How to Stain a Wood Fence- Best DIY Staining Tips

A wood fence will significantly benefit from a simple, inexpensive addition: stain, whether new or old. Moreover, applying the finish improves the structure’s design and prolongs its lifespan. Therefore, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how to stain a wood fence for a satisfactory outcome.

Depending on the current condition, prepare the fence, either by stripping or sanding. Next, wash the wood thoroughly and let it dry before applying the stain. Confirm that the first coat is dry, add subsequent layers, and finish with a sealer.

With readily available cleaning supplies and this straightforward guide, you can quickly refresh your wooden fence within no time. So, read it till the end for maximum benefits.

What Is Wood Fence?

Image of Wood Fence but How Long Does a Wood Fence Last?All fences have the same essential components: vertical posts set into the ground, supporting all other parts. However, they should be at least one-third in the ground for added stability. 

Similarly, horizontal rails support fence boards, pickets, or lattice panels. And depending on the structure’s design and height, it is best to space them between six to eight feet apart.

Wooden fences have a special place in a home’s design. Hence, please check the aesthetics and functionalities you want to add before choosing the most suitable wood or structure for your project.

In addition, the fences have different purposes, including noise reduction, privacy, and security. You will also get multiple constructions and design options: post and rail, picket, wood lattice, vertical board fences, and louver.

Always ensure that you have the correct wood type for your fencing work. But before that, it is prudent to evaluate various factors that can affect your choice. They include:

  • Local Weather. Check if the area has dry or rain conditions to pick wood with a reasonable drying duration. Also, assess whether the temperatures are above 100 degrees or at freezing levels.
  • Wood Species & Vulnerability to Insects. Termites damage different wood types, and thus, it is wise to choose lumber species resistant to insect infestation. In addition, please avoid using untreated wood or one without natural repellant attributes.
  • Budget. This component affects the lumber type you can afford for your structure. For instance, you may not have the luxury of choosing the sturdiest or longest-lasting option with a limited budget.

Opt for a more durable wood species as it saves you money in the long run. Also, it is advisable to extend your budget to accommodate a more durable option if you intend to live longer in the home.

Oppositely, you can go for a more affordable wood type that may not last long when planning to move homes soon. Below are some of the best lumber alternatives for fencing your compound.

  • Douglas Fir

This wood is famous for its light brown hue with a touch of yellow/red or both. Moreover, it has straight and even grains with knots here and there. And you can seal, stain, and paint it to enhance its appearance.

Although the wood may gray over time, it is possible to control this occurrence by sealing. Also, it has some decay and rot resistance qualities, giving your fence exceptional stability and strength.

  • Cypress

The lumber features a naturally occurring component called cypretine, protecting it from harmful insects. It is also a rot-resistant alternative and thus suitable for outdoor fencing work.

However, it is on the expensive side of the lumber fence spectrum. But this is not a drawback when you want quality results. In addition, staining and finishing the surface with a sealant strengthens the wood’s protective feature and increases the fence’s lifespan.

  • Cedar

Cedar wood delivers exceptional resistance to rot and features natural oils to deter insects. In addition, you can paint or stain the surface to keep it safe from harmful UV rays and moisture damage. Thus, it is a perfect choice when you have a limited budget.

  • Redwood

Redwood is among the most popular wood types for wood fencing. And although the lumber is pricey, it compensates for quality, durability, and beauty. It is also naturally insect and rot-resistant, giving the fence durability.

Please note that constant exposure to freezing, moisture, dry conditions, and thawing can damage the fence. Therefore, it is best to stain or paint the surface to preserve its beauty and enhance its life span.

  • Pressure Treated Woods

Treated lumber is also a suitable alternative for wooden fencing. Depending on the species and grade, it has a yellow to light green hue. In addition, you can choose wood looking like redwood or cedar or stain and seal the surface to achieve customized looks.

Pressure treated wood is durable and delivers superior protection against termites, rot, and decay. Also, please note that the material may show minor movement or shrinking signs after installation. Thus, you should not panic if the initial structure does not look as desired.

  • Pine

Pine is an inexpensive wood option for your work. It is famous for its longevity and user-friendliness qualities. Besides, you will not contend with shrinkage issues like some other woods.

Why Stain Wood Fence?

It is advisable to stain a wood fence to protect the structure against rotting and decaying. Moreover, a high-quality, correctly applied finish will keep water from penetrating the wooden frame.

Direct sunlight strips wood of its color, and thus you need a strategy to limit UV rays damage. So, staining the wood is an excellent way to go as it keeps the surface fresh and new for years to come.

Water causes big problems when it enters the wooden fence and freezes. Thankfully, staining the lumber will help repel the water, preventing splitting. In addition, you can choose to use the finish for popping the wood grain, increasing the fence’s visual appeal.

Ultimately, staining the fence will result in an increased life span. But it is best to maintain the finish as instructed by the manufacturer for a successful job.

How Do You Prepare a Wood Fence for Staining?/ How to Stain Wood Fence

Plan for any help in advance when working with a neighbor or friend. It makes the process faster and more manageable, and you can get multiple ideas on how to do the work.

In addition, research your stain choice, ensuring it is high-quality, and consider what the finish looks like when the fence withers.

Always check the weather forecast for an optimal working duration. Ensure that the weather is warm and dry for a few days before and after staining the surface. Also, you can work early morning or late afternoon on a cloudy day.

The most suitable temperature range for staining your wood fence is between 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity levels should be low to moderate. Please avoid working when the precipitation is expected within the stain’s drying duration or is in the immediate forecast.

Also, staining on windy days may drift the finish to unwanted areas, adding to the clean-up challenge. Therefore, it is prudent to be patient and select the best day and time for the job.

Getting the correct supplies for the job is equally important. They include:

  • Wood Stain. We have multiple wood stains that will work on your fence. Therefore, you can choose the most suitable stain color for your project, whether solid, semi-transparent, or transparent.
  • Paintbrush. This accessory is ideal for smaller applications, but it is advisable to consider your options depending on the formula type. For instance, brushes with natural bristles work best for oil-based stains, whereas synthetic bristled ones are ideal for water-based formulas.
  • Paint Sprayer. This strategy works faster than any other stain application method. In addition, you can consider an HVLP sprayer because it is relatively expensive and easy to use and clean.
  • Paint Roller. You can always use a paint roller to apply stain to a fence. However, it is better to work with a four-inch roller for nooks, crannies, and corners or a nine-inch one for larger surface areas.
  • Wood cleaner. The formula helps you wipe down the fence before painting. Thus, you guarantee a clean and ready-to-stain surface, enhancing superior adhesion.
  • Paint Masker. This accessory covers areas you do not want to stain. Connect masking paper/plastic and painter’s tape to the paint masker and quickly cover the surface for a neat stain job. 
  • Drop Cloth. Throw the rag on the ground below the fence to cover the cement and grass and avoid messy surroundings.
  • Pressure Washer. A washer is a perfect alternative to sanding as it clears all the debris and dirt residue. However, remember to have a garden hose for an easy cleaning time.
  • Nitrile Gloves and Safety Glasses. Some formulas are generally toxic and harmful to your skin. Therefore, invest in suitable gloves and safety glasses before the project day.
  • Paint Stripper. A paint solvent or stripper helps remove previous paint from the wooden surface. In addition, the formula helps to strip stain drips from unwanted areas.

Next, consider the steps below for a professional finish.

  • Clean the Fence

Clean the fence with water if it is new, as there is no need to add any special cleaners or soaps. However, ensure that you spray the water gently in the case of a pressure washer to avoid ruining the surface.

Conversely, you may need to do a more heavy-duty clean when the structure is old or dirty. In addition, there is a likelihood the surface has dirt, mold, mildew, and other debris that would affect stain absorption. So, consider scrubbing the wood with bleach and water.

You can also use grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge to smooth out the lumber before staining. But avoid getting too crazy with higher-grit accessories: 120-grit is enough for an exterior project.

  • Rinse the Fence and Let it Dry Out Completely

Protect yourself with goggles and rubber gloves, and then use a pressure washer to make the job safer and straightforward. In addition, you can still use a stiff, heavy-duty brush and a hose.

Wait for at least 48 hours before staining the fence to guarantee the best possible outcome. Also, consider waiting for longer if rain is forecast to ensure that the wood is not wet.

  • Get the Most Suitable Stain Applicator and Master the Technique

Use a medium-sized brush, four or five inches long, for the best results. Moreover, you can use a pad but ensure that it has a soft nap. A roller will also work for this project; just ensure that you can hold it for a long duration.

Paint the lumber from top to bottom to avoid uneven dripping. Also, try using small and quick brush strokes instead of huge ones for more uniform coverage.

Remember that various wood types have different staining requirements. For instance, it is okay to stain cedar immediately after construction, while you are better off allowing pressure-treated lumber to dry before staining.

Lastly, you can get a moisture meter to measure the wood’s dampness. It will help to give a suitable drying duration before staining.

  • Apply the Stain

Now that the fence is clean and dry, it is time to apply the formula. Ensure that you set the sprayer pattern to release the finish horizontally across the surface. Also, please note that the ideal spray painting strategy is the 50/50 method. 

Spray down the grain vertically, and then cover half of what you just sprayed on the next stroke. This way, you eliminate annoying lap marks on the final finish. In addition, clean the stain sprayer immediately after use to avoid damage.

A paintbrush is another easy stain application method for small projects. Also, remember to get a natural-bristled brush for oil-based stains and a synthetic accessory for water-based formulas.

I recommend a ¾ inch roller when working on a fence. Start by loading the accessory with as much stain as possible without dripping. Then, finish with a back-roll or back-brush stroke for a consistent job.

Some stains can work with an old shirt or rag. So, dip the cloth in the formula and wipe it on the wood. In addition, use nitrile gloves to avoid harming your skin.

  • Apply a Second Coat If Necessary

Not every stain project will be complete after the first coat. Hence, you have to look over the finish and identify poor coverage and stain penetration areas. Also, a second stain layer does not require much formula, but it is prudent to cover the surface evenly.

You can try getting a paintbrush to cover fence parts with large knots that absorb too much stain.

  • Evaluate the Results and Apply Wax or Sealer

Clean up the drop cloths and remove the masking after you finish staining, and the finish seems to penetrate all the wood parts. In addition, add a polyurethane sealer or carnauba wax to deliver a hard, durable finish. 

Lastly, wait for the sealer to dry before resuming heavy use on the project.

Is It Better to Spray or Roll Stain On a Fence?

Image of a roller but Can You Roll On Polyurethane?There is no better method for staining a wooden fence, but always choose the most suitable strategy for your project. Use an airless sprayer for heavy-duty projects as only a roller and brush would be highly labor-intensive and time-consuming. In addition, you can easily stain an entire fence in one weekend with a sprayer.

On the other hand, a roller works best for smaller projects, requiring creativity and attention to detail. But it is advisable to have a brush nearby to enhance superior coverage on the entire surface.

Check out tips on how to go about each method for a better result.

  • Spraying

Select a warm, dry day for the project and avoid working in windy weather. Otherwise, you may end up spraying more than the fence. Then, cover up surface areas you do not want to stain.

Stir the formula thoroughly and pour it into the sprayer. Use the fill level indicator to see whether the sprayer is full. Also, hold the nozzle at least 15cm away from the wood and start spraying.

  • Rolling

Follow the wood grain’s direction to deliver a smoother and even finish when rolling. In addition, consider horizontal strokes for horizontal wood panels and vertical ones for vertical lumber.

Apply the stain liberally and ensure you apply enough formula to penetrate the wood. However, look out for drips as they compromise the final finish. Also, start from the fence’s top and work your way down for an easy time.

Do You Have to Power wash a Wood Fence Before Staining?

Deck owner cleaning a deck using the Best Pressure Washer for Wood DeckYou do not have to power wash a wood fence before staining, but it is an advisable practice for stubborn stains and dirt. In addition, be careful when using the appliance as it can force the mold and mildew deeper into the wood, causing quick deterioration.

Power washing at high speeds can also wash away the lumber’s soft fibers. It erodes the wood’s edges and makes the fence pickets resemble thin ‘toothpicks, leading to poor adhesion and an uneven finish.

You can consider power washing your fence when it has a latex-based product, and you want to wash caked-on dirt. It is also okay to use the strategy when chemically stripping older latex stains to make room for an-old based finish.

Some of the safety tips to consider when using pressure washers include:

  • Avoid putting your hand in front of the device’s nozzle.
  • Always point the nozzle to the intended surface, not children or pets.
  • Stand at least three to four feet away from the surface.
  • Stay about six feet away when using the appliance around electrical outlets and powerlines.
  • Engage the safety feature on the spray’s trigger when not using the washer.
  • Wear safety glasses when operating the machine.
  • Avoid using the washer when standing on a ladder.

How Long Should You Wait Before You Stain a New Fence?

It is advisable to wait around three weeks before staining a new fence. This way, you give the structure enough time to settle into its new environment and position. In addition, waiting for a while allows the wood pores to open, ensuring the formula soaks quickly into the lumber.

The fence’s wood type influences when you should stain it. For instance, pressure treated lumber needs more time to dry before staining. Otherwise, the formula will not penetrate the grain properly.

How Often Should I Restain My Fence?

Routine wood fence maintenance is vital to maintaining the fence’s aesthetic. It is advisable to stain the surface every two to three years to preserve its function and appearance.

A properly cared-for wood fence should last for at least ten years. Also, avoid overlooking the preparation steps when staining the surface or applying wood treatment. This way, you guarantee a durable project.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most asked questions around the subject of discussion:

  • What Is the Fastest Way to Stain a Fence?

Using a sprayer is the fastest way of staining a fence as it speeds up the process substantially. However, the method’s drawbacks include the risk of overspray when working on open picket-type fences.

In addition, it is advisable to avoid spraying the project on windy days. Otherwise, you may have to clean neighboring vehicles and homes because of the carried-off formula.

  • Is It Better to Brush or Roll On the Stain?

Brushes are superior in fence staining as they deliver complete and uniform coverage. Moreover, they are perfect for smaller or oddly shaped spaces. Also, consider synthetic accessories for acrylics and natural bristles for alkyds and oil stains.

However, there is no better staining strategy as it boils down to your project expectations and size. For instance, rollers are ideal for larger surfaces and help save time while delivering uniform coverage.


Work with a transparent or oil-based stain formula for lasting, professional results on your wooden fence. The formula accentuates the underlying wood’s natural patina with a subtle tint and slows down mildew growth and rot.

It also boasts of ultraviolent light resistance, making the above discussion essential.

How to Stain a Wood Fence

Always start by preparing the wood by cleaning and repairing any flaws. Then, apply the stain using your most preferred method. In addition, seal the finish to enhance its longevity.

A well prepared surface means a better finish. Additionally, it would be best if you make the right choice of stains, I recommend that you go for stains designated for exterior uses.

I hope you have enough to help you take a good care of your wooden fence. If you have any concern that you would like to put forth please share it with me in the comment section below.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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