Cedar is one of the most popular and widely used woods in outdoor structures like fences, decks, and siding. It’s a desirable material due to its strength, durability, and natural beauty. But over time, cedar will begin to change colors and textures as it’s exposed to weathering elements such as sun, moisture, dirt, and other environmental elements.
Cedar Wood Turns Silvery Gray When Weathered
When cedar is exposed to the elements, it gradually turns a silvery gray color. This happens when ultraviolet light from the sun oxidizes with natural oils and acids in the cedar. This weathering process gives cedar an elegant, rustic look that many homeowners love. Others may find the gray to be uneven or blotchy.
Cedar’s natural oils also act as a preservative. This means that cedar can last much longer than other types of wood without the need for painting or staining. While this is a bonus for exterior applications, it also makes cedar an attractive and durable choice for furniture, decks, siding, and more.
How Cedar Wood Weathers With Age
Over time, and with constant sun exposure, cedar’s once-smooth surface can become rough. This is caused by the splitting of the wood fibers as they dry out in the sun. The knots, also known as grain pockets, will eventually darken over time due to moisture accumulation inside them.
Cedar can also crack, warp, and twist when exposed to extreme temperature changes. These are natural processes that happen as wood ages, so it’s important to protect cedar from these environmental factors by staining or painting it regularly.
Luckily, cedar will deteriorate slowly due to naturally occurring oils such as thujopsene, cedrine, and cedrol. While weathering will be apparent almost immediately, it will progress about 2mm into the surface of the wood before the weathering slows down. Overall, cedar is a durable material for fencing and will hold up for many years before it requires replacement.
Is It Necessary To Treat Weathered Cedar Wood?
Once your cedar fence is installed, it is recommended that you begin to care for the wood before the wood begins to become discolored. When it does discolor, it will change from a red color to a silver/gray color. Most cedar treatments are similar to house paints offering pigments and solids. Keep in mind that the more solids a treatment has, the longer it will make the cedar last.
Cedar that has already been weathered will still benefit from regular care and maintenance. Applying a coat of sealer or stain to the wood will help protect it from further damage caused by the elements, such as UV rays, water, dirt, and other environmental factors. Regularly treating cedar can also help preserve its natural beauty while enhancing its strength and durability.
You can leave cedar untreated if you prefer a weather-beaten, rustic look. When left untreated, the cedar will weather uniquely. Some homeowners enjoy a fence that looks weathered and gray, while others do not like the uneven gray or blotches that the cedar takes on when aging unprotected.
How To Restore Color To Weathered Cedar Wood
One way to restore your weathered cedar wood is to use oxalic acid cleaner. This cleaner can be used to remove any stains and discoloration from the wood, as well as restore its color. Before using this cleaner, be sure to gather your supplies. In addition to a deck cleaner containing oxalic acid, you will need the following:
- Heavy duty gloves
- Eye protection
- Deck brushes
- A bucket and a spray bottle
- Pump sprayer (for large projects like fences)
- A power washer or another water source, such as a garden hose
Put on your gloves and eye protection, and then you can begin making your solution. These cleaners are very harsh on the skin, so be careful to protect yourself and the area you are working in. Check the label of the deck cleaner to determine how much cleaner and how much water you need to mix together. Typically it will be one part water, one part cleaner. Once that is mixed and put in your sprayer, you can begin by wetting down the area you are restoring with plain water.
Then, take your solution and spray it onto the fence. The solution can also be applied with a brush dipped into the bucket and then onto the fence. You will then take your deck brush, scrubbing the solution until it becomes a foamy coating. This process will need to be repeated several times. Be sure to focus on areas with mildew and other trouble areas.
Allow the solution to sit for about 15 minutes and allow it to soak into the wood. Using a power washer on a low PSI or a garden hose, rinse the fence off. Once the fence dries, you can apply a coating of your choice.
Colored stain is another great option for restoring your cedar fencing. This will help to protect the cedar from further weathering and keep it looking vibrant for years. Solid color stains contain solid particles that help protect the wood from UV rays and other weathering elements like water. This treatment will allow the wood grain to show through but will cover the gray.
Primer and paint are a full coverage option for your cedar fencing. It protects from the sun’s damage and can be used to save extremely weathered fences. You will not likely get an authentic wood color using primer and paint, so if you are looking to maintain a wood-like appearance, a stain may be a better option.
How To Quickly Weather Cedar Wood
If you want to save time and money, there is a way to weather cedar wood quickly. You can apply a solution of iron vinegar onto your fresh cedar fence. This will quickly oxidize and discolor the wood. It is best to apply it during a dry day when there isn’t much wind, as this could spread the mixture around too much.
You will want to soak steel wool in vinegar for a few hours to a few days, depending on how dark you want the weathering to be. Be sure to use 0000 steel wool to ensure it breaks down quickly in the vinegar. Once it’s soaked for your desired amount of time, you can use a brush to wipe the solution onto the wood and then allow it to try.
How To Preserve Cedar Wood
If you want to preserve your cedar fence and prevent weathering, there are a few steps you can take to maintain its original beauty. Apply a sealer or stain with an ultraviolet inhibitor that will protect the wood from the sun’s harmful rays. This will slow down the oxidation process and help keep your cedar looking fresh for longer.
You can also paint or stain the cedar to further enhance its durability and longevity. Regularly cleaning it off with a mild detergent will help remove dirt, debris, and mildew that may cause staining.
In addition to regular care, you can keep your fence looking new for years by following these tips: keeping it out of direct sunlight, using a sealer to protect the wood, and regularly cleaning off any dirt or debris. Following these steps will help your cedar fence look pristine for years to come.
To seal your cedar fence, choose a penetrating sealer rather than a film-forming one. This will help the material retain its natural look and breathe with changing temperatures. Here are the steps you need to take to seal your cedar fence:
Clean the wood with a mild detergent of one part bleach and three parts of warm water and rinse it off. You will then need to repair any damaged pickets. Check for loose nails and rot, then sand off any rough edges. Repair any loose boards using deck screws to keep them in place. If you have a broken piece, you can reattach it with wood glue or replace the damaged board.
Let the fence dry completely before applying the sealer. Use a brush, roller, or sprayer to apply an even coat of sealer on all sides of the cedar fence. Ensure you get into any crevices or joints and work in small sections for even coverage.
Cedar Fence Installation With Pittsburgh Fence Company
By following these steps, and with regular care and maintenance, your cedar fence can maintain its beauty for years to come. Whether you decide to leave it untreated or treat it regularly, there are many options available when it comes to cedar fences that will ensure they stay looking great. If you are up with regular maintenance on your cedar fence, it can last years without needing to replace it.
If you are looking to install a new cedar fence or want to help maintain your existing one, Pittsburgh Fence Company can provide the expertise and service you need. Our team is knowledgeable and experienced in all types of fencing and will be happy to assist you with any project needs you have. Call us today for more information about our services and to get started!
As the owner of Pittsburgh Fence Co, Inc. Jeff has had decades of experience installing fences on businesses and homes throughout Pittsburgh.