On The Fence: Painting or Staining?

by | Apr 20, 2020 | Maintain Your Property

Should you treat your fence with a lick of paint or splash of stain?

Adding some colour to your fence with paint or a stain can do more than just add an aesthetic advantage. While fences may look pretty, they also serve some very valuable functions: keeping dogs in, keeping unwanted visitors out, providing privacy, and marking property boundaries. To fulfill their life’s purpose effectively, they have to stay standing and remain sturdy.

Painting or staining your fence is a great way to increase its longevity. Damp and moisture are enemies to any bare timber; sealing the structure with one of the many products available will allow it to stay drier and stronger as the seasons and years pass by. Style, of course, is also part of the equation. A rich, dark stain, a black or white hue, or a bold colour on your fence can add kerb appeal and make your yard a more visually pleasing place to be.

Which is better, painting or staining? There’s no simple answer—as is often the case, it depends on what you hope to achieve. Both can provide protection and make your fence look good. We’ve laid out the pros and cons of each to help you decide on your fence treatment.



Painting a fence is generally considered to be more expensive than staining one. The paint is pricier, and an undercoat or other primer may also be required. Stain, however, must be reapplied more often, and a larger volume of it may be used in application. The price difference between the two methods works out to be quite negligible and varies widely according to the quality and brand of the product. However, for the best results it’s a good idea to splash out on good quality outdoor paint or stain.



This, of course, is very subjective. Stain offers a more natural-looking finish, closer to the look of bare timber—although modern stain options include a wider range of colours. Paint can offer a sharper and more vibrant appearance. If you want something very dark, properly white, or brightly coloured, paint will be your best option.

An important thing to consider will be how your chosen treatment will look as it ages. Stains penetrate deeply into wood, which means that as they get older the colour will just start to fade evenly. This gives the fence a pleasantly weathered look.  Paint, on the other hand, can chip and peel, leaving bare patches and an uneven, messier look. As stain can absorb unevenly on rougher surfaces, it is often recommended as a good option for a new fence, while sanding and painting is the preferred treatment for an older one.



Which is easier? Generally speaking, a stain is the simpler of the two options to apply yourself. To prepare the surface, all that’s required is a quick waterblasting or scrub with a stiff brush. Stain can then be applied directly to the fence.

Preparing to paint involves cleaning, sanding, primer, and possibly several coats. As paint is thicker than stain and gives an opaque cover, it is less forgiving and requires a more careful application to achieve the desired look.

Both paint and stain can be finished with a sealant, but in some cases this is not necessary. Check the product you are using to see whether this is recommended.



Both paint and stain offer a fence great protection against the elements. Paint, particularly oil-based paint, tends to provide the best protection against moisture as it forms a thicker coating over the wood. However, this is most effective only when the paint is well-maintained, and the protection factor can reduce quickly as paint chips off.

Stain does not give as much protection but it does penetrate deeper into the wood, which means that it does offer some degree of protection even as it fades. If you are looking for heavy-duty protection, the best course of action would be to paint your fence with oil-based paint and keep on top of the maintenance by touching it up or repainting regularly.

Still on the fence? At the end of the day, both of these methods will protect your fence against the elements and make them look good. And both require regular maintenance for continued effectiveness. For a new fence, staining may win out—but for an older one, painting often gives the best finish and protection.


Maintain Your Property offers home and rental property maintenance services in the Wellington region, making it easy to paint, stain, and maintain your fences. Contact the team to book in a job or discuss the best options for your property.