Category Archives: Appearance of Restoration

Restoration of Old Wood | Making the Right Decision on Appearance


Example Photo Used for Descriptive Purposes Only

The 100 Year old Trellis

100 Year old Trellis Seattle
The following question was recently asked by a potential client on restoring a 100 plus year old cedar trellis and it made me think of  the best way to answer him. In this post I will be discussing some problems and issues you might face in deciding whether to restore your wood project.

I have included the actual E-mail with some edits to make it easier to understand as well as some photos for clarification and a wee bit of redesign on the layout…. for appearances’ sake ! Hopefully this exchange helps you in deciding what the result of a restoration would look like and what the challenges are in achieving a client’s desired look as well as limitations on just what a restoration can do. 

In your opinion, would the end result of your restoration produce a renewed natural look to the cedar?


We could get the trellis to look like it was installed yesterday. We could also make it look completely natural. Unfortunately the problem with that process is as follows:

Cedar is a porous semi moderate softwood. It can not be sealed. It depends on the pores it possesses naturally to soak in and let out moisture. I mention this because the longest lasting option in making wood look natural are all polyurethane based clear coats that seal the wood.


Softwoods and Hardwoods and Why it Matters 

wood pore differences hardwood v softwood

Click to Enlarge

Cedar pores are larger,spread out farther and dispersed to keep and release moisture. Hardwood pores are tighter, closer and more numerous. Cedar must breathe and have the ability to release moisture because its pore system is much larger and spread out then the hardwood .

The best application for cedar is an oil based semi-transparent stain. The best option in choosing a color would be to go as rich and unnatural as possible with the understanding that the color will fade out, as all do. By going darker you are prolonging the maintenance schedule.

It is also easier to keep up a darker color, because maintenance would consist of lightly reapplying as opposed to doing a whole restoration from start to finish to keep the cedar in top shape, appearance wise. For examples sake, this quote from the Cedar bureau, discusses a deck, but the type of lumber is the same and the process is the same: 

 From the Cedar Bureau:

Decks should never be allowed to weather before finishing.The simplest, but most labor-intensive, finish to keep up on a cedar deck is a water-repellent preservative, which may have to be applied annually. The next easiest is a semi-transparent oil-based stain. Both types of finishes are extremely effective in stopping the absorption of water and are recommended


Decisions on Appearance and Why we Don’t Get Involved 


Click for the Video

A water repellant preservative is essentially a clear coat that reflects water with no pigment in it. A semi-transparent oil based stain is an oil with pigment added to it. The differences in maintenance and longevity between an oil and a water repellant preservative are striking. I’ve attached a handy video to help explain it better. 

As a professional my job is to recommend the best option based on experience and to preserve and protect your project, while providing the most cost-effective option  . The final decision on appearance, however, is the clients.

I may like a purple deck with green stripes, you may think me a circus clown. I leave the decision on color to the client for that reason.

What I can do is pick up to ( 3 ) samples to show you what you might get after the restoration is done. To further your understanding of what the trellis might look like after a restoration with a semi transparent stain I have attached a visual aide :