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How to paint a fence

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Difficulty: Low


This task is relatively straightforward, regardless of your DIY experience. However before you get started on any of our 'how to' guides, please take a moment to read through our DIY safety tips.

For many people, creating the perfect fence is just as important as making their home look great. So refresh your fence and colour it how you want to get a new lease of life into your garden.  To keep your fence looking good and protect it from the elements, you need to treat it every couple of years. If you’ve bought a new fence, it’s easier to paint the panels and posts before you put them up.

Tools for the job


Benefits of refreshing your fence
  • Withstand seasonal weather conditions.
  • Wooden fence panel will remain in good condition and will not rot.
  • Improve look and style of your garden.

Treating your fence will refresh and revive it, while protecting it against the elements, like UV rays which cause wood to grey over time and rain water which creates splits and cracks.

When to paint your fence 

The summer months are the best time to do this, as it's dry and will allow the paint to set better. It's always recommended to check the weather forecast for at least 24 hours prior to applying paint as you should only paint your fence in dry conditions above 5°C. If it’s too cold the paint won’t dry and you obviously don’t want it to rain for a few hours after you finish. If it’s been raining recently, wait for the wood to dry before painting it.

Try to wait until the fence is in the shade before you start work – if the wood is too hot, the paint will dry too quickly and won’t get a chance to soak into the wood properly. The paint can only fully protect the timber if it’s allowed to soak in. 

Choosing the right wood paint

Wood paint is specially designed for the task in hand which means it is tough, durable and in most cases can be wiped clean. If you also use primer or undercoat on your panels before you paint, you’ll increase the lifespan of your wood which means you won’t need to redecorate as often.

You’ll find plenty of paint products that can be used on exterior wood and is designed to be weather resistant and highly durable. These tend to be oil-based paints but it's always best to check the product information which will state exactly it's intended use.

Use a treatment or colour that’s formulated for rough sawn timber. Most colours and stains have been specially developed to colour and protect sheds, fences and other garden wood.

It may sound obvious, but make sure you choose a paint or stain that’s suitable for exterior use and that you buy enough to cover all of your fence. If you’re using a sprayer, check the paint or stain’s compatible.

Try applying a small amount of the colour to an area of fence that’s not too obvious first and let it dry to make sure you like it.

What tools do I need?

Painting by hand will take some time so you might want to consider using a pump or power sprayer (pumps are five times faster than using a brush and power sprayers are 10 times faster). If you decide to use a sprayer, make sure you use paint that’s been formulated for use in that sprayer type. If using a sprayer you should also ensure that you do not use it on a windy day as this could blow paint onto other areas of your garden.

If you have a large expanse of fencing it may be worth investing in a pump or power sprayer.

Brushes are ideal if you’re only coating a small area or if you want to take your time on the project. They’re great for painting edges, getting to ‘hard to reach’ places and painting near windows or delicate plants - even if you’re using a sprayer too. A good, wide (at least 100mm/4”) brush will cover surfaces quicker, but you’ll also need a smaller (25-50mm/1-2”) brush to get into awkward gaps. 

Preparing your fence

Firstly, make sure your plants and vegetation are protected by covering them in plastic sheeting. If required trim back any of the foliage to give yourself space to work.

If any plants are still resting on the fence panels and can not be covered by plastic sheeting or cut back, then pin them back temporarily using plant ties and canes.

Start to prepare your fence panels by removing any old nails or screws sticking out of them, any hanging baskets or decorations and any other objects that may be in the way. Then sand down any rough areas or splinters sticking out off the panels to ensure they are as smooth and flat as possible to assure a better finish.

Make sure your fence is clean, otherwise the paint won’t soak into the wood. If the fence is sturdy enough you can use a power washer or a sturdy brush. Remove any algae, lichen, fungi or moss using an appropriate fungicidal wash and scrub any mould with a suitable fence cleaner. Let the timber dry completely before you start painting.

Pre-treat any bare or untreated wood with an appropriate wood preserver to prevent rot and decay.

Move any garden furniture out of the way and cover nearby plants with a dust sheet to protect them from splashes.

How to apply the wood paint

Step 1

Firstly, make sure your plants and vegetation are protected by covering them in plastic sheeting. If required trim back any of the foliage to give yourself space to work.


Step 2

If any plants are still resting on the fence panels and can not be covered by plastic sheeting or cut back, then pin them back temporarily using plant ties and canes.


Step 3

Start to prepare your fence panels by removing any old nails or screws sticking out of them, any hanging baskets or decorations and any other objects that may be in the way. Then sand down any rough areas or splinters sticking out off the panels to ensure they are as smooth and flat as possible to assure a better finish.


Step 4

Apply a layer of primer to all the panels and let it dry completely, this will give a better finish to the final result and increase the life of your paint.


Step 5

Next use a large brush to paint the fence panels with your selected colour; use horizontal strokes for horizontal panes of wood, and vertical strokes for vertical panes of wood. Following the direction of the timber grain will give you a better, smoother finish and allow you to get all surface area on show covered much easier.


Apply the paint fairly liberally, making sure there’s enough to fully penetrate the timber, while being careful not to leave drips. Start at the top and work your way down – this way you can catch any drips. If your fence is constructed from lap panels, make sure there are no drips escaping down the other side of the fence. Alternatively, you can use a specially designed spray paint or a spray gun which can paint an entire fence in just a few minutes and makes it easier to paint evenly.


Step 6

If you’re using a sprayer check you haven’t missed any areas. Use a brush to make sure you paint the small spaces between panels and posts.


Step 7

If required apply a second coat of paint to the panels, but most good quality fence paint generally only need one coat.


Step 8

Remove all plastic covering from your plants and vegetation and any temporary plant ties and canes you used. Make sure you wait until the paint has completely dried so that they don't get paint on them as it may be damaging to the plant.


Step 9

Clean your brushes as soon as you finish to preserve them for future use. Oil-based paints are thicker than water based, so they require white spirit to clean to make sure all paint traces are removed. Using white spirit will also ensure a better and easier clean up process.

Where should specialist paint be stored?

Carefully label and securely seal all your paints before storing.

You may want to remind yourself where you used each type of paint to make them easily recognisable for future touch-ups.

Keep all paints in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight or other heat sources and also off the floor to avoid rusting.

If you only have small amounts of paint left think about decanting leftovers into smaller containers to save storage space.

Always wipe the tops of tins before you close them to stop them sticking too much and making re-access difficult.

Safety advice
  • Avoid eye splashes by wearing protective goggles and wear a disposable suit to protect your clothing, unless you have old clothes you aren't worried about staining.
  • Always wear appropriate gloves making sure they are suitable. For sanding wear tough cloth ones, for water-based paints use impermeable gloves, and for solvent based products use gloves that are solvent-resistant.
  • Make sure you wear a dust mask when prepping the fence to prevent inhalation of the dust.
  • It may also be necessary to wear a respiratory facemask when using some paint products so always check the recommendations on the packaging.

  • Use step ladders safely when painting high areas. Make sure there are no slippery substances at the bottom of the steps. Wear suitable shoes and take care when climbing and working on the ladder.

  • If you get wood paint on your skin, wash with warm soapy water straight away and if you get paint in your eye wash with clean, warm water until all the paint is removed.

Feedback:

If you found this guide useful or think we could improve it in any way, please let us know: garden-advice-feedback@homebase.co.uk

Alternatively, if you have a question that requires an answer, please contact our customer services team


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