Have you considered staining your fence? A new fence stain is the perfect weekend DIY project that can boost your home’s curb appeal. Fence stains can give your new fence the protection it needs or give your old fence a little makeover. You can get fence stains in a range of styles: from transparent to solid, and a ton of color options to consider!
Colored stains? Isn’t that just paint? Well, stains and paints have different looks and offer different types of protection. Looks-wise, even the most solid color paint stain will be somewhat more transparent than an oil based exterior colored paint. Paint offers protection from moisture as well as UV protection, while stains offer moisture protection but not much UV protection. Another difference to consider is that a wood stain will penetrate your wood fence and highlight the grain pattern, whereas a paint will sit on top of the wood fence and cover the grain pattern.
While you may have the impression, like many do, that fence stains are simply a transparent layer put on a wood fence to protect it from the elements or highlight a beautiful grain pattern, there is actually a much wider range of wood stains out there. The first type of fence stain is the transparent stain we all know. Next, there is a semi-transparent stain. A semi-transparent stain will highlight the wood grain pattern while also tinting the wood color slightly. Finally, solid fence stains are available in a growing number of colors. When you paint your wood fence with a solid stain, it almost looks like you have painted it.
As described above, transparent stains are a type of fence stain that has no pigment. It is almost like putting that protective clear layer of nail polish on when you have finished painting your nails. And on that note, you can use a transparent stain over a painted fence just the same as you can put it on an unpainted wood fence. A transparent stain’s goal is to act as a sealer on your wood fence to protect it from moisture. Because it is clear, it will not offer much protection from UV rays so the fence will still gray over the years. It is recommended to reapply transparent stains on wood fences every year. You may be thinking, why would anyone use a transparent stain over a solid stain or even paint on their wood fence if it does not offer the highest level of protection for your fence? Well, transparent stains are excellent at highlighting the natural wood grain patterns on your fence, and can really make a cedar fence or redwood fence stand out!
A semi-transparent stain is the compromise between a transparent stain and a solid stain. This type of wood stain highlights the grain pattern of your wood fence while also tinting it a bit in the color of your choice. This might be a better choice if you have an older wood fence and want to cover up the graying. You can choose a natural wood looking color like redwood or cedar for your semi-transparent stain and make your fence look like new again!
While many people are familiar with the concept of the transparent wood stains, less people are aware that stains come in solid colors as well - and a growing number of them. This is an increasingly popular option for homeowners looking to make a statement with their fence color. Solid stains offer full color coverage of your fence so you will not be able to see the wood color beneath it. You will, however, still be able to see a bit of the wood’s grain pattern which is what differentiates a solid wood stain from painting your fence with exterior wood paint. Because more and more people are opting for solid stains, the color options have grown from mainly different types of browns. Now, you can find bright yellows, charcoal grays, black and many other colors which we will talk about later in this article.
Now that you understand the wide range of different fence stains and the variety of looks a good wood stain can achieve, let’s go over some considerations for making your final decision on the right wood stain for your wood fence.
The first and most immediate factor to consider when choosing a fence stain color is the current color of your home exterior. You want to make sure that your new fence stain color does not contrast in a bad way with the color of your home. Choose a fence stain color that compliments the color of your home. Or, if your house has existing wood features of a particular color, you could match your fence stain color to the color of those wooden beams or trusses.
Another thing to keep in mind are the colors of landscape elements in your yard. If you have a shed that is a different color than your house, for example, you will need to factor that in if you want to use a solid stain on your fence. Also, if you have a pergola or other structure you will want to hold up a swatch of the stain color you are considering to make sure the colors are complimentary. Finally, if you have a lot of greenery or other vegetation there can be colors that work better and help make your green plants stand out like charcoal gray or black.
Depending on the type of neighborhood you live in, there may be spoken or unspoken rules about how your property can look. Is your neighborhood pretty cookie-cutter in terms of the colors and styles? Then you may want to keep your fence stain color in line with what the neighbors have. Or, if you are an HOA member, there may be actual enforceable rules about what colors are allowed.
Of course, if you are painting a backyard fence that no one can see from the front street, then you should be able to choose whatever paint stain color you like without issue. So visibility should be a consideration as well when you are trying to decide on a wood stain color.
If you have a naturally bright colored wood fence like cedar, for example, you may be more inclined to choose a transparent or at least semi-transparent stain as opposed to a solid stain. That is because the natural wood color and wood grain is so beautiful most people choose to highlight the natural wood instead of covering it up. If you have a type of wood that needs more of a color highlight, like oak or pine, then a semi-transparent or solid stain may be a better choice. In that case, you would be adding some color and the solid stain would also offer a bit more UV protection compared to a transparent stain. More protection can help your fence last longer and look better for longer.
Putting any type of protection on your wood fence, from a transparent stain to an actual exterior wood paint, will help make your fence last longer and be more durable. Any stain or paint will help protect your wood fence from weather, moisture, and temperature changes. In unprotected wood fences, moisture and temperature changes can lead to splintering or cracking as well as mildew buildup. However, only solid stains and exterior wood paint will help protect against UV rays. The less transparent the stain, the more UV protection. UV rays can lead to graying of your wood fence. For any wood stain, the coloring will fade over the years, so reapplying every year or every other year is encouraged.
Wood stains come in three main categories of opacity: transparent stains, semi-transparent stains, and solid stains. A transparent stain will be a colorless, see-through layer that protects your wood fence from moisture and weathering. While it is colorless, the stain will highlight your wood’s natural grain pattern. A semi-transparent stain will have a bit of a colored tint to it, and still highlight the grain of your wood fence. Finally, a solid stain is a colored stain that completely covers up the color of your wood fence but allows some features of the grain pattern to be seen. While solid stains can almost look like you have painted your fence, I would characterize it more as tinting your fence. Fence stains sink down into the wood, highlighting the grain, while a fence paint sits atop the wood and covers the grain pattern entirely.
With a few simple steps, you can DIY a fence stain. Wood stains need to be reapplied to the fence at different intervals depending on the type of stain you have chosen. Solid stains have a tendency to fade and even peel over time, so they are the hardest of the stain types to maintain. Some experts recommend putting a solid stain over an oil based exterior paint on your wood fence, instead of directly onto the wood fence itself. A transparent wood stain will need to be reapplied every year, whereas a semi-transparent wood stain is recommended to be reapplied every two to three years. For a solid stain, reapplication is similar to a semi-transparent wood stain but you may want to reapply earlier if the color starts to fade or you see peeling.
Let’s go over some color options for wood fence stains. Some of these apply to semi-transparent wood stains while the majority apply to just solid stains.
Natural wood tones work with both semi-transparent wood stains and solid stains. With a semi-transparent stain, you would be able to help highlight an already beautiful cedar fence or redwood fence. With a solid stain, you could apply it to any type of wood fence and make it the color of the wood of your choice. Some good color choices here are pecan, sable, or redwood.
Dark browns and even black solid stains have become increasingly popular among homeowners. A dark walnut or cordovan brown stain can add to your curb appeal without standing out too much. While a black solid stain can make your home stand out with a modern, sleek look. On top of that, as we explained earlier, the darker and less transparent the stain, the more protection it offers the wood. So choosing a darker stain color can help your fence last longer and require less maintenance over the years.
Just like a black solid stain, a charcoal gray can give your wooden fence a modern look. Charcoal gray solid stains can look especially nice in contrast to vegetation - it really makes the green pop!
Red and mahogany solid stains can offer warm, red undertones that give your fence a classic look. The color enhances the wood’s natural allure and offers protection from weathering across various types of wood. These colors can help give a little face lift to graying fences as well.
If you want your fence to stand out from the neighbors and the general fence universe of browns or whites, you should definitely check out the color options in blues and greens. A solid stain in these shades can give your property a little more creative look and accent your outdoor space and overall exterior aesthetics.
Transparent wood stains are the way to go if you want to enhance the natural beauty and wood grain pattern in your fence. Fences with cedar tones are a good example of a fence that would look beautiful with a transparent stain. This will help protect your fence from moisture and temperature changes, but not necessarily from UV rays. Transparent wood stains also need to be reapplied yearly for best results, so consistent maintenance is more important for transparent stains than solid stains or oil based exterior paints.
Darker stain colors have some advantages, like offering more UV and overall weathering protection for your fence. On the other hand, darker stain colors will likely cover up the natural wood grain patterns of your fence. Natural fence stains will highlight and enhance your fence’s natural wood grain but will not offer as much protection from the elements. Overall, fence staining is a great way to extend the lifespan of your fence.
When choosing a fence stain color, make sure to do your research first. Does your neighborhood have spoken or unspoken rules about the “look” you can have on your property? Find out if there are any boundaries you need to stay within before looking at colors. Once you have that figured out and have chosen some color options, take a swatch to your house and look at the color in relation to your house paint color, or the colors of other outdoor elements with wood surfaces like pergolas or wood beams. Think about what level of maintenance you want to commit to and take that into consideration as transparent stains require more maintenance. Also consider the level of protection you want for your fence, as a solid stain will offer more protection from weathering. Make a budget for your fence staining project and then you're ready to get started!