How to Seal Cedar Without Changing Color: Expert Advice

Got a new cedar fence and don’t know how to seal cedar without changing color. Then I got you!

To seal a cedar without changing its color, employ a clear or transparent water-based sealant. Apply the sealant evenly and ensure complete coverage of the fence. Then allow it to dry completely before exposing the cedar fence to the outer environment.

As you may cedar is adored for its lovely and natural looks. Its color is rich and ranges from reddish-brown to gray, depending on the kind and age of the wood. It also has a pleasant aroma making that makes it a popular choice for outdoor projects.

But cedar besides its a pretty face. It is also durable & can withstand harsh weather conditions. However, cedar is not invincible at all. It needs care and maintenance to preserve its beauty and strength over time.

If you want your cedar fence to look fresh and natural, then you need to select the right sealer and apply it correctly. In this article, I’ll be showing you how to seal it without changing the color. I’ll also show you some common mistakes that people make and some tips for maintaining your sealed cedar.

Understanding Cedar’s Natural Color

Before diving into the sealing process, I want to appreciate the different shades of this tree. It comes from different species, such as western red, eastern white, northern white, and Atlantic white cedar.

Every type has its distinct color, varying from light tan to dark brown. Further, a noticeable grain pattern embellishes the fence, lending it both texture and intrigue.

One of the most attractive features of cedar is the amazing variety of its colors. It can have different shades within the same board. These various colorings are caused by many factors, such as age, location, moisture, and exposure to sunlight.

This diversity in shades gives it a rustic and authentic look that many people love. However, some folks may prefer a more consistent and uniform color for their fences. 

Cedar ShadesDescription
Light TanPale, light shade
Reddish-BrownRich reddish-brown
Dark BrownDeep, dark brown
GraySoft gray tone

If you’re one of them, you may want to consider staining your fence before sealing. However, if you are fond of its natural color and want to preserve it, you should seal it.

Why Cedar Needs Sealing

You may be thinking why you need to seal your fence at all. As it is known for being naturally resistant to decay, insects, and weathering

However, cedar fences aren’t immune to all the elements out there. Over time, they’ll have to face rain, snow, sun, wind, dirt, dust, pollen, and all those environmental factors that can mess things up. So, it’s something to keep in mind if you’re planning on getting one.

Moisture is one of the biggest enemies of cedar. It can cause wood fibers to swell and contract, leading to warping, cracking, splitting, or rotting. Moreover, it may lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which can weaken your fence.

Sealant TypeEffect on Cedar ColorDurabilityApplication Frequency
Water-basedClear/TransparentGood2-3 years
Acrylic-basedClear/TransparentExcellent3-4 years
Oil-basedMay darken slightlyGood1-2 years

UV rays are another threat to wood. UV rays can break down the lignin and cellulose of the wood, leading to discoloration and reduction of strength. 

how to seal cedar without changing color

Sealing your cedar fence will give it a protective barrier and will enhance its natural beauty by bringing out its color and grain.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Sealing Cedar

To achieve the best results and keep cedar from greying, you need to be mindful of certain blunders that people make. Here are some of them:

  • Sealing it too early or too late: If you have a new fence, you may want to seal it right away. However, this is not a good idea because the wood has a high moisture content that needs to dry out before sealing. You should wait at least 4 to 6 weeks after installation.
  • Avoid Using the wrong type of sealer: Some of them can react with the natural oils and acids in the wood, causing discoloration and deterioration. Do not use ones that possess linseed, tung oil, or alkyl resins. They can darken or yellow the wood over time. Also, do not those that are too thick or too glossy for cedar. These sealers can create a film on the surface of the wood that can crack or peel off. Instead, use sealers that are specially designed for cedar fences or exterior wood in general. 
  • Applying too much or too little sealer: This can cause several problems for your cedar fence. It can create a thick and uneven coating that can obscure the natural beauty of the wood. It can also prevent the fence from breathing properly, which can lead to moisture buildup and rotting. Applying too little sealer can also be problematic for your cedar fence. It can leave some areas of the wood unprotected and exposed to the elements. It can also result in a patchy and inconsistent appearance of the wood. You should apply enough sealer to cover the entire surface of your cedar fence without leaving any gaps or overlaps. You should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how much sealer to use per square foot of wood and how many coats to apply.

  • Applying sealer during the wrong weather conditions: The weather conditions can influence how well your sealer sticks to your cedar fence and how long it takes to dry and cure. According to experts don’t apply sealer in extreme temperatures, high humidity, strong wind, or direct sunlight. 

How to Seal Cedar Without Changing Color

Now that you have an idea of what mistakes to avoid, let’s get into the actual steps of how to do it properly. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A good quality sealer (preferably water-based or acrylic-based)
  • A paint sprayer, roller, or brush
  • A piece of cloth
  • bucket
  • A stir stick
  • A pair of gloves
  • Mask
  • And a pair of goggles

Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. First Prepare The Wood: If you’ve got a fresh cedar fence, give it two weeks before you seal it up. And for the older ones, no worries! Just get a mild detergent and water mix to clean off any dirt. Rinse it off and let it air dry. Also, do not forget to wipe away any leftover dust with a damp cloth and allow it dry again.
  1. Prepare The Sealer: Shake the sealer well before using it. Pour some of it into a bucket and keep the lid of the original container closed. If you’re using a paint sprayer then follow the instructions manual.
  1. Prepare The Area: Lay a drop cloth under and around your fence to cover the ground and any nearby plants from drips. Put on gloves, a mask, and goggles to protect yourself from the sealer’s fumes and splashes.
  1. Apply The sealer: Begin at the top of the fence and work downwards, following the wood grain. Apply a thin, even coat of sealer to the entire surface, ensuring no gaps remain. Use smooth, consistent strokes, maintaining a steady distance between the applicator and the wood. If you are using a paint sprayer, keep it 10 inches away from the fence and move horizontally or vertically. In case you have a roller or brush, dip it into the bucket and remove the excess sealer on the edge before applying it to the wood. Avoid applying too much pressure to prevent streaking.
  1. Let it Dry: Allow the first coat of sealer to dry for a minimum of 2 hours. Check if it is dry by touching it lightly with your finger. If it feels sticky, wait longer until it becomes dry to the touch.
  1. Applying Second Coat: Put a second coat of sealer over the first one by following the same procedure. Make sure to cover any spots that you have missed.
  1. Let it Cure: Let the second coat of sealer dry and cure for at least 24 hours. Do not touch the fence until the sealer is fully cured and hardened.

Maintaining Sealed Cedar

Once you are done with sealing, you’ll want to keep your cedar looking good for as long as possible. Here are some tips to maintain it:

  • Clean your fence on a regular basis with a mild detergent and water solution to remove any dirt, dust, or pollen that may stick to it. Rinse it and let it dry completely.
  • Inspect it occasionally for any signs of damage, such as cracks, warps, rot, or mold. Fix any minor damage as soon as possible to stop further deterioration.
  • Reapply sealer every 2 to 3 years to maintain appearance. 


Sealing your cedar without changing its color is not that difficult if you follow the above steps. By choosing the right sealer and applying it accurately. 

I hope you found this article informative. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.

I’m Asif, an outdoor blogger who loves sharing tips and tricks for making your projects more painless and more enjoyable. Thanks for reading!

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