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What is the fastest way to stain a fence?

How To: Stain a Fence


If your wooden fence is years old or newly built, a single inexpensive addition will benefit from it: stain. The application of wood stain to the slats enhances its design and extends the life of your hard-working outdoor structure, a win-win!


Work with a semi-transparent oil-based stain optimized for the exterior, for long-lasting, professional-quality outcomes. These stains elegantly accentuate with a slight tint the natural patina of the underlying wood, and, as a bonus, boast formulas that delay the growth of mildew and rot as well as protect the wood from exposure to ultraviolet light.


You can refresh your wooden privacy wall in as little time as a weekend with simple cleaning supplies and this straightforward tutorial on how to paint a fence, and reap these benefits right away.

How to Stain a Fence

STEP 1: Choose the right day (or days) for your project.

Scan the weekly weather forecast before staining a wood fence and choose a day with temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees, low to moderate humidity, and no precipitation predicted for the next 24 hours. If the prospects discourage you, note that "good stuff comes to those who wait." The drying time of the wood stain can be extended by intense cold or moisture, while the opposite extreme can dry the stain too quickly and leave behind unnecessary lap marks on the fence.


STEP 2: Prepare the wood for painting.

Depending on your fence's current state, you might need to strip or sand the surface.

Starting with a previously stained or finished fence?

According to the manufacturer's directions, add wood polish or finish stripper to the slats, then scrub the slats with a stiff-bristle brush to loosen the old varnish and slough off upright wood fibers.


Learning how to stain a fence that is new?

Make sure that the stain penetrates the wood with a water test: spray a small part of the fence gently with a garden hose. Lightly sand the slats in the direction of the wood grain if water beads form on the slats. However, water entering the slats effectively means that the stain can be readily absorbed by your wooden fence.


STEP 3: Clean the fence thoroughly and let it dry.

Clean the water fence from a high-pressure spray nozzle attached to a garden hose with water (or use a power washer). This will clear light to moderate accumulations of dirt and complete the wood stain stripper's job of blasting away any old varnish, if necessary, from the fence. Choose a low-powered machine running at no more than 2,000 psi while using a power washer to prevent the wood slats from weathering. Before proceeding, make sure to let the wood dry out completely.


STEP 4: Spot-treat mold or mildew with diluted bleach.

In a bucket, prepare a solution of bleach mixed with water if you see mold or mildew deposits on the fence. Donning rubber gloves, apply the bleach with a garden sprayer to the slats, allowing it to settle into the slats for a few minutes with a high-pressure spray nozzle or power washer before rinsing the fence clean. Again, before starting, make sure to let the wood dry out completely.


STEP 5: Use wood filler to patch imperfections in the fence slats.

Repairing wood filler chips, gouges, or holes in the fence. Replace the damaged slats if necessary.


STEP 6: Cover the plants nearby and areas of the fence that should not be stained.

To cover parts of the fence that you do not want to stain, use painter's tape. Likewise, at the foot of the fence, shield nearby vegetation by covering it with drop cloths.


STEP 7: Proceed to apply stain to the fence slats.

Enlist a brush, roller, or sprayer to stain the slats.


  • The best way to facilitate oil-based wood stain to penetrate wooden fence slats is a natural-bristle brush. Dip the tip of the brush into a can of stain, then cover from left to right any horizontal slats of the fence. Afterward, work your way down the entire length of each vertical slat from top to bottom, keeping a damp tip at all times. Stain one or two slats at a time to avoid creating lap marks. When you hit the bottom of the lattice, stain the grain at the top.

  • If a roller is used, opt for a medium nap roller cover, then saturate the nap with the stain absolutely. Apply the stain with a large brush to two to three-foot pieces of the fence at a time, taking care to back-brush, or re-paint overexposed areas left by the previous stroke. This will allow the stain to penetrate grooves and recesses that are hard to reach, and ensure an even coat free of lap marks.

  • If using a sprayer, follow the same approach as for how to stain a fence with a roller, but stand back a comfortable distance from the fence to apply color.

What is the fastest way to stain a fence?

STEP 8: Let the stain dry, then apply additional coats as desired.

Let it dry according to the stain manufacturer's instructions when the whole fence has been painted. To achieve the desired depth of color, apply extra coats of stain as required. For a new wood fence or one that you already intend to seal, a single coat should be adequate.


STEP 9: Finish the job with a coat of sealer.

Although a good quality stain alone is enough to protect your fence from regular wear-and-tear, it can extend the finish and the life of your fence by applying a durable sealant over the stain. Apply a single coat of clear, weatherproof sealant with a brush, roller or sprayer for the best results. Unsealed grooves and recesses with a large brush are easily back-brushed to create a uniform look. Enable the sealant absolutely to dry.


STEP 10: Clean up!

Dispose of soiled drop cloths, remove from the slats the painter's tape, and show your new fence like that!


Go ahead and you've earned it for the next couple of summers. Just remember that although semi-transparent stains can last anywhere from two to five years, the finish can age prematurely at high temperatures and precipitation. Don't rest too long on your laurels and risk exposure to the weather: plan to stain your fence every two to three years to maintain its shine and weather defensive characteristics.

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!

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