How do I finish interior Cedar wall paneling yet keep the aroma?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Finishing forum

Forum topic by starmaykr posted 08-11-2014 05:31 PM 32709 views 0 times favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

08-11-2014 05:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cedar cedar oil finishing pest repellant

My wife has a rather extreme dislike of all pests (rodents,insects etc.). For this reason we have chosen to go 100% with cedar wood on both the exterior wood siding and the interior wood paneling in our new rustic cottage. Sealants will ‘seal’ out the aroma from the natural oil in the wood.
So my question is:

How do I protect the wood on the inside of the house without losing the aroma from the oil that repels the pests?
Does Cedar oil offer any protection from normal wear and tear and from things like cracking?

34 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3853 days

#1 posted 08-11-2014 05:38 PM

Paste wax I should think would not conceal the smell

It’s a myth that wood needs hydration or “feeding” like
leather does to prevent cracking. If wood is
going to crack, it will crack.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2277 days

#2 posted 08-13-2014 06:52 PM

The cedar will help with some insects and such, regardless of whether you can smell it. It will not however repel them all in any way. So you choice is just aesthetic. If you like the smell, use the oil in a fragrance stick set up. My brother and sister in law live in an all cedar house built in the seventies. The interior was never treated, and looks, and smells just fine. I would be aware that those smells are not healthy for some people with allergies, and with breathing issues.

-- Who is John Galt?

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3018 days

#3 posted 08-13-2014 07:16 PM

Try oiling aromatic cedar to see if the smell remains. You can even use cedar scented oil to enhance/renew the smell.
I usually leave aromatic cedar unfinished. Use sample boards because aromatic cedar looks very different under a finish.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View Grandpa's profile


3261 posts in 2880 days

#4 posted 08-14-2014 02:05 AM

No finish if you want to smell it. In a cedar chest, you can lightly sand the interior after a few years to renew the smell. You might also notice they only finish the exterior of a cedar chest. You will be living in a giant cedar chest.

View mahdee's profile


4025 posts in 1972 days

#5 posted 08-14-2014 02:49 AM

Cedar tend to attract spiders and other bugs that like moisture. I am not sure where you live-in; I think that will have a lot to do with bugs. Also, consider that cedar, over time can cause allergic reactions, mostly on skin and lungs. Bugs become a secondary issue considering the side effects of trying to live without them.


View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

#6 posted 08-14-2014 08:39 PM

Thank you all for your input.

Yes,I am aware of the possible allergic and respiratory side effects the cedar oils vapors can have on some people. I also know cedar can be more brittle than other woods.

I do know that the stronger the smell the more it will repel the pests. No, it would not be practical to live in one giant aromatic cedar chest. I live in Mass and my personal experience has been that cedar has only a minimal effect on repelling spiders.

I will need more information on the effects of paste wax. This may be a sound solution to get some sort of protection from wear and tear yet keep the aromatic quality.

I am not sure I agree that wood does not need some sort of “hydration” over time. Everything needs maintenance,everything. I have found using Danish oil on wood when it gets dry has always worked wonders.

My original question still remains?
Will the cedar oil help to give the same sort of protection from wear and tear as some sort of sealant? Because I do have a certain aesthetic desire to see the wood grain more clearly than raw unfinished cedar,I keep gravitating back to using some sort of oil. I do not like the glossy look.

Does anyone know how I might fare if I used something like a half and half mix of Watco danish oil and cedar oil?

I know the Danish oil has a tiny amount of sealant so I figure the cedar oil would make up for what ever natural aroma I might lose?

Anyone with more experience want to chime in?

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2277 days

#7 posted 08-14-2014 09:28 PM

If you want the cedar to retain a wet look or luster, linseed, or teak oil can help it retain that, but you say ”I do not like the glossy look” so I am uncertain what to suggest for this contradiction. Indoors, without any treatment, the cedar will oxidize very slowly and look great. Like I said, I know this first hand, not just from my carpentry experience, but because my brother lives in and owns a house that is %100 cedar. This includes the kitchen cabinets. It has never been treated with anything and looks great. It is a matte look however. Cedar does not need “hydration” over time. It will balance itself and last a long time indoors.

To protect from ‘wear and tear’ you would need a durable top coat. Many clear coats can work well on indoor cedar furniture, but IMO will not work well on interior wall treatment if it is rough. If you are using cedar milled smooth, and dried properly before finishing there are options. You will however get a wetter shiny look, and it will be sealed, and no longer aromatic. If by ‘wear and tear’ you mean UV protection, you can get that in some clear top coats, or by using a stain. There are good stains that can be used, but they will color and also seal.

Specifically it is not recommended to use Danish Oil on aromatic cedar. The natural cedar oils will prevent it from ever curing.

In general, cedar oil is used to repel insects, and not to treat cedar. Teak or linseed oil is used to preserve a wetter look. Besides, your cedar will have in it the amount of cedar oil that is naturally there. If you truly want to refresh the smell, cedar oil can be used, but this would be after the wood has obviously oxidized and is turning grey. 10, 20 years. My brothers house still smells like cedar 45 years after it was built, and the wood has not dried out yet… that includes the dehumidifying effect of lots of running the AC here in Texas.

If you deem it absolutely necessary to oil or wax this wood, remember you will be doing it about every 2 to 4 years.

And finally, finishes need maintenance far more than wood. Wood will not dry out more than the ambient humidity surrounding it. I will suffer from dramatic, fast changes, but when balanced it will just do it’s thing. Some woods do lose natural oils. Those can be replenished, but this is primarily a cosmetic thing. Cedar does lose some, but very slowly. That is exactly why it is used the way it is.

-- Who is John Galt?

View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

#8 posted 08-14-2014 11:46 PM


Thank you,you have pretty much answered the question.

The Western Red Cedar panelling I am using,I had custom milled to a smooth finish to replicate the profile in this image. These panels are not considered “aromatic” per se. They only give off the normal ambient cedar aroma. I know Cedar oil would of course change this.

Thank you kindly for taking the time to share your great wisdom,knowledge and experience. If you read through my posting again,what I said was “I desire to see the wood grain more clearly than raw unfinished cedar” I never used any such words like “wet” or “luster”.
I prefer the more matte look and I never stain my wood but I do think it is more pleasing to the eye to bring out the natural grain pattern in the wood. Left untreated and completely raw the grain does not jump out at you the same way.

I love the Danish oil and what it does but my one problem has always been,drying issues. Anything beyond just one thin coat of the oil alone and I run into problems.

From your posting I am for the very first time considering leaving it raw.

I have two questions for you:
1) Is it possible to mix Watco and the Cedar oil?
2) What would you suggest to thin Cedar oil so it would not be so strong?
It tends to darken the wood too much and it’s ‘aroma’ is too strong to live in.
3) What about Loren’s paste wax idea?

View firefighterontheside's profile


19458 posts in 2061 days

#9 posted 08-15-2014 12:46 AM

I live in a red pine log home with eastern red cedar hand railing going up,stairs and all the way around the loft. All the spindles are small saplings of eastern red cedar. I don’t smell it at all anymore. Guests say they can smell it. Aside from sanding it occasionally or adding cedar oil, the smell goes away after several years.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

#10 posted 08-15-2014 01:58 AM

Here is the profile I replicated. This is my first time using this website’s interface.

This is the old knotty pine I am replacing with newly milled knotty western red cedar.

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2277 days

#11 posted 08-16-2014 07:35 PM

Your welcome for the response. Here is an excellent resource to help you decide. The picture helps quite a bit, so thanks.

Your questions: 1. Not sure: Watco is a brand name and produces a number of finishes. I assume you are thinking Danish oil. It is a blend of varnish and a penetrating oil. It can be used with cedar, but the cedar oil will slow and prevent the full curing of the danish oil. Cedar oil is generally the last oil of choice to treat the cedar. Linseed, or teak oil is the first choice in the oil category. Cedar oil is generally used to renew aromatic cedar, and to chase away mosquitoes. It can be used to treat cedar, and as a floor polish, but IMO should be used alone in those cases.

2. I am not sure what to use to cut it.
3. There are many wax options, and knowing that it is smooth cedar, paste wax would be one that would work, and would probably highlight the grain the most, in the way you are describing.

I guess experimenting is the next step.

-- Who is John Galt?

View redfox05's profile


5 posts in 579 days

#12 posted 05-18-2017 03:39 AM

Hi there,

I know this post is from ages ago, and I really hope that resurrecting it is not going to be a problem, but I wanted to know about the cedar curing comments in this thread. A few people have said using danish oil on Cedar is a bad idea, as the cedar it will stop it from fully curing.

But, what if you HAVE used it on cedar? Specifically, in my case, on a cedar bed. One coat of the wipe on Danish fruitwood oil has been used, but now im not sure what effect that will have.
What does it ultimately mean if it does not fully cure. What impacts does that have? I’ve had the bed fully done and in use for about 7 months now.

Also, I’m concerned about the cedar in general as indoor furniture. Had no idea about the toxicity of cedar before making it with my friend. Apparently the fumes/oil are bad for you long term? Is there anything I can do to protect ourselves from this? Should I coat the danish in a few layers of poly? Will that help?

I also realised that the planks that the mattress sits on are also cedar and these were NOT sealed with anything, not even the danish oil. Should I perhaps seal those to be on the safe side. Its a very small bedroom with not much ventilation, so I want to be safe.

Your thoughts are appreciated.

Thank you very much in advance.

View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

#13 posted 05-18-2017 12:07 PM


Although most of the other people who responded to my original post would be better qualified to answer your questions,I will offer what little I have learned since then.

The first of your questions relates to “curing”? A thin coat of the Danish oil on cedar will certainly cure over time just depends on the circumstances. Any more than one thin coat and I have run into curing problems.
As to the consequences of getting into a slow curing situation?
My experience is that the wood will be tacky to the touch. A real issue for something like furniture that people are prone to touch often.

Although sealing cedar with something like poly will cut down the smell from the cedar oils, you have no need to be paranoid. Apart from either sleeping/living in a room paneled with unsealed ‘Aromatic’ cedar or inhaling the saw dust created from cutting cedar, I would not be that concerned. A sealed cedar wood bed frame will not create any issues unless the person has some sort of extreme allergy.

Any body else here on this board can correct me if I am wrong.

View Aj2's profile


1885 posts in 2003 days

#14 posted 05-18-2017 01:58 PM

Western red cedar is not really considered a aromatic cedar.From my memory the best Aromatic cedar come from Tennessee.
Both are really a cypress WRC will certainly look better in my opinion so good choice there.I would want some kind of clear coat on my cedar walls too.Just not sure if you can have it both ways.Sealers do seal.:)

-- Aj

View starmaykr's profile


10 posts in 1590 days

#15 posted 05-18-2017 02:22 PM

Aj2. Correct on all accounts. Your common WRC is not a cedar at all and is normally not “aromatic” in the sense of using it for a cedar chest or cedar closet. And the answer is: NO! You cannot have it both ways. You must choose either to Seal or keep as much of the aroma as possible by leaving it unfinished.

It has been some time since I started this thread and I have done an experiment on my own.
I put Aromatic “Cedar Oil” (of course this oil is not really cedar either) over my WRC in the one room meant to serve as a cedar closet. Just as the over all aroma of the uncoated WRC is no longer noticeable after a few months, likewise the WRC I coated with the WRC Oil has also lost most of it’s aromatic qualities after about six months later.

To all of you very bright and knowledgeable people who have been kind enough to participate in this thread I will try to post some photos of the WRC dream home we built here in Western Massachusetts.

I want to sincerely thank you all.

showing 1 through 15 of 34 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics