a stain. 

With many options available on the market, you might struggle to find the right stain for your timber. Generally, it is recommended that gel stains are used when treating Douglas Fir wood for outdoor use. With a thick consistency and a slow absorption rate, this type of stain is easy to apply. 

With a gel stain, you’ll have more time to evenly apply the substance before it sets. Once it has set, you’ll notice the stain has formed a film-like layer on the surface. That’s because this gel doesn’t penetrate the pores of your wood like other types of stains and waxes. These are the best gel stains to use when treating Douglas Fir for use outdoors! 

#1: Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain And Sealer For Wood

Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer for Wood
  • Requires no primer. Ready Seal is darkest when first applied. It reaches its true color in approximately 14 days. Do not apply Ready Seal over painted or newly stained surfaces. Sealed surfaces inhibit penetration.
  • May be applied using sprayer, roller or brush onto the woods surface.
  • Requires no back brushing and will nerver leave runs, laps, or streaks.

Last update on 2023-06-09 at 00:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Ready Seal Exterior Stain is one of the best staining products available on the market today. With no need for a primer, there are many great ways to apply this stain to Douglas Fir. This stain will even work on an outdoor Douglas Fir deck! With a 4.6/5 rating from upward of 6000 reviews, this is a stain you can trust! 

#2: Minwax Gel Stain (66010000) 

Minwax Gel Stain for Interior Wood Surfaces, Quart, Chestnut
  • WOOD GEL STAIN – Minwax Gel Stain is specifically designed to give you full control over the staining process and help you achieve beautiful results. Recommended uses include woodwork, furniture, doors, molding, trim, cabinets, and accessories.
  • UNIQUE NON-DRIP FORMULA – The non-drip formula of this gel stain for wood makes application easy, even for vertical surfaces. It’s thick-bodied, so it stays more towards the surface of the wood, allowing for greater color control during application.
  • DELIVERS EVEN COLOR – Minwax interior wood stain delivers color evenly on wood and non-wood surfaces, such as metal, veneer, and fiberglass. Pre-treat bare wood with Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner to ensure you get the most uniform color.

Last update on 2023-06-09 at 00:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Minwax’s Gel Stain is another excellent stain to use with Douglas Fir. With a unique non-drip formula, this stain is easy to apply, whether you’re applying it to your deck, fence, or outdoor furniture. Another advantage of this product is the sheer number of colors it is available in. From more than 3500 reviews, this gel stain has a rating of 4.6/5. 

#3: Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain (TH.042841-16) 

Thompson's Water Seal Semi Transparent Waterproofing Stain (Acorn Brown)
  • Color: Acorn Brown
  • Semi-Transparent
  • Wood sealer and stain, all in one

Last update on 2023-06-09 at 00:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Another great gel stain to consider is this product from Thompson’s. This semi-transparent stain is perfect to use on outdoor Douglas Fir, from decks to exterior furniture. This gel stain is also affordable. From more than 400 reviews, Thompson’s Waterseal Waterproofing Stain has a rating of 4.6/5.  

10 Steps To Stain Douglas Fir For Outdoor Use 

From your fence to your deck to outdoor furniture, you’ll want to stain any Douglas Fir wood that will be used outside. With our ten simple steps, you’ll have your Douglas Fir protected from the elements in no time! 

Step One: Gather Your Supplies

These are the supplies you’ll need when staining Douglas Fir timber for outdoor use! 

Step Two: Sand Down Your Douglas Fir 

Once you’ve gathered the necessary supplies – which can all be found online – you can begin sanding down your Douglas Fir timber. To do this, you’ll want to use the appropriate safety gear, like goggles and a mask. You’ll also need to use 150-grit sandpaper. Of course, this step aims to remove any surface inconsistencies before staining the wood. 

When sanding the surface of the timber, you’ll want to sand by following the wood’s grain. This will ensure you get the best results with this process. Once you’ve finished sanding the Douglas Fir, you can proceed to the following step. 

Step Three: Wipe Down Your Sanded Douglas Fir 

The following step is to wipe down your sanded timber. To do this, you’ll want to use a damp sponge. You’ll also want to wring any excess water from the sponge. Remember: although Douglas Fir is naturally resistant to water, it is not fully resistant – until you’ve stained it, that is.

The goal of this is to add a little bit of moisture to the surface of the Douglas Fir. This step is done so that the grain of the wood is raised. However, this also removes any sanding dust that may still be present on the surface. When wiping down the wood, make sure you use heavy strokes and only wipe in one direction. 

Step Four: Apply Your Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner 

Before you start staining your timber, you’ll need to use a pre-stain wood conditioner. This is applied to ensure the untreated Douglas Fir wood is ready for the gel stain. When applying the conditioner to your fence, deck, or furniture, you’ll want to use a paintbrush with natural bristles. 

Given that Douglas Fir is a softwood, you’ll want to apply two coats of the pre-stain wood conditioner. This allows the first coat to absorb, while the second coat will remain on the surface of the wood properly. By completing this step, which is often skipped, you ensure that your gel stain will not appear blotchy or streaky when applied.  

Step Five: Remove Any Excess Wood Conditioner 

Before the second coat has a chance to set, you’ll want to remove any excess conditioner from the surface. To do this, you need to use a clean cloth. If there is too much conditioner on the Douglas Fir’s surface, it will take longer to dry and will block the wood’s pores. 

These reasons are why it’s crucial that any excess conditioner is removed once the second coat has been applied. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to wait three hours before you can proceed to stain your Douglas Fir timber. 

Step Six: Apply Your First Gel Stain Coat 

As discussed earlier in this article, gel stains are known for their thick consistency. To compensate for this consistency, you’ll want to ensure that your first coat is a thin one. To apply these coats, you’ll need to use a wood staining cloth to rub the gel evenly into the Douglas Fir. 

When applying your stain, you need to apply it with the grain. Ultimately, this will yield the best results. Staining your wood against the grain can leave unwanted streaks on the surface of your Douglas Fir wood. As you apply the gel stain, the staining cloth will ensure that any excess is removed.  

Step Seven: Wait For The First Coat To Set 

Once you’ve applied the first stain coat, you’ll need to wait for it to set. Typically, this takes about two hours. However, the time it takes may vary depending on certain factors, such as the weather and the thickness of the applied coat. Once the first layer of stain has dried, you can proceed to the following step! 

Step Eight: Apply Your Second Gel Stain Coat 

It’s finally time for the second coat of your gel stain! When applying this layer to your Douglas Fir, you’ll want to follow the same procedure discussed in Step Six. This should only be done when the first coat has properly dried. 

Step Nine: Wait For The Second Coat To Set 

As in Step Seven, you’ll want to provide adequate time for the second gel stain coating to set correctly. This time, you will need to leave the second coat between one and two whole days to fully dry. Once this stain coating has dried, you can proceed to the final step of the staining process! 

Step Ten: Apply Your Sealant 

Depending on the gel stain you purchased, this step may not be necessary. The label of your gel stain will inform you whether it also acts as a sealant. If the gel stain is also a sealant, you do not need to complete this step. However, if your stain does not have these properties, you’ll want to apply a sealant to your Douglas Fir to ensure longevity. 

Essentially, the sealant you apply functions as a protective topcoat on your outdoor Douglas Fir deck, fence, or furniture. Depending on your sealant’s instructions, you will want to apply one or two coats to protect your Douglas Fir. 


In this piece, we looked at staining Douglas Fir for outdoor use. Firstly, we considered why Douglas Fir is fit for use outside. Of course, to do this, you will need to stain your outdoor deck, fence, or furniture to protect it from the elements fully. Luckily, you can easily do this by following our ten-step guide! 


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