What Should I Use to Finish My Wood Fence?

Finishing a Wood Fence

Wood fence is a popular choice for a classic look that blends seamlessly into outdoor settings. 

While it’s impossible to completely prevent the natural weathering that occurs to wood fence over the years, you can successfully slow the process by applying the proper finish. Painting and staining both provide added protection against weather, insects, and rot, but there are important differences to know about each method.

Painting a Wood Fence

A fresh coat of paint can add a nice splash of color to a wood fence, as well as provide a thicker barrier against the elements. Paint appeals to many people because the variety of colors make it easy to mix and match with the house trim or window boxes. Despite these advantages, painting can result in more maintenance and less protection in the long run.

Drawbacks of Painting a Wood Fence

  • Painting takes a lot of labor - prepping usually requires cleaning, scraping, and sanding.
  • Wood cannot absorb paint as deeply as stain, resulting in less protection from the elements.
  • Cedar wood in particular does not work as well with paint. The paint doesn’t allow the cedar to breathe, reducing the lifespan of the fence.
  • When it gets old, paint starts to chip and peel. Stain simply fades over time.

Tips for Painting a Wood Fence

  • Use a latex primer or stain the fence first to help keep the wood sufficiently sealed from moisture longer.
  • Choose an exterior paint with UV inhibitors for extra protection.


Staining a Wood Fence

Staining is a great way to preserve and maintain the natural beauty of a wood fence. Staining helps prevent moisture rot and UV damage while enhancing the appearance of the wood’s grain. Staining may seem more expensive or complex than a simple paint job at first, but in the long run it often requires less labor and expense.

Drawbacks of Staining a Wood Fence

  • Staining is not maintenance free. It will fade over time, requiring ongoing attention.
  • Stain is quite messy and will drip a lot if you aren’t using the right tools.
  • The wood must be sufficiently dry to soak in the stain (typically about 5 weeks to “dry out” for newly installed fences).

Tips for Staining a Wood Fence

  • Not all stains are made to the same specifications. Different chemical compositions affect how stains absorb into the wood and how long it will last.
  • Stains come in different opacities. Semi-Transparent stains will allow the grains and textures of the wood or surface to show through, semi-solid stains contain more pigment and alkyd for UV resistance and durability, while solid stains finish to a smoother surface.
  • Test the stain on a piece of scrap wood to make sure the wood reacts well to the stain and that the color is accurate.


AVO’s Favorite Finishes

A few “tried and true” products that we recommend:

Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams: Regarded as the superior choice for top coating. Available in a large variety of colors, these latex-acrylic stains will add dimension and depth to your fence.

Hancock: Manufactured with the unique properties of cedar wood in mind. Hancock primer is formulated to prevent bleed through where many others are not.

Sikkens: Preferred choice for clear or natural stain.

More than your local fence company. AVO Fence & Supply knows there is always more to learn when it comes to the latest tips, technology and professionalism in the fencing industry. We’re taking that expertise and sharing it here, to help you grow your fencing business. Start planning your next fencing project today at AVO Fence & Supply.

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