How To Stain A Fence? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On August 25, 2023

Are you wondering how to stain a wood fence?

So, before you do stain your fence, I recommend you read this quick DIY guide to help you in your fence staining adventure.

In this guide you'll learn:

  • What you need to know about staining a fence
  • Supplies you'll need to stain a fence
  • The step-by-step process for staining a fence properly

And much more!

How To Stain A Deck

So, before you do dispose of your paint products, I recommend you read this quick guide that contains everything you need to know.

What Do You Need To Know About Staining A Fence?

Staining a fence is easy. You can apply stain to your fence with either a paint sprayer, paintbrush, paint roller, or even a rag.  Stain helps prevent mildew, and it also protects against harmful UV rays. 

What Supplies Will You Need For How To Stain A Fence?

Here are is a complete list of supplies you'll need to stain your fence like a boss:

Wood Stain 

There are plenty of different wood stains/fence stains that will work great on your project. You'll want to take into consideration which stain color you want to use. You could use solid stain or semi-transparent stain for the job.

Another factor when considering which stain to use is identifying the type of wood the fence is made of (i.e. redwood, cedar fence). 

Paint Sprayer 

A paint sprayer/pump sprayer/airless sprayer can be used to stain a fence faster than any other method. 

We recommend an HVLP sprayer because they are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to clean. Check out our complete list of recommended paint sprayers on our Pro Paint Corner page.

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


Using a paintbrush is ideal for smaller jobs. The ideal brush for staining is a stiff bristle brush. 

If the stain is oil-based, you'll want to use a brush with natural bristles. If the stain is water-based, you'll want to use a brush with synthetic bristles.

Paint Roller 

You could always apply the stain to a fence using a paint roller.

You could try a 9-inch roller for larger areas, and then a 4-inch roller for nooks, crannies, and corners.

Drop Cloth 

Throw a drop cloth down on the ground below the fence to cover surfaces like cement and grass. 

Pressure Washer 

A pressure washer provides a great alternative to sanding. Remember, to use a pressure washer you'll also need a garden hose.

Wood cleaner

You may want to wipe down the surface of the fence with wood cleaner before painting.

Paint Masker 

A paint masker is a tool that will help cover surfaces that you don't want to get paint on.

Simply connect painters tape and masking paper/plastic to the paint masker, and quickly cover surfaces for a clean stain job.

We recommend the 3M paint masker off of Amazon for the best price.

Nitrile Gloves 

Nitrile gloves will prevent your hands from getting stained on them. Because stains are generally toxic and bad for your skin, it's important to use gloves when staining.

Safety Glasses

Stains will also damage your eyes, so be sure to use a pair of safety glasses.

Paint Stripper

A paint stripper/solvent might be useful for stripping paint before staining. Solvents will also help you to remove stain from unwanted surfaces. 

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

How To Stain A Fence (5-Step Guide)

Now that you know what supplies you'll need to get the job done, let's walk through the step-by-step process of staining your fence.

(Psst! You can click on any of the links below to jump directly to that step.)

  1. Wash/clean the fence
  2. Cover the ground/mask surfaces
  3. Apply the stain by using the most convenient method
  4. Apply a second coat if necessary
  5. Evaluate the results/Apply a sealer or wax

Step 1 - Wash/clean the fence

You'll want to clean the fence with a power washer to get rid of any loose pieces of wood and paint flakes. Be sure not to use too high of water pressure as you can damage the surface of the wood.

If you don't have access to a power washer, you could always use some 120-grit sandpaper or a sanding sponge to smooth out the surface before painting.

Don't go too crazy with higher-grit sandpaper, however. 120-grit is all you need for an exterior stain job.

New wood doesn't have to be pressure washed, you can just go ahead and spray the stain on in most instances--roughing it up new wood with 120-grit sandpaper is optional, but it could help you get a more consistent look.

Step 2 - Cover the ground/mask surfaces

After the ground is covered, you'll want to mask any other surfaces to avoid getting stain on them. 

Parts like fence hardware like handles, metal brackets, etc. are parts that you should try to accurately cover up for a professional-looking stain job.

Remember that overspray from a paint sprayer can get paint on objects in the close vicinity of the stain job.

Step 3 - Apply the stain by using the most convenient method

Now that the surface of the fence is clean, dry, and all the surrounding surfaces are protected from being stained, it's time to apply the stain using the method of your choice.

Using a paint sprayer

When using a paint sprayer, set the spray pattern to spray out horizontally across the surface of the fence. 

The ideal spray painting technique for maximum coverage is the 50/50 technique--that's where you spray down the wood grain vertically, and then cover half of what you just sprayed on the next stroke. This helps eliminate lap marks when staining a wooden fence.

Make sure to clean your paint sprayer immediately after staining to avoid damaging it.

Using a paint brush

Using a paint brush is an easy way for applying stain on small projects to make for a clean and fast stain job. Use a synthetic brush for water-based stain and a natural-bristled brush for the best results on oil-based stains.

Using a paint roller

We recommend a 3/4-inch roller when rolling stain onto a fence. Apply stain the same way as you would paint. Start by loading up your paint roller with as much stain possible without dripping off, and always finish with a back-brush or back-roll stroke for the most consistent job.

Using a rag

Some stains can even be applied simply by using a rag or an old shirt. Simply dip the shirt in the stain, and wipe it onto the surface. We recommend using nitrile gloves to avoid damaging your skin.

Step 4 - Apply a second coat if necessary

Not every stain job will be complete the first time. You'll have to look over the stain closely, and find the parts where the stain hasn't absorbed into the wood.

The second coat won't require as much stain, but you'll still want to cover the surface evenly on the second time around. You could try using a paint brush on parts of the fence with large knots that absorb a lot of stain.

Step 5 - Evaluate the results/Apply wax or sealer

After you're all done painting, and the stain seems to have absorbed into all parts of the wood it's time to clean up the drop cloths and peel the masking. 

After the stain is completely dry, you could add a polyurethane sealer to give your stained fence a hard and durable finish. 

You could also apply a carnauba wax to the wood, or even the polyurethane sealer after everything is dry. 

Just remember to wait a reasonable amount of time for the polyurethane to dry.

Did you know: Staining your fence well can actually increase its lifespan. This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the fence's surface.

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

Other Valuable Resources on How To Stain A Fence

We've given you the instructions, so now you should be all set. Here are a few more extra bits of info that might help you in your fence staining project:

Are you looking to buy a paint sprayer for your project? 

If so, we've already done the research for you. Check out our list of paint sprayers that will work perfect for big fence staining projects.

Do you need a ladder for your staining project?

Check out our list of recommended ladders. We've found the best prices and also the highest-quality options on Amazon for you because we want you to have the perfect ladder for your project.

Are you looking to install a new fence?

There are plenty of options for building materials when installing a new fence around your property. 

Ask Us Questions!

Shoot us a question on our Pro Paint Corner page if you have any doubts about your fence staining project. We hope your fence looks amazing after reading our guide!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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