Tips for Restaining Fences


Wooden fence maintenance is a necessary task to keep the fence looking its best and to prolong its usefulness. Cleaning and restaining fence is not a difficult task, but you must pay close attention to details. Using the proper stain on the cleaned wood seals the fence from moisture. Power tools can make the work go faster.

Before You Start

  • Cleaning and restaining a fence may put flowerbeds, shrubs and grass in danger of chemical exposure. If there are plants growing on the fence, gently unwrap the vines and set them on the ground. If you can't unwrap the vines, consider pruning the plants and allowing them to grow back later. Protect plants by putting plastic sheeting over them. Remove any other objects that may hang from the fence. Typically this is at least a two-day project. If there's rain in the forecast in the next 48 hours, postpone the project.


  • Removing the old stain from all exposed portions of the wood is a vital step in restaining the wood. Use a low-pressure power washer to remove accumulated dirt as well as old stain. Swing the power washer's nozzle in an arc and keep it constantly moving to avoid gouging the wood. If the power washer doesn't remove all the stain, a cleaning product or wood stripper specifically for exterior wood surfaces may be necessary. Follow the package directions. If the wooden fence contains mold and mildew, mix equal parts bleach and water. Scrub the fence with the solution, then rinse it well.


  • Cleaning the old stain off the fence may expose damaged sections of fence panels. Remove the damaged wood and replace it with new lumber. Inspect all fasteners and tighten loose ones. Replace rusty screws with stainless steel versions. If the gate sags, add additional bracing to repair it as well. The cleaning process opens up the pores of the wood, so sand it lightly to smooth them back into place.


  • It's always a good idea to test the wood stain on an inconspicuous area of the fence to make sure it's the right shade. It may take more than one coat to achieve the desired color as well as optimum coverage. Apply stain with a brush or roller. Roll or brush with the grain of the wood. Try not to overlap the stain as it may cause an uneven finish. Wipe off any excess stain as you go. Allow the first coat of stain to dry completely before applying subsequent coats. If desired, apply a protective sealant to finish the maintenance.

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