In addition to adding curb appeal and value to your property, a wood fence provides protection and privacy. If left untreated, your investment can easily become unattractive, lose its natural beauty, turn gray and become weather damaged. One way to protect your fence from the elements and to keep it looking good is to spray on a quality stain every few years. You can tackle this job with a high-quality pump sprayer rated for stain. The prep work may be the most time-consuming part of this project, but a lot of this work can be skipped if you have a newly installed fence.
Prep and Clean
Clear away any items close to the fence - lawn furniture, potted plants or yard decorations. If you have bushes growing near the fence, tie them back with rope or cover them with drop cloths. Also spread drop cloths along the bottom of the fence to protect areas such as your lawn, patio stones or concrete driveway from over spray.
Repair or replace any damaged boards, unless your fence is new. Examine your fence and look for any loose nails or screws, and splintered or damaged boards. Wear work gloves to protect your hands and if necessary, use a hammer to sink any protruding nails or a screwdriver to recede any screws, and replace any rotten boards. Use a sanding block and smooth the wood's surface to remove any splinters.
Pressure wash the fence to remove all grime, mildew and dirt. Protect yourself -- wear old clothes, rubber gloves, and safety glasses or goggles. Set up your pressure washer with a 25-degree tip and start at one end of your fence. While holding the wand about 18 inches away, sweep up and down each board in a slow and steady manner. As you spray and strip away the wood's surface, you'll notice how its color brightens. When you don't see any more color change, move on to the next board and continue until the entire fence -- both sides -- is clean. Allow the fence to dry a minimum of 24 hours.
Apply the Stain
Protect yourself by wearing old clothes, eye protection, rubber gloves and a respirator rated for vapor (check the stain manufacturer's specifications). Stir the stain thoroughly with a paint stirrer. Turn the lid of your pump sprayer counterclockwise, remove the lid and pour the stain into the canister. Put the lid back on and turn it clockwise to secure it to the sprayer. Unlock the handle by pressing it down and turning it counterclockwise. To pressurize the canister, pump the handle up and down until you feel resistance and it becomes difficult to depress the handle. Lock the handle into the lid by turning it clockwise.
Start at the top at one end of your fence. Hold the tip of the sprayer about 10 inches from the fence, squeeze the trigger and with slow and steady strokes, spray the stain down and up onto each board. If the spray is too narrow or wide, twist the nozzle at the end of the wand until you have the desired spray pattern. When the spray becomes weak, repressurize the canister.
After spraying a 4-foot section, brush out any runs or drips with a paintbrush. Also apply stain with your brush to areas, such as corners, that may have been missed by the sprayer. Repeat the process for the next fence section and continue until the entire fence -- both sides -- has been stained.
Depending on the type of stain you're using, you may need to apply a second coat. If required, allow the stain to dry a minimum of 24 hours and then use the same technique to apply another coat.