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Guide to Fence Staining Perfection

When staining a fence, there are many factors to consider for choosing the right product. If you have an older fence with a lot of discoloration the decision is easy, you need a solid stain. If using a semi-transparent on wood with major discoloration, you will still see these imperfections through the stain. Moderate discolorations can create more indecision. Some semi-transparent offer more pigment and can mask some moderate imperfections, or you can increase the color formula of a current semi-transparent which will slightly shift your semi to a darker color.

If you have a new beautiful fence, you may want to select a semi-transparent. Semi-transparent stains will show off the natural beauty of the wood. In the pictures below, I have an example of a beautiful semi-transparent stain.

Water-based stains are sometimes regarded as inferior to oil-based stains, but this is not true. I use Sherwin-Williams Woodscapes stain on vertical surfaces like fences because it penetrates deep and has preservatives to retard mold and mildew. This stain also offers better UV protection from the sue and the color will not fade as it does with oil-based stains.

Choosing a color is a big decision and can be hard to decide which will look best. As a contractor, I have many samples that I like to place directly next to the house siding. Your stain should complement your house and trim color. Also factor in the landscape of your backyard. A darker color can make green vegetation pop more whereas a lighter color might look nicer with less landscaping. Just remember to look at the sample in both the front and back yard.

Once you decide to stain, below are the steps you should follow:

Step 1: Check the weather forecast.​

Staining needs to be done when the weather cooperates to allow adequate drying time. If there is rain in the forecast, you better play it safe, especially if using an oil-based product. Under normal conditions, the stain should be allowed to dry for 24 hours before being exposed to rain. It is important to understand that there are factors that greatly influence the drying time of a stain such as the base of the stain, humidity, wind, and stain applicating procedures.

Step 2: Prepare the wood for stain.

When staining a fence, you must clean the wood first. The most commonly used method is pressure washing. Pressure washing is a good option because it removes dirt and debris, takes off old stain that is flaking, and opens up the pores in the wood. Opening the wood pores allows for deeper penetration of the stain. It is important to allow at least 48 hours of dry time between pressure washing your fence and staining.

Step 3: Mask sensitive areas near the fence for staining.

Prepping surrounding areas for stains is one of the most important aspects of the staining process. Many items must be considered when prepping to stain. Hardware on gates is one of the most common examples of items that get overlooked when prepping to stain. Overspray on gate hardware greatly reduces the appeal of the finished product. To ensure a professional-looking result, gate hardware should be taped or removed before staining. The house siding near the fence is also highly susceptible and needs to be taped off to prevent overspray. If the stain gets on the house or nearby concrete, removal can be near impossible. Other items susceptible to overspray include nearby cars, windows, and furniture.

Step 4: Apply stain.

Most contractors will apply stains with an airless sprayer. This is much faster than using a roller or brush and provides an even finish. As mentioned in Step 3, you must be aware of overspray when using an airless sprayer. To ensure proper application, each coat of stain should be applied evenly with the appropriate amount. If too much stain is applied at once, there is an increased risk of peeling or bubbling of stain. If using an airless sprayer users should back-brush stain after spraying to ensure an even application. Before application, it is important to know your stain. Some stains require one coat, whereas others require two. If applying two coats, you must let the first coat dry adequately. Again, read the product specs before staining.



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