How to Paint a Wood Fence

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Fall is a good time to paint your fence. The sun isn't too hot, there's only a few bugs around and you're not going to be too worried about stepping on annual plants that might be planted close to your fence. Painting a fence isn't a hard job; it's just tedious. That's why it's worthwhile to do a good job when you do paint your fence (so you won't have to do it all over again in two years). Here's how to go about painting your wooden fence properly.

Things You'll Need

  • Whisk broom
  • Scraper and wire brush
  • Cloths and warm water
  • Rubber gloves
  • 4-inch paint brush
  • 1-inch paint brush or sash (angled) brush
  • Outdoor paint

How to Prepare the Paint

  • Choose a good quality paint that is designed for use outdoors. This means it will contain UV (ultra violet) inhibitors and be formulated to stand up to the elements. In choosing paint, price really does make a difference, so get the best you can afford.

  • Select good quality paintbrushes. You may think you're only painting a fence and be tempted to opt for an inexpensive paintbrush--however, inexpensive paintbrushes often have rough spots that will give you blisters and feel unbalanced, making them tiring to use over time.

  • Use your whisk and clean up your fence before you start painting. Seeds, leaves and twigs are all probably in the cracks between the boards and stringers, and there are probably spider webs and perhaps other bug nests as well.

  • Wear your rubber gloves when washing off any bird droppings that are on the fence.

  • After cleaning your fence, look for any loose or flaking paint and get rid of it using your scraper or a wire brush.

  • Check for any insect damage (termites?) and replace any boards that have been attacked, then make sure all of the boards are firmly attached. If some are loose, reattach them.

How to Paint a Fence

  • Work on your fence in sections and work each section in two steps. First paint the top edge of each board (the open grain), then do the front of each board and one side. Do the same on each board in the section until you've done them all on the front and one edge.

  • After doing two or three sections, go back to the first section and paint the other side and the remaining edge. Again, move onto the next board in the section and continue until you've painted all the boards that were half-painted.

  • Painting the boards in this way means you won't be reaching in between boards that have wet paint on them and making a mess of yourself, your brushes and your paint job.

Tips & Warnings

  • Slide a thin piece of wood (1/4 plywood or even heavy cardboard) under the bottom of your fence boards so your brush won't end up picking up grass or dirt from the ground at the bottom of the boards.
  • Use your 1-inch brush to paint the edges of the boards. You could also use a small roller to paint your fence boards, provided they aren't cupped too badly.
  • A paint sprayer can make painting a fence move along quicker, however, you need to be aware of wind direction and overspray if you are going to use one. Otherwise, you could end up with very angry neighbors.
  • Even though the sun has lost some of its heat in the fall, try not to paint in direct sunlight. There is still likely enough heat in the sun to dry your paint too quickly.
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