How to Paint a Wood Fence

how to paint a wood fenceWe recognize that winter is just around the corner and you can’t do much with your fence right now. However, we want to continue to provide great fencing tips throughout the year so you’ll be ready to go in the spring. Today, let’s talk about painting your fence.

Painting a wooden fence can make it look attractive and it can make it last longer. It also appeals to people because they can choose to make their fence any color they want. Despite these positives, it’s not our first choice of fence protection.

The paint just doesn’t penetrate the wood to the degree that it would need to in order to offer your fence all the protection it needs. Instead, we recommend that you use an oil-based stain to preserve the natural beauty of your wooden fence. Only stain can truly penetrate and fully protect the wood.

If you are absolutely certain you want to paint your fence, we’ve provided some tips here to ensure the best outcome. If you are painting a newly installed cedar fence, be aware that you absolutely cannot paint it for at least five weeks with sun exposure. You have to let a cedar fence “dry” before touching it with any kind of paint. If your fence is mostly in the shade, or there are long periods of clouds and rain, give it more than five weeks.

Before you begin you should make sure you’re using a paint that can stand up to our Wisconsin weather. Visit your local paint shop since there are actually regional exterior paint brands that are created for different environments.

You’ll also want to get a good latex primer if you’re working with a cedar fence like the ones we install.

You’ll also generally need two kinds of brushes. A 3″ to 4″ brush can help you work the broad strokes while a smaller, 1″ brush can help you get into the areas that the larger brush can’t reach.

When you begin, make sure the weather is moderate. A truly hot day, for example, can warp your paint, making it sticky and difficult to work with.

Once you’re confident that you’ve chosen the right paint you can start the job by cleaning your fence thoroughly. Refer back to our tips on how to pressure wash a fence.

If there is any peeling paint on your fence from previous paint jobs you’ll need to take the time to remove that paint using a putty knife and sand paper. This is a tedious step, but it’s also vital if you want your fence to look its best.

If you don’t want to get paint on your grass cover it with a tarp. Use painter’s tape to keep paint off of anything else you want to avoid, such as places where your home touches your fence.

Once you start working be sure to work on just one section of the fence at a time. You should work with the grain of the wood. Be sure to get both the bottom and the top of the fence. Start with the primer. Let it dry for two hours before applying the paint. We also recommend two coats of paint for maximum durability.

Painting a fence is more time consuming than anything. There really isn’t much to it. The biggest drawback to painting a fence is that it doesn’t last as long as stain and unlike stain that simply fades with time, paint usually peels. This requires an extra step as you have to make sure all the peeling paint is removed before you can paint again.

We strongly recommend that you stain your fence before painting it but if you’re set on paint, just make sure you follow the tips provided here for maximum results.


  1. A-1 Fence says:


    Yes, there is definitely such a thing as white stain. Just do a Google search for “white stain for wood fence” and you’ll find lots of options.

    A-1 Fence

  2. Sue Fischer says:

    Is there such a thing as white stain? Could you use a solid stain and if so would you need to prime it?

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