How to Stain a Wood Fence

A dark oak stained wooden fence lines a well manicured lawn

If your wood fencing is looking a bit old and worn, you might want to consider a good staining. Staining a wood fence is usually far easier than painting it and can give it an attractive like new finish to match your home. Staining is often seen as a difficult process because it isn’t quite as forgiving as paint, but as long as you take the process step-by-step you should be fine.

Step 1: Remove Any Paint

If your fence has any paint on it, you’ll need to remove it using a paint solvent. Your fence’s paint may have chipped off over time or become damaged, but you should still remove any remainders, as they will be highly visible later on — stain generally won’t take to paint, so you’ll be able to see the initial color of your fence.

Step 2: Cleaning Your Fence

The fastest and easiest way to clean your wooden fence is to power wash it — though you don’t want to use the highest setting, as those could potentially damage the fence. Power washing will quickly strip off any of the dirt and stain that has accumulated over your wooden fence and prime it for a new finish. If you don’t thoroughly wash your fence, the stain won’t be able to penetrate, and the finish will look uneven when you’re done.

Step 3: Sanding Your Fence

Whether or not your fence has been painted in the past, you will still need to sand it thoroughly before you begin your stain. Sanding opens up the wood’s surface, making it more accepting of the staining materials. Don’t worry, you usually don’t need to sand it very thoroughly; just get a sanding pad and “rough” the surface until it is dull. Once it is dull you’ll know that it’s ready to be stained.

Step 4: Apply the Stain

Make sure that the stain that you use is rated for outdoor use; there are specific stains for fencing. Stain is generally applied with a rag, rubbing in circular motions over the entire course of the wood fence. Separate your fence into two to three foot sections and complete a section at a time, making sure not to go over areas more than once — if you do, the stain can end up deeper in certain areas and uneven. Stain can generally be forgiving, but you want to work quickly. Once the stain begins to dry, you can end up with streaks if you continue to go over the surface.

Step 5: Allow to Dry

Make sure that your fence is appropriately shielded from the weather so that it can be allowed to cure for 24 to 48 hours. Don’t cover the fence — the stain won’t dry properly — just make sure it’s shielded. The stain may feel tacky to the touch until it is completely cured. It may take up to 72 hours if you’re in a humid environment.

Step 6: Repeat the Process (Optional)

If you’re trying for a dark stain, you may need to repeat the process several times. Remember, stains aren’t like paint; you can go darker in color with a stain, but you’ll never be able go lighter — and with darker woods, you can tint the wood, but you won’t be able to get a vibrant stain on it. 

Staining your fence is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make it look brand new. Don’t worry about the fact that staining is often considered a difficult process. With furniture and interiors, staining is often considered difficult because it shows any imperfections at all in the wood, such as nicks, dings, and scratches. This isn’t true with outdoor applications, where minor imperfections are either unnoticeable or add to the rustic charm. If you want to learn more about resurfacing and renovating your fencing, contact Rustic Fence today.