How to Stain Fence Pickets

Oct 3, 2023 | Fence Staining

Ever looked at your fence and thought it could use a bit of a makeover?

Staining your fence pickets not only gives your fence a fresh, new look, but it also helps protect the wood against weathering and decay.

Cedar Wood Privacy Fence

It’s a project that can enhance the curb appeal of any home, giving your entire outdoor space a lift.

But where to start?

You might be wondering about the process, the tools needed and the best type of stain.

Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit daunted by the idea of a DIY project.

With the right guide and a bit of patience, you can transform your fence into a thing of beauty.

Let’s dive into the step-by-step process of how to stain fence pickets, unfolding the journey from drab to fab.

Let’s go!

Buy your own fence staining machine ›

Step 1: Preparing Your Fence Pickets

The first step is all about preparation.

But what does that entail?

fence preparation

Your fence pickets need to be clean and dry to ensure the stain adheres properly.

Start by removing any loose dirt or debris.

A stiff bristle brush is handy for this task.

Still not sure if your fence pickets are clean enough?

Consider using a wood cleaner.

This will not only help remove stubborn dirt but also any mildew or mold that may have grown.

Remember, a clean fence picket is key to a successful staining project.

“But what about older fences?” you might ask.

For older fences that have been exposed to the elements, you may need to take an extra step: sanding.

Sanding the pickets removes the gray, weathered surface layer and exposes the fresh wood underneath.

This not only helps the stain penetrate better but also results in a smoother finish.

While it might seem like a big task, it can be quite straightforward with the right tools.

A hand sander or even just some sandpaper can do the job.

Remember to always sand with the grain and not against it.

Lastly, make sure the wood is completely dry before you start staining.

Moisture in the wood can prevent the stain from absorbing evenly.

In essence, preparing your fence pickets involves cleaning, possibly sanding, and ensuring the wood is dry.

These crucial steps set the stage for a successful fence staining project.

Step 2: Choosing Your Stain

Now comes a big decision: choosing your stain.

But with so many choices, how do you pick the right one?

stain selection

First, consider the type of look you want for your fence.

Do you want the natural wood grain to show through?

Or would you prefer a solid color that offers more durability and UV protection?

If you love the look of natural wood, a clear or semi-transparent stain might be the way to go.

They enhance the wood’s natural beauty and show the grain and knots.

On the other hand:

If you’re after a specific color or need to cover up some imperfections in the wood, a solid color or opaque stain could be your best bet.

These offer the most UV protection and can better resist weathering.

But what about oil-based or water-based stains?

Oil-based stains penetrate deeper into the wood and offer more durability, but they take longer to dry.

Water-based stains, on the other hand, dry faster and are easier to clean up.

However, they may not offer the same level of protection as oil-based products.

Another tip:

Always test the stain on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire fence.

This can help ensure you’re happy with the color and finish before you commit.

In a nutshell, choosing your stain involves considering the desired appearance, the level of protection needed, and the type of stain that will best suit your project.

Step 3: Applying the Stain

The next step in the process is applying the stain.

But it’s not as simple as slapping on a coat of paint.

Before you start, always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the stain can.

applying stain

These instructions will give you vital information about application methods, drying times, and safety precautions.

For many, using a sprayer can be the most efficient method. It provides a fast, even application.

It’s especially handy when staining large areas or complete fence structures.

However, don’t fret if you don’t have a sprayer.

A good quality brush or roller can also do the job.

If you’re using one of these tools, start at the top of the fence and work your way down, and always apply the stain along the grain of the wood.

To avoid drips and get an even finish, don’t overload your tool with stain.

It’s better to apply a light coat and go back for a second pass if necessary.

Remember, it’s not about slapping on a thick layer, but rather about letting the wood soak up the stain.

In summary, applying the stain involves selecting the right tool, following the instructions, and working methodically to get an even, drip-free finish.

Step 4: Letting the Stain Dry

Patience, my friend, patience.

The next step is letting the stain dry.

But you might be wondering, “how long does that take?” 

stain drying

Drying time can depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of stain you’ve used and the weather conditions.

However, a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours before touching the fence or applying a second coat.

While you might think that hot, sunny weather would speed up the drying process, it can sometimes cause the stain to dry too quickly, preventing it from soaking into the wood properly.

Overcast days with temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for staining.

While it may be tempting to try to speed up the process, remember that rushing things can lead to unsatisfactory results.

Applying a second coat too soon can result in a sticky, uneven finish.

So, letting the stain dry is a crucial part of the process.

It requires patience but is key to achieving a beautiful, long-lasting finish on your fence.

Step 5: Additional Coats (If Needed)

Deciding whether or not you need additional coats.

But how do you make this decision?

additional stain coats

Let’s walk through it:

The first thing you’ll need to consider is the type of stain you’re using.

Transparency stains often require 2-3 coats to achieve the desired look and level of protection.

Solid color stains, on the other hand, often only need a single coat.

“But what if one coat doesn’t seem enough?”

If after your first coat has dried, you feel that the color isn’t as rich as you’d like, or the wood doesn’t seem adequately protected, a second coat might be necessary.

Do remember:

If you decide to apply a second coat, always make sure the first coat is completely dry before doing so.

Applying a new coat over a wet one can result in a sticky, uneven finish.

In conclusion, determining the need for additional coats depends on the type of stain, the desired appearance, and level of protection.

It’s an important step to ensure you’re truly happy with your finished fence.

But remember, there are many ways to make your task easier by using tools and staining machines!


Staining Can Be Made Easy by Using StainTrac Staining Machine

The StainTrac Staining Machine is a game-changer for fence staining projects.

It’s designed specifically for contractors who prefer to pre-stain wood before fence installation — a process that can be messy and time-consuming.

StainTrac Staining Machine

The StainTrac system allows for an efficient, even application of stain on all sides of the fence pickets.

It feeds the pickets through a series of stain-soaked brushes, ensuring complete coverage and reducing the chances of missed spots that are common with manual staining.

It can absolutely save you so much time!

The StainTrac Staining Machine greatly speeds up the pre-staining process.

It drastically cuts down the time spent on staining each individual picket, freeing up your time for other tasks.

Don’t worry about the waste!

The StainTrac system minimizes waste by reusing excess stain.

As a result, you use less stain, save more money, and contribute to environmental conservation.

In summary, the StainTrac Staining Machine could be your ticket to an easy, efficient, and cost-effective fence staining process.

Consider this:

Time is money, and the efficiency of the StainTrac Staining Machine could free up a significant amount of your time for other important tasks, whether it’s more contracting work or simply enjoying a well-deserved break.

It’s an investment that can save you time, money, and a lot of manual labor.

Isn’t it time you made your fencing projects easier and more efficient?

Try the StainTrac Staining Machine today and discover the difference it can make.