How to Paint a Fence

Besides its cosmetic effects, paint provides outdoor structures with protection against the elements. Fences, in particular, need a protective coat of paint every 2 to 3 years. They're usually built away from other structures and trees, which could otherwise shield them from the elements. Paint helps iron and metal constructions resist rust and corrosion. It also fortifies wood against the effects of wind, rain, snow and extreme temperatures. Fence-painting is a time-consuming, but important, undertaking. By doing it at suggested intervals, you can strengthen the fence, reducing the likelihood of it needing to be replaced. If you want to learn how to paint a fence, follow these steps.


  1. Image titled Paint a Fence Step 1
    Prep the area around the fence. Preparation is a critical phase of fence-painting. You want to protect the vegetation along the fence line while readying the surface for painting. This is a time-consuming process, but it makes the job easier.
    • Mow and edge the grass along the fence line. Trim back bushes and shrubs that abut the fence. Use a leaf blower to blow dirt and grass clippings away from the fence line.
    • Spread a drop cloth or plastic sheeting under the section of fence you'll be painting. Keep it in place throughout the project to collect residue from prep work and protect against spills.
    • If the fence was previously treated, scrape off loose or flaking paint.
    • Pressure-wash or sand a new, untreated wood fence. It's best to sand a fence that was painted before. This helps the paint adhere to the wood. If necessary, use a scrub brush and a 1-to-1 mixture of bleach and water to eradicate mold on the fence. Let the surface dry.
    • If you're painting iron or metal fencing, use a steel brush to remove rust and then sand the surface with medium-grit sandpaper.
    • After sanding, wipe off residue with a clean rag.
    • Seal and tape off parts of the fence you don't want to paint, like ornaments, gate latches and handles and other hardware.
  2. Image titled Paint a Fence Step 2
    Pick the right paint for your job. Make sure you use an outdoor paint on your fence. These are specially treated to withstand the effects of weather and come in a variety of types.
    • Acrylics: Acrylic paint is durable, providing an excellent layer of protection for your fence, but you might have to apply a primer to an untreated surface before you can paint.
    • Acrylic stains: Stains bring out the natural beauty of the wood and usually don't require the primer coat that paints do. They also are easier to re-coat and require minimal surface prep.
    • Oil-based outdoor paint: Oil-based paints may require multiple coats and may not protect as well as acrylics, but they do provide a superior-looking finish.
    • Enamels: Enamel paint is ideal for iron fencing and gates. Usually, you'll need to treat the surface with a rust-inhibiting primer.
    • Automotive epoxy paint: The benefits of automotive epoxy are, it's a 1-step process and is very durable. You will have to mix in a hardener with this paint, which does force you to get the job done within about 6 hours.
  3. Image titled Paint a Fence Step 3
    Pick a suitable day to do the painting. Certain weather conditions are ideal for fence-painting. Pick a day with no rain in the forecast. Ideally, paint on a day with calm winds and ample cloud cover. Breezes can kick up debris that can stick to your paint job; direct sunlight makes the paint dry too fast and saps its protective properties.
  4. Image titled Paint a Fence Step 4
    Decide how you want to paint a fence.
    • Long fence: If you have a long fence, you probably will want to use an industrial spray to complete the job quickly. Aim lengthwise, along the grain of the wood. Spray downwind and wear a respirator. Be sure to cover plants to protect them from overspray. Keep a brush handy even if you opt for a sprayer, in case you need to do any touch-up work.
    • Short fence: If you have a smaller project, you probably can complete the job using a roller on flat surfaces and a brush for detailed, hard-to-reach sections.
    • Wrought iron fence: Because they're often intricately designed, it's best to paint iron fences by hand to get optimum coverage. A single heavy coat of enamel or automotive epoxy paint usually is enough.


  • Slide a sheet of plywood between your fence and shrubs. This protects the vegetation from paint toxins. When the surface has dried, pull out the plywood and the shrub will snap back naturally.
  • If you want to stain a wood fence instead of painting it, make sure you choose a heavy duty, outdoor stain. An acrylic stain might work best. If you want to stain an unfinished surface, or one with a badly faded stain, prep the fence by pressure-washing or sanding it. If the fence was treated within the past few years, you can apply a new stain directly to the surface.
  • Confer with your paint supplier regarding how much paint you'll need to complete your job.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint
  • Brushes
  • Rollers
  • Paint sprayer
  • Leaf blower
  • Drop cloth or plastic sheeting
  • Half sheet of plywood
  • Pressure-washer nozzle for hose
  • Bucket
  • Bleach
  • Scrub brush
  • Respirator
  • Steel wool
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean rag

Article Info

Categories: Painting and Other Finishes