Picture of someone staining a fence

When Should I Stain My Wood Fence?

So you just had your new wood fence put in and you’re wondering how long before you can stain and seal your fence to help protect that beautiful new wood and prevent it from graying and prematurely aging. 


That is a great question! It’s always a great idea to seal or stain any exterior wood such as fences, decks, shutters, siding, etc, but you want to do it correctly and in the right timing. The correct stain seals the wood (protecting against excessive moisture and weather cycles), prevents graying, and guards against harmful UV rays. 

With pressure treated lumber, which is what a lot of fences and decks are constructed with, there is a certain degree of moisture that is pushed into the wood during the treatment process. So, with that you want to allow any of that moisture in the wood to dry out and acclimate once the fence is in place. 

Drying and acclimation times can vary depending on weather conditions and the time of year that you are staining. In drier and warmer times of the year a few weeks is sufficient to allow the wood to dry. Yet in wetter and colder times of the year you may need to wait 6 weeks – a few months. 

The general rule of thumb is 4-6 weeks, but as mentioned above in some cases that could be shorter or longer. 

With other types of wood such as cedar, cypress, redwood, etc. the wait time could be slightly shorter since there is typically not moisture driven into the wood with a treatment process like there is with a treated pine. But even with non-treated material such as cedar there can still be moisture in the wood and moisture can get trapped between boards as they are stacked in bundles at the mill or in the lumber yard. So, the moisture content is typically lower with such wood as compared to a treated pine, but it’s still a good idea to allow these woods to dry and acclimate once they are in place on your fence, deck, etc. So, again, as a rule of thumb, even with these types of wood, we would advise in most cases waiting 4-6 weeks before staining. 


We would recommend a high quality oil based stain to help protect your wood fencing. We are fans of semi-opaque  stains, which are a unique finish that bridges the gap between full solid color coverage and semi-transparents.  The semi-opaque provides a fuller color while still allowing some of the wood grain to show through. Solid colors cover up the natural wood grain and also can be more difficult to re-apply when the time comes. Most semi-transparent and semi-opaque stains do not have to be tripped prior to reapplying. Meaning additional coats of stain can be applied when needed without having to do a lot of scraping or stripping of the original coat. 

A good quality stain that will give the fence a nice, uniform appearance and will also provide an added layer of protection from the elements.


There are aesthetic benefits of staining and sealing your fence with the fact that it keeps your fence looking more uniform and consistent for longer, and it prevents the wood from graying. But the biggest benefit and reason to stain your fence is the sealing factor. Most modern stains will have a sealant in them as well, and will seal the surface of the wood from outside moisture. This moisture repellant helps prevent water from absorbing into the wood, which in turn cuts down on the wood expanding and contracting with changing moisture conditions and weather cycles. Typically wood gets wet and expands then dries out and contracts. This small expansion and contraction cycle happens over and over and over again over the life of the fence. Over time, those small changes back and forth essentially little by little tear the fence apart. So, a sealant that repels the water and cuts down on those expansion and contraction cycles helps protect the wood from pulling apart. Now just to note wood is a natural substance with grains and knots and naturally occurring characteristics. With that being said wood exposed to the elements can still warp, bow, twist, etc. even with a quality stain and sealant applied. The stain and sealant just gives it a better chance of being more stable and minimizing expansion and contraction cycles, but unfortunately it does not guarantee that a board will not warp or bow. 

Below is an excerpt from a very informative 2005 article from The University of Massachusetts Amherst from their Building and Construction Technology Department. 

The article is titled “WOOD MYTHS: FACTS AND FICTIONS ABOUT WOOD”, by Paul Fisette © 2005. https://bct.eco.umass.edu/publications/articles/wood-myths-facts-and-fictions-about-wood/


“Water repellent treatment is still a good idea on all wood exposed to the weather. Water repellent helps keep wood dimensionally stable.”

“Pressure treating does make wood rot resistant. But — it doesn’t make wood water resistant. Pressure treated wood still soaks and loses moisture. And as a result, the wood moves, cracks, twists, bends, cups and virtually tears itself apart.”


Stain can be brushed or rolled on. This can take awhile because the wood will soak it up, and. you will want to make sure you get a good coverage on the wood. 

The best way is to spray it on either with a pump sprayer or paint sprayer, and then back roll it as you go. The only thing to be very careful about when spraying is overspray. Those stain particles are very small and can be carried a good distance with even a small amount of wind. That being said you would not want to attempt spraying stain on a windy day. 

The other thing to watch is the temperature. You want to make sure the temperature is 50 degrees or above when applying stain. 

If you have any further staining or fence questions please contact us today. You can call or text 501-205-4345 or email [email protected]. Thanks so much for your time. We hope this information helps you design and create a safe and enjoyable outdoor space that you and your family enjoy for years to come.