How to Paint a Split Rail Fence

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Do not paint a split rail fence using a spray rig.
Do not paint a split rail fence using a spray rig. (Image: Post and rail fence, close up. image by Brian Scantlebury from Fotolia.com)

Split rail is a type of simple fencing constructed with portions of timber logs. The fences are constructed without the use of nails and are throwbacks to an older time when metal hardware was scarce. If you need to paint a split rail fence, you must consider two factors. First, you will need to condition the wood to promote adhesion, or the paint will chip and peel. In addition, because split rail contains deep fissures within its texture, you must use a specific application process to encourage adequate coverage.

Things You'll Need

  • Pressure washer
  • Water source
  • Electrical source
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Exterior latex primer
  • Roller frame
  • Nap roller cover
  • 4-inch latex paintbrush
  • Exterior latex paint

Work on a warm, dry day.

Wash the split rail fence using a pressure washer. Begin on a low setting, then slowly increase pressure. Allow the fence to dry completely.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket to two-thirds capacity with exterior latex primer.

Apply primer to the split rail fence using the roller. Smooth out runs or drips with the 4-inch latex paintbrush.

Use the paintbrush to apply primer to any areas inaccessible to the roller. Dab paint into any holes or fissures to ensure they are coated. Allow the primer to dry for two hours.

Wash all painting tools with water.

Apply a coat of paint to the split rail fence in the same manner as you did the primer.

Tips & Warnings

  • A split rail fence must be completely coated to prevent mildew, fungus and rot from setting in. If you leave the tiny holes or fissures uncovered, the finish will not protect the wood.
  • Never attempt to paint a split rail fence without priming first or the finish will flake and peel.
  • A pressure washer is powerful enough to damage a split rail fence. Always begin the washer on a low setting.
  • Do not paint a split rail fence using a spray rig as this will not adequately coat the holes and fissures in the wood. You must apply the paint using a roller loaded with a nap roller cover to ensure adequate coverage.

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