Which Finish Is Best For Your New Wood Fence?

Which Finish Is Best For A New Wood Fence? Stain, Paint or Sealer

You just spent a lot of money building a new wood fence so you want to protect it. But which finish is the best? You have three options that will ensure that your new wooden fence will last a long time. Depending on the look that you want to achieve, you can stain, paint or apply a weatherproof sealer.

If you are planning to build a new fence you can read my posts How To Build A Split Rail Fence and How To Build A Cedar Gate.


If you want to keep the natural look of the wood grain you should consider staining your fence. There are so many different shades that you can achieve with a stain that makes this an ideal finish. Many people used to choose to paint their wooden fence because of the limited colors of stain, but that isn’t the case today. Stain also requires less maintenance than paint however it can be a little more expensive in the beginning. The cost of stain will even out over time because you won’t have to re-stain as often as you will have to re-paint.

In addition to color choice, you can also choose the opacity of stain. A solid stain is a good option if your wood has imperfections. You can also achieve a white fence without painting by using a solid white stain. Another great option is a semi-transparent or transparent stain. This will still give you a choice of color but will allow more of the natural beauty of the wood to show through. Semi-transparent and transparent stains don’t have as much UV protection as a solid stain so keep that in mind when choosing.

is much thinner than paint making it more forgiving when applying. The stain soaks into the wood and fills the pores so that water can’t get in. This keeps your wooden fence protected from rot and decay. Re-apply stain when it fades or when rain no longer beads on the surface.


Maybe you are bolder in your yard decor and you need more color. If this is you then painting is the way to go. Your color choices are endless with paint and you can change your mind every 1-3 years when you repaint your wooden fence. Painting your fence requires a little more preparation than staining because you will want to add an oil-based primer to your fence before you stain it. Then choose a high-quality exterior latex paint.

The main drawback of painting your wooden fence is that it will crack and peel and need to be repainted often. Before you can re-paint you will need to scrape and prep your fence. This process is time-consuming and expensive year after year. I would only recommend painting your wooden fence if it is small in total area.

Paint protects your wooden fence by forming a barrier that prevents moisture from soaking into the wood. Paint does provide more UV protection than a stain but only if there are no cracks or peeling.

Waterproof Sealer

If you just really like the look of your fence and don’t want to change the color at all you could choose to apply a waterproof sealer. Most waterproof sealers have UV protection, are mildew restistant and provide a long-term protective barrier.

The waterproofing sealers can be applied over wood that has previously been stained to provide an additional layer of protection. I also found a few brands that had color options but most were clear.

Maintenance of Your Wood Fence

Your fence will need maintenance at some point after your initial application of a finish. The time frame will depend on the weather conditions in your area. The first step you will want to take in your fence maintenance is to apply a cleaner/brightener to remove any buildup and restore your fences natural beauty. If your fence is really dirty you will need to spray it with a power washer to remove the dirt and grime. Then you can re-apply the paint or stain of your choosing.

Taking care of your wooden fence will prolong life as well as your investment.

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By Stephanie

I am so glad that you are visiting Acre Life. I am a city girl who recently moved to the country and am trying to figure out how to build our dream acreage. I hope that you will join me on this journey and follow my progress. I'll let you know what works and what doesn't so that you don't have to make the same mistakes that I do.

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