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9 Basic Tips for Painting your Wooden Fence

Dear Service Seeking,

My wooden fence was a thing of beauty when I bought my home. The proper maintenance by the previous owners was evident but lately, my fence is a sorry sight indeed.

I admit I have neglected it because I can’t seem to find reliable help! I got it painted a while ago but it looks worse than before. The paint is peeling badly. I can only conclude it’s because of a shoddy job.

I need to know the basics when it comes to painting a wooden fence.

Whether I hire a professional fence painter or choose to do it myself, I need some tips.

Please help me restore my fence to its former glory by giving me some advice on how to paint my wooden fence.


Sad Homeowner

Dear Sad Homeowner,

A wooden fence that’s well maintained adds to curb appeal, gives you privacy and is an effective safety measure. One that doesn’t devalue the property and actually enhances it.

As you noted, regular maintenance is also important to prevent rotting weathering and deterioration.

Regular fence painting with the right fence paint should be done at least every two to three years. This will help ensure a homeowner doesn’t need to replace the fence or have structural repairs done.

Here are some surefire tips to guide you through successfully painting a wooden fence.

Tip #1: Check the Fence Condition

Inspect the fence to check for termite infestation, damage, rot, and any sections that need replacement. It will save you time and money in the long run. Pay close attention to the supporting posts and ensure they are firmly in place and showing no signs of deterioration.

Check to see if everything is in alignment and tighten any loose screws and hinges along the way.

Tip #2: Source Quality Materials and Labour

A cheap paintbrush does more harm than good. It will leave bristles on the wood surface as you paint, making it near impossible to achieve a smooth finish.

A cheap paintbrush also tends to stiffen quickly.

The better the paint quality, the longer it will last. Use good quality exterior UV-inhibiting paint on your wood fence.

And think about the labour required. An experienced painter will give you good quality results, whereas a DIY effort comes down to your ability and previous experience painting exteriors.

Tip #3: Have the Tools and Materials Ready

Have everything ready to ensure there are no unnecessary delays when the project begins. Visit your local hardware or paint supplies store for help with materials.

Here are the main tools and materials required for the job:

  • Plastic drop cloth
  • Lawnmower
  • Grass trimmer
  • Wide nylon or polyester brush
  • Power washer
  • Scraper
  • Paint roller or paint sprayer
  • Primer
  • Paint 
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Wire or stiff brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Masking tape
  • Face mask
  • Disposable gloves

Tip #4: Be in Good Physical Shape

Painting a fence is not an easy job – there are many steps to follow and it takes time to do it right.

You’re spending hours outside – sometimes in the harsh sun – often bending over to reach every surface.

If you’re doing it yourself, you need to be in pretty good physical shape. If you have back or shoulder problems, it’s best to call in the experts rather than risk further injury and discomfort. You’re better off paying a painter to do the job well in the first place instead of copping another hefty bill from your physio!

Tip #5: Think Safety First

  • Always use gloves, safety goggles and a face mask when sanding or working with potentially toxic chemicals like paint and solvents.
  • In the case of paint splatter getting in your eyes, wash with warm clean water until all the paint is gone.
  • Be aware of any electrical cables or power tools and keep them out of reach of children.
  • If you use a ladder, do so safely – it’s not worth injuring yourself or others.

Tip #6: Do Your Fence Painting Prep Work

Check the weather forecast

Imagine painting your fence then rain pouring down heavily before the paint is dry and ruining a perfect paint job. That’s why painting when there is no rain in sight is a wise idea. Better yet, let it be rain-free weather for at least 48 hours to ensure ample drying time.

Tidy up the lawn and garden

Mow the lawn and trim the grass that’s at the base of the fence.

Clean and clear the area

  • Clear the area of debris, dirt and cobwebs.
  • Place a drop cloth or tarpaulin around the fence to protect the surrounding vegetation, sidewalk and areas you do not want to get paint spots.
  • Use a stiff brush to clean any loose dirt on the wooden fence.
  • Use a mix of 1 part bleach and 1 part water and spray on the fence. This mixture helps to remove mildew and mould spots.
  • Power wash to remove layers of peeling paint. Scrape off any remaining bits of paint using a scraper.
  • Allow drying thoroughly then using sandpaper, sand it down for that perfect finish.
  • Tape all hinges, gate locks and other hardware that are not supposed to get paint on them.

Tip #7: Get Painting

Make sure you prime the wood and allow it to dry before applying the paint.

If you’re using a spray gun, ensure the paint has been slightly diluted. This allows the paint to flow freely from the nozzle.

A spray gun will give an even finish and save time.

If using a brush, follow the direction of the wood grain for a smoother finish and better coverage.

The rule of thumb with brushes is vertical strokes for vertical panels and horizontal strokes for horizontal panels!

Always start at the top going down so as to catch drips.

Tip#8: Tidy Up

Done painting? Time to put everything back in its place.

Fold the drop cloth and pack all the tools back in the shed as soon as possible to avoid theft, weather damage or injury to children.

Clean brushes and spray gun with solvent to remove all traces of paint before storage.

Check that any paint or solvent residue is cleaned up and not able to pollute the waterways.

Tip#9: Recycle What You Can

Protect the environment by recycling leftover paint and paint cans.

If you have leftover paint, give it to any neighbours who can use it or donate to a community group that will make good use of it.

If it’s not a lot, let it harden then take it to your local housewares recycling centre.

paint storage

Image from Pixabay by stux

Remember, paint should not be poured down a drain.

Additional Wood Fence Painting Tips

Start early – Kick off your painting project early in the morning. The earlier the fence is painted, the more time there is for proper drying in between coats with or without direct sun.

Beware moisture – Moisture is wood’s worst enemy. It causes warping, rot, decay and cracks. Different types of wood react differently to moisture but pine, which is common in Australia, withstands moisture well. Treated pine also resists shrinkage and doesn’t warp.

Checking for water beading is one way of determining if the fence needs to be painted. If beads of water are soaking into the wood instead of beading on the surface, then maintenance is due.

If in doubt, ask a few painters for a quote to paint the whole fence – it’ll give you a good ballpark budget and they might even offer you some handy advice about the overall condition of your fence.

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