Your fence-painting checklist

Painting your garden fence? Read our easy-to-follow checklist for an expert finish.

For a garden fence that looks good and lasts through the seasons, it needs proper care and protection. Whether you want to use an opaque wood paint or a transparent stain, our checklist for painting your garden fence will make sure you have the right preparation, the right tools and a few tips on technique.


What do I need?

  • Medium grade sandpaper (60-80 grit)
  • A wide 100mm paintbrush and a smaller 25-50mm paintbrush (use brushes meant for solvent-based or water-based products as appropriate)
  • Plant ties or canes
  • Plastic sheets
  • White spirit (if using oil-based products)


Sanding a wooden fence

What do I do?

Prep and clean

Check 1: is it clear of plants?
You can trim plants back or tie them with plant ties or canes so you have space to work comfortably. If they are still close to the fence, cover them with plastic sheeting. Remove any algae, lichen, moss or fungi with a fungicidal wash.

Check 2: is it clear of nails?
Old nails or screws protruding from the fence will catch on your brushes.
Either make them flush or – if possible – take them out.

Check 3: do you need to treat or sand?
If your fence is made of bare or untreated wood, you will need to pre-treat it with a wood preserver to fight rot and promote a long and healthy life. If the fence has been previously stained, painted or varnished, it may need to be stripped back to the bare wood before you apply a new layer. If the previous coats have good adhesion and are a clear or lighter color you can paint over the top. Either way, you’ll need to sand any really rough areas to give your chosen product a better grip.

Varnishing a wooden fence

Protect and revive

Check 1: how’s the weather?
Is it likely to remain dry and above 5°C? Then you’re good to go, as long as it’s not blisteringly hot. Painting a fence that is in strong direct sunlight will mean it won’t absorb coatings as well.

Check 2: have you tested the product?
Applying your product to a test area in a less visible corner of the fence to ensure adhesion is good. If you will be using more than one can of a product, mix them together in a larger container to avoid any slight difference in finish.

Check 3: are you going with the grain?
If you are using a wood paint, apply one coat of wood primer beforehand and allow it to dry. Paint in horizontal strokes for horizontal fence panels and in vertical strokes for vertical fence panels, following the grain of the wood as much as possible to give you a better finish. Paint from the top of a panel to the bottom, so that if there are any drips, you will catch them before they dry.

Check 4: have you got the corners?
Use the smaller paintbrush to cover any corners between panels and posts that were missed by the larger brush. Once you’ve finished, clean your brushes. And once the fence is dry, remove that sheeting, plant ties and canes.

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