Fence Stain vs Paint (Pros & Cons & Design Guide)

Fence stain vs paint

Here we share our guide to comparing fence spots vs paint, including pros and cons, cost differences, and types of stains and paints to use.

Think of your fence as the last piece of your home. It provides security, privacy and sets boundaries between your neighbors. And finally, it carries a visual emphasis on your overall fence designs.

However, good quality fencing is an expensive investment for homeowners. With these in mind, choosing the right aesthetic finish can be daunting.

There are two popular finishes you can apply to your fences: stain and paint. Either one can enhance the beauty of your fence and add a layer of protection for longevity.

The question is: should you choose stain or paint? Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of fence stain vs paint.

Pros and cons of staining a fence

A stain is likely to initiate changes in the composition of wood surfaces. This is because a stain seeps through the grain and mixes with the natural color of the wood.

Here are the pros and cons of staining your fence.

Benefits of coloring a fence

Stain retains or enhances the natural properties of wood Stains come in varying opacity, from clear to solid colors.

You can choose to preserve the natural look of the wood using clear to semi-transparent stains. Many homeowners prefer the unique texture and rich brown shades of their wood fences to stand out.

If you want to see a color scheme that is different from the wood, choose solid color stains. These are mostly available in primary colors.

Unlike paint, a solid stain does not cover the natural texture or grain of the wood, which adds a rustic appeal.

Stain slows aging on wood – It is only natural for wood to age, but a dull and broken fence is not a good look.

Like human skin, wood can age from too much sunlight. This is where a stain comes in handy. The stain acts as a barrier against harmful UV rays to prevent the wood color from fading or turning gray quickly.

Depending on your location, you can buy a stain specially made for extreme heat.

A stained fence is less likely to decay – It is no secret that wood can be particularly susceptible to water. Rain, snow and mildew cause wood to skew, crack and rot.

Applying stain to your bare wooden fence prevents these problems from happening. It can also deter termites.

The stain is easy to apply – Applying the wood stain is quite straightforward. Most stains are a two-in-one combination of sealant and stain. If your wood is easy to work with, it only takes one layer to finish the job.

Disadvantages of staining a fence

Not all wood can be stained – There are types of wood that are particularly resistant to stains. Wood that has tighter pores and uneven grain patterns does not absorb the stain. Some examples include birch and maple.

It can be difficult to recolor – You have to be careful when choosing your stain. If you plan to repaint to another color, keep in mind that you must first remove the top finish. This would allow easier absorption of the stain.

On another note, recolouring from dark to light wood stain can also be difficult.

The stain takes a long time to dry – Depending on the stain you use, some stains take two to three days to dry completely.

For this reason, it is best to plan your project when the sun is out to avoid the hassle of doing it again.

Pros and cons of painting a fence

If you fancy completely opaque colors, or if your stained fence needs a new look, consider painting your fence. Below are the pros and cons of painting your fence.

Benefits of painting a fence

The paint is available in a variety of colors – Unlike wood stains, you have the freedom to choose all kinds of colors when choosing wood paint. This works to your advantage if you want to customize and add a pop of vibrant colors to your yard.

The most popular wood paint favorites include white, black, gray and various shades of blue.

Paint covers the imperfections of your fence – Paint does a better job of covering scratches, superficial and small holes and uneven wood tone than stain.

This is especially useful if you want to give your old and weathered fence a fresh and cleaner look.

Paint is versatile – The paint adheres to many fencing materials. Whether it is tight or open soft wood and hardwood or metal, paint can coat it all.

Disadvantages of painting a fence

The paint may peel off – A big disadvantage of paint is that it can flake and peel off, so your fence looks uneven and messy.

This is why a primer on the surface is needed before painting. This ensures higher pigmentation, as the surface is embossed and there is less chance that the paint can peel off faster than it should.

Paint is a toxic hazard – The lead content in exterior paints is high. It also stays in the ground for many years. There are more expensive but low-VOC paints on the market. These produce less paint smoke.

Is it better to stain or paint a fence?

The choice to stain or paint your fence ultimately depends on several factors, including the following:

Tree Black. Rare and beautiful hardwood usually looks better when stained rather than painted. A stain allows the natural aesthetics of the wood to stand out with all its grains and texture.

If you plan to use a semi-transparent to opaque stain, ask for samples. Consider what it will look like when mixed with the natural color of the wood.

Surface condition. Stain works well with new wood, whereas paint does a better job of covering cracks and holes on the surface of old wood.

Landscape and design: Your fence should match the exterior of your home. Sometimes a black painted fence ties all the design elements of your home better than a stained fence. Whether you have a stained or painted fence, it can also influence your decision on a harmonious backyard design.

Weather and temperature variations. Paint and stain are formulated to be weather resistant, but with small differences.

Because the stain seeps more into the wood, it allows the wood to breathe and allows moisture to move through the wood. However, wood paint acts as a better barrier against UV rays.

When comparing fence stain to paint, it is helpful to consider the specific area one lives in. Paint provides better protection than stain against mold and sun damage and provides better rot resistance.

Does paint or stain last longer on a fence?

The paint typically lasts longer than the stain. Due to its higher pigmentation, paint also protects the fence from UV rays better than a dark-colored stain. That said, it’s not a hard and fast rule.

The lifespan of stains or paint on your fence will vary depending on the type and condition of the wood as well as temperature variations. Some hardwoods, such as cedar, are already weather resistant and do not rot easily. Such material does well with stains.

Under normal conditions, the stain on a fence can last between one and eight years. If the stain fades, do so evenly.

We recommend a retouch every two to three years or as soon as you notice that the wood begins to absorb water.

Paint, on the other hand, lasts from five to 10 years. Follow the correct steps in wood preparation to avoid peeling and peeling the paint. If you notice that the paint is starting to crack and wear, it’s time for a new coat.

An important factor in extending the life of your wooden fence is regular cleaning. Whether stained or painted, a clean fence reduces the chances of damage.

Staining or painting: Which is cheaper?

When it comes to fence stain vs paint, you will find that paint is more expensive than a stain.

On average, paint costs $ 36 per gallon, while stain costs $ 24 per gallon. Choosing paint will also mean additional costs for the materials to prepare the wood and labor if you hire a professional painter.

Paints that contain a primer can be purchased, but can be expensive. It saves you time and maintenance costs in the long run.

Most stains are easy to apply by hand, while paints need special tools to achieve a more professional and even look.

Best type of paint for a fence

The best type of paint depends on the type of surface you want to work with and other external elements. Here are the two best types of paint to consider.

Oil-based paint

Oil-based paints are known to be the most durable type of paint. It can cope with the daily abuse from the sun and the rain. Admittedly, this is not the most environmentally friendly choice and it can be difficult to remove it. It also takes a few days before it is completely dry.

Latex paint

This type of paint is best when the weather is unpredictable as it only takes one to two hours to dry up.

You also do not have to worry about the temperature of application because latex paint adapts to it. Since latex paint is water soluble, it is easy to wash off if you make a mistake during application. It is also less likely to crack than oil-based paint.

There are hybrid versions of exterior latex paints that are just as durable as oil-based paints, though these are more expensive.

Best spot type for a fence

Like paint, wood stains are found in a multitude of choices. And your option is narrowed down to what works with the fencing material and exposure to harmful elements.

Oil-based stain

An oil-based stain is thick and penetrates deeper into the wood. It also prevents external elements, such as UV rays and moisture, from damaging the wood.

Expect to wait two to three days before the oil-based stain dries completely. Although it can be a long wait, oil-based stains require less maintenance than water-based stains. If your fence is constantly exposed to harsh weather, then this is your best bet.

Water-based stain

Water-based stains are lighter and easier to apply to wood surfaces. It dries quickly and retains its pigments longer than oil-based stains. A bonus: the smell is not as sharp as the others.

The quick-drying formula for this stain is practical in any situation, whether it is sunny or not.

The other types of exterior wood stain that you can check out are:

  • Gel Plet
  • Varnish staining
  • Water-soluble dye
  • Metallized dye

What is your favorite when it comes to fence stains vs paint? Let us know in the comments why you think fence paint or stain is best. For help visualizing your fence before purchasing materials, there are numerous fence design software programs that can help.