How To: Stain a Fence

Give a dated or grungy wooden fence a fresh face with a protection it deserves.

Whether your wooden fence is years old or newly installed, it can benefit from a single inexpensive protection: sealer or stain. Applying wood stain or sealer to fences improves its appearance and prolongs the lifespan of your not so inexpensive outdoor structure!

For long-lasting, professional-quality results, few steps need to be followed so your investment pays off as much as possible. With basic cleaning procedure and good sealing or staining products, you can refresh your wooden privacy wall in as little time as a weekend and reap these benefits right away.

How to Stain a Fence

Step 1: Choosing the right days for your project.

Before staining a wood fence, monitor the weekly weather forecast and select a weekend with temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees Celsius, and no precipitation expected for the next 24 hours after staining is completed. It pays off to wait for the right weather,. extreme cold or moisture can prolong the drying time of wood stain, while the extreme heat can dry out stain too quickly and therefor increase the chance of peeling next season.

Step 2: Prepare the wood for painting.

Depending on the current condition of your fence, you may need to pressure wash the surface.

Fence pressure washing aurora
Pressure washing fence

Starting with a previously stained or finished fence?

Apply wood stain or finish stripper to the slats according to the manufacturer’s instructions if you want to scrub the slats. Depending on the size of your fence, scrubbing 100 feet of fence could take you the whole week. In that case better alternative would be to pressure wash you fence. This procedure could take about 2 hours instead 2 days and in many cases you don’t need to use any chemicals at all, just pressurized water. For tough oily stains you might need to use paint/stain stripper. It can be brushed in or sprayed on with a pump sprayer. Make sure you wear gloves and eye protection when using stain stripper. Let your fence properly to dry before continuing with sealing or staining. Good practice would be to let the fence dry for 24 hour before applying wood protection.

Step 3: Proceed to applying stain or sealer.

Before starting to stain or seal, think about the procedure you want to use. For short fences, proper procedure possibly would be to use a professional brush or roller. To purchase perfect brush or brushes means to know the with of the slats. If you have a 5 inch wide fence boards, your best option would be to use a 4 inch soft bristle stain brush and one 1-2 inch brush for edges. For bigger jobs, let’s say fences longer than 30 feet a paint sprayer would be a preferred choice. Using brush and a roller would be possible but it could be a long and muscle aching day. Regardless if you use brush or sprayer to seal or stain your fence, always apply stain in vertical movements following the wood seams. Avoid cross staining and sealing, the outcome could be very unpleasant, the danger of applying too much or too little sealer or stain is too big.

Staining home fence
Staining small fence

Choosing the right protection for your fence

There are many options when deciding on whether your fence should be sealed or stained. When choosing to stain the fence, what stain to choose? There are many options out there! But what is the best option for your fence?

Protection for new and recently installed fences

First thing to determine what fence protection to choose is to know the fence installation date and fence looks. For new and recently installed fences, the protection to be chosen is most likely not the same as the protection for older and darker fences. New fences could still have protective layer from manufacturer still protecting the outer layer like in the case of pressure treated lumber. Here, a stain should not be used because the chemicals protecting the new pressure treated lumber will prevent any stain to stick properly to the woo. In this case a much better option would be to use a clean wood protector, also called sealer. Sealer is a milky liquid that will go deep into the wood, penetrating the outside layer of pressure treated lumber. Fine cracks and holes will be filled with clear liquid, making the wood repel water.

Older and weathered fences

Older and weathered fences could use all the protection it can get. Bigger cracks are just an invitation for water to make its magic work by deteriorating wood slats even further. When adding harsh Sun pounding over hot summer days, well you get the picture. Here you can use basically any of the products you can get your hands on, from sealer to stain. If your fence is darkened or heavy weathered, probably the better option is to use a good semi transparent stain. But that is not the limit, you can use a solid stain as well, just keep in mind “once you use solid stain, you always have to re-stain with solid stain”. Solid stain is very hard to remove, the procedure to remove solid stain from your fence could be 2/3 of a new fence installation. Use solid stain only if you really like to hide old fence imperfections. Sadly, these days all you can get in semi transparent stain is just 3-4 shades in oil based version. All other colour options would be acrylic, a choice better for the environment but not for the longevity of your project. Acrylic stains often fail after even one season! Fences and vertical beams are fine, but stay away from acrylic stain on decks and horizontal wood surfaces. Solid stain is particularly prone to peeling.

Hiring professionals to to the job for You?

A safer and possibly even more desired solution could be to hire professionals who specialize in sealing and staining decks and fences. Protecting and caring for expansive fences and deck should be properly thought through before making decision on hiring professionals or on deciding to do the job alone. Cleaning and staining a fence could be just too much of a hustle for many homeowners. A professional property maintenance company would be most likely a better choice here. Simply call couple contractors and inquire about their services and estimates. A reputable contractor will always offer to visit your property before advising on procedures and giving you an estimate.

You have the choice of making the right one for your project. Get couple of estimates in before deciding on how to make your next step.

Leave a Reply