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Fence Stain 101: How to Stain Like a Pro

Wood Fence StainStaining is an important part of maintaining your wood fence, but many people are intimidated by the process. Don’t be! With the right knowledge, you can give your wood fence a professional stain job.

Now that you’ve cleaned and prepped your wood fence, here are the most common questions we hear about applying fence stain:

When is the best time to stain my fence?

Stain should be applied in temperate, dry weather, so make sure that your neighborhood will be clear of rain for the next few days. Too much sun can also have an adverse affect on the stain as it dries. Try to choose a streak of cloudy weather for staining your fence.

If your wood fence is new, you need to let it set for a few days in warm, sunny weather so the moisture will evaporate from the wood. If you’ve recently pressure washed your fence, wait until it dries thoroughly. Too much moisture in the wood will prevent the stain from penetrating properly.

What type of stain should I use?

Here’s a chart comparing the different types of stains available. Black indicates a high rating, while white indicates a low rating.

UV protection Natural wood color Durable Earth friendly Absorbs into wood Easily applied
Clear Water-
Natural oil-based
Solid Synthetic/ petroleum-based

How do I work around my shrubs and plants?

If there are any shrubs or bushes right up against the fence, one trick is to take a wide piece of plywood or a wood board and prop it between the fence and the bush. When you’re applying stain, you can safely lean on the board to gain access to the fence without having to cut any branches off.

To protect nearby grass, spread a plastic tarp or some newspapers at the base of the fence in case stain drips onto the ground. It’s also a good idea to stick painter’s tape on all metal hardware components like the gate latch, hinges, and any other non-wood parts.

How should I apply the fence stain?

There are a few methods for applying stain:

  • Paintbrush. A traditional paintbrush is a reliable option. Use a smaller 2-inch brush when working in small areas between the fence boards, in cracks, and on fence posts and rails.
  • Garden pump sprayer. Also a reliable method, as long as you wear protection. Outfit yourself with goggles, gloves, a breathing filter or mask, and protective clothes.
  • Roller. This method often leaves uneven marks that need to be touched up.

When applying coats, don’t take breaks in the middle of a stretch of fence – complete a section at a time to avoid lap marks.

You’ve got all the information you need to make your wood fence look new. But what if your goal is actually to make it look old? People often ask Rick’s how to achieve that rustic weathered look. In the final Fence Stain 101, we’ll show you how to do it while still keeping your fence protected.

Fence Stain 101 is a three-part series offering professional tips for staining your wood fence. This is the second installment.

Fence Stain 101: How to Make an Old Fence Look New

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2 Responses to “Fence Stain 101: How to Stain Like a Pro”

  1. Becky says:

    Any advise for me. Stupid fence company took 2 months to install my cedar fence. I’m in Utah and it gets down to 40 degrees during the night and snowed a week ago. The fence has been up for 2 weeks now and I really want to stain it before the winter, the stains say it needs to dry out for a while. Should I just wait until the spring?
    Any advise would be great.


  2. NicoleK says:

    Hi Becky,

    Thank you for commenting! Your fence needs to dry out over a few days of warm, sunny weather; otherwise, the stain won’t penetrate properly. In the Northwest, for fences built during the winter, we do recommend waiting until spring before staining. A new fence should be able to handle the winter without stain; typically it’s the hot summer sun that causes the most aging damage. I’m not as familiar with Utah weather, however.

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