How to Stain a Wood Fence  5/5 (3)

This post was updated on May 1, 2024

Tips on Staining a Wood Fence

We at offer tips for more than deck stains. In this article, we offer our insight on how to tackle a fence staining project when it comes to prep and stain application. We always appreciate your input, so feel free to leave a comment below with pictures of your fence stain projects.

Wood fences are an excellent way to increase curb appeal and add privacy to any yard. They come in many sizes and designs but one thing remains constant, wood fences need to be protected from the elements if you expect it to last. Staining a wood fence will help enhance its natural beauty along with providing adequate protection from water and sun damage.

How to stain a wood fence is easy if you follow a few simple steps. First and foremost, a wood fence should be free of any dirt, grime, and/or mildew. The best way to achieve a clean dirt free surface is to pressure wash the wood using a wood cleaner. A scrub brush can also be used if a pressure washer is not available. If there is any old failing stain on the fence then you should use a wood stripper instead of a wood cleaner. The stripper will help soften the older stain as well as loosen up any dirt and contaminants. Washing the wood fence is then done in the same manner using a pressure washer or scrub brush.

Once the wooden fence has been cleaned it should be rinsed with fresh water. While the wood is still wet, apply a wood brightener according to the directions. This will neutralize the harsh cleaners that were used and help the new stain penetrate better. After coating the wood fence with a brightener it can then be rinsed once more with fresh water before being allowed to dry for several days.

Once the wood fence has dried it is time to apply the stain. Staining a wood fence can be tedious work but using the right application tools can help. To apply a wood fence stain use a brush, roller, stain pad, or sprayer. The garden-type sprayers can work well as well as an airless sprayer. It is important not to over-apply any type of wood stain. Doing so can jeopardize the performance of the stain. In this case, more is not always better. Apply stain until the wood will not absorb anymore then wipe away or back brush the excess. To eliminate lap marks try staining one board at a time from end to end before moving to the next one.

Always protect areas and surfaces that you do not want to get the stain on especially if you are using a sprayer. Cover any nearby windows, concrete surfaces, and so on to protect from spills or overspray. In general terms, a wood fence stain will last several years before needing maintenance. Once it does need some attention, a light wash and recoat are all that will be needed.

Any Questions on this Topic? Please Ask Below!

How To Stain a Wood Fence Video

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Scott Paul ~ Restoring Wood & Decks Since 1993 Owner
As an article and comment contributor to the site, Scott has been around the pressure washing industry since attending college. In 1993 he started his first company called Oakland Pressure Wash specializing in exterior pressure washing and deck staining. That company evolved into OPW L.L.C. shortly thereafter concentrating more on exterior wood and deck restoration. Scott and his Deck Cleaning Michigan company have restored over 10,000 decks in the Metro Detroit area since the early years. He has become an authority in the deck restoration industry and has contributed to numerous wood restoration forums and informative sites. All the products he suggests through this site are sold through online sites and in retail stores, allowing the consumer to choose their own means of purchase. Scott’s eCommerce sites do sell many top brands he endorses and if you appreciate any of the help he has offered then feel free to purchase from one of them.

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2 years ago

We installed this cedar gate/fence (see attached) last September and would now like to stain with your oil based wood stain. We waited so the wood could be exposed before staining. Do you feel it necessary to do any prep before we stain, i.e sanding etc?

Gail Dow
Gail Dow
2 years ago

Picture of fence gate attached.

Gail Dow
Gail Dow
2 years ago

What type of prep do you recommend?

3 years ago

I am confused. I have read so much conflicting information, even some on this site on various pages, and on other wood care sites . Statements like :
Western Red Cedar (fence materials) does not need to age/weather before staining
Kiln dried and rough cut woods do not need to weather before staining
(is western red cedar fencing rough cut??)
Western Red Cedar should be treated like any other wood
Western Red Cedar requires special application and stains
TWP 100 is great for fencing (I have used it on decks and love it)
TWP 100 should not be used on new wood (????)
Let Fence Material weather for 1 month before staining
Let fence material weather at least 4 months before staining
Western Red Cedar has natural oils that deter mold, algae, insects
Western Red Cedar needs protection against mold and algae
Western Red Cedar has natural protection from UV damage
Western Red Cedar stains should have UV protection for the wood.

Also, read we should NEVER use water based stains on Western Red Cedar, and to use an oil based because of the naturaly oils in Western Red Cedar. Another site actually recommended the opposite!!!

My wife and I want to maintain as close as possible the “brand new milled” look of Western Red Cedar, which implies we need a clear, or at the most semitransparent stain. Would/should we use one with added UV, mold, algae protection? We live in the Pacific Northwest north of Seattle and it rains/cloudy days almost 8 or 9 months of the year!!

So confused about which product AND WHEN to apply — if I don’t do it in the next 2 weeks, I will have to wait until June or July of next year.

Can you sort through all this confusion: again, western red cedar fence…not a deck.

3 years ago


4 years ago

We are preparing to stain a one year old PT pine fence for the first time (for the fence and for us:-). We plan to use the cleaner, brightener, RAD semi-transparent stain. Half of the fence is shadow box and the other half is board on board. In what order should we proceed? Would it be best to prep both sides completely before starting to stain? If we clean and then brighten the whole fence before starting to stain and it has dried, do we just dampen the wood with the hose before starting to stain. Should we do all the inside first and then the back side or do one section at a time front and back then proceed to the next section? My concern is some stain going through the spaces in the shadow box and getting on the back side of the fence and drying before we get to that side if we don’t do front and back in sections since I understand it must be applied wet on wet.
The fence is 220′ x 6′. I ordered 20 gallon but if we run short on stain and have to order more, how long can we go between the prep and staining? Would it be better to get one coat on the back side if not enough left for 2 coats and then come back later for a second coat or leave a portion with no stain until it comes in? I’m not concerned about the appearance of the back side as no one sees it….I’m only concerned with protection for it. With that in mind is the second coat for appearance only? Would one coat give the protection needed since cost is a factor? What is the minimum amount of time to wait if a first coat dries before adding a 2nd coat? Thank you for any advice.

Fra Na
Fra Na
5 years ago

We have a fence that has only been up for 6 months. Do we need to use cleaner and brightener first or can we just go over it with brush and/or power washer to remove dust that may have accumulated?

Fra Na
Fra Na
5 years ago

how is the brightener and cleaner used in conjunction with pressure washing?
Staining has been delayed and now it appears that spring will come before we get enough dry days to complete the project. Dark stains have developed where nails have been used. Will using the cleaner/brightener and then semi transparent cedar stain make them disappear/less noticeable?

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