When you decide to stain your fence you naturally want a stain that will let your fence look its best, require as little maintenance as possible and give you a color that you can live with. Here are a few thoughts on choosing the best fence stain brand for a cedar fence.
Before we start talking about specific brands let’s talk about what makes any brand a good choice. There are certain characteristics you want to look for when you choose a stain.
The first thing you need to do is choose an oil-based stain. Be very careful on this count as both water-based, gel, and latex stains are available, but neither of them absorb as well as the oil-based ones do. They also don’t do as good of a job at offering your fence UV or water protection, which are the primary reasons for staining a fence in the first place.
From there a lot depends on how you’d like the wood to look and how much maintenance you’d like to do on the fence.
Transparent stains require the least maintenance by far. These stains will also preserve the natural beauty of the wood, allowing the grain to show through. They may fade a bit but they will last for some time.
Semi-transparent stains will let the wood grain show through, but not some of the finer details. They’ll last a little longer than the transparent stains do.
Opaque or solid stains tend to need replacement every five years or so. A solid stain visibly fades in 3-5 years. However, if you are concerned about having a certain color for your fence then this may well be the way to go, as you can get creative with blues, greens, golds, roses, grays, and other colors.
Here are examples of how the opacity changes between these three types of stains:
Don’t worry if the stain says it’s a “deck” stain. You just need to be sure that it’s a good oil-based stain rated for exterior use.
When you stain your fence be sure to add two coats of stain as this will help it last longer. You should also be sure to follow our guidelines on staining a wood fence to achieve the very best results.
Remember, if you install a cedar fence it will need 5-7 weeks to dry in the sun before it will be ready for any kind of staining or treatment. Ignore this rule and it simply won’t matter what kind of stain you purchase because the results will not be what you hoped for!
Now the Brands Themselves
After doing some research we actually found an outstanding site that has answered this question in detail. If you want a truly comprehensive list of deck stains, their pros, and their cons then visit DeckStainHelp.com. They’ve got some cool reviews on other products too, like deck strippers or deck brighteners.
We’ve actually based these three recommendations on their reviews.
TWP 100 Wood
TWP 100 Wood brands itself as a “contractor formula,” which means that it’s a go-to brand if you want to get a professional look for your cedar fence. It does a good job of preventing cedar from “going grey” for 2 – 3 years after applying it.
This stain also does an excellent job of preventing mold and mildew, which is one of the primary reasons why you’d add a stain in the first place. Again, you can count on it lasting for 2-3 years without any trouble. And it doesn’t need to be stripped if you’re going to use the same brand again when it’s time to stain your fence again.
However, if the wood is brand new you do have to wait at least 4 months to stain it. Talk to your fence contractor if you’re not sure about the age of your wood at the time of the fence installation to get a more accurate picture of how long you’ll need to wait.
Armstrong Clark Wood Stain
Armstrong Clark Wood Stain is another great choice. It is tough on UV staining. It’s a durable stain that doesn’t display a lot of wear, tear, or peeling.
It’s also a very easy stain to apply and use. You can apply it in direct sunlight if you want to: it won’t dry unevenly or too fast. Other stains will present problems in full sun.
The stain does a great job of penetrating the wood and it tends to keep its color. It will last for about two years.
If you plan to use the same brand when you have to reapply the stain then, again, you can get away with simply cleaning your fence and re-staining it. You won’t have to go through the trouble of stripping it.
TWP 1500 Series Stain
You may not be able to find TWP 500 because it was replaced with TWP 1500. Fortunately, the new stain series maintained much of its quality.
Deck Stain Help noted in particular how the 1501 Cedar Tone color highlighted the natural beauty of cedar, showing off the wood grain in a particularly nice way.
It will keep your fence from going grey for 2 years or more. It penetrates deeply to avoid any wearing or peeling of the wood. It also does a good job of guarding against mold, mildew, and algae.
It is, however, quite a bit more expensive than the other two brands. Not that it’s a bad idea to pay good money for quality, but it’s worth taking into consideration when you’re trying to decide which brand you should choose.
Deck Stain Help made another excellent point about choosing a stain that is worth sharing in its entirety.
A better way to approach this common question is to ask, “what is the best stain for my deck and it’s environment”? Just because a deck stain performs well in the Northeast part of the country does not mean it will perform well in the high altitudes of Arizona. There are also VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) Laws the come into effect for different parts of the country. This may limit what is available in your state. For example, TWP 100 Series cannot be used in 17 states that have a low VOC content of 250.
So consider your location, whether or not your fence is in partial or full sun (what applies to decks also applies to fences) and other factors when choosing your stain.
We looked to see if Deck Stain Help had tested a stain in Wisconsin. They hadn’t, but they had tested both of the TWP stains in Michigan. That should be analogous enough for anyone living in Fox Point, Whitefish Bay, or anywhere else in the Milwaukee metro area.