How to stain a new fence

Written by robin stephenson
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How to stain a new fence
Staining helps retain new wood's natural beauty. (Cedar fence planks image by K. Geijer from

A new wooden fence is an attractive addition to any garden. Unfortunately, the natural beauty of the wood will fade if left untreated, and in a year or two the fence will look old and unkempt. Applying a waterproof stain can help even out any imperfections and colour inconsistencies in the wood, giving it a more finished look. More importantly, it will protect the wood and keep the fence looking its best for years to come.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Dropcloth
  • Painter's tape
  • Wood stain
  • Paint roller
  • Roller tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags

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  1. 1

    Pick your stain. If you really want the natural grain of the wood to show through, choose a transparent stain. The grain will also be visible with a semi-transparent stain, but more colour will be added to the wood. With a variety of colours available, picking the right shade is a matter of personal taste, but you should consider the colour of your house when choosing it.

  2. 2

    Make sure the fence is clean and dry and then check the weather forecast to make sure no rain is forecast for at least the next 24 hours. If rain falls on your newly stained fence, it will likely leave streaks after drying. If the forecast is good, place painter's tape on any metal hardware on your fence and gate and place dust sheets or old sheets under the fence. If the fence sits above soil, dust sheets will help keep dirt away from the brush. If the fence sits on a patio, dust sheets will help you avoid splashing the patio with paint.

  3. 3

    Stir the stain well and pour some of it into the roller tray. Use the roller to apply the stain just as you would if you were applying paint. Working on one fence section at a time, roll in the direction of the wood grain, aiming for even coverage. If you overload the roller and end up with drips, wipe them up quickly with a clean, dry cloth.

  4. 4

    Use a paintbrush to fill in any parts of the fence the roller has missed. Use short strokes of the brush in the direction of the wood grain. When you have even coverage, move to the next fence panel and repeat the process.

  5. 5

    Wait for 24 hours and then apply a second coat to the fence. After you finish, remove the painter's tape from all hardware and dispose of it along with any used rags in a sealed plastic bag. Rinse any brushes in white spirit and wash in soapy water.

Tips and warnings

  • For best results, allow the new fence to cure before staining. Waiting for two or three months can improve the absorption of stain into the wood.
  • If you have automatic sprinklers in your garden, turn them off for at least 24 hours so your stain can dry without streaking. If your neighbours have sprinklers, ask them if they can do the same.
  • Buy good quality stain. Cheap stain will look fine for a while, but it won't protect your fence as long and you may have to stain it again in two or three years.
  • Don't apply stain when the outside temperature is colder than 10 degrees Celsius or warmer than 35 degrees Celsius. Extreme temperatures won't allow for adequate stain absorption by the wood, and the finish will likely look crackled when it dries.

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