Best Stain for Redwood – Enhance, Protect, and Maintain Your Redwood

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The Redwood National Park was established in California in 1968. It was created to protect and preserve the area’s redwood trees which had been dwindling at the time, with 90% of them having been lost to bad population/regrowth methods and foresting practices. Redwood is an indigenous plant to the US and holds significant cultural and historical importance to the native peoples and those who settled later on. Redwood is one of the most popular hardwoods available today (which can come at a significant premium). You may be wondering what is the best way to maintain and treat this type of hardwood. Most people would say that staining the redwood is the best way to maintain and create it. What is the best stain for redwood? How do you stain redwood? The following article will address these questions and provide you with relevant facts about the longevity of redwood, and how you can protect your redwood and lengthen its lifespan.



What Is Redwood?

Redwood’s scientific name is Sequoia sempervirens. It is a species of tree that is indigenous to North America and is considered very popular due to its durability, aesthetic appeal, and exclusivity. Thanks to the different characteristics of the wood and its aesthetic appeal, redwood can be used for an assortment of applications. Redwood fills the needs of a particular niche market and is a highly sought-after material.

Redwood Characteristics

Redwood trees thrive in a certain type of environment and create a unique ecosystem wherever they grow. In the lumber market, wood is more sought after thanks to its exclusivity. This has resulted in the feeling of these trees being protected by law. Redwood is well known for being the world’s tallest tree species, which means it takes a lot of manpower and effort to fall (luckily these days we have the machinery to handle the hard work).

Redwood Forest

Redwood responds really well to changes in the environment, and therefore it does not experience any major population changes as a result of new wildlife or alien plant species. Another advantage is that redwood grows for hundreds of years, as the wood’s fiber only becomes dense as the trees get older.

This means that these trees are significantly heavier the older they are. The older trees are therefore highly desirable for use as structural supports or furniture production.

Strength of Redwood Timber

Young redwood is light and soft but still offers excellent rigidity and strength compared to other hardwoods. Living redwood trees have an amazing resistance to winds, landslides, and floods thanks to their extended root system and roots that intertwine with one another. Redwood lumber, as a construction material is extremely durable.

An assortment of animals also uses redwood trees as their natural habitats thanks to the tree’s height and resistance to natural disasters. Redwood trees will live to be thousands of years old and have bark that is resistant to wildfires, which makes them last even longer. Some redwood trees are located in ideal conditions, allowing them to live for over 2200 years.

Redwood Tree Fibers



What Is Redwood Used for?

This wood is very sought-after and pricey as a result of its characteristics and aesthetic finish. You can purchase an alternative material that offers the same finish and could potentially be stronger in terms of durability and tensile strength, however, a lot of people feel the wood is special thanks to its exclusivity associated with owning anything made of solid redwood.

Live Edge Redwood Coffee Table

That being said, one will often find engineered wood furniture (furniture made from multi-density fiberboard or plywood at its core) with a redwood veneer finish. The redwood veneer is significantly more affordable and readily available. There are some advantages to having solid wood furnishings in comparison to engineered wood ones. Redwood, in particular, provides you with some definite upsides, one of which is its durability.

You can use redwood to create practically anything you can think of. It can be used to create high-end bed frames, form mantle pieces, desks, bedside tables, and even big living room tables. A piece of redwood furniture will add elegance to any home.

Redwood is Ideal for Furniture

As previously mentioned, if you maintain your redwood piece it will last for many years. This means you will be able to hand down any redwood furniture you may own to friends and family. Redwood offers great aesthetic appeal as it gives off an intense deep red hue that brings a space together, while still offering light orange undertones that stop the wood from being too overpowering.

The majority of people feel the greatest advantage to redwood is its long-life span and the ability to resist threats such as moisture damage, mold, rot, termites, and even potential splitting caused by overexposure to heat. Redwood is a hardy, durable material.

Redwood Resists Rot and Termites

The durability of Redwood is also impacted by the level of care and maintenance you put into it. Ensuring the wood is maintained will decrease the likelihood of shrinkage, splitting, or cracking over time. The more you maintain your redwood, the longer it will last.

A redwood desk or a set of built-in bookshelves are stunning pieces of furniture for you to own and display in your home. They will provide an imposing presence and may even include carvings and inlays, providing you with an elegant piece of furniture. Any home with a redwood in it will have a sense of grandeur.

redwood for furniture


What Are the Positive and Negative Aspects of Redwood Furniture?

While redwood is an amazing material for furniture, it is not perfect. While redwood may seem like the perfect material, you may be wondering if there are any negative characteristics, and while there are, the positive characteristics outweigh the few negatives.

  • Exclusive material
  • Looks stunning
  • Works well for outdoor use
  • Very durable
  • Resistant to heat/fire damage
  • Timeless finish
  • Resistant to water damage
  • Can be used to create durable furniture
  • Resistant to mold
  • Easily stained and coated
  • Resistant to termites
  • Will need to be varnished regularly
  • Soft
  • The further you live from where redwood is grown, the pricier it is
  • Will easily dent
  • Endangered tree species
  • The grain can be challenging to work with



What Is the Best Stain for Redwood?

While in its natural state, redwood is fairly durable, staining your wood to treat it will provide you with a long-lasting finish that is resistant to splitting and cracking. The wood will be more impact resistant once it has been stained, as opposed to the raw wood. You will also heighten the aesthetic appeal of the wood when staining it, as the stain will highlight the natural hue of the wood and the incredible grain. Staining your redwood will just enhance an already gorgeous material.

Stain Enhances Redwood Color

Wood-stain has various advantages over paint. Stain is available in two distinct variations (these are water- or acrylic-based and oil-based), which will not only protect, but also enhance redwood in certain environments and applications.

You would typically use the oil-based stain when the wood will be used in an outside location and will be exposed to the elements. You will receive increased resistance to heat and moisture when using oil-based products. This will stop your redwood from cracking and/or warping. This protection is provided by the fact that the oil-based stain seeps deep into the wood fibers.

Oil-Based Stain on Redwood

It is important to remember that oil-based stains are very flammable and need to be handled with care. You should also ensure that you are wearing adequate protective gear, and are working in an area with good ventilation when working with an oil-based stain.

The majority of people feel that water- and acrylic-based stains are the best stains for redwood, and objectively they are right. Despite acrylic stain being quite new to the wood staining scene, it is relatively popular primarily thanks to the speedy drying time. An oil-based stain can take two days to dry out, while an acrylic wood stain takes only two or three hours to dry.

Redwood Stain Process

You apply an acrylic-based stain in much the same manner you would apply an oil-based stain, but the acrylic-based stain is a lot easier to clean up, and if you unintentionally spill any acrylic-based stain on anything it will not cause any damage. If you do happen to spill some acrylic-based stain you can just use some water and soap to clean it up.

Acrylic-based stain is also environmentally friendly, and thanks to them not seeping into the redwood fibers it is easy to remove from the surface of redwood. Sadly, acrylic-based stains are slightly more expensive than oil-based stains.

Stain for Redwood Deck

What follows are the best stains you can use on redwood. These stains have garnered multiple positive reviews and come highly recommended.


Best Overall: CABOT Australian Timber Oil Stain

Cabot has a reputation for producing some of the best wood stain products available on the market. The Australian Timber oil stain offers you all the benefits you could hope for in terms of a wood stain. Cabot seems to offer you the whole package in terms of ease of application and overall protection.

You will receive amazing UV protection from this oil-based stain, as well as heightened impact resistance for anywhere up to five years. This is thanks to the deep-penetrating formula of the product. The product goes on with ease and thanks to the deep penetration the product will continue to work for years.

You can use this redwood stain on many different redwood furnishings such as trim pieces, bed frames, outdoor furniture, tables, cabinets, and so much more.

Other advantages to this product include providing your piece of redwood furniture with a new dimension of color once it has been completely absorbed into the fibers. You will however need to work in a well-ventilated space when applying the product as the oil-based redwood stain is toxic, particularly if it is graded for outdoor use.

This product has been formulated for use as a redwood deck stain, as a result, it tends to stain the wood a lot darker. You should therefore only apply it to your redwood furniture if you are happy for the wood to be darkened. Keep in mind though that the effect is quite effective and highlights the outline of any piece of furniture it’s applied to and the wood’s grain.

CABOT Australian Timber Oil Stain
  • Formula contains Linseed oil, Tung oil, and Long-oil-alkyds
  • Trans-oxide pigments for enhanced UV protection
  • Suitable for decks, siding, railings, and outdoor furniture
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  • Enhances natural color of the wood
  • UV-resistant
  • Long-lasting (up to five years)
  • Will to work and develop over time
  • Simple to apply
  • Ideal for outdoor use
  • Takes a long time to dry (24 to 48 hours)
  • Toxic
  • Pricey
  • Difficult to remove
  • Darkens redwood surfaces
  • Requires regular maintenance/upkeep
  • Only formulated for use on decks


Best Value: #1 DECK Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

This is another product that has been formulated for use on wooden decks. #1 Deck has the most positive reviews in terms of redwood deck stain products available. While it is best when used on redwood, the product will work on an assortment of other hardwoods and will provide a great finish.

This is our recommendation for an acrylic-based option to use as a redwood deck stain, and it offers you some advantages you wouldn’t get with an oil-based product. This product will protect your deck and any other redwood furniture from the elements, so it can be used on outside furniture like tables and chairs, or even your redwood deck.

This product does not only provide you with a stain, as it’s a stain and a sealer. it is quite common for acrylic-based stains to be a combined product.

This product is also environmentally-friendly and is significantly easier to clean up when you are finished with your job. If you are someone who strives to be more eco-friendly, then this is the perfect product.

#1 Deck will also work well on any pressure-treated wood, and will even work on wet wood! Sadly, there are some negative aspects to the product, in comparison to an oil-based stain, this product will need to be maintained more regularly. Despite that this is a great product that is simple to use, versatile, durable, and easy to clean up.

#1 DECK Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • Suitable for pressure-treated Pine, Cedar, Fir, Redwood, and softwoods
  • Combination stain and sealer enhances color and protects wood
  • Useable on damp wood, reducing time between cleaning and coating
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  • Can be used on pressure-treated wood
  • Durable
  • Can be applied to wet wood
  • Dual-purpose sealer and stain
  • Eco-friendly
  • Inexpensive
  • Dries quickly (two to three hours)
  • Versatile
  • Can be used with ease
  • Available in several colors
  • Easy clean-up
  • Color choice is limited
  • Will require regular maintenance
  • Will not enhance the wood’s natural color
  • Will not be absorbed into wood fibers
  • Only impacts the surface of the wood

If you would prefer to leave your stained redwood as it is, that is okay, and if you happen to be using an acrylic-based wood stain such as #1 Deck you would have already applied a sealer when applying the stain. If on the other hand, you have used a product that does not contain any sealer you will then have to apply a sealer to weatherproof your furniture piece.

What follows is a sealer we can highly recommend, as it will provide added protection for our deck. By using this sealer, you will provide your redwood deck with an amazing additional layer of protection.


Best Redwood Sealer: SEAL-ONCE Marine Premium Penetrating Wood Sealer

When you have finished staining your wood and you have allowed sufficient time for it to dry, you will want to ensure your handy work will last as long as possible. If you have chosen to use an oil-or water-based wood stain you will want to further protect the wood.

Seal-Once is the perfect solution! You can protect your redwood surface from frost and rain in the cold winter months by applying this sealer. This product is considered heavy-duty protection to seal stained redwood, and some might say this product could be considered overkill.

When selecting a wood sealer, overkill is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means you are covered from all sides. Seal-Once is the ideal product as its specialized formula will ensure that your deck is covered from both saltwater and freshwater damage, and thanks to it being water-based it is eco-friendly as well!

This particular sealant will penetrate deep into the wood fibers and will offer protection on a molecular level from both heat and moisture. This product behaves like an oil-based wood stain, so it will provide you with lifelong protection.

Though this sealant behaves like an oil-based product, it is water-based, so while it is non-toxic and environmentally safe, it is also safe for children and animals to come into contact with.

This is undoubtedly the best redwood sealer available today. While yes, it is pricey, you do get the quality you pay for.

SEAL-ONCE Marine Premium Penetrating Wood Sealer
  • Unique deep-penetrating formula coats wood fibers at cellular level
  • Creates a flexible, breathable barrier for wood to expand and contract
  • Non-film forming and natural grain enhancing on old or new wood
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  • Easy clean-up
  • Protects against water damage and UV
  • Water-based
  • Can be exposed to saltwater and freshwater
  • Safe for contact for animals and children
  • Impacts wood on a molecular level
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Soaks directly into the wood’s fibers
  • Formulated for marine applications
  • Pricey
  • Volume can be insufficient for larger decks
  • Long dry time
  • Not easy to apply



How to Stain Redwood Effectively

There are two situations where you might feel the need to stain your deck. One situation is if you have acquired a new deck and you would like to change its finish and add a layer of protection. The other situation is if you have an old deck that you would like to breathe life into.

Regardless of which situation you are in, the application process is very similar. We have put together a step-by-step guide to assist you in preparing your deck, your work area, and yourself for the task at hand.


Prepare Your Work Area

In the case of working on a deck, your work area and your workpiece are the same things. It is important to keep the deck area as clean as you possibly can. To clean your deck, you can start by sweeping the surface. This will remove any leaves, dirt, and other particles from the deck. When you have finished sweeping you might find you will have to give the deck a deep clean. If so, you can remove any stains by just using a little soapy water and a mop.

Wash Redwood Deck Before Staining

Next, you will have to get the relevant tools together. The tools you will require are a sander and sandpaper, your wood stain, your brushes, your sealer, some rags or cloths, and some painter’s tape. You can use the tape to tape off any area of the deck you are not intending on coating.

Keep in mind if you are using acrylic wood stain, there is a good chance that your stain already contains sealer. Consult the product’s label to determine if your particular product contains sealer. Remember if you have mopped your deck, to allow time for it to dry before you move on to the next step. If the deck is wet you will not be able to sand it down.

Do Not Stain Wet Redwood

Regardless of whether or not you first need to clean the deck, we recommend that you should still wait for a sunny day before you tackle staining your deck.


Sand Your Deck Down

It is time to get your sander going to expose the wood that you plan on staining. You want to use sanding paper between 150 and 180 grit, depending on the condition of your wood, and how deep you wish to sand it down. Start the sander and work from one plank to the end, continue like this until you have sanded down the whole deck.

Sand Redwood Before Staining

It is imperative when working with a sander that you ensure to wear the correct protective gear. You will have to wear good quality gloves to protect your hands from not just the sander but also from the wood dust you are creating when sanding. The wood dust is also potentially dangerous for your lungs so you will need to wear a filtered mask so that the particles do not ender your mouth and nose. Finally, you will require protection for your eyes. Wearing goggles to protect your eyes is the most important piece of safety gear to wear as you want to avoid any particles flying up into your eyes while sanding.

Safety Gear for Staining Redwood Deck

The reason we emphasize the need for adequate safety gear is that you will be potentially working on your hands and knees while sanding, which means there is not much distance between yourself, machine, and the surface of the wood. You will need to angle the sander so that the debris does not fly towards you when sanding.

When using the sander, allow the sander to do the work, do not put too much pressure on when putting down the sander. Too much pressure could cause areas of the wood to be sanded deeper than other areas, this would create an uneven surface. Do not forget to sand the corners of the deck. You should try to sand the wood in the direction of the grain as much as you possibly can. We recommend you work section by section or from right to left (or vice versa), depending on what you prefer. Finally, use a broom or a leaf blower to clear any wood dust and particles from the deck before beginning the next step.

Sanding a Redwood Deck for Staining


Stain Your Deck

Now you can tackle the main part, staining the deck!  Ensure that no dust particles or debris are remaining on the deck. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them carefully to prepare the stain, if necessary, allow it to settle. When you have finished preparing the wood stain, take your brush (we recommend using a four-inch brush for the majority of the deck slats) and dip it into the wood stain. Get a decent dollop of wood stain on the brush’s bristles.

You ideally want to apply your first layer of wood stain to the entire length of the board you are working on. Try not to saturate any part of the board to the point where it can no longer absorb any more of the wood stain.

Applying Stain on Redwood

Apply the stain parallel to the length of the board, and work side-to-side or section-by-section just like you did when you were sanding down the wood. Remember that staining is not a race. While it is a labor-intensive process and you may feel the need to rush to complete it, rather take your time. You will require a level of patience when staining redwood and will also pay attention to detail while working. You also need to ensure that you do not work yourself into a corner, work strategically.

This should be a given, but your aim is to stain any visible part of the boards. You can apply stain to the edge of your board using the edge of your brush. It is imperative for all exposed areas of the deck must be completely covered with the stain.

Applying Stain to Redwood

When you have finished applying stain to all of the boards, you will need to ensure that the boards along the border of the deck are also covered in the stain. The product will need to dry once you have completed the application. You can consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how long the product you have used will take to dry, it could be between 48 and 72 hours. Only once the stain has dried can you move on to the next step.


Seal Your Deck

As you may have realized by now, staining redwood requires a significant amount of effort in comparison to another DIY project. You would therefore be very disappointed if all your hard work only lasted a short time. We highly recommend you, therefore, seal your deck once you have finished staining it. While staining redwood is very time-consuming and extremely hard work, sealing redwood is a relatively simple process. When your wood stain has dried completely it is time to begin applying your sealer.

Method for Staining Redwood Deck

You can apply your sealer using the same sectioning process you used to apply your stain, though you can apply your sealer a bit more generously as decks are high-traffic areas and are exposed to a variety of weather conditions. Much like the stain, once you have finished applying the sealer it will require adequate time to dry. The relevant drying time will be stipulated in the manufacturer’s instructions. Once dried you will have a stunning redwood deck that you can walk on and simply enjoy!



Now you have the knowledge and know-how to stain redwood. You know which tools you will require to tackle the job, how to prepare your work area, the history of the wood itself, and the importance of utilizing the correct protective gear. That means that you can now go ahead and stain your redwood! Remember to work patiently and carefully when applying the stain and do not work yourself into a corner. Staining your redwood will enhance the aesthetic appeal of the gorgeous wood and will assist in extending its life span. Owning a piece of redwood furniture will enhance any home!



Frequently Asked Questions


How Much Does a Redwood Deck Cost?

Redwood is a very in-demand material in both the veneer and solid wood form, so you can expect to pay a premium. The further away you live from where redwood is grown, the pricier the material is. This means that you can easily expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $30 per square foot for Redwood, depending on where you buy it from.


Does Redwood Make a Good Deck?

Redwood is a stunning material to use for building decks, due to its strength, rigidity, and natural resistance to environmental impacts. Redwood will not attract insects, and if you maintain the wood well, your redwood piece can last up to three decades. Thanks to their durability, redwood decks are coveted and greatly sought after.


Is It Necessary to Apply a Topcoat After Staining Redwood?

While the process of staining your redwood piece is very labor-intensive, if you apply just a stain you will not have sufficient protection from weather or any real abrasion. If you are looking to protect all your hard work, then we recommend you also apply a sealer to protect the wood from moisture and/or sunlight.