When staining an exterior fence, homeowners should consider a number of factors when selecting their products. Exterior fence stains are available in solid color and semi-transparent products. Solid color stains are heavier bodied, while semi-transparent stains allow more of the fence's natural wood grain appearance to show. Semi-transparent stains are typically easier to apply than solid color stains, while solid colors stains give the homeowner more color options.

...
Exterior fences can be stained with either semi-transparent or solid color stain products.

Behr Premium Coatings

According to Consumers Report (CR), Behr brand Deck Plus Solid Color Deck, Fence & Siding won the honors for the best performing stain for the second straight year, as of this publishing date. This product is available nationally at Home Depot stores, and features an excellent balance of durability, color retention, ease of application at a competitive price. The 100 percent acrylic formula is available in over 1,600 colors, and is designed to last up to 15 years when installed on exterior fences.

Sears Weatherbeater Brand

According to Consumers Reports, just behind the Behr exterior of solid colors stain is the Sears brand Weatherbeater Solid Deck, Fence & Siding. According to CR testing facilities, this product is not quite as durable as the Behr brand. The stain retails at nearly $5 less than the Behr brand, and is a good choice if your home doesn't face intense weathering, or if the fence is installed in a more shielded location. This latex stain works well on siding, decks and exterior fences.

Sikkens Brand

In the class of oil-based exterior stains, the Sikkens Cetol SRD Semi-Transparent performs better than other brands, and has received high ratings by both CR, and the Consumers Research web site. Semi-transparent oil-based wood stains perform differently than solid color latex-based state. The solid color stains are designed to form a watertight pigmented coating over the wood fibers. Oil-based semi-transparent stain is designed to soak in and seal the wood, working with wood's existing oils. The appearance does not hold color as long as solid color stains, yet the Sikken's brand stains gained high praise by homeowners and professional painters alike.

National Paint Manufacturers

Following these top three manufacturers, paint and coatings manufacturers Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams both manufacture high-quality solid color and semi-transparent, latex and alkyd oil-based exterior stains. These manufacturers have created excellent products, which are available exclusively at their retail stores nationwide.

Exclusive Stain Manufacturers

The Olympic stain company, Cabots, and the Thompson's Waterseal coatings companies specialize in exterior stains and finishes. They do not produce paints, like Sherwin-Williams, Glidden, Benjamin Moore and other national coating companies. Their products are available in national retailers, and provide above-average durability. These companies also produce latex and oil-based stains, in both semi transparent and solid color versions.

Semi-Transparent versus Solid Color

Semi-transparent stain is an excellent choice for exterior fences and decks. Solid color stains work well on fences and vertical deck surfaces. However, most paint manufacturers discourage applying solid color stains to a deck's horizontal surfaces. Solid colored stain wears off quickly, and can become slippery when wet if applied to horizontal deck boards.