top of page

Can you stain a dirty fence?

Protect and beautify your outdoor wood—fast.


To keep it in good condition, it's no secret that outdoor wood needs regular maintenance. It is vulnerable to mildew in the shade, and it is punished in the sun by ultraviolet rays that give it the aged, gray look. The wood must be regularly washed and preserved to retain its beauty, and DIY homeowners are always searching for a better way to get the job done.


Always decide to work smarter instead of harder when it comes time to re-stain a shadowbox fence, so try a promising product. A great one is a semi-transparent wood stain based on oil and a single sealer.

To smooth out runs, streaks and brush marks, and to work the coating into the grain, traditional wood stains need back-brushing. To prevent lap marks or runs, spraying traditional wood stains involves spraying one portion of the project at a time and immediately back-brushing the area. The process of back-brushing requires a helper, or by performing both tasks, it requires the individual spraying to serve double duty. This requires a lot of labor, especially on vertical surfaces such as fences. You eliminate half the job if you eliminate the back-brushing, making the project much simpler for a lone DIY'er.

Clean the Wood Surface


A fence will accumulate all kinds of grime on the surface of the wood over time. All this gunk deteriorates the look of the wood from airborne soil, pollen, mildew, or even mold and can eventually result in rot if left ignored. It can wipe away all the loose grime. One solution is to use a long-handled wood detergent scrub brush and also follow up with a wood brightener to open the grain to accept fresh preservatives. You should not skip the step of cleaning or even skimp on the job. You are not staining a fence, you are staining the grime if you add stain/sealer over grime or mildew.


It will look ugly, the coating will not absorb equally, it will not have the proper preservative properties, and when the grime detaches, it will come off the fence.


Using a pressure washer is an alternative way for washing the fence. In addition to blasting away grime and mildew, the high-pressure water stream will strip away the outer layer of the dead gray cells of the wood and reveal the lighter, fresher wood grain.


Whereas some experts warn against using a pressure washer on outdoor wood decks, when it comes to a fence, I chuck that advice out the window. The traditional wisdom implies that the wood grain can be destroyed by high-pressure water, giving it a blurred appearance and texture. This is mostly a problem for walking surfaces because homeowners usually want smooth deck boards while walking barefoot with little risk of picking up a splinter.

When using a power-washer, carefully work in the direction of the grain, never against it, which may result in a clear cut across the wood.


Prep the Sprayer


Using an airless sprayer is the safest, most productive form of spraying a very big project like this. At pressures up to 1,700 PSI, an airless device draws stain or paint directly from a paint canister and sprays it.


If you buy, rent, or borrow one of these units, to ensure that they are in proper working order, it is important to understand that they need extra care. Every time a new task is started to ensure that no pollutants from previous jobs are mixed with the product you wish to apply, airless sprayers must be flushed and checked. Follow the instructions from the manufacturer for the sprayer to pump the solvent used to clean the equipment. Many professionals recommend using clean water for latex paints, but mineral spirits are needed for an oil-based stain like this.


You can load the stain/sealer of your choice once the device has been flushed and drained. To keep solid particles out of the system, mix the product thoroughly and strain the stain/sealer through a painted screen.


Discharge the sprayer into a bucket before spraying the fresh coating to wash all mineral spirits out of the hose. Hold the trigger before the gun starts to spray the stain you intend to add, or you'll end up with mineral spirits hosing down your project.

Can you stain a dirty fence?

Applying the Stain/Sealer


When using an airless sprayer, movement is extremely necessary. Do not pull the trigger until the gun is in motion, to prevent unnecessary stain accumulation. As you step into a spraying pass over the work surface, pinch the trigger. For smooth application, keep the wrist straight and the spray nozzle parallel to the fence boards (rather than flexing your wrist and swinging the gun, which causes overspray). Start at the top and work downwards.


Don't forget to apply the coating to the boards' end grain, which really drinks up moisture and needs additional protection.


Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and flushing the unit using the necessary solvent once the work is done. This is an utterly important move and guarantees that the airless sprayer is properly stored without the system's gunk-up pollutants, so it is ready for the next job.

Do You Need a Fence Contractor You Can Trust?

Why pay more when you can restore? That's our motto and the way we approach every project. Fresh Coat Restoration specializes in new deck builds, new fence builds, deck repairs, fence repairs, arbor restoration, fence restoration, deck restoration, pressure washing and sealing/staining. If it's in your backyard chances are we specialize in it! When you call FCR you will be working with a licensed, insured, honest and reliable contractor with years of experience and thousands of satisfied customers.  We are the top Fencing contractor in the Vine Hill neighborhood of Martinez, California, serving the fencing installation and restoration needs of homeowners throughout Contra Costa, Solano and Alameda Counties. Contact us today to start your project!

Edited Logo.jpg
bottom of page