How to Paint a Fence

Give your fence a fresh coat of paint with these easy instructions.

Paint and Protect Your Fence

Painting or staining your fence is the key to extending its life. It will protect your fence from the elements and keep it strong and beautiful for years to come. It may seem like a big job at first, but with this easy guide your fence will look just like new in no time.

You Will Need

Gather these supplies: a wide nylon or polyester brush/paint roller/paint sprayer (optional) /fence paint or coating/wire brush /face mask /sandpaper/disposable gloves /plastic drop cloth/masking tape /newsprint.

Remove the Old Coating

Even uncoated fences may still have a glazed surface applied by the mill that will cause a new coating to fail. Apply a paint or wood stripper until the finish begins to lift, then scrub. In most cases, the stripper solution will need to remain wet for your scrubbing efforts to pay off. This step will allow your new finish to be properly absorbed into the wood and produce longer lasting results.

Prepare the Surface

Apply a stripper, if necessary, and allow it to penetrate the surface, but not dry. Working in manageable sections, scrub the surface with a stiff brush to remove any coating and dead wood fibers.


Rinse the area with a high pressure nozzle attached to a hose or a pressure washer. If using a pressure washer, make sure to work with the grain of the wood to avoid leaving lap marks on the fence. Repeat the process until the entire fence surface is stripped.

Clean the Fence

Clean the fence surface by applying a cleaner—a small amount of a soapy bleach-water solution may be all you need, but seek out a fence/deck cleaner for tough stains. Scrub with a stiff bristle brush to remove dirt, debris and mildew. Rinse thoroughly with a high pressure nozzle attached to a hose or a pressure washer. Allow the fence surface to dry. Once dry, it's the perfect time to repair any damaged, cracked or warped boards. Sand away any small imperfections and replace boards with major flaws.

Mark the Painting Area

Prepare the area by masking off any areas you do not wish to paint.

Protect Your Lawn and Garden

Place a plastic drop cloth on the ground to prevent paint from getting on your grass or plantings. To maneuver around shrubs and bushes near your fence, keep a piece of plywood handy to place between the shrub and the fence, leaving enough space for you to get between the two. The plywood will distribute the weight more evenly and prevent breaking branches.

Start Painting

Pour your new coating into a bucket and mix thoroughly. Using a wide nylon or polyester brush (4-6 inches), begin dipping the brush into the paint and applying the coating. For best results, begin with any top trim or horizontal structures.

Paint the Pickets

Paint the vertical pickets, working from the top of the fence to the bottom.  If using a roller, back-brush every couple of feet to ensure even coverage and avoid lap marks. If you are using a paint sprayer, work in the same method, but stop every few feet and use a wide brush to back-brush. This will prevent lap marks and better help absorb the coating into the surface. Continue in this manner until the entire surface is covered. Allow to dry completely, then add another coat, if necessary. Once you're finished, remove any masking tape and the drop cloth.

Let Dry

Allow to dry completely, then add another coat, if necessary. Once you're finished, remove any masking tape and the drop cloth. Your "new" fence is now ready to make a statement!

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