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I'm building Adirondack chairs out of cedar that I'll use on my front porch. I want to keep the natural cedar color, but also protect them from the elements and prevent them from getting gray and rough.

I was thinking about doing a coat of clear Thompson's WaterSeal Waterproofing Wood Protector on the cedar boards. Do I need to do anything else like polyurethane or something?

  • Note: Cedar, left completely unprotected, will lose its color and become a soft grey, but otherwise is pretty darned weather-resistant. That isn't what you've asked for, but it's an entirely legitimate option. (The guy who edits The Boston Globe's handyman column has stated repeatedly that, as far as he's concerned, painting or staining cedar is very much a matter of gilding the lily; he thinks the natural weathering is far more attractive and more "authentic" than any of the alternatives.) – keshlam Aug 28 '14 at 1:21
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Nope. Don't use Water Seal. The main issue is that cedar is a pretty soft wood, and it wears. No matter what you put on it, the wood beneath will wear, and it will look like a leper with a sunburn.

What you want to use is an oil. @Jeremy above suggested Australian Timber Oil, which is as good a solution as any. The idea is that oils will penetrate the wood, and when the outer surface wears off, it doesn't take the finish with it.

Of course, you'll have to freshen it every few years, but with care, an oil finish is going to last the longest.

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After experimenting with a lot of different options, I found Australian Timber Oil (Natural) works the best and has the best color for cedar.

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