Should I Paint or Stain My Wood Fence?

hand holding paint brush to wood fence

If you have a wood fence and it’s been a few years, it might be looking a little worse for the wear. When it’s time to spruce it up, you might be “on the fence.” Should you paint or stain your wood fence? It depends on what you’re looking for. Read on to find out how to decide whether to paint or stain a wood fence…so that you can quit being a fencesitter!

Want to replace your fence entirely or have the pros do the painting or staining for you? Contact the wood fencing services experts at GMX Fencing.

Consider these pros and cons when painting or staining your fence:

Ease of Application

WINNER: Staining

When it comes time to prep your fence and apply your product, the overall winner when it comes to ease of application is staining. Painting requires sanding, primer, and multiple coats to effectively protect your fence. All that prep work means it loses out against the ease of staining — all you need before staining your fence is to give it a good pressure wash.

Maintenance Frequency

WINNER: Painting

Experts agree that if maintenance frequency is important when you’re deciding to paint or stain a wood fence, you might be better off choosing to paint. A well-applied coat of paint can last 5-6 years before needing a refresh, whereas staining should be reapplied about every three years. 

Color Options

WINNER: Painting

It’s a simple fact that painting offers a more diverse color selection. Paint can be mixed in any color combinations to match the rest of your home or your existing landscaping elements. While staining products do offer some color variety, the majority of stains are semi-transparent and act more to enhance your fence’s wood surface than to dye it an entirely new color. 

Effects of Aging

WINNER: Staining

When paint is aging, you can tell. It peels, gets scratched up, and just looks dirty. If graceful aging is part of the consideration process when you decide to paint or stain your wood fence, staining might be the better option for your needs. Staining fades, rather than scratching off or developing the “dingy” look of an old painted fence.

Drying Time

WINNER: Painting — with a catch

It’s never good to rush the job when you paint or stain your wood fence, but if drying time makes a difference to you, paint typically dries within a few hours, while staining can take two to three days to finish drying. 

However, applying paint in overly thick layers or not using the right paint for your fence’s surface will affect drying time as well — not to mention, with the pre-painting sanding you’ve already done, you might not save much more time just because paint takes a shorter time to dry.


WINNER: Staining — with a catch

Almost any wooden fence can be stained, but not all of them can be painted. If you have a cedar fence, paint can stifle the surface’s ability to “breathe,” which can reduce the lifespan of your fence. If your fence is made of rough sawn wood, it will require significant preparation for painting, plus staining is likely a better choice anyway as it enhances the natural quality of the wood. 

Staining is more versatile than painting in most situations, but not all. When you’re choosing to paint or stain your wood fence, whether or not your lumber is pressure-treated makes a difference. Pressure-treated lumber does not absorb stain as well as untreated “raw” wood. Treated wood can resist staining significantly, so you might be better off painting treated wood instead of trying to stain it.

Material Cost

WINNER: It’s complicated

While it may seem like one or the other eventually would come out on top, whether you paint or stain your wood fence, you’ll probably spend about the same amount of money in the end. Even the upfront costs to paint or stain a wood fence are quite similar. Staining products tend to be more expensive than paint and need to be applied more frequently, but you’ll use more paint as multiple coats need to be applied, not to mention painting also requires primer and sanding supplies. At the end of the day, it’s impossible to say which method will be more cost-effective for your needs.

Whether you’re a DIY hero or a total home maintenance novice, deciding to paint or stain a wood fence isn’t too hard if you know what factors are important to you. Looking for help with or installation of your fencing in Monmouth County, NJ, or the surrounding areas? Contact GMX Fencing today!