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If your fence is looking a little worn-out and needs a makeover, you have a few options you can go with. The two main options include painting or staining, so if you're debating which one would work best for you, stick with us as we go over all the pros and cons of each of those methods as well as provide you with a third alternative, which some of you may find as more suitable.

Let's take a look at some of the main benefits and drawbacks of each option to help you decide which one works best for you.

Pros and Cons of Painting Your Fence

Before you choose the colour palette you'd like to go with; you first need to decide if painting your timber fence is the best option for your budget and your preferences. 

Here are some of the main pros and cons of painting your fence to help you decide if this is the way to go.

Pros:

  • Easier to clean. 

    Once dry, paint is much easier to clean, while stained wood requires a bit more effort to get rid of dirt, debris and dust.

  • More choices and variety. 

    Paint offers more variety, from neutral colours to bright and stronger finishes, you can paint your fence any colour or shade you want.

  • Offers more uniform covering. 

  • More versatile. 

    You can paint over stained or painted fence, but you cannot stain over paint.

Cons:

  • Chipping and peeling

    . When changes in temperature and moisture occur, the wood shrinks and expands. The paint doesn't have the ability to move at the same rate as the wood, and therefore it releases and lets go of the wood, resulting in chipping, cracking and peeling.

  • More prep. 

    To get your timber fence ready for painting, you will need to scrape off any chipped or peeling paint first. Use sandpaper to get an even surface so the paint can stick better and wash off any dust and debris before you start painting.

  • Higher initial cost. 

    While paint costs more than stain, it does generally last longer. 

Pros and Cons of Staining Your Fence

Making the decision between paint and stain doesn't have to be all that complicated. To help you decide, we've rounded up some of the main pros and cons of staining a fence below.

Pros:

  • No risk of chipping and peeling

    . Unlike paint, a quality stain won't chip, crack or peel over time. A quality stain and sealant can easily penetrate the wood grain, while paint just coats the top of the wood and doesn't let moisture to escape. Since staining penetrates the wood, no moisture gets trapped inside and there is no chance for cracks to form.

  • Preserve the beauty of the wood

    . Staining preserves and protects the wood, while paint hides it.

  • Achieve a more natural look. 

    When you use stain, you don't cover up the surface of the wood, which means you can see its natural pattern.

  • Easier to apply. 

    Stain can be directly applied on any wooden surface, using a brush or a roller. You don't have to prime the surface before painting. Since it's transparent, it minimizes lap marks and offers a nice, clean look. If you choose to go with a two-in-one stain-and-sealer, you won't need to apply an additional coat of stain.

Cons:

  • Limited colour options. 

    Because stain is designed to highlight the natural look of the wood, it is generally limited to brown or clear shades.

Pros and Cons of Keeping Your Fence in its Natural Look

If you're looking for a more rugged, natural feel, there’s a third option you can go with. You can simply leave your fence in its natural state, without painting or staining the wood. This option requires the least amount of effort, as you'll only need to clean the wood every once in a while. It is also the most affordable option since you won't need to buy any supplies and equipment. 

However, since your wooden fence will be left unprotected, the outside elements will take a toll on it over time. Although that is considered as one of the main drawbacks to this method, quality wood can last a long time even when constantly exposed to the elements, giving your home a more rustic look.

To determine which option works best for you, you will need to take a few factors into account. Those include your time, budget and most importantly, the look you want to achieve. All three options have their unique benefits, so no matter which one you choose to go with, you can make your fence look amazing, boosting your curb appeal and making your home more inviting.

Once you've decided which option to go with you can start getting your supplies and materials and ready and get to work. 

To help direct you through the process we've composed a thorough and detailed step-by-step guide on how to paint or stain your picket fence so you can achieve the best results and make your new paint job last longer.

Everything You Need to Know About Fence Painting

No matter if you want to paint your brand new fence or repaint your old one, there are certain steps you need to take before you can actually start applying the paint. To make sure the whole process goes smoothly, stick to the following steps and you'll be able to get the high-quality result you're after.

If your front fence or any other exterior fence is in need of a revamp stick with us so you can get familiar with the basics of the process and be able to finish the entire job like a pro.

Let's begin!

1. Prep

If you want to achieve the best results and make your paint job last longer, the most important step you need to focus on is prep. No matter if you're working with a wood fence, a metal fence or even a brick fence, prepping the surface before you start applying the paint is a crucial step of the process.

Here's what you'll need to do during this process:

1. Clean the surrounding area

The first step in the process includes trimming the grass, shrubbery and any other vegetation that may be in the way so you can have a clean area to work in. 

Tye back any plats that are in the way and cover the more vulnerable ones so they can stay protected while you paint your fence.

2. Clean and fix the fence

Make sure to also remove any cobwebs, dust, dirt and debris from the fence using a scrub brush and your garden hose or using a power washer.

Other than cobwebs, dirt and dust, you may also need to deal with mould and mildew that's formed over the course of the years. If so, the best and easiest way to clean those mouldy spots is to apply a mixture of 1 part bleach and 1 part water, let it sit and then wash it off.

Remember to soak the surrounding area around your fence generously so you can dilute the bleach and protect your surrounding plants and greenery.

If you find any loose or broken posts, slats or trims now's the perfect time to repair or replace them before you head onto the next step.

3. Scrape off loose paint

Once you've thoroughly cleaned your fence it's time to scrape off any loose or chipping paint so you can have a smooth surface to work on. Depending on the amount of loose paint you're dealing with you can decide to do this process before you start washing your fence so that you don't have to deal with flying chunks of loose paint that will be covering the surrounding area after you've used your power washer or garden hose to spray the entire fence.

If you decide to clean your fence first and then scrape off the loose paint, here's what you'll need to do. Use a scraper to remove the larger pieces of flaking paint and a smaller scraper or a putty knife to get in all the nooks and crannies. Apply moderate pressure on the surface, making sure you only remove the paint that's already flaking and loose. Scrape in the direction of the grain and then use a wire brush to remove any imperfections, if necessary.

4. Smooth out the surface

Use an electric sander or a simple sanding block to take down any ridges so that you can have a nice smooth surface to work on. Once that step is complete you can give your fence a quick wash so you can remove any leftover dust and you're good to go. 

5. Protect the surrounding area

Make sure you cover the surrounding area if you don't want any paint to spill over while you've working on your fence. You can use pieces of cardboard or plastic sheeting, and even newspapers and lay them down below the fence before you start painting.

Use newspaper and masking tape to cover any windows, locks and handles.

6. Prepare your materials

Make sure you have everything you need at hand so you don't have to run out and buy more paint or supplies in the middle of the project. Read the guidance on the top of the can of paint and primer to make sure you buy enough to cover the entire surface of your fence.

Get your brushes and rollers ready and you're good to go. Don't forget to get a smaller brush in addition to your main one so you can use it for cutting-in and getting into corners. If you decide to go the easier route and spray paint your fence, make sure you rent or buy a spray gun, but always have your paintbrush handy for back-brushing so you can smooth out any marks, runs and streaks.

Always wear protective clothing including a mask, eye goggles and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.

2. Apply a coat of primer

While you might be tempted to jump straight onto painting without priming the surface first, you should not skip this step as it seals the wood, blocks out stains, allows for better adhesion and helps your paint job last longer.

Even if you decide not to prime the entire surface of the fence, at least make sure you spot prime the areas where the raw wood is exposed.

Check the manufacturer's instruction before you purchase the paint and primer to make sure they are suitable for your type of fence.

Once you get that out of the way, open the can of primer, stir it thoroughly and start applying it on the surface of your fence. To make sure the product adheres to the surfaces well you can try it out on a small test area. This way you can see if you're happy with the colour as well.

Work along the grain of the wood and brush the primer on evenly. Pay closer attention to any exposed areas of end grain timber, because those are the areas where rot is most likely to occur.

Allow the primer to dry before you start applying paint.

3. Paint

As you've already guessed it by now, the majority of the painting process includes prep and priming, and it's only once those steps are completed successfully that you can start applying the paint. The successful completion of these processes is directly related to the quality of your finish, the longevity of your paint job and the overall success of the project. That's why it's important not to skip any of the steps above if you want to achieve maximum results.

Once you've applied a coat of primer and you've let it dry properly, it's time to open your can of paint, stir it thoroughly and start applying the first coat. Depending on the type and colour of paint you're using as well as the state of your fence, you may need to apply two coats of paint to achieve the desired result.

Everything You Need to Know About Fence Staining

While fence staining can be a bit more expensive initially, many homeowners choose to go with this option since the stain gets absorbed much easier and you also don't have to deal with any chipping and peeling like you have to do with paint. With stains, the colour simply fades away after a while and you simply have to restain the wood once that happens.

So if you're working with a brand new fence that hasn't been painted or stained before or if you're simply restaining your existing fence, here are some of the easiest methods you can achieve that.

Note that most of the steps of the process are similar if not the same as with painting, the main differences are that you don't have to scrape off any loose pieces of paint and sand the edges. 

Here's what you'll need to do to successfully complete your fence staining project:

  • examine the wood for any broken pieces and repair or replace those parts before you begin

  • clean the wood from any dirt, dust, debris, cobwebs and mould following the steps we covered above

  •   sand down any rough areas

  • get all your equipment, supplies and materials ready and start staining the wood.

There are several different painting techniques you can use to stain your fence. 

The main ones include:

  • using a combination of paint rollers and a paintbrush to cut in and get into all the corners

  • using a spray gun which you can rent or purchase in any home centre

How often should you paint or stain your fence?

Regular upkeep and maintenance play an important role in keeping your fence in good condition. To make sure your fence doesn't rot and deteriorate you need to make sure it stays protected and well maintained. 

That's why it's important to clean and repaint or restain your fence on a regular basis. While most homeowners tend to repaint their fence every couple years or so, it's up to you to inspect your fence on a regular basis, looking or signs of chipping and flaking paint or rot and deterioration to determine if it's time to repaint your fence. When it comes to staining, the easiest way to determine if it's time to restain your fence is to see if the colour has started to fade away.

Tips for Fence Painting and Staining

To make the process even easier on you we've compiles a list of a few tips and tricks you can use to get a better result with the least amount of effort and hassle.

Here are some of the most important things you need to have in mind when painting or staining a fence:

1. Work on a sunny day but not under direct sunlight. It's best to start working early in the morning so you can avoid the heat. Make sure it's not windy or rainy as well, as that will completely ruin your project.

2. Work in sections

3. If you can't trim down the surrounding shrubbery use a piece of plywood to separate it from the fence so it's not in your way.

4. Invest in quality materials and supplies (including brushes, rollers, paint and so on)

5. Check for termite infestation or damage before you start painting and address the issue ahead of time.