Wooden privacy fences can be beautiful and functional, but they typically turn gray after a season or two of exposure to the elements. Fortunately, this gray patina can be removed easily by the use of a pressure washer, and a new finish can be applied using an oil-based stain. Below is more information on what you will need in the way of tools and materials, as well as how to remove the gray layer and apply new stain:
What you will need
- Pressure washer – any size of pressure washer is capable of stripping the exterior layer of wood, but the higher the pounds-per-square-inch (PSI) rating, the "harder" hitting the spray will be. In addition, gallons-per-minute (GPM) also correspond with the speed at which you can work, so try to rent, purchase or borrow a unit that has high ratings in both areas.
- 18-inch paint roller frame with deep-nap roller covers – the larger sized paint roller frame and the rollers themselves are slightly more expensive than standard 9-inch rollers, but you can complete the work in much less time. Choosing a roller cover with a ½-inch deep nap will enable you to carry more stain and achieve better first-time penetration of the wood.
- Oil-based exterior stain/sealant – oil-based stains require more clean-up, but they are superior in their ability to revitalize your wood and offer longer-lasting protection. The added sealant will help provide additional protection against the elements, including ultraviolet radiation and insects.
- Paint roller tray
- 1-inch paint brush
- Mineral spirits
- Adjustable wrench
- Eye protection
1. Remove the outer layer of wood – the first step in restoring your fence's color and warmth is to remove the thin layer of gray, weathered wood with the pressure washer. Be sure to wear eye protection when working with pressure washers, as the spray can blow-back particles of wood or debris into your face. In addition, be cautious not to direct the spray into your body or anyone else in the vicinity; pressure washers can cause serious fluid injection injuries that require medical intervention.
If your pressure washer comes with an adjustable wand tip, then set the spray pattern to either 15 or 25 degrees. The narrower the pattern, the faster and deeper the spray will cut into the wood, but keep in mind that it can also be more difficult to control the stripping process at narrow angles.
Once the washer is set-up and ready to go, begin making long, even strokes across the surface of the wood. Don't hold the nozzle too close to the wood, and adjust the spray pattern to a more comfortable angle if you feel it is cutting too quickly. Once you see the gray layer disappear beneath the spray, immediately move to another section of the fence; over-spraying an area only unnecessarily strips virgin wood from the fence.
2. Remove hardware and allow the fence to dry – after removing all the gray coating from the fence, you can remove the hardware with a screwdriver and wrench. Set the hardware aside in a safe location, and allow the fence to dry for at least 2 days before applying stain.
3. Apply stain to the fence – after the fence has dried, use a deep-nap roller to apply a layer of the oil-based stain/sealant you selected. Roll the stain on to the fence in both horizontal and vertical strokes to ensure even coverage, and don't allow the edges to dry before you apply more stain. If necessary, use a 1-inch paint brush to apply stain to the corners and other difficult spots on the fence. After finishing, clean the stain from the roller and brush using mineral spirits. Allow the stain to dry completely before reinstalling the hardware.
4. Replace the hardware – once the stained fence has dried, reinstall the hardware in the proper locations. Double-check latches and hinges for smooth functioning, and replace any bent or damaged hardware with new pieces.
For more tips on maintaining your fence, contact local fencing companies.