How to paint a fence – step by step guide

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Apr 17, 2022 | Professional insight, Product Advice, Tool Insight | 0 comments

As a professional decorator, I can tell you that painting fences is relatively easy. All you need to do is follow a few simple steps. Anyone can do it and it’s a great way of sprucing up your garden for summer. In this blog, I’m going to explain how to paint a fence. Providing you follow this process; you can’t go wrong.


Get Set-Up To Paint Your Fence


The first thing you need to do is setup your work area. Panel fences can be painted in situ. Simply lift each panel, then slide some cardboard underneath. If you have concreate posts which you do not want to paint, just cover them with masking tape.  You can always paint concreate posts with masonry paint if you wish.


You can also cover shrubs and plants with dustsheets, or old bedding. Where you need to, you can tie greenery back with bungee cords or string. This gives you some room to paint your fence without damaging your plants.

Use dustsheets to cover any patio slabs, or ornamental floor that meets your fence. If using oil-based paints, I tend to use dust sheets to cover lawn or soil close to any area I’m painting. Water-based products are more environmentally friendly, so dust sheets are not needed on soil when using this type of paint.

cardboard under a fence panel when painting
painting a garden fence

Prepare Your Fence


Let’s face it, fences can get dirty!! They do not need to be completely dust-free before painting, but they should be somewhere close. Remove any cobwebs, insects and other pests, dead leaves and visible dirt with a dry sweeping, or dusting brush.

If you can see green algae on your timber, it may be an idea to treat this before painting, although fence paint does contain anti-fungal additives anyway. You can treat algae with a diluted bleach solution, or you can get products specifically designed for the task such as anti-fungal wash. Whichever you use, try to avoid spilling any onto your soil or lawn, and allow your fence to fully dry again before painting.

cleaning a fence before painting it
easiest way to paint a fence

Choose the Best Fence Paint


I’ll touch on this briefly, but if you need any more information, you can click here to see a more detailed blog. There are a couple of different types of products you can use to paint a fence;

Oil-based fence treatments last a lot longer, but they are not as environmentally friendly as the alternatives and are harder to clean off your skin. I think oil-based products will be phased out in the coming years, but we’ll need to wait and see.

Water-based fence treatments are a lot easier to use, can look better and are better for the environment. However, expect the need to paint your fence every couple of years to maintain its colour and protection. Johnstone’s do a great low-cost water-based fence treatment which is available online by clicking here.

Opaque paints such as Cuprinol Garden Shades or Zinsser AllCoat are solid colours rather than treatments. These can look dramatic in built-up gardens, but in my opinion, look a bit tacky in natural looking spaces. Click here to see online prices.


Choosing the Right Colour


I’m not a designer, I’m a Decorator, so I’ll keep this section short and sweet. For me, there are only two things you need to consider when choosing the best colour to paint a fence.

First, decide whether you want the fence to stand out, or just act as a backdrop. An “approaching feature” can look great in modern gardens. Choose a strong block colour like blue, a strong green, or even black. You can pick out your fence posts in a different colour if you’re feeling adventurous.

If you have a natural looking garden, and you want your fence to blend into the background (which can make your garden feel bigger), then pastel greens and browns are the way to go.


Paint Your Fence


I find it easier to paint a fence with a stiff paintbrush and a mini roller!! You need to work the fence paint right into the timber, just be mindful not to let the paint run onto your neighbour’s side!! You can buy floppy panel brushes that are specifically for fences. These are cheap (which is good because a fence will destroy a paintbrush), but they’re terrible to use!!

I simply roll as much timber as I can with a mini roller, then get any misses with my stiff paintbrush. Providing you work on one section at a time, this is the easiest way to paint a fence.

Do not forget to paint the top edge of your fence. This will prevent water from entering the timber and causing rot.

The only other tips I can share is to apply more than one coat. Apply the product as generously as possible. Oh, and only work in dry conditions! You need the timber to absorb some of your fence paint for it to repel water through the colder months.

brush and roller to paint a fence
the best paint to use on a fence

How to Spray a Fence


Spraying can be a great way of painting a fence. You don’t need expensive machines like you’d use to spray masonry paint or similar. Fence paint is normally thin anyway, and it’s not like your work area isn’t well ventilated. You can use a very basic setup like the Tiswall HVLP, or a Wagner. Even if you only use the sprayer two or three times, you might cut your labour down by half, so it’s well worth it. Especially if you have a large fence to paint.

There are a few tips I can give you. The first is to dilute your paint so it goes through the machine more easily. The second it to take extra care when sheeting up around the fence (that includes any cars that are close by). The last tip is to back-roll on one of your coats. That means applying the paint with a sprayer, then working it into the fence with a mini roller. This will ensure that the material penetrates your timber, and you get the protective qualities.


Best Tools to Use to Paint a Fence


You don’t need expensive tools to paint a fence, but some tools are better than others. Stay away from those big floppy “shed and fence” brushes they sell at DIY centres. Paint just seems to splatter everywhere when you’re trying to use them.

I’d recommend a packet of microfibre rollers (you will use a few every time you paint a fence), and a nice stiff brush.

ProDec PBPT039 is the perfect paintbrush. It holds plenty of material, will stand up to the rough timber on a fence, and won’t break the bank. Click here to see online prices.

As for the roller, you won’t do better than Hamilton For The Trade. Don’t bother with the tray, just dip the roller in your paint bucket when you need to refill it. These are brilliant for working paint into every indentation. Click here to see online prices.

Updated May 19, 2024 | Posted Apr 17, 2022 | 0 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


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