Whitewashing a fence creates an updated, yet rustic look that allows the wood's natural grain to show through. Creating this look is simple, but you must begin with raw wood – you cannot whitewash plastic. If your fence is currently stained or painted, thoroughly sand and clean the surface before you begin. To speed up this process, rent a power sander at a local home improvement store. Once sanding is complete, wipe your fence with a damp, clean cloth to avoid catching any debris in the paint.

old white painted wood for background
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How to Whitewash a Fence

Depending on the method you choose and amount of coats needed, whitewashing can take time. There are three ways to whitewash: Diluting your paint, using wax or painting and scraping. If your fence is large, you may need several days or assistance from multiple people.

Before you begin, test your method in a hidden spot. If the results are not what you envisioned, test a different technique. Make sure you are satisfied with the look before you begin to paint.

Diluting Paint With Water

This is the simplest of the three methods. All you will need is white paint, water, a mixing cup, a washcloth and, of course, a wooden fence. New wood and smooth surfaces will deliver the best results. To create a semi-transparent paint, mix equal parts paint and water together in your mixing cup. Then, begin painting.

To paint your fence, dip your washcloth into the paint and then spread a generous amount onto the wood. Coat the wood as though you were applying a stain, making sure to smooth the paint so it is evenly spread over the entire surface. Once finished, make sure the paint is completely dry before you decide to add a second coat. If one area seems thicker than others, use fine-grit sandpaper to remove some of the paint. Add as many coats as you'd like until you've reached your preferred color.

Using Wax and Paint

This technique can be applied to any type of wood and will result in a chipped, vintage look. If possible, lay your fence on a table or other flat surface for easier application. For this method, you will need white paint, either a clear or white wax candle (you may need more than one depending on the size of your fence), a paintbrush, a washcloth and water, if you'd like.

Begin by quickly and roughly rubbing the side of your candle on the fence. Apply the wax in a patchy manner, and make sure to leave a coat on the surface. Next, paint the wood and let it dry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. When the wood is not quite dry, use a dry or wet washcloth to scrub the surface. Press down on areas with wax so you can remove the paint. A wet washcloth will remove more paint than a dry one.

Paint and Then Drag

If you prefer a truly rustic look, this technique is best. For optimum results, use the paint and drag technique on reclaimed or rough wood. This method is also easier if the boards can be placed on a flat, horizontal surface. You'll only need two things to get started: White paint and either a plastic scraper or a wide putty knife. To apply, pour a small amount of paint onto the center of the board, then use a scraper or knife to spread the paint. Make sure to fill the grooves with paint. If needed, add more paint to the wood and repeat.

Seal It In

Once your paint is dry and project complete, seal the wood with a coat of clear polyurethane sealer.