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Which Finish Is Best For Your Wood Fence?

Updated August 7, 2019

Posted by Ashley VanderWall

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You have three common finishes for your wood fence.

Dog Ear Wood Fence Picket with Stain


A stain provides a durable finish coat while maintaining the natural look of wood. With stain, you can choose the opacity – solid, semi-transparent or transparent. A solid stain does the best job of hiding imperfections in your wood fence while maintaining the wood texture. A semi-transparent or transparent stain gives the wood fence hint of color, allowing the natural woodgrain to show through beautifully.

Dog Ear Painted Wood Picket


Paint adds color as it protects and seals the fence. It adds personality. With paint, you can coordinate the color with your home or other decorative accents. It’s best to prime the fence with an oil-based primer prior to painting the fence, and paint the fence with a durable exterior latex paint.

Dog Ear Wood Fence Picket with Sealer

Waterproofing sealer

A waterproofing sealer is best for woods that are not naturally resistant to decay and exposure to weather. The sealer helps prevent rain and moisture from soaking into the wood. Add a UV stabilizer to slow discoloration.

To decide which is best for your wood fence, answer these questions:

  1. What look do you want? Do you want to see natural woodgrain? Do you like the natural wood color, or do you want to change it?
  2. What protection do you need?
  3. What type of wood is your fence made of? Does one finish work better than others on that type of wood?

Did you decide which finish is best for you? Wait until your fence is completely dry to apply the finish. To keep your wood fence looking good year after year, reapply the finish every two years. Learn more about wood fence care and maintenance here.