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How to Paint a Wooden Fence: Prevent Peeling Paint

Painting a wooden fence is not hard to do it is only a little time-consuming for the most part. There are, however, a few things that you need to pay attention to, like choosing the right kind of paint, for example, to avoid common problems like peeling paint. In this article, I will show you exactly how to paint your wooden fence, how to avoid the most common mistakes, and I will share a few tips to speed up the whole painting process.

As a whole, to paint a wooden fence you first have to clean the fence and get rid of any old peeling paint and dirt. Use a putty knife to remove old peeling paint and some water to remove dust and dirt. Sand the fence if necessary and finally, apply a coat of primer and then the paint.

That´s basically it. Don´t worry if you still don´t quite know how to properly paint a fence, I will explain everything in much more detail further into this article. But first a quick overview of the different steps for painting a wooden fence.

The six steps for painting a wooden fence:

  1. Remove old peeling paint with a putty knife
  2. Sand the Surface if it is uneven and remove the rest of the peeling paint
  3. Clean the fence with some water
  4. Mask off areas that are not supposed to be painted with tape and plastic sheets
  5. Apply a primer to the wood
  6. Apply the paint with a brush or by spraying it

What You Will Need

These are my personal recommendations but feel free to use different products that are similar. The only two products that are important to get right are the paint and the primer. So if you want to use a primer from another brand, for example, then make sure it has the same properties as my recommended primer.

You will need:

  • An exterior wood primer
  • Exterior wood paint
  • Plastic sheets for protection
  • Masking tape
  • A big paintbrush and a small one
  • A Putty knife (If you have to remove old peeling paint)
  • Sandpaper (If you need to smooth the surface)
  • Wood filler (If you need to repair the surface)

The most important thing is to choose the right type of paint for painting a wooden fence, which is why I have a small separate section, that goes more into detail under this section.

You can get most of these materials at any local hardware store but you can also just buy them on Amazon.

My favorite exterior primer for wood is Rust-Oleums 1-2-3 Plus Quart. It sticks to wood without the need to sand it first and it covers very well. SO you only need two coats most of the time. You can buy it right here on Amazon.

For plastic sheets, I like to use painter’s plastic. You can buy it at your local hardware store or right here on Amazon.

The rest of the items on the list are best bought at your local hardware store and not on Amazon, to be honest.

You need a big paintbrush to paint larger areas and a smaller paintbrush to paint smaller areas and harder-to-reach areas. Just make sure that the paintbrush is soft and of medium to high quality. Instead, you could also use a roller.

The rest of the items are pretty much self explanetory and you can´t go wrong with simply buying the next best thing.

Choose the Right Paint for Painting a Wooden Fence

Choosing the right type of paint for painting your fence is very important. If you use the wrong type of paint then you might have to deal with peeling paint after a short while or your paint might fade or change slightly because of the sun. So take your time and choose your paint wisely.

As a whole, the best kind of paint to use on a wooden fence is matt enamel paint or exterior latex paint. Both paints are water-resistant and don´t fade easily. A topcoat is not required for both of these paints and they are pretty easy to apply.

I personally prefer using latex paint because it is cheaper and it usually doesn´t smell as badly as enamel paint because latex paint is water-based while enamel paint is oil-based. Oil-based paints tend to smell quite strongly when first applied.

I also find that it is easier to work with latex paints.

The biggest difference between enamel and latex paint is that enamel dries hard while latex paint stays flexible once it is dried.

This is especially good when painting wood that will be exposed to the elements because wood tends to move depending on the humidity levels surrounding it. Latex paint can move with the wood and thus tends to live longer especially if it is applied to a type of wood that is known to move a lot.

My favorite paint to use for painting wooden fences is KILZ Exterior Paint. It adheres to wood very well, it doesn´t scratch or cracks easily, and it doesn´t fade. You can buy it right here on Amazon.

Prepare the Wooden Fence for Painting

Preparing the wood for painting is the most important step in this whole process. If you don´t prepare the wood properly then you might regret it later. This is also the most work-intensive step in this whole guide, but it will be well worth it.

As a whole, to prepare a wooden fence for painting you need to clean the surface first. If the previous coat of paint is peeling then you need to remove it by scraping and sanding it off. Then the surface has to be cleaned with water and a primer has to be applied before moving on to painting it.

Remove Old Peeling Paint

You only need to remove old paint if it is peeling off or bubbling. If the old coat of paint is still intact and the surface is smooth then you don´t need to remove or sand the surface at all.

But if you have old peeling paint on your fence then it needs to go before you do anything else. So grab a putty knife and remove as much of the paint as possible. Try not to damage or scratch the wood underneath.

You don´t have to remove every bit of paint with the putty just the parts that are coming off anyway. The rest will be sanded smooth in the next step.

Sand the Surface if Necessary

You don´t always have to sand the surface.

I really only recommend sanding it if you have to smooth the surface. So if you have old paint that peeled off then you need to sand the surface to smoothen it, for example.

Start by sanding the surface with a 90 grit sandpaper to remove any bigger uneven parts and then move on to a 120 grit and finally a 160 grit. You should end up with a very smooth surface that is ready to be cleaned and primed.

Clean the Surface with Water

Even though a lot of primers state that you don´t need to clean the surface as thoroughly anymore in order to ensure that they adhere properly to the surface I still recommend doing it.

So either clean your wooden fence with the garden hose or clean it with a bucket of water and an old towel. You only have to get rid of dirt, debris, or dust.

This step is especially important when you sanded the fence before.

Mask off Areas that Should not be Painted

The final step for preparing your fence for painting is the masking of areas that you want to protect from paint stains. So Walls, posts, or anything like that should be covered in painter’s plastic.

You should also cover metal parts like hinges with masking tape to protect them from the paint as well.

Priming the Wooden Fence

There are a few paints nowadays that don´t need a primer to adhere properly to wood. But are they really any good?

As a general rule, it is not always necessary to apply a primer to a wood fence before painting it but it is highly recommended. A primer will ensure the longevity of the paint coat applied on top of it. Alternatively, a 2 in 1 paint (a primer and a paint in one) can be used as well.

So it is up to you what you want to do. I am pretty old school so I usually apply a primer first and then paint on top of the primer just to ensure that my new coat of paint adheres properly and survives for a long time even when exposed to the elements.

But a 2 in 1 paint can be used as well. I personally did use one of these to paint outdoor wood furniture but that was only two years ago so I can´t really tell you if they survive for longer than that. But until now, they held up great.

A Primer is applied exactly like paint. Simply paint it directly on the surface of the wood and let it dry. You will need to apply multiple coats of it until it covers properly.

I usually end up applying around 2 or 3 coats.

Let the primer dry in between coats and before you start applying the paint.

If you see any uneven parts on the surface of the primer then you can easily sand them away using some fine-grit sandpaper.

Paint the Fence

The final step in this whole guide is painting the fence.

Funnily enough, this step is probably the easiest to explain and the simplest to do.

Just paint the fence.

But seriously, all you have to do is paint the fence using either a roller or the big soft brush for broad applications and then a smaller brush to touch up parts where the bigger brush could not reach.

Try to apply the paint in thin and even coats. You will need to paint the whole fence in multiple coats anyway and if you apply the coats too thick then you might have to deal with running paint.

Let the paint dry inbetween coats.

The Fastest Way to Paint a Fence

Painting fences is very time-consuming so I get asked a lot if there is a way to speed things up. Well, to be honest, there are a few things you can do to speed the whole procedure up but in the end, it won´t save that much time.

As a whole, the fastest way to paint a fence is to clean it with a water hose, then apply a 2 in 1 paint ( a primer and a paint in one) with a paint sprayer. This is only possible if the surface of the fence has no old peeling paint on it and when the wooden surface is smooth and needs no further work before applying the paint.

So unless you pull a huckleberry fin and let someone else paint your fence the fastest and easiest way to paint it yourself is to use a two-in-one paint and a paint sprayer.

I personally prefer using a paintbrush and do it the slow way because I found it to look better if you properly prepare the surface before painting it but if you are in a hurry then go for it!

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