13 Redwood Refinishing Tips

Refinishing redwood decking

Refinishing redwood decking

Redwood is a wonderful material for outdoor structures like decks and fences, but not everyone is in love with its gray, weathered look.  Refinishing redwood is actually quite easy and can be done by novices and professionals alike.


The first step, of course, is to remove any debris from the structure.  This can be done easily with a broom or scraper (for harder to remove substances).  Or, you can skip right to the big guns and use a power washer.  This is probably the quickest and most efficient way to clean an outdoor structure.  Watch the pressure setting!  Too high and the wood can be damaged.  Check with a contractor or other expert before washing.


If the redwood was previously painted or stained, you will want to apply a paint or varnish remover.  This is a chemical that will physically lift the paint/varnish from the wood.  These are generally quite strong chemicals, so wear protective clothing and make sure to do it in an area that is well ventilated to prevent over-exposure.

Test a small area of the structure with the remover to make sure that it works and will not discolor the wood.  If it doesn’t change the appearance of the wood under the stain or paint, then it is safe to use on the rest of the structure.


It is recommended that you use a product that contains both a mildewcide and a water-repellent.  Products with these ingredients will help bolster the natural properties of the redwood, improving its natural resistance.  Tinted stains or paints are great on redwood and can be used as desired.


Here are some additional finishing tips, graciously provided by Humboldt Redwood:

  1. When selecting redwood, choose grades marked Certified Kiln Dried where possible. Redwood bearing this certification more readily accepts finishes.
  2. If the wood is unseasoned, make sure it stands exposed to the ambient air for at least a month before applying any finish.
  3. Opt for wind-free days with stable weather for your finishing project. The perfect temperature for applying a finish should be somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees.
  4. Clean the redwood prior to finishing. If you need to use water to clean the redwood, ensure that it dries thoroughly beforehand.
  5. Thoroughly ventilate the area prior to finishing application. Moisture is a frequent cause of ineffective finishes, so be sure the proper precautions against it are taken. This includes using air vents, vapor barriers, and flashing.
  6. If your project is outdoors, choose wood finishes recommended for outdoor use only.
  7. Avoid using abrasive, metal-based brushes, since they may react with the wood and stain it. Choose stiff-bristled brushes instead.
  8. Be sure any products you mix are meant to be used together. Mixing dissimilar finishes might result in an ineffective finish.
  9. Prime the wood prior to applying paints or other external finishes.
  10. Choose the finest hot-dipped galvanized nails available. Opting for lower-quality nails may result in stains. Alternately, opt for nails made from other metals, such as aluminum or stainless steel.
  11. After finishing, rinse the surface of your deck with a hose to remove surface grime.
  12. For a deeper cleaning job, scrub the affected area with a stiff-bristled brush dipped in warm water and a mild cleaning agent, then rinse.
  13. Always follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions for all products used.

The California Redwood Association (CRA), has developed this redwood refinishing video to help make the process even easier to understand. Jeff Imwalle, a respected redwood deck building expert from Sacramento, walks you through all the steps needed to refinish your redwood deck like a professional. By simply following Jeff’s advice, you’ll be able to refinish your redwood deck with knowledge and confidence.

This post is generously sponsored by Humboldt Redwood.


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