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Staining Protects Porous Wood Fences

If your fence is built out of
wood, there is a good chance it will require periodic sanding and staining to
maintain its structural stability and attractive design. Wood is porous by
nature, and over time, the stained finish wears away, leaving the wood
unprotected to the elements. Dirt, pollen, and mold spores settle into the
pores, leaving the wood a dull gray. Unless you enjoy the rustic, vintage
look, you will need to repair the finish every two to three years.

Preliminary Tasks

Washing cleaning stained fenceBegin by inspecting the fence
for any rotten, broken, or weak boards. You’ll need to replace these boards
before applying any finishes to ensure that you have an even look when the project
is complete.

Once the fence is
structurally sound, clean it thoroughly by using a pressure washer or a garden
hose. If the wood is extremely weathered, you can restore some of the original
color by sandblasting.

At this stage, you’ll need to
take a break – no paint, stain, or sealant should be applied to wood until it
is completely dry. A couple of days of dry, warm weather are ideal for drying
the fence, but if rain or chilly weather
is in the forecast you may need to wait a bit longer. If you continue with
finishing your wood fence before it has a chance to dry out, you’ll seal the
moisture into the boards, which will eventually cause them to warp, split, or
rot and will likely give the stain an uneven, splotchy appearance.

Staining and Sealing

So, the wood is dry and the
forecast is clear (for 1-2 days at least); it’s time to get to the finish line.
Using painter’s tape, mask off any hardware (hinges, latches, locks, handles,
etc.) so that they won’t be covered with stain. Next, put down newspaper or
plastic tarps along the ground under the fence so that you don’t stain or seal
the lawn or have spills, causing harmful agents to seep into the ground and
possibly a run off.

Staining the fenceWhen staining your fence it
will be best served and preserved by a couple of coats of sealant as well. Some
stains now come with sealant mixed into the stain, which can save you time (and
possibly money) in the fence finishing process.

Apply the stain/sealer with a
sprayer, roller, or brush in thin, even coats. It may be necessary to apply up
to three coats to ensure an even finish. After the stain is completely dry,
apply a waterproof seal in either a varnish or polyurethane. A stain is more
for color than sealant, and will wear away quickly without a protective

As with any exterior painting
or staining project, make sure you avoid temperature extremes and windy or
rainy weather.

Stains and varnishes can be
rather strong, so be sure to wear adequate protective clothing and a ventilator
if working in an area with poor ventilation or whenever using a sprayer and be
sure to keep children and animals away.

Fencing can also be painted
or whitewashed, or simply sealed for a more natural look.

Product Choices

A quick glance at any
hardware shelf in the stains aisle will prove that there are numerous options
of fence stain and sealers. Here’s a preview of some of the choices you may be
faced with.

stained wood fence

5-Minute Fence. This product is designed to help keep the finishing
process to a minimum of time and effort on your part. It’s a water-borne
acrylic stain with UV protection. One jug of 5-Minute Fence, attached to your
hose for easy application, can take the place of four gallons of stain. They
claim that with their product, there’s no need for masking metal hardware,
simply hose off any overspray. On the down side—it comes in only three
different wood shades and they do not specify if their stains have a sealant
component in it or if you’ll need to seal the fence after using the product.

One Time. This is a product which guarantees your fence will be
protected from the elements for at least seven years. It’s a sealant with a
proprietary acrylate resin blend. One Time can be used on any type of wood, as
long as it is clean and dry. The product promises to keep wood from cupping,
warping, and splitting. It’s also used to prevent mold growth by penetrating
deep into the wood’s cellular structure and being cured by natural sunlight.
Unfortunately One Time comes only in Red Cedar or Natural hues and the
manufacturer recommends that when using this product on new cedar or redwood,
the boards be naturally weathered for one year before applying the sealant.

This line of stain products is designed to protect
fence boards with a three-year warranty, but the manufacturers assert that the
stains often hold their integrity for twice as long as their warranty period.
One of the great things about Wood Defender is the large variety in stain
options. They carry two lines of fence stain: transparent and semi-transparent
and each line offers several color choices. The disadvantage is that the
distributors for Wood Defender are very limited, mostly in just Texas, Florida,
Idaho, Oklahoma, and Nevada.

Minwax Gel Stain. Minwax is a
name most are familiar with and that can be easily found in any hardware store.
The Gel Stain product can be used for any interior or exterior wood and its
gelled qualities make it perfect for vertical projects, like fences, since it
won’t drip. It comes in a variety of color options but requires a bit more
effort by the homeowner as the manufacturer recommends two coats of stain be
applied and topped by an exterior clear top coat.

Does your wood fence look weather-beaten and old? It might be time for a pick-me-up. Apply a coat or two of stain to protect your fence from the elements while boosting your curb appeal at the same time. Here’s some info to get you started.


It’s important to first decide whether you will be tackling the project yourself or calling in the pros. A painting contractor will charge, on average, about $260 to stain both sides of a 50-foot fence (Note: this could cost less in your area; contact a painting professional for exact price estimates). You could also turn this into a DIY project for the cost of materials only. A word of caution, though: know what you’re doing before you begin.


Also greatly improves the appearance and value of both your fence and property.

Enhances the color and texture of wood, instead of covering it like paint does.

Staining a wood fence improves its structural durability.


Stain requires maintenance and will need to be reapplied periodically.

Staining a fence can take a significant amount of time, especially in wet climates, where the drying time is increased.

If a fence is already painted, stain cannot be applied until the paint is thoroughly stripped.


Staining your fence will add to its durability by protecting it from dirt, pollen and mold spores.


Routine maintenance is required when it comes to ensuring that your wood fence is structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing. Inspect your fence to make sure the boards are not rotting, and apply a sealant every few years to protect from water damage.

Common Questions and Answers

What tasks need to be completed before staining a wood fence?

Inspect the fence for any rotten, broken or weak boards, and replace if necessary. Then clean the fence by using a pressure-washer or garden hose. Allow the fence to thoroughly dry before staining.

What is the best stain to use?

It really depends on your priorities:

#1—For fast application, check out 5-Minute Fence. It’s designed to keep the finishing process to a minimum of time and effort on your part. The product is a water-based acrylic stain with

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