The best method of protecting a cedar deck depends on where you live. If you live in the North and Northeast, you need to be concerned about water invasion and fungal growth in cedar. In the South and Southwest you need to protect your cedar deck wood from drying out and also from fungal growth. If you have ever been to states like Washington and noticed beautiful red cedar on homes and fences there, you know that cedar lasts a long time in cold, damp climates. That is because the natural oils that protect cedar are not cooked off by the hot sun. In places where the climate is generally cold and cloudy you can get away with water based cedar protection. If you live in a hot climate, you need an oil – based cedar fence treatment.
In places like Texas and Arizona, red cedar fences rarely last a season before turning gray. By the second or third year they are splitting and falling apart.
Below is a new cedar fence. They rarely stay looking this way in hot climates unless quickly treated with an oil based stain.
If you live in the South and Southwestern United States, the best way to protect cedar decks and fences is to use an oil based semi – transparent stain such as that made by Behr. Semi – transparent stain is sort of like “half stain, half paint”. Because it is not fully transparent it acts like sunscreen for cedar wood. The darker you go, the more it protects your cedar deck from sun damage. That being said, the darker the stain, the less you can see of the natural wood grain. I prefer the natural cedar tone semi – transparent stain to protect cedar. I use it on both local hill – country cedar (juniper), and on red cedar.
The best way to protect your cedar deck or fence in Texas is to apply oil based semi-transparent stain once a year. If you skip a year you will regret it, since the stain will begin to crack and you may have to sand or pressure wash it off and start over again.
Preventative maintenance with oil based stain is the best way to protect cedar fences and decks in the southwest.