using a paintbrush is just one of the things you'll learn in our how to paint a fence guide

To paint a fence may sound like a long and tedious job but forget slapdash and do it properly – your fence will thank you for it.

Your fence may need a simple spruce up or a complete colour change, but the principles are the same. Paint the wood properly and the result will last for years. Slap a dollop of paint all willy-nilly over your fence and it will look a mess, annoy the neighbours and you'll be doing it all over again next year. It's your choice!

Editor’s Note [29.04.2024]:

Our article about how to paint a fence was originally published on July 26, 2016. There have been many updates today. New sections added include how long to wait before you start painting a new fence (including commentary on pressure treated and dip treated wood), choosing the right fence paint or stain, maintenance for lasting colour and a related articles section.

Introduction: Preparing for a Fence Makeover

It's a wonderful feeling to take delivery of your new garden fence and the best time to apply stain or paint is before it's put up. It's so much easier to paint when the panel is flat, hopefully in a garage, to avoid drips and any bad weather ruining the job. Quality new fences carry a guarantee against rot and so don't need any extra coatings from that point of view, but you may just want to brighten the thing up with a first coat, or blend, or contrast with existing colours in the garden, or even start a new colour trend. There are plenty of colour choices to brighten up your outdoor space.

Tired old fences

Fence colours fade in time but can be rejuvenated with a new colour. Adding a layer or two of preservative also extends the life of an old fence. Only treat a sound fence, as painting a fence that is already rotten through is simply wasting your time.

Step-by-step process: how to paint a fence

To learn how to paint a fence, read our step-by-step guide below.

Before you start

Gather all the materials you need to complete the job before you start. Spend money on quality brushes (or paint roller) as often cheap ones lose their bristles, may be awkward to handle (having rough edges = skin blisters on hands) and can even be unbalanced or heavy. After all, the area of painting you will be doing is much bigger than your average interior house wall. We advise you to sand down rough areas for smooth application of paint.

Calculate the amount of paint you need as the last thing you want is to run out with half a panel to go and the only stockist of your particular paint shuts in 10 minutes. All cans state the 'average coverage' figure. Another alternative option to using brushes is spraying. Only use a paint sprayer (or spray gun) made for the job as the viscosity of the paint will clog up ordinary garden sprayers.

a small child painting a new fence
a small child painting a new fence

Oh, and have plenty of cardboard handy. Larger dust sheets are best, and most shops will gladly give you the stuff (as they pay to have it taken off-site!) It's the perfect material for protecting plants and neighbours.

Spray painting is a hazardous task, it is important to have the following protection:

- Gloves - protects hands from potentially corrosive paint and solvents

- Goggles - to shield your eyes from spray

- Hat or cap - this keeps paint out of your hair (nobody wants involuntary highlights)

- Long sleeved shirt, trousers (do not paint in shorts!) or coveralls - to cover your skin

- Respirator or mask - to protect against inhaling small particles and fumes

How long to wait before painting a new fence?

When to paint a new fence certainly requires patience and it is a bit of a waiting game. The answer partly varies according to whether you bought pressure treated or dip treated wood, so we explain both below.

Pressure treated fencing

Our guidance for pressure treated wood is to wait for a minimum of three to six months before applying paint. The reason for this delay is the moisture level of the wood, which will be higher due to the treatment process. Painting too early will lead to paint peeling and poor adhesion. We advise using a moisture meter to test the current moisture level of the wood, a level of 12% or less is ideal for painting a new fence.

Dip treated fencing

The process of dip treating wood means the wood is only dipped into preservative and overall tends to be lower in moisture. As the treatment is more surface level only, this means dip treated wood can be painted in a period from two weeks to two months. Again, we recommend a moisture meter and a level of 12% or less before painting.

Choosing the right paint or stain is an important decision when painting a new fence
Choosing the right paint or stain is an important decision when painting a new fence
Fence Treatment 5ltr Dark Brown - Click Image to View

Choosing the right paint or stain

Another important factor to consider among our garden fence painting tips is choosing the right paint or stain. This is an important consideration for both aesthetics and durability. There are various aspects to consider including the wood type. Different woods have varying absorption rates and may require specific paint or primer.

When you choose paint for painting a new wooden fence, you will find it provides thicker protection and a wide variety of colours, but it will also require increased maintenance. Stain will enhance a wood's natural beauty and elegance, typically requires less maintenance, and has a selection of options from transparent through to solid stains. For more details on this topic, view our blog article – paint or stain a fence, the best way to care for fencing.

 

Of course, weather resistance is crucial too, so look for paints or stains specifically designed for outdoor use with stated UV protection and a tough and durable formula. We also recommend applying a patch test to make sure you are entirely happy before fully committing to covering the whole garden fence. Proper preparation is also important, which we discuss next.

Preparation

Get yourself a wire brush or stiff brush and scrub off any moss, algae, spider webs and any other debris on the fence panels (new or old). Put your rubber gloves on and using warm soapy water, wash off any bird droppings. Stand back, allow the now cleaned garden fences to dry and you are ready.

Coating

Read the instructions on the tin of paint and stir if it says 'stir', and don't stir if it doesn't! This sounds obvious but products do have different requirements. Then aim to paint four or five sections of a panel at once – front and back. That’s because the paint will drip through any gaps in any slats and if left until you have completed one whole side, they too will have dried into streaks and blobs. It involves walking around to the other side of the fence, or even better, taking the whole fence out, laying it flat and painting horizontally. Use a smaller brush to get into any small gaps and ensure that any cut ends of wood are treated. Use some of that scavenged cardboard to slide under the wood panels to prevent drips from marking patio surfaces or soaking into the soil. It also allows you to paint to the bottom edge or gravel boards without getting soil and debris on your paint brush. Use more cardboard to protect any plants growing near fencing. You can easily lean the cardboard against the plants without any damage. It is then easily slid away once the paint is dry.

Overcoat

Once completed stand back and allow the paint to dry completely. Then you have that heart-wrenching decision to make, one coat is often enough, so does it need a second coat? You won't want to do it but be honest. It may well look patchy as the wood, especially untreated wood, absorbs paint at different rates and only you will know the answer. It's always better to do it right the first time than to half do it. If your painted fence does need another fresh coat, then get the brushes out (previously wrapped in cling film to prevent them from drying out) and do it all again.

The future

Garden fences usually need repainting every three years. It keeps them looking fresh, stops them from rotting and gives you a close-up chance to check on the health of your boundaries.

an image demonstrating fence painting techniques
an image demonstrating fence painting techniques

Expert fence painting tips and techniques for a smooth finish

Read our expert fence painting tips and face painting techniques below for further advice:

  • Avoid painting in strong, direct sunlight as the paint dries too quickly (almost on the paint brush) and it is uncomfortable for you working so close to a surface.
  • Don't paint if rain is forecast within five hours – obviously, don't start in the rain unless you want a washed look to the finish (and patio)
  • Paint sections of one panel and then paint the same sections on the reverse.
  • Wrap brushes in cling film when finished to prevent them from drying out.
  • Use cardboard or dust sheets to protect the ground and your plants from excessive drips and paint
  • For a smooth finish, paint in the direction of the wood grain.
  • Wear suitable shoes and use safety equipment when painting your fence.
  • Read the tin before you start. Do as it says!
an image of an unpainted fence next to a fence that has been painted using our fence painting tips
an image of an unpainted fence next to a fence that has been painted using our fence painting tips

SHOP our range of garden fencing ready to be painted here

Maintenance for lasting colour

If you want to keep your fencing panels and fence posts looking fresh and vibrant (and being honest who would not), then maintenance is a necessity. Regular maintenance such as cleaning and touching up with wood preserver will prolong the life of your fencing as well as retain its colour. This could be thought of as applying skincare to your fencing.

Why skincare? Well, the British weather is harsh on fencing, particularly in windy areas (such as the coast). Any of wind, rain, or sun will fade colour and wear a fencing run down. Applying regular maintenance is one of the strongest fence painting tips and applies a protective shield to the fence.

Related articles

The following articles from our blog are also recommended reading and all relate to painting, staining, or treatment of fencing or decking:

Click here to check out more great how-to guides.

one of our fence painting tips - choose Timmersol when painting a new fence
one of our fence painting tips - choose Timmersol when painting a new fence
Timmersol Jacobean Walnut Stabiliser & Waterproofer - 5 Litres - Click Image to View

Conclusion

Buying new fencing or maintaining existing fencing both require fence painting techniques to last in the long term when you decide that you want to paint or stain your fence. There are numerous steps involved, in the “How to paint a fence step-by-step” guide above.

The steps we outlined included preparatory tasks, how long to wait, choosing the right fence paint or stain, and applying coats and overcoats. We also provided a range of expert fence painting tips as well as the importance of maintenance for long-lasting colour and extending the lifespan of fencing.

Contact and advice

Learning how to paint a fence can be trickier than you might think. We have provided plenty of fence painting tips and fence painting techniques above for you to practice.

The team at Buy Fencing Direct are able to advise on various aspects of painting a new fence, including using paint as a dip treatment, and how long should you wait before painting or staining your fencing.

Contact methods to choose from are:

  • Phone calls - 0333 003 0515
  • E-mails – send via our structured contact form
  • Text chat – message us using our live chat app, which enables you to text chat in real-time