This is for the ceiling of an outside balcony and it will be varnished. Am I correct in thinking the cedar will be darker and more variable than the fir?
Cedar is better for outdoor applications.
You will be correct in drawing a conclusion about the color of the wood based on looking at samples of the actual wood you would be buying. Both may be stained and varnished.
Cedar, available in both CLEAR and KNOTTY, is a very soft looking wood. When stained or just clear coated it has a rich look about it. It can also handle moisture better. Can you tell which one I picked??
Are you sure you want to varnish cedar (I assume you mean put polyurethane on it)? Cedar is naturally water and rot resistant. Usually one would stain it or use some sort of penetrating sealer (linseed oil, etc.) that will soak in and protect (and not peel).
Anyway, cedar can be beautiful--I'd opt for it.
I've seen the clear cedar and it does look rich even without any coating. Three votes for cedar seems to tell me something!
What I'm not clear on -- no pun intended -- is what to put on it. I do want a clear finish and I wanted something that's somewhere between satin and shiny rather than a super high gloss. Any suggestions?
Thank you for your input!
The choices for the final finish are usually on display in most paint/stain stores. Your choices are: flat, satin/semi-gloss and gloss. Also, check out the oil finishes, these are very easy to apply and look very nice. If you have the option, check several sources for the wood.The quality changes drastically from store to store.
I would use an exterior stain, and I would go with a transparent stain. I always preferred oil-based, but I've been told that the latex/water based stains are now very good/equal to oil, and clean up as easily. Plus they're apparently not as bad for the environment (no/lower VOCs).
Anyway, if you use a transparent stain you will get a very low sheen, probably less than satin. To get a true sheen you'll need a polyurethane of some sort to cover it, and since you're outside, you may need to look into a spar varnish.
Of course, if you go with a solid stain, you can also get a sheen, because that's almost like paint. But then why bother with nice wood?