How to Paint a Wooden Fence


Painting a fence is fairly easy, but there are some things to consider and source first.

  1. Are you likely to get a dry day to do the painting? Check your local weather forecast.
  2. Is it an existing fence or new panels and posts not yet installed? If it's a new fence can you paint it undercover, maybe in a garage or shed? You won't need to worry about the weather then. (it's easier to paint new fence panels and posts before fitting them.)
  3. If it is an existing fence, you will need sandpaper to smooth rough parts and splinters, plastic sheeting, canes and plant ties to keep plants away from the fence.
  4. You will need to buy a primer, wood preserver, and the colour of paint you would like to use.
  5. Also, ladders, brushes or a spray painting device and white spirit for cleaning up will be needed.
  6. Safety goggles, gloves, old clothes or overalls will be needed. This is to protect you from any stray splashes of paint in your eyes or on your skin. Always wash any paint off well if you do get it on you and seek medical help if needed.

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It is a good idea to paint or use a wood treatment on your fence every few years to lengthen the lifespan of the fence and stop it rotting.  A lot of wear on the fence is caused by weather conditions like rain and UV rays from the sun and will vary depending on how exposed your fence is and whether it is exposed to salty sea breezes as well.

The best time to paint your fence is during warm, dry weather which can be difficult to predict. If it has rained before you start painting, you need the wood to dry out again first. If the weather is too chilly the paint won't dry properly, you also need dry weather after the painting is finished so your hard work can dry out nicely.

So the best time would be a settled few days in summer, as high winds can be a nuisance too, making it harder to keep plants out of the way and making the paint splash everywhere. Equally, hot sun can be tricky as it stops the paint soaking in properly as it will dry too quickly, so try and work in the shade.

Start by tying back any plants that are near the fence, covering them with sheets of plastic if needed or possibly trimming them back to make room. It is also a good idea to mow your lawn if working on any grass areas so that the edges are neatly trimmed away from the fence.

Make sure you cover any patio or pathways and move any garden furniture that you will be painting near, to avoid splashes of paint making a mess. Then use sandpaper to smooth any rough areas and remove any nails or fittings like bird boxes attached to the fence, to give you a clear area to work on.

If you then apply a primer for exterior wood you can extend the time the paintwork will look good for, meaning less redecorating in the near future. Primer helps the wood be water resistant and strong.

If you only have a small area of fence to paint, you will probably be fine using brushes as they are more accurate. But if you need to repaint a large fence and maybe even your shed too, then a spray painting device may be a great help. Just ensure the products you plan to use can be used with a sprayer and definitely avoid using this on a windy day as the spray paint will travel and you could end up with interesting coloured flowers or even redesign next door's washing!

When applying primer or the top coat of coloured paint, work in the same direction as the panels of wood and the timber grain. Apply a good layer of paint working from top to bottom of the fence, trying to catch any drips.

You may need to check what's happening on the other side of the fence, just in case drips are running through. It helps to have helpful neighbours when doing this, as it will be their side of the fence that could be affected.

You may need to apply a second coat, especially if you did not apply a primer or undercoat.

Once the paint is fully dried, you can remove all the plastic sheeting, untie any plants, stand back and admire your work! Then you will need to reattach any bird boxes or plant holders you removed before painting.

Make sure you clean up your paint brushes or sprayer, you may need white spirit depending on whether the paint used was oil or water-based. If it was water based paint then a good wash in warm water will be fine, oil-based paint will need white spirit to clean the paint off. If you have leftover paint you could tip the remainder  into smaller blog-containers like an old jam jar, label it well and secure the lid. If stored in a cool dry place that is frost free it should last well and be handy for any small painting jobs.

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