How to Stain a Fence Yourself

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Soon enough it will be that time of year again.  Spring is just around the corner.  How to stain a fence yourself is easy, if you have all the right tools and a plan.   

Getting your yard ready for guests means landscape and paint work.  One of your biggest tasks will be getting your fence summer ready.  

Follow our handy tips below to get your fence ready for outdoor season! 

how to stain a fence yourself
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Staining a Fence for the First Time 

So your fence was just built.  Brand new bare wood just staring back at you.  Depending on the color or stain you pick, it can transform your yard from blah to great with a fence stain sprayer.  

Fence stain not only looks good, but it protects the wood from pests, the sun, cold, and weather in general.   To apply fence stain for the best results, we always recommend a paint sprayer.   

The best fence stain sprayer will deliver consistent results much faster than brushing or rolling.  Instead of taking a whole weekend to stain your fence yourself, you can crush it on Saturday morning, leaving your weekend free for other DIY projects. 

Tips and Supply List for Staining a New Fence

Here is a quick list of the supplies you'll need to stain your new fence this spring and summer. 

  • Gloves
  • Sandpaper (might need this, depending on the water test)
  • Paint Mask
  • Hose and Bucket
  • Safety Goggles
  • Stain of Your Choice
  • Fence Stain Sprayer or Pump Sprayer
  • Rags
  • Work Clothes or Paint Suit

PRO TIP

Use a good quality fence stain.  We can't stress this enough.  Crappy stain will NOT protect your wood fence and it will look terrible.  


Buy the best stain you can afford and make sure you apply it according to the manufacturer's directions and in the best weather conditions you can (usually above 50 degrees).

How Long Does it Take to Stain an Entire Fence?

Usually it takes a few hours for an average sized yard.  This doesn't include your prep work.  If your fence is smaller or bigger than what you would consider average then it will take longer/take less.

How to Stain a New Fence

Staining a new fence is tedious but easier than an old fence because you don't have to clean it and wait for it to dry first.

Make sure that your new wood fence has had enough time to adjust to your climate.  The wood might expand or shrink depending on conditions outside.  Once this is done you can move onto testing it for water resistance.

The key here is prepping the wood.  You have to make sure that your new wood will soak up your stain.  If it doesn't then your wood fence isn't protect from the elements, especially rain and snow.  Testing to see if your new fence will soak up the stain you bought is easy.

Just pour some water over a part of your fence and see if the water beads up.  If it doesn't then you're ready to start staining.  If it beads, this means that the stain won't be absorbed into the wood.  You'll have to sand with sandpaper to allow the stain to soak into your fence.

Steps for Staining a New Fence

Once you've got the basics done above you can move on to actually staining your new fence.  Follow the steps below to get it done like a Pro.

  1. Follow the instructions on your stain for best results.  Some stains are recommended to be applies using one method over another (sprayer vs roller or brush vs sprayer).  
  2. No matter what method you're using always start staining from the top of your fence and work your way to the bottom.
  3. If applying stain with a sprayer always use a technique called back brushing to make sure the stain is evenly applied and absorbed into the wood.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your entire fence is stained.
  5. After a few hours, take a look and see if you need to apply a second coat.

How to Stain a Fence with a Pump Sprayer 

It doesn’t matter if you use a paint sprayer or a pump sprayer, the steps to staining your fence are the same. 

The only difference is that you will need to manually pump your pump sprayer to build up pressure for spraying the stain where a paint sprayer is already pressurized for you, making the job easier and faster.   

Here are the basic steps for using a pump sprayer.  We go into detail about using a pump sprayer for stain in our post about decks, click here for more info. 

  1. Make sure its clean if it’s an old fence.
  2. Fill your pump sprayer up to the fill line with your stain of choice. 
  3. Put on your goggles and paint mask; there will be mist that floats in the air while spraying that’s unhealthy to breath in. 
  4. Pump the handle on your sprayer to build up enough pressure for spraying thin stain.  Read the instructions, it should tell you how much you need to pump up your pump sprayer for best results. 
  5. Working your way from top to bottom, start spraying your fence.   

How to Stain an Old Fence: How to Stain a Fence that is Already Stained 

The first step is to clean your fence.  Staining without cleaning it first is never a good idea.  Your stain won’t protect the wood underneath and it will be uneven and blotchy.  You will need to re-stain your fence more often if you don’t clean it first. 

Using either a power washer or a hard bristle brush and some water, scrub all the gunk off your fence wood like moss, mildew etc etc.  Wait for it to dry completely before applying your stain.  Follow our steps below to get your old fence stained.

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Staining an Old Fence: Prep, Tips and Tricks

Maintaining your fence throughout the year makes it easier to stain or paint it when the time comes. 

Make sure to keep up on repairs to the wood, fixing cracks or broken piece when they happen. Make sure to pick a time when the weather will be clear, with high temperatures and lower humidity.  These are the ideal conditions in which to stain your fence.

For older fences that are already stained, you will need to take off the old stain or paint by using a pressure washer and some good old elbow grease to scrub that fence with a wire brush.  

Cut your grass or clean up around your fence to remove all foreign objects that could get in your way of staining your fence properly. 

Clean your fence with a power/pressure washer and make sure to remove all mold/mildew with diluted bleach. Don't go too hard here and use a lower PSI on your washer to prevent damaging your wood.  

Wait a few days for it to dry.  If you're using water based stain, your fence doesn't have to be completely dry, although that's ideal for best results. 

Supply List for Fence Staining

Here is our quick supply list.  It's basically the exact same as staining a new fence, but with an old fence you have to clean it first.

  • Power washer or long handled hard bristle brush for cleaning fence before staining
  • Gloves
  • Paint Mask
  • Safety Goggles
  • Diluted bleach to kill mold and mildew
  • Stain of Your Choice
  • Fence Stain Sprayer or Pump Sprayer
  • Rags
  • Work Clothes or Paint Suit
  • Putty Knife for scraping gunk off fence
  • Repair supplies to repair any damage to your fence

Steps for Staining an Old Fence

The steps for staining an old fence are exactly the same as a new fence (except you have to clean your old fence first).  

  1. No matter what method you're using always start staining from the top of your fence and work your way to the bottom.
  2. If applying stain with a sprayer always use a technique called back brushing to make sure the stain is evenly applied and absorbed into the wood.
  3. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your entire fence is stained.
  4. After a few hours, take a look and see if you need to apply a second coat.

How Long Does Fence Stain Take to Dry? 

Eager to use your backyard?  Maybe you have a weekend BBQ coming up and you want to make sure the fence is finished being stained before your guests arrive.  Making that good impression is important. 

How long it takes for your fence stain to dry depends on many factors.  The best time to paint your fence is when it's warmer outside (think above 50 degrees) with low humidity.  This makes the stain dry faster.  

Newer wood that hasn't been stained before will dry faster because the wood is porous and absorbs the stain at a much faster rate than old wood.  The type of stain you're using can also be a factor.  Thicker stains like solid color stains will take longer to dry.

Typically, fence stain will be dry after 12 to 24 hours.   If you see in the forecast that its going to rain, you'll want to time it so that your stain is dry before it gets rained on if possible.

Do you need to apply a second coat of stain?  

Depending on the type of stain you've used, you might only need 1 coat.  This is true if you used a solid color stain.  You would need to apply a second coat of stain if you used semi transparent stains, which are the most popular type of stain.

So, when do you apply that second coat of stain if you've used a semi transparent type?  You need to apply that second coat BEFORE the first coat is completely dry.  It's best to do that within 4 hours of spraying your first coat of stain.

How Long After it Rains can you Stain a Fence? 

I love to prep my yard and stain my fence before backyard season, so in the spring.  This means I'm fighting the weather and need to time my fence and deck staining task just right to avoid the rain if possible.  But sometimes that break in the weather only last a day maybe 2 if we're lucky. 

You have to wait until the wood is completely dry before applying stain.  How long this takes depends on the weather and humidity in the area that you live.  It can take as little as one day, or, if you live in a area with high humidity, it can take a few days.  Patience is key here, to getting your fence looking great and properly protected from the elements.

What Happens if it Rains on Fresh Stain?  Will it be Ruined?

No, your fence stain won't be ruined if it rains.  BUT, it could cause white water droplet marks because the rain soaked into the wood before the stain had a chance to properly seal it.  If you inspect your fence, and find white water marks, you should sand those areas and apply a second coat of stain to your fence.

Temperature for Staining a Fence

The best time to stain a fence is when there is no rain in the forecast.  Higher temperatures and lower humidity really help your stain to dry fast.  Ideal temps for each brand can differ, but usually its above 50 degrees.  

It also depends on the type of stain.  Solid colors are thicker like paint, so best to stain during optimal conditions.  Semi transparent stains are thinner and dry faster and better in less than ideal conditions.  Check the instructions on your can of stain for the ideal temperature to stain your fence.

How Long Does Stain Last on a Fence?

How many years or months does stain last on a fence?  If you've done all the prep work properly, your stain should last a while, around 2-3 years, depending on the brand and type of stain you used.  

When should you restain your fence?  When rain water no longer beads off your fence panels, you need to stain your fence.  If you live in an area with no rain, if your fence starts to fade, stain it again.  This ensures that it stays protected from the weather and makes your fence last and last. This saves you money in the long run since you won't have to repair or replace your fence for years to come.

Conclusion 

How to stain a fence yourself can get done easily and without much effort, resulting in a gorgeous yard that will make all your friends and neighbors jealous! 


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