Staining a wood fence used to be a tedious process, and unless you were the Karate Kid in training, not something you looked forward to. However, with a paint sprayer, the job is a lot easier and faster.
In this review, we will cover the types of paint sprayers, stain types, and how to apply that stain to your fence.
We also compare sprayers to other painting options and answer your paint sprayer and stain questions. Read on if you are ready to point, pull, paint, and stain.
Before starting your painting project, you need to consider everything from the preparations to the clean up. The following list should be on hand or at least considered before you lay your first layer of paint.
Which Paint Sprayer Type Do You Need?
Of all the main types of paint sprayers, the ideal solution for a fence staining project is an airless paint spray gun.
While they can be more expensive, they offer simple application, work with all paint viscosity types, and are ideal for large projects like fences.
If you already have a different type, it may get the job done. The second best option is a gravity-fed LVLP sprayer. However, HVLP and pneumatic spray guns will not give you the results you are after.
It is also important to have an adjustable spray pattern to cover various fence boards, both horizontal and vertical.
The settings, nozzle, tips, and even spray pattern adjustments of your chosen sprayer will all affect the final outcome.
Whether you use a pump sprayer, an airless sprayer, or a roller, the horizontal boards of your fence will be perfectly fine.
Staining helps ensure your fence looks great and lasts a longer time without a lot of maintenance.
Beautifying your yard is more than just adding bushes or covering surfaces with grass and swimming pools. Your fence can be a statement or a subtle backyard statement.
Which Stain Do I Need With This Sprayer?
The stain you use will depend on the type of fence you are staining.
For example, some wood fence types benefit from having their grain and knots more exposed, and others need a deeper coloring to hide imperfections or to hide the grain.
If you have a cedar or redwood fence, a clear coat will allow the wood to fade to the famous silver-gray they are known for. You can also use a yearly preservative to keep the wood fence from splintering.
All-in-all, a semi-transparent stain is the most durable, needing reapplication every 5 years or so.
Darker stains need more frequent applications, and clear coats require yearly maintenance, simply adding your own personalized content to protect your fence and property.
How to properly stain a Wooden Fence In 8 Easy Steps
Below are the basic steps for staining your fence. These steps assume you know how to handle your paint sprayer, when to change tips and how to adjust air pressure.
If you aren't familiar with these procedures, it is suggested you do some test painting on old pallets or cardboard boxes.
While DIY projects are fun, a fence is a large task. Make sure you are comfortable with the process that can become monotonous and strain your body with repetitive motions for hours.
When you apply stain to wood grain, you can use dark, semi-transparent, or clear stains.
Using as much material as it takes, the wood grain surface of your fence will add curb appeal that a paintbrush or rollers won't accomplish.
Here's our step-by-step guide on the best way to spray stain a fence.
1. Clean & Wash The Fence Thoroughly
You want your fence clear of any sap, dirt, dust, or debris. You can hand wash the fence all at once or in sections as you go, but cleaning both sides is imperative.
A pressure washer can make the task faster; just try not to use so much pressure washer it damages the wood fence. Ensure the pressure washer tips are designed for wood and don't exceed the PSI.
2. Let It (Completely) Dry
Once you have washed your fence and all the build-up of gunk and debris are gone, you need to let the wood dry completely.
This can take several hours to a few days depending on the weather and the size of your fence.
3. Mask All Before Beginning
The next step in preparation is to cover all surfaces not being stained. This includes the ground up to the fence bottom, surrounding lawns, shrubs, sidewalks, and other fences or buildings.
Using your drop cloths and tarps or plastic sheeting, cover everything.
Where applicable, you want to use tape to secure the coverings in place. When you are done, your fence should be the only thing visible.
While it may not happen, you should approach this step knowing anything not covered will get sprayed.
4. Start Spraying (With The Right Settings For Stain)
Next, you want to set up your paint sprayer, ensure the valves, seals, and o-rings are in good repair and that your filters and screens are in place.
Fill the wet cup with your stain and ensure you have the correct tip installed for the stain viscosity.
On an old piece of cardboard or in an inconspicuous spot on the fence, do a few test sprays to prevent spatter or to make any adjustments before you paint for real.
Once you are satisfied, begin applying one coat of the stain to the fence. Keep an eye on the wet cup and refill it as needed, and do not let it run dry, or else you will need to prime and remove air bubbles all over again.
5. Apply The Stain
Continue to spray your fence on both sides, and get the horizontal and vertical boards in turn.
Work on one section at a time using smooth strokes, fluid up and down or side-to-side movements, and uniform coverage.
As each section is completed, move on to the next. It should take 30 minutes to an hour to complete an 8-foot section. Most average-sized 6-foot fences can be completed in 4 to 5 hours.
As you complete each section be sure to brush off your nozzle and spray tip to prevent build-up. Then, go back over the area and use a paintbrush to get any areas the sprayer may have missed.
Brush lightly into corners or cracks, and don't drench the wood, or it may run. Once the entire section is complete, return to your paint sprayer and continue with the next section.
7. Apply 2nd Coat
Second coats are often needed to provide adequate coverage and thickness. This will bring out the stain color and hide any imperfections from the first coat.
With the second coat, you won't need to back brush as often, if at all, and it will go much faster.
However, some stains need a long time to set and dry before they are ready for a second coat, up to 24 hours in most cases.
Read your stain instruction label and follow the timing between coats as closely as possible.
8. Clean Up
Once the second coat is applied and has had time to touch-dry, you can remove the sheeting and tape to uncover your grass, garden, or bushes.
While you are waiting, though, you need to properly clean your spray gun, removing all the paint by running warm water through it, following the manufacturer's instructions.
In most cases, the two-bucket method will work perfectly. Once your sprayer is cleaned and your materials are put away, there is nothing left to do except admire your handy work and your newly stained fence.
Proper clean up not only protects your sprayer but will allow you to apply stain in the future, paint your house, keep the seal intact, and plenty of other preventative maintenance and spraying gun factors.
Why Bother Staining Your Fence? (Benefits Explained)
Staining a fence has plenty of benefits compared to doing nothing or painting. If you do nothing, the fence will fade in the sunlight and weather over time and can change colors.
Leaving fence wood unprotected can also lead to cracking, splintering, or even having boards separate from the nails.
With paint, the fence will look great for a little while, but it will dry out and eventually peel, leaving your fence looking pretty horrible. To reapply paint, you will need to scrape, sand, and then prep about every 3 or 4 years.
With a stain, though, it will protect the wood from UV damage, keep the wood strong and sturdy and give you a beautiful finish. It also helps prevent cracking, splintering, or backing off of the nails.
As with paint, stains will need reapplication. However, if you use the same type of stain, you only need to wash and dry the fence before applying the new coats.
Those new applications of stain are also only needed every 5 or 6 years, saving you time and money.
Stain Spraying Vs Rolling: Which Is Best?
When choosing whether you should spray or brush fence stain, rolling on stains to a fence ensures you get thorough coverage, but it can take multiple days to do the entire project.
It also requires more stain and materials than if you use a spray gun.
Both methods will require a brush back, and only a spray gun can speed up the task by 10 times (or more). With a stain sprayer, you also get uniform coverage and complete control over runs and drips.
While rolling a fence is possible and slightly cheaper, the time saved from a sprayer can be more economical.
Spraying tiny particles of paint instead of using brushes offers less prep work, but brushing has less overspray.
In the backyard or against the house, your fence stained surface can fade in direct sun exposure. Pressure washing, cleaning solution, and even spraying with a hose can shorten the life of the stain.
Questions About Staining Fences With Sprayers
Does the stain go through the cracks in the fence?
Large cracks, holes, in the fence may let some stain droplets through, but usually it's not noticeable or harmful to the grass. To be safe, consider using sheeting or tarps on both sides while preparing.
Does it not get on the other side? Does it bleed through?
The stain will soak into the wood, but not enough to bleed through to the other side. Even if there are cracks on the board, the droplets are too fine and distant from the other side to have a significant effect. Thus, if you only stain one side of a fence, it will not be visible from the other side.
Do you need to seal afterwards?
Sealing is necessary if stain + sealer was not used initially. Stain + sealer is more cost-effective and time-efficient as it eliminates the need for separate coats.
How long does it take to stain a fence with a sprayer?
On average, a spray gun with stain and proper application methods can paint up to 8 feet every 30 minutes. The average fence will take about 4 to 5 hours per side to complete.
What is the best temperature to stain a fence?
The ideal temperature will depend on the type of stain, but low humidity and an average air temp lower than 90 degrees Fahrenheit is typically recommended.
How long to wait after it rains to stain a fence?
If your project is interrupted by rain, you will need to wait long enough for the fence to thoroughly dry. Typically this is at least 24 hours, providing the air temp is high enough during the day.
Can I stain the fence in winter?
Yes, you can stain your fence in winter, but the cold or humid weather may slow down the drying process and attract dirt and debris to the stain.
How long do stains last on a fence?
Semi-transparent stains typically last 5 to 6 years before a new coat is needed. Clear coats only last about 2 or 3 years, while dark, opaque stains last 4 to 5 years.
What size spray tip should I use for oil-based fence stain?
Use a narrow spray tip with an 8-inch fan spread and a 0.013 tip hole size for most oil-based fence stains. Thicker stains may require thinning or a larger tip size for proper spraying.
Will cedar fence stain over spray hurt my plants?
Overspray from cedar fence stain can harm plants by creating holes or dark spots on leaves, damaging roots, and potentially causing the plant to die.
Staining a fence used to be a tedious, multi-day process that no one really looked forward to.
However, with a paint sprayer set up for stains and varnishes, you can make quick work of your entire fence in a single day, including prep and clean up.
With the right tools, stain and time for stain sprayer, your new fence is only 8 small steps away.
Hopefully this article has helped you see the best solution to staining your fence with stain sprayer and given you the confidence to get the job done.