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How to Paint a Fence

Last modified: 2021-11-24 | Approximate reading time 5 mins

Amanda Harvey

A fence protects the exterior of your home, and when well maintained, can add some serious curb appeal to any property. Since this structure is left outside day and night, it comes up against some severe conditions: snow, rain, sleet, heat, both freezing and melting water. Therefore, it's only natural that the paint on an outdoor fence should easily wear and fade.

Not only does paint look pretty but it serves a purpose, as proper staining and painting creates a barrier and prevents moisture from deteriorating the wood or material of the fence. With that in mind, look outside and see if the paint on your fence is due for an update. If you noticed that it does, then follow our step-by-step guide to giving your fence a brand-new coat!

Here are's tips on how to correctly paint a fence!

To Paint or To Stain a Fence?

Experts recommend painting your fence every 2-3 years. But the best way to check if your fence needs a fresh coat of paint is to look for beading. If water is soaking into the surface of your fence, this is a sign that it's time for an update. Take into consideration the region you live in. If it rains often, then it’s possible that you’ll need to update the coat of paint on your fence more often.

Also, there is some debate about whether painting or staining your fence will help to preserve its longevity. Painting is less expensive but may require more maintenance, as well as additional preparation. Staining will be costly, as more is needed to complete the job. However, a stain's longevity outweighs paint and keeps the natural look of wood present rather than covering it up.


Before starting, plan for any required help in advance. If you have a large fence, it's great to request the service of a friend or family member. Plan a small budget to take care of any tools or materials that you require, including gloves and a face mask which should always be used when working with chemicals. Other materials might include sandpaper, a small roller, a 4-inch paint brush, a piece of cloth, a scraper or wire brush as well as a 1-inch brush or angled/cutting brush.

Now, choose the right paint for the job.  Use an outdoor paint on your fence. This type of paint has been treated to hold up against the effects of weather. However, there are still a variety of types to choose from, these include:

Acrylic: This type of paint is durable and provides an excellent layer of protection for your fence. However, if your surface is untreated, make sure to apply a primer before moving forward with painting.

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Acrylic Stains: Stains enhance the natural elements of wood and don’t require the primer coats that paints do. Stains require minimal surface prep and are easy to re-coat.

Enamels: If you are painting an iron fence, you should be working with enamel paint. Start by treating the surface with a rust-enhancing primer.

Automotive epoxy paint: This is a very durable paint which only requires 1-step to apply. However, a hardener will need to be mixed in with this type of paint, which shortens the length of the paint job, as you risk the paint drying before the application process is completed.

Fence Painting Preparation


source: Max Pixel, Creative Commons -CC0

The preparation is a significant phase of painting a fence. You will want to keep all moisture away from the surface by trimming the grass and/or bushes before beginning to paint. Furthermore, this will help to protect the grass from the chemicals you’re using. Go one step further and spread a cloth or plastic sheet under the section of the fence you are painting. If possible, use a leaf blower to remove any dirt or grass clippings that have collected by the fence line.

Bring along a kit of basic fence repair tools, that way if your fence needs repair, you can get this out of the way before beginning to paint. Also, it is important to check your local forecast to make sure the weather is optimal for taking on a painting project. Keep in mind you will be outside for an extended period, and any poor weather conditions will greatly affect this project. Also, take into consideration the time it will take the paint to dry. If it's calling for rain later in the day or during the afternoon following, it's probably better to postpone painting your fence.

If the fence was previously treated, make sure to scrape away loose or flaking paint. If your fence is new, pressure wash or sand the wood. Check for any insect damage or signs of termites. Remove burs and splinters and create a surface that will be receptive to the application of new paint. This will help paint to adhere smoothly. If you’re working with an iron or metal fence, it is necessary to use a steel brush to remove rust, then, sand down the surface with a medium-grit sandpaper. If there are sections of the fence that you don’t want to paint, seal or tape these off.

Get Down to Business and Paint!

Depending on the size of your fence or the amount you intend on painting, your method of operation will vary. Work on the fence in small sections, about 5 boards at a time. If you paint too much at a time, you risk having dried lines or paint mounds, which must be scraped off. If you work in a small area, you'll be able to clean up any mistakes right away, aiding in a better result.

Start at the top of fence boards, working downwards on each individual board. A small brush might be required depending on the design of your fence. If you have something protecting the grass, you can paint right down to the bottom.

If your fence is particularly long, it might be in your best interest to use an industrial spray to complete the project. With the sprayer, aim lengthwise along the grain of the wood. Make sure to wear a respirator and spray downwards. Cover any plants in the area to protect them from the spray. Finish the job by doing minor touch-ups with a small brush.

If you are working with a wrought-iron fence, it is best to paint by hand to deal with its intricacies. Use a heavy coat of enamel or automotive epoxy paint to complete this job!

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