Home ProjectsExterior STAINING A FENCE- HOW TO


by Amber

Having a wood fence means that you get to stain/ seal it.  Little did we know how long it would take, how much it would cost, or what it would do to our legs.  I’m here to tell you all about that so you aren’t shocked like we were.  Our fence is privacy on three sides and picket in the back.  For more on our fence installation click here. I talked about our crazy dog, why we picked this design, and how it was installed.  Now lets talk about how we stained it.


These are the materials we used:

  • Olympic Maximum Stain
  • Angled brush
  • Mini roller
  • Mini all-purpose roller cover
  • Paint tray
  • Plastic paint tray cover
  • Plastic cups
  • Latex gloves
  • Broom

I’m not saying Daniel and I did this the best way, however, this is what we did.  We started in the front of our house on the exterior side of the fence, after the exterior was completed all the way around we moved to the interior.  I rolled the fence, while Daniel cut in with a brush.  These are a few photos to better describe what we did.

Step 1:  Supplies

Pick a stain that you like and test it at home on your fence somewhere that won’t be seen regularly, this is a very important step.  We tried three before we found one that we liked.  Next, make sure you have gloves!  Stain is sticky and you are working outside which means you are covered in dirt in 10 minutes.  We also put all our supplies in our wagon and rolled it along the fence as we made progress.  This helped to save our backs a little bit since the buckets of stain are really heavy.  What also can help save your back is a simple solo cup.  Anytime that we needed to refill the paint tray we used a cup to avoid lifting the entire bucket.

Step 2: Roll

Before I started staining I used our outdoor broom to clean the bottom of the fence and any spider webs off the fence.  We waited close to a year before we stained our fence so in that time it got a little dirty.  The broom was the perfect solution to getting most of the dirt off.  Doing this as a team was perfect for this part.  While I cleaned and rolled everything that I could Daniel came behind me with the angled brush and covered all spaces that I missed.  You can see what I rolled and what Daniel needed to cut below.

Step 3: Cut

This was by far the worst part!  Soooo much cutting in!!  You can see in the image above just how much contrast we had in the stained vs. unstained wood.  This was nice because it was very easy to see what we had done, however, this required us to get every last tiny bit of the fence.  What you don’t think about is that the fence isn’t really flat and therefore the sides of every board required stain.  Other parts that require cutting in include: the top edge, both sides, the top and bottom of the 2x4s, the top of the 4×4 posts, and the bottom of the fence in the interior.

You can see in the image above exactly where we need to cut in.  Daniel used the angle brush and a solo cup full of stain to do so.  He refilled the solo cup at least 100 times before we finished the project.

Step 4: Check behind yourself

We would look at the fence from all angles before we continued on to the next panel.  We moved by panel when working in the interior.  This was the only way that we didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount of work that we still had.  

So that’s it!  It was a very very easy project in terms of what to do…BUT….we learned a lot!!



Lesson 1: Leg workout

We had no idea how bad our legs would hurt during this project.  It sounds so silly, I know, but when you do 700 squats a day for two days straight you wake up on the third day and want to cry.  Be prepared for that feeling in advance, trust me, we were not.

Lesson 2: Time

We thought this would take a weekend, but we set aside two so that we didn’t have to rush.  Little did we know that the amount of fence we had to paint took us 6 full weekends.  The first two weekends we worked all day Saturday and half a day Sunday.  After that we worked every minute that we had time and daylight.  It took two months for us to complete this project and by the end Daniel and I were so over this project but we were determined to finish.

Lesson 3: Weather

We did this project last fall so that we didn’t have to deal with the Carolina heat and summer afternoon thunderstorms.  The advantage was that it wasn’t hot and the leaves changing made a beautiful backdrop.  The disadvantage is that in the shade it was actually really cold.  We often built a fire to warm up every so often and so that Daniel could cook a snack.  Whenever you cook anything around our house you can find Cooper an inch from you just in case you drop something.

Lesson 4: Cost

We had no idea how much this project would cost.  We thought that it would take 1 maybe 2 large buckets of stain but little did we know it would take 3 full buckets of stain at $152 each.  This project cost us $465 total, and could have cost a little more but since we had most of the materials already, we were able to save a few bucks.

Lesson 5: Height

When you have 6 foot privacy fence and you are 5’3″ you can’t see the top much less reach it. Daniel, being over 6 foot tall made an excellent teammate to counter my vertically challenged self. It also saved me from having to move the ladder a thousand times. If you have a privacy fence take this factor into consideration whenever you start the project.


So if I could do it all over again I will still pick the wood fence, however, next time that we need to stain our fence we will be using a sprayer or offering to pay our friends and family in food for a little weekend help! 🙂  I am glad that we did it and I love how it turned out but I just wish someone had told me what it was going to be like before we started.Update: So this is what it looks like almost a year later.  We are still really happy with the color and how it is holding up.  It has faded a little bit in the spots that the sun hits it all day but it wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone other than us since we see it everyday.

If you have any questions at all just let me know! All these photos from last fall are making me really look forward to the next few weeks.  If I had to pick a favorite season it would most likely be fall, the weather in the Carolina’s is just about perfect all season!

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