How to Stain a Wood Fence

how-to-stain-a-fenceStaining is a wonderful way to preserve and maintain the natural beauty of your wooden fence. It’s actually relatively easy to do. There’s no need to be intimidated by the process.

In fact, we almost always recommend staining your fence instead of painting it simply because stain penetrates the wood better. Paint can’t duplicate this penetration and as a result requires more maintenance for typically less attractive results.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Fence is Ready to Stain

Before you begin it’s important to make sure that your fence is actually ready to stain. If you’ve recently had a northern white cedar fence installed, like the types of fences we install, you’ll need to let it “dry out” over a period of 5 weeks (or longer, if the weather has been wet or overcast).

If you have an older fence that has been painted or stained before, or which has acquired mold, mildew, dirt, or other contaminants then you will first need to prepare your fence by pressure washing it. Don’t forget to refer to our post on the proper way to pressure wash your fence.

If you have to pressure wash your fence then you’ll need to give it some time to dry before you proceed. The fence must not be wet when you begin the staining process.

Step 2: Check the Forecast

You will want to check the current weather and the upcoming weather before beginning your fence staining project. The temperature should be no colder than 50°F.

You also want to choose a time where sunny, dry weather is expected for the next few days. Ideally you’ll have 2-3 dry days after your project to let the stain dry completely.

Step 3: Make Sure You Have the Right Tools to Work With

You will need a staining brush and a paint roller with a rough surface roller cover to proceed. The roller will get most of the stain on in broad strokes but the brush will allow you to reach the areas that the roller just can’t cover.

A staining brush is not the same as a paintbrush! A staining brush is larger and has a wider base of bristles. Most paintbrushes are not equipped to handle stain and will simply be ruined by the time you are done with them. If you want your project to look its best find the right tool for the task.

It’s also a good idea to have some broad, plastic sheets to put down over plants and nearby sections of the house so that you don’t stain anything that you didn’t really mean to stain.

You’ll also need some sandpaper, as you’ll want to make sure the wood is good and smooth before you begin.

While a sprayer may look tempting it won’t save you as much time and work as you might think. Usually sprayers do not produce complete or consistent coverage which means that your fence won’t look as good as it could look or be as protected as it could be.

Step 4: Choose the Right Kind of Stain

Choosing the right stain isn’t just about choosing a color that you might enjoy. It’s also about the materials that the stain is made out of.

We recommend oil-based stains over water-based stains. Oil-based stains last much longer: even when this stain grows “old” it doesn’t produce the same kind of cracking and chipping that water based stains can produce.

Of course you will want to make sure to test your stain, either on a piece of scrap wood or a portion of the fence that nobody ever sees. Make sure you like the color and that the wood reacts well to the stain.

Step 5: Do the Project

After the fence has been cleaned, dried, and sanded you can begin the actual staining.

Use full, up and down brush strokes and work on one board at a time. If you have a very large fence you can work on different sections of the fence over time after letting the first section dry.

If you have an old fence, and washing and staining it do not help you restore the fence to new or nearly new conditions, then it may be time to call us for a free estimate so that you can replace your fence;)

3 Comments

  1. Hank says:

    I totally recommend staining a fence over painting it. It doesn’t take too long for paint to strip off; especially in humid or rainy areas. Stain will make it look nice for a long period of time. It’ll save you time and money. I got my fence stained from a fence staining company in Dallas Texas and they did a fantastic job.

  2. Mike says:

    You mention “You’ll also need some sandpaper, as you’ll want to make sure the wood is good and smooth before you begin.” Are you recommending that the entire fence be sanded before staining?

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