6 Essential Steps to Prepare a Fence for Painting

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer, doing a little renovation, or someone hired you to do a job, a successfully painted fence can bring out a sigh of relief.

It adds value to your property and makes for a nice scene when looking out your window. Not only that, but neighbors will appreciate anyone willing to put the extra time in to make the neighborhood a beautiful place to live.

There are, as with any form of renovation, specific steps to follow that can allow you to easily paint a fence without any muss or fuss.

Here are 6 steps that will lead you to a perfectly painted/stained fence.

Step 1: Pick Out the Right Paint/Stain

The first step to any home renovation should be knowing exactly what you are fixing up and which materials work best with it.

If you are painting a wooden fence, you can decide whether you would like a colored paint, or a stain.

If you think you would prefer a bright red to add some color to the border of your backyard, latex paint is the most commonly used type of paint for that type of project. It’s breathable, doesn’t allow moisture in that could rot wood, and even works on vinyl fences, stucco, and brickwork.

A second-best option is an oil-based paint, which is slower to dry, but lasts longer and is also dirt resistant. This is probably your best option when it comes to painting a metal fence, as it helps to keep it from rusting.

Some people, though, enjoy a more neutral or warm tone to compliment their house, and that’s where stains come in.

Though wood stains range from oil to water to gel-based, you need to be picky when choosing an exterior stain that will go through weather changes like snow or extreme heat.

Oil-based stain, made out of linseed oil, is the most popular type of stain due to the fact that it’s very easy to work with for first-time stainers.

Remember that with paint, to help your job lasts for years to come, primer is a necessity. You can either apply a primer before painting, or you can use a two in one mixture.

When it comes to most stains, primer isn’t needed.

The longest-lasting type of stain is solid which can last up to 5 years. If you’re looking to be able to see the natural grain of your wood fence, go for a semi-transparent or clear sealer, which both help to maintain your wood fence and accentuate its natural beauty.

For more information to help you choose a type of stain, be sure to watch the following video:

The last thing you need to decide is whether you would like to paint your fence with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer.

Brushes and rollers are great for flat surfaces such as wood planks as the paint will dry flat and uniform.

A sprayer is best used when you need to cover a more uneven surface like a chain link fence.

For all these methods, it’s best to do at least two coats of paint so that you can best protect your fence from outside elements like moisture, heat, or even bugs. If you’re specifically worried about termites, there are plenty of termite resistant paints and stains.

Protective painting doesn’t have to apply just to wood fences, either.

Painting or staining other types of fence such as chicken wire or chain link fence with a pet-friendly material can help in maintaining an animal enclosure.

Step 2: Fix Loose Nails, Damage, and Sagging Spots

Prep can save you a lot of hassle. One of the most annoying things to do when working on a big project like painting a fence is realizing that you’ve left something you need in the garage or that you’ve painted over something you shouldn’t.

A great tip to help maintain a fence is tightening any loose nails or hardware. This can help you to make sure that your fence won’t sag, which can cause a lot of damage over time.

This is especially true around areas where there is a gate door that gets a lot of use.

This would also a good time to check for termite damage, which you can easily help now to avoid in the future.

Termites love the tips of fence posts, and so most of the damage done will most likely be there. If you find any and don’t want to risk any more damage, be sure to chemically treat that area of the fence.

Most of the time, though, termite resistant paints or stains work well in remedying the problem.

Step 3: Scrape and Sand

A great way to get paint or stain to stick to your fence is by sanding it. Though you most likely don’t have to do the entire fence, especially not if it’s brand new, it’s still worth your time to sand certain areas that might not have enough texture.

A handheld sander will do the trick, as it allows for a lot of mobility.

If you’re looking to sand off a previous paint color for a fresh start, it’s best to get a more coarse grit coarse. The lowest-numbered (40-60 grit) sandpapers are the coarsest and will allow you to go through layers of old paint with ease.

If you’re just looking to add some texture, a Medium (80-120 grit) to Fine (150-180 grit) will do just fine.

Step 4: Clean the Fence with Soap or Bleach

Before doing anything next, gather all the safety precautions you will need, such as gloves, special clothing, glasses, or even a mask to put on when painting with chemicals that could be toxic.

If there is an area by the fence that could be damaged by paint, simply just place down a tarp or a drop cloth to help protect it. It’s a lot harder to get paint off something than to just take a few minutes to cover beforehand.

To avoid painting over debris, it’s best to wash the fence to clean it as much as possible before continuing.

This will help the paint to last much, much longer with a more solid finish. A bucket of water with a soapy, bleach mixture should do perfectly though a pressure washer will help to get any debris off you didn’t get when you prepped it first.

Make sure to rinse off any soap before painting.

Step 5: Prime and Paint (or Stain)

Be sure to test a small portion of the fence with multiple coats of paint or stain to see if you would like to make the shade darker.

Let that dry for 24 hours to see if it, for any reason, damages the fence, or to see if you just hate the shade after it completely dries.

Gather your paint or stain, and your paintbrush, roller, or sprayer, and get ready to see a big change in your fence.

If you need a primer, be sure to wait 1-3 hours for it to properly dry. If it’s humid outside, it may take longer.

Congratulations! You’re ready to paint (or stain).

If you’re using a brush or roller, a good rule of thumb is to paint vertically if the slats are vertical and horizontal if they are horizontal, which seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t do. Working from the top to the bottom will also help you to clean up any dripping that happens.

If you’re set on using a sprayer, make sure that it’s not too windy outside, as it can ruin the entire painting process.

Keep your nozzle about 6-8 inches away from the fence and go up and down for vertical slats or side to side for horizontal ones. You shouldn’t have to take your finger off the trigger unless you need a break, as keeping a steady stream of paint will make it look more even.

For some stains, it’s easier to wipe it on with a rag and to remove the excess. It’s best not to use a sprayer for stain, as the excess will have dried before you are able to go back and wipe it up.

When finished, be sure to give your fence a thorough looking at to see if you missed any spots before cleaning up.

Step 6: Clean up and Maintain

Lastly, put your paintbrush or sprayer parts in some soapy water to get the paint off. Leave that to soak while you dispose of any drop rags or ruined clothing.

You will need paint thinner to clean off brushes with stain.

Put your paint or stains away safely, making sure never to put rags or articles of clothing with stain on them into piles, as they can easily start a fire. Hang them outside or spread them out outside while weighted so they don’t blow away.

Allow your masterpiece to dry overnight before touching it, and then invite all your neighbors over for a barbecue to show off you’re newly painted fence.

For a more visual guide, be sure to watch the youtube video shown below:

As a general rule, your fence should be painted every 2-3 years. With these easy steps, painting or staining your fence can be an artistically fulfilling, enjoyable project. It’s your fence and you should be able to have fun with it.

More Helpful Information

  • Can You Paint a Fence With Gloss? – This will help you if you’ve ever considered painting your fence with gloss, or even gloss enamel, paint. It’ll also tell you some very important limitations with gloss paint that’s used on fencing.

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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