Top 5 Best Fence Stains (2021 Reviews)

Last Updated On April 2, 2021

Are you looking for an awesome stain to use on your fence?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com Guide, you'll learn:

  • What types of stain to use on a fence
  • What you need to know about fence stains
  • What supplies you'll need to stain a fence

And much more!

Top 5 Best Fence Stains (2020 Reviews)

So, if you want to make sure you can stain a fence easily and get amazing coverage, keep reading our guide to learn everything you need to know before you start staining!

Image Product

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STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector
  • Oil-based
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool
  • Oil-based
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool
View on Amazon

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KILZ Exterior Waterproofing Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3 year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand
  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3 year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand
View on Amazon

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Wood Defender Semi-Transparent Fence Stain
  • Easy to apply
  • 3-year guarantee
  • Made for extreme climates
  • Easy to apply
  • 3-year guarantee
  • Made for extreme climates
View on Amazon

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DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC
  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC
View on Amazon

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Cabot Australian Timber Oil Stain
  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection
  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

Updated On April 2, 2021

Our top choice has to be the epic STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector.

This stuff is fantastic for all sorts of scenarios and does a great job of protecting and sealing your wood surfaces.

As a stain/sealant, it's a powerful formula which is great if you live in an extreme climate where you're dealing with a lot of water or humidity or sun. 

This will not only protect your wood grain from UV rays, but it also works on all wood types.

If you're looking for a fantastic stain with amazing pigment and durability, this is the stain for you.

Our Top 5 Best Fence Stains

If you're truly looking for the best stain finish to use on your fence, you're in the right place!

Below is a list of our top 5 stains, keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of each one:

What Types of Stain Should You Use For Staining A Fence?

While there are tons of different staining solutions out there for fences, there are a few key things you should consider about your fence before you start diving into stain!

Wood Types

One of the first things to think about when staining your fence is what type of wood you're working with.

Is it pressure treated? A hardwood? A softwood? 

Different types of wood require different treatments in order to keep them protected and looking their best.

Staining Soft Woods

If you're working with a softwood like cedar or pine, you might want to consider using a pre-stain conditioning treatment.

That's because soft wood grains can absorb stain unevenly, leaving your end result looking blotchy.

I recently built myself a wood desk using pine wood and I'm so glad I tested the stain on scrap wood first to see if it was worth using a pre-stain conditioner.

I ended up seeing how blotchy the stain looked without the pre-treatment and decided to go for the conditioner and the end-result turned out beautifully!

So, if you're staining a fence that's made of soft wood, I highly recommend using some sort of pre-stain treatment because blotchiness can be very obvious on a larger surface area like a fence.

That said, you can probably use either an oil-based or water-based stain when working with softwoods since the wood grain is easier to penetrate.

Read More >> How Much Does It Cost To Paint/Stain A Fence?

Staining Hardwoods

If you're working with hardwood, it's important to know that hardwood can be harder to penetrate with stain.

You'll often need to go with an oil-based stain in order for the wood fibers to fully absorb and take the stain properly so the pigment is saturated. 

Not only for aesthetic purposes but also for protecting the wood surface.

Water-Based vs. Oil-Based Stains

For most applications, you'll be okay using an oil-based or water-based stain.

That said, there are a few key differences to consider.

For one, oil-based stains tend to be more durable and deeper penetrating for certain wood grains.

There used to be a massive difference in durability between water-based and oil-based stains, but that's no longer truly the case.

Today, water-based products have improved in quality so much that it (almost) comes down to a preference.

The benefit of water-based products is that they're much easier to dispose of and are often less hazardous to your health because they have a much lower concentration of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which are the chemicals that give stains and paints that toxic smell.

So, ultimately what stain you choose depends on your preference and the specific fence you're working with.

Make sure you do deeper research on the specific stain you're looking at and whether or not it's right for your needs.

Check out the video below to learn more about the differences between using an oil or water-based stain for staining a fence.

What Do You Need To Know Before You Start Staining Your Fence?

There are a few things you need to prepare before you're ready to start staining your fence, even if you have the right stain for the job!

Prep Work

Prep work is especially important when staining a fence because it's going to prepare the surface to accept the stain properly.

If you're staining an existing fence, I'd highly recommend taking a pressure washer to the surface first.

Even if the fence doesn't look dirty to the naked eye, I promise you there's plenty of grime to remove before you dive into staining. You want to make sure you're working with bare wood, not wood covered in hard water stains from rain, grime, and other dust or debris.

Luckily, you can rent a pressure washer from your local Home Depot or Lowe's if you don't have one handy.

Getting the boards completely clean before applying stain is essential when you're staining your fence.

If, however, you're working with previously painted or stained wood, make sure you do a great job sanding that existing paint off first so you can get down to the wood's natural color so the stain can do its job right.

Read More >> What Are The Best Pump Sprayers For Staining A Fence?

What Supplies Will You Need to Stain A Fence?

Let's quickly go over some of the essential supplies you'll need to do a good job when staining a fence.

Obviously choosing the right stain is important, but you don't want to forget the other essential supplies and have to go back to the hardware store every 15 minutes when you find out you need something new.

Supplies You'll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Paint roller (if rolling)
  • Paintbrush (for detailing)
  • Paint sprayer (if desired)
  • Paint tray or cup
  • Stain
  • Pre-conditioning treatment
  • Sealer (optional, some stains have sealant included)

Now that you know what you'll need to get the stain job done right, let's go over some of the best stains to use for staining a fence.

Read More >> What Are The Best Paint Sprayers For Staining A Fence?

Man staining his fence with a sprayer

Our Reviews Of The Top 5 Stains For Your Fence

Our top choice is the fence stain is none other than the STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain.

This stuff is one of the best stains out there for staining a wooden fence, especially at this price point.

Not only does it come in several different stain colors, but it's incredibly versatile and can be used on all types of wood grains - softwoods and hardwoods alike.

This exterior wood stain is fantastic for homeowners or DIY fans who want to get that new wood look on their fence without a ton of hassle.

If you want to prevent weathering on your wood fence and create some UV protection for the grain of the wood, this stuff will help prevent graying and keep your fence looking like new!

Pros

  • Oil-based wood deck protector
  • Compatible with all wood species
  • Can be applied with any tool

Cons

  • Only comes with 6, lighter colors
  • Oil-based so it has higher VOC content and is less eco-friendly

Our best budget fence stain is the renowned KILZ Exterior Waterproofing Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

Not only is this stuff fantastic for waterproofing your fence, but it also comes with a 5-year warranty on fences and siding.

Plus, it's a more eco-friendly option because it's water-based, which also means it's easier to clean up.

As if this stuff couldn't get any better, it has a low drying time, excellent UV protection is water-repellent and mildew-resistant.

All of that is packed into this one-gallon can for just about $30, it's pretty hard to beat!

Pros

  • Mildew-resistant
  • 3-year warranty for decks
  • Trusted brand

Cons

  • Limited color choices
  • Only comes in a semi-transparent option on Amazon

Our high-end choice is Wood Defender Semi-Transparent Fence Stain.

This stuff is like the Cadillac of wood stains because it manages to offer a ton of durability while still being water-based and easy to apply.

It's definitely on the pricey side because it comes in a 5-gallon jug, but it also comes in a bunch of different stain colors which makes it easier to find the style you're looking for.

Whether you have a new fence or you're looking to re-stain an old wooden fence, this stuff is ready for the task!

It's their "extreme climate" formula, which means it's perfect for protecting your fence against weathering.

If you're looking for something that will not only get the job done but also keep your fence looking like new, this is the stuff for you!

Pros

  • Easy to apply
  • 3-year guarantee
  • Made for extreme climates

Cons

  • Doesn't come with Amazon Prime shipping
  • On the pricey side
  • Hard to find their solid stain option

Our next choice is the DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain.

This stuff is a fantastic exterior wood stain that is UV-resistant, water-based, and super easy to apply.

Plus, since it's water-based, it's also more eco-friendly and has low-VOC content.

Not only that, but it's fortified with a zinc-nano-particle technology which makes it ultra-resistant to weathering and graying if you live in an area with a lot of sunlight.

If you're looking for an incredible stain that will protect your wood fence for years to come, look no further than the DEFY Extreme formula.

Pros

  • UV-Resistant
  • Water-based
  • Eco-friendly and low-VOC

Cons

  • Only comes in 6 colors and a clear coat
  • A bit on the pricey side

If you're looking for a highly durable, oil-based stain for your fence, the Cabot Premium Australian Timber Oil Stain is a great option for you!

This stuff comes in at a great price point, right around $40 depending on when and where you buy it, and it offers incredible wood grain penetration to ensure that your wood is protected.

Even if you're working with natural cedar, this stuff will protect and defend your wood from weathering, UV-rays, and much more.

Not only that, but Cabot is recognized as an industry leader in wood care products that are powerful and easy to use.

If you're leaning toward an oil-based stain, this is a great option for staining your fence!

Pros

  • Available in 5 different colors
  • Oil-based
  • Superior penetration for wood protection

Cons

  • Only comes in a quart or gallon size
  • Harder to dispose of because it's oil-based
  • Higher VOC content due to being oil-based

Our top choice still has to be the epic STORM System Penetrating Sealer & Stain Protector.

This stuff truly takes the cake in terms of durability, price point, and ease of application.

If you're looking to protect your fence for years to come with a deeply penetrating oil-based formula that you can use on softwood or hardwood, this is the stuff for you!

Plus, it's such a good value for the money, check out the lowest price on Amazon now!

Other Things To Note Before You Start Staining Your Fence

Now that you've gotten the lay of the land when it comes to choosing the right stain for your fence, it's important to note a few other things before you dive into your DIY project.

Safety First

When working with stains - especially if you're using a paint sprayer - it's important to remember to take proper health safety precautions.

Stains have a lot of toxic components to them which is why we always recommend using a paint respirator of some kind to protect your lungs.

We also recommend using safety goggles and gloves to keep the components from reaching your eyes and penetrating your skin.

Read More >> What Are The Best Respirators To Use With Paint Sprayers?

Ask For Help!

If you're new to the DIY game and you've never taken on a project like this, make sure you consult an expert about your particular project before you dive in.

Often times you can find a knowledgeable person at your local hardware store or big box home improvement store who will be able to answer any specific questions about your project.

Taking the time to do this can not only save you some headaches but potentially prevent you from making costly mistakes.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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Madison Rude

Madison Rude

I’m kind of a painting nerd. My mom taught me how to paint when I was nine, and since then I’ve painted rooms, furniture...you name it. I’ve written technical advice for Wagner sprayers, and I’ve spent a lot of time DIYing my own home. I’m no expert, but I love to learn. And here at ProPaintCorner, I learn more about painting every time I work with one of our painting pros to bring you the best product reviews and How To advice available. Together, let’s make your next painting project the best it can be!

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