Best Stain For An Old Wooden Fence

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Revitalizing an old wooden fence with a wood stain will require choosing from a market that has a ton of wood stains. How does one even go about trying to differentiate between the brands, and after choosing one, how do you even use it?

In this article, we found the best wood stains and provided a step-by-step guide so you can start your own wood staining project. 

In case you are in a hurry,

Our Pick

General Finishes Water-Based Wood Stain

Easy-to-use, low VOC (volatile organic compound), water-based stain that provides a durable finish for interior wood surfaces. It can be applied by brush or spray and features high-quality pigments for rich, dark colors. Formulated with GF’s proprietary technology to provide workability similar to oil-based stains.

How To Choose The Best Stain For An Old Wooden Fence?

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best stain for your wooden fence,  while some are personal preferences, other factors will boil down to what kind of wood the wood stain will be applied onto.

The desired color, type of wood, and stain opacity are all to be considered when trying to protect your wooden fence from the elements. Here are the factors in choosing the best stain for an old wooden fence:

Type of Wood

There are two types of wood used in fences, hardwood, and softwood.

Hardwood: Includes the likes of walnut, birch, and oak, and these have a fine and even grain that will work with any kind of stain. 

Softwood: Includes lumber from cedar, pines, and fir trees. Unlike hardwood, the wood’s grain is more uneven with dark blotches distributed throughout the wood.

The staining will be uneven because of these dark blotches and it is better to highlight the grain of the softwood by using clear or semi-transparent stains rather than trying to stain over it with a solid or semi-solid wood stain. 

Desired Color

Compared to paints, wood stains are a cheaper way to add color to your fence and unlike paint, it penetrates deep into the wood which acts to preserve the wood against the elements.

Both paints and wood stains gradually wear out over time, but wood stains can be applied over the previous layer again and again, while paint peeling would require scraping the previous layer off and is more labor intensive.

Here are some common wood stain colors to get you started:

Mahogany: has a dark chocolate brown look with a tinge of redness and is perfect for those who want their fences to stand out.

Walnut: similar to mahogany in that it stands out, walnut however is brown mixed with yellow undertones. 

Gray: unlike the first two, gray colors are more subdued and will make the fence look cool to the eyes. 

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Stain Opacity

Stain Opacity determines how much of the wood’s grain you will see after applying the wood stain. The opacity ranges from clear to solid, with semi-transparent and semi-solid in between.

If your wooden fence is new or if you want to show off its grain, then clear or semi-transparent wood stains are best for this.

Solid and semi-solid stains are best for wood surfaces that already show deterioration or damage, but these types of stains will cover the natural grain of the wood. 


The two most common bases for wood stains are water-based and oil-based stains. Water-based stains are more forgiving because it is easier to clean using soap and water.

On the other hand, oil-based stains will penetrate deeper but are harder to clean than water-based stains, but are the better choice when staining oily woods like cedar or pine. 

5 Best Stains For Old Wood Fences

Here is the list of best stains for your old wooden Fence

  1. General Finishes Water-Based Wood Stain (Editors Choice)
  2. General Finishes Exterior 450 Water-Based Wood Stain
  3. DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain Cedar (Runner Up)
  4. Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain
  5. Thompson’s Water Seal and Solid Waterproofing Stain

General Finishes Water-Based Wood Stain

Made by General Finishes, this wood stain has a low odor and low VOC meaning that it won’t smell as much. It can be rolled, brushed on, or sprayed making it very easy to apply on surfaces.

Product Specs:

  • Size: 1 gallon
  • Stain base: Water-based
  • Color: Brown Mahogany
  • Opacity: Semi-transparent

General Finishes Exterior 450 Water-Based Wood Stain

Next on our list is another wood stain by General Finishes. It comes with exterior 450 pigment technology providing excellent U.V. absorbers for a longer-lasting stain compared to other lineups by General Finishes. 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 1 gallon
  • Stain base: Water-based
  • Color: Black Walnut
  • Opacity: Semi-transparent

DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain Cedar

Using a special alkyd blend, DEFY’s Extreme Wood Stain acts like and provides the benefits of using an oil-based stain while being a water-based formulation that provides easy clean-up through soap and water. 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 1 gallon
  • Stain base: Water-based
  • Color: Cedar Tone
  • Opacity: Semi-transparent

Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain

Deck’s premium wood stain is both a sealer and stainer, by blending in a sealer, Deck’s premium wood stain provides a clear moisture-repellent outer coating for your wooden fence further increasing protection against water damage. This is also the cheapest one on our list. 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 1 gallon
  • Stain base: Water-based
  • Color: Dark Walnut
  • Opacity: Semi-transparent

Thompson’s Water Seal and Solid Waterproofing Stain

Thompson’s Water Seal and Solid Waterproofing Stain combine both water-repelling outer coating along with a coastal gray stain which is sure to add a nice and cool look to your wooden fence. 

Product Specs:

  • Size: 1 gallon
  • Stain base: Water-based
  • Color: Coastal Gray
  • Opacity: Solid

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How To Stain An Old Wooden Fence

Staining an old wooden fence by yourself is not a difficult process, but you need to have the necessary tools available as well as prepare the wooden fence before applying the wood stain. Staining an old wooden fence yourself will require:

  1. Bristle Brush
  2. Gloves
  3. Hose
  4. Paint Brush, roller, or sprayer
  5. Grit 120 Sandpaper
  6. Wood Cleaner
  7. Wood Stain

Staining Wood Fence Step by Step

Best Sand Paper

Best Bristle Brush

First, you have to prepare the wooden fence. Check for any uneven surfaces and use sandpaper to even those out.

After this, put on gloves then apply the wood cleaner then start scrubbing with the bristle brush. Cleaning debris and residue off of the wood is important to ensure that the stain will dry evenly.

After you’re done scrubbing, hose off the wood cleaner with water and allow it to dry for at least a day before applying the wood stain. 

Second, apply the wood stain on the fence with either a paintbrush, roller, or sprayer. One thin coat will be enough for clear and semi-transparent wood stains, while semi-solid and solid stains will need at least two thin coatings.

Allow this to dry for the next 24-48 hours. 

Remember that there is a lot of waiting involved to let the moisture dry off the fence so make sure to start your wood staining project if you are confident that it won’t rain or be cloudy in the next few days. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right wood stain for your wooden fence is important to get the best out of your time and resources. The wide range of products and different classifications of wood stains will surely cater to every consumer’s needs, from solid stains for those pine fences or a more delicate stain to accent the beautiful grains on a cedar wood fence.

The relative ease of procuring and applying a wood stain will greatly benefit anyone who is looking to spruce up their wooden fence. 

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