Regular restaining is an essential component of cedar fence maintenance, but many homeowners find the process intimidating. Here’s a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about fence stains.

When is the best time to stain my fence?

Mild, dry weather is best for staining a new fence. Choose a week when there’s no rain in the forecast, especially in the few days following your fence stain application. It’s also best to choose a streak of cloudy weather, if possible, as too much sun can adversely affect the stain while it dries.

When staining a new cedar fence, make sure you let the fence set for a few days in warm, sunny weather to allow the moisture to evaporate from the wood, which can prevent the stain from penetrating properly. Likewise, if you’ve recently washed your fence, allow it to dry completely.

What type of stain should I use?

A semi-transparent stain provides the best combination of protection and durability, while still allowing the natural wood look to show through. Likewise, a natural oil-based stain provides the best penetration, which means your stain job will last longer and protect better.

How do I work around my shrubs and plants?

If you have landscaping growing right up against your fence, prop a wide board or piece of plywood between the fence and the plant life. This will help keep your shrubs protected and out of the way while you stain.

Use a plastic tarp or newspaper at the base of your fence to protect the grass from stain drips. Cover any hardware, such as the gate latch and hinges, with painter’s tape.

How should I apply the fence stain?

When applying stain, you have several methods to choose from:

  • Paintbrush. Traditional paintbrushes work well. Use a smaller 2-inch brush when working in small areas between the fence boards, in cracks, and on fence posts and rails.
  • Garden pump sprayer. This is also a reliable way to stain your fence, but you should wear goggles, gloves, a breathing filter or mask and protective clothes when staining your fence with a sprayer.
  • Roller. Rolling is the least reliable method for staining, as it leaves uneven marks that will need to be touched up.

When applying coats, complete an entire section at a time, without breaks, to avoid lap marks.

~Ben Serviss, 2010

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