HomeownerEducational: A-M

Fence Staining & Sealing

Fence Staining & Sealing Educational Content

Protect the fence from damage due to weather. The primary reason to stain and seal a wood fence is to protect it from the elements. Wood is a porous material. Sealants cover those pores, which makes water bead up and run off rather than penetrate. Sun, rain, snow, and wind can all cause damage to an unprotected fence. Over the years, this causes noticeable wear. Even fences made from pressure-treated wood should be stained and sealed. Moisture is the primary enemy of a wood fence. Wet or damp wood is far more susceptible to rotting than wood that stays dry. In addition to sealing, it is also important to keep the fence clear of vines and shrubbery. Unsealed wood fences are more likely to mold, mildew, fade, and warp. Staining and sealing a fence makes it UV resistant and waterproof, which means it’ll look great for longer.

Enhance your home’s aesthetic. Each house has a unique style, and the addition of a wood fence can make a big statement. Be sure to stain your fence a color that complements your house. An unmatched fence is distracting and displeasing to the eye. It can also deter buyers, if you’ve put your house on the market.

Increase your home’s value. In most areas, homes with quality fences are worth more money. When you protect your fence and keep it in good shape, you’re also protecting your home’s value. Buyers are more likely to want a house with a fence that is in good condition and won’t give them any trouble right away.

Scheduling the job. Staining and sealing must be done at a dry time of the year. Wood retains moisture easily. If the wood is already wet, the stain and sealant won’t adhere well. If it rains soon after the new stain and sealant are applied, the water may wash away the new coating. Watch the weather forecast for a period of approximately three dry days. Try to schedule the job for the morning or late afternoon during those three days. If your fence is brand-new, wait about three weeks before sealing. This gives the wood time to settle, which allows the stain and sealant to sink in better.

Choosing the correct stain. Asking a fence professional is a great way to make sure you choose the right stain for your fence. If you are at all unsure of your choice, test out the stain on a small, unnoticeable area of the fence. This will help you see the color and make sure you like the look.

Cleaning. Before staining, the fence needs to be cleaned to remove any mold or mildew. If your fence is new, it probably won’t need much prep work. If your fence is older, however, it might need to be pressure washed. Any rotting or broken boards should be replaced. This prep work makes sure the fence is in good shape and brings the wood close to its original color. The gray color that gives the fence an aged look is actually just a layer of old wood cells. Once those are removed, a fresh layer will be revealed, and the wood will look almost like new. Tough stains from mildew or dirt can be loosened with wood cleaner. If the fence has been stained or painted before, it might need to be sanded or scraped to remove the old coating. Be careful with the pressure washing step. The wrong nozzle can create enough pressure to split the fence boards.

Stain and sealant application. Once the fence has been properly prepped and cleaned, the stain and sealant can be applied. Stain and sealant are typically applied at the same time. In fact, they usually come as a single product rather than two separate products. A built-in sealant helps the stain last longer by acting as a shield against the weather. The stain is painted or sprayed over the surface of the fence in the direction of the grain. It should be applied with an even hand. If a certain area receives more stain than others, it will be noticeably darker in color. The pros know how to apply the stain and sealant evenly so that the finished product looks great.

Fence stains and sealants come in a wide variety of colors. Stains typically fall into three categories: semitransparent, clear, or solid.
The category the stain falls into is an indication of how much color (if any) it will add to your fence.

Solid fence stains work best on new wood. Like paint, they completely hide the wood grain of the fence. Solid stains can last between three and seven years, which is the longest of any type of stain. They protect the fence against wear from the weather and UV damage. A downside of solid stains is that over time, they may chip, peel, or develop a surface film.

Semitransparent and semisolid fence stains add color without masking the natural grain of the wood. These penetrating fence stains provide moderate protection from UV rays and water damage. Semisolid and semitransparent stains generally require reapplication after about two years.

Clear fence sealants protect the fence from mold and mildew while showcasing the wood’s grain. A clear sealant doesn’t add any color to the fence. This type of sealant needs to be reapplied every year. Keep in mind that clear sealants don’t offer sun protection, so the fence will gray over time.

Oil-based sealants last between two and four years and help prevent mold, mildew, and algae. They penetrate the wood deeply and leave a waterproof and weatherproof finish. An oil-based sealant will leave the wood grain visible. Many oil-based sealants give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs aren’t great for the environment, so keep that in mind as you decide on a product.

Water-based sealants are easier to use than oil-based sealants, and they don’t emit VOCs. They add color to the fence, but the wood grain will still show through.
These types of sealants protect the wood from mildew, mold, and UV damage. Water-based sealants take about two hours to dry and usually need to be reapplied every year.