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How to Stain Your Shed or Playhouse

Stain Your Shed or Playhouse
So you have decided to stain your shed or playhouse from Outdoor Living Today.com. Western Red Cedar has a reputation for holding finish exceptionally well, and for good reason too. After all, Western Red Cedar is pitch and resin-free and is usually milled with a rough finish. This means there’s nothing to interfere with the bonding of your finish and stain adherers to the rough fibers of the wood better.

Here are a few tips to help your shed or playhouse stay beautiful for many years to come.

Before Your Shed/Playhouse Arrives

Western Red Cedar will actually start to weather to a silvery-grey even 3-4 weeks after being exposed to the sun. If you want to keep your product looking “new” and you can’t assemble your unit for some time after it arrives, make sure you cover the unit and protect it from the elements until you can get at it.

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If you have enough garage space available, that could be an ideal location – sheltered from the sun and also dry and safe. Consider clearing out additional garage space to store if possible.

After Your Shed/Playhouse Arrives

When your OLT product arrives, it will either be unloaded with a power tailgate to the ground on a contained pallet or off-loaded piece-by-piece by you and some helpers. If power tailgated down and you can’t get at it immediately, request the driver pallet jack the entire unit in that great space you made in the garage.

Shipping companies sometimes can’t accommodate you but always ask! If the unit is left on your driveway, try to pick a spot not always in direct sunlight if possible.

Either way, remove the protective plastic cover from the unit and cut the plastic banding holding the entire unit together. This will let the unit breathe to reduce moisture from the wood which will be great when you stain later. Consider removing various pieces from the package so they can start to dry and slowly reach the moisture equilibrium in your area.

If your unit is hand offloaded from the delivery truck, sort pieces according to assembly section such as floor, walls, roof and trim. This will make it easier to locate pieces later and also get a game plan for what can be stained before and after assembly. If pieces are left outside, be sure to cover if exposed to direct sunlight or moisture for any period of time.

Stain Choice

Walk into any home do-it-yourself paint and supply store and you’re bound to be inundated with finish-stains. These products provide protection and also dress up the wood’s surface, enhancing cedar’s natural colors and textures or changing its face altogether. Three common choices are solid-colour stains, semi-transparent stains, and transparent stains.

Solid-colour stains act as a barrier between the elements and the wood, forming a film around the wood. Semi-transparent stains are ideal when you want to maintain western red cedar’s natural finish without weathering. Semi-transparent stains penetrate the wood’s pores, to varying degrees based on product. Transparent stains enhance the wood’s colour and act as an invisible protectant.

We here at Outdoor Living Today.com have experimented with many name brands, and in our opinion, a couple have stood out: Cabot Stain and Sikken’s.

Both of these companies offer an opaque stain as well if your desire is to ‘color’ your shed.

Expert Advice – bring a sample of cedar from the package and test the color so you know exactly what it will look like after you stain your shed or playhouse! The bottom skirting trim supplied with your shed/playhouse is a great piece to try this with.

Test various stains and colors on the inside of the skirting. These won’t be seen when the assembly is complete, and will help you decide on your stain choice a lot more definitively than some arbitrary ‘color guide’ on a sample rack.

When to Stain Your Shed or Playhouse – Before or After Assembly?

There are many benefits to staining pieces of your shed or playhouse prior to assembly and some negatives. Staining pieces before assembly allows you to work in a safe, comfortable position. It has the added benefit of allowing you to apply a finish to all sides of your wood before installing it, thus ‘protecting’ every surface of your shed or playhouse.

A good example of pieces we recommend staining prior to assembly would be the roof panels, filler shingles and roof ridge caps. The inside roof panels do not need to be stained! These pieces are much easier and safer to stain on saw horses. The entire trim kit can also be done prior to assembly.

One negative is you will probably use more stain and it may take longer to complete the job as opposed to staining after you assemble the entire unit.

Brush versus Spraying?

While it may be easier and quicker to stain your shed or playhouse with a paint sprayer on certain components such as the walls and roof panels, we still recommend you brush the stain in after spraying to get an even and penetrating coat. Conditions must also be right (temperature and wind) if using a sprayer so with that said, a brush will most likely be your most effective tool.

The brush is also very effective on wall siding and end grains of trim pieces. Using a brush will give you the most control. Brush application (natural bristle) is the preferred method because it works the stain into the wood fibers and cells more effectively.

To avoid lap marks, make sure that the leading edge is kept wet and that the wet stain is brushed into the wood. A very good method is to brush the stain over an area, and then follow up with a sponge to catch any puddles or drips. Any stain left to sit on a surface will soak in more than surrounding areas and appear darker. Work in small manageable areas.

Try this technique:
brush with one hand, and a sponge in the other. Brush an area with the stain, and follow up with the sponge if there are drips and puddles. It won’t take long until you have developed a rhythm and the job will be done in no time.

While stain brands recommend a drying time of 12 to 24 hours, allowing the cedar to dry between 24 and 48 hours ensures that it is completely dry before you handle it for assembly.

There’s always the low-maintenance option of letting your western red cedar outdoor projects weather to a beautiful silver grey. But if that doesn’t suit your personal palette, follow these tips when you decide to stain your shed or playhouse for a beautiful finish that will last for many years!

Enjoy your Shed or Playhouse from Outdoor Living Today.com!

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About the Author

Greg Bailey is a partner at Outdoor Living Manufacturing Ltd, a value added forest company specializing in do-it-yourself western red cedar kits. He has been in the forest industry for over 30 years and an owner at OLM for over 10 years.

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