Let me just start by stating the obvious, this is a huge project. Much bigger than you’ll initially think it will be. I even have a sprayer so I thought I’d get it done in a weekend (more on that below), but this project actually ended taking me almost the entire summer! And while, at moments it was quite meditative and relaxing, I’ve learned enough by doing it that next year, when I have to finish the rest of it, things will go more smoothly.

Here’s the basic process:

1. Clean the wood with bleach and water to remove any graying or staining. You could probably use a pressure washer too, but we don’t have one.

2. Let it dry.

3. Apply the stain.

Here’s my process and what I actually learned during this summer long project. Enjoy!

The backstory: We started getting a new fence after the super windy winter of 2015 when half of our fence blew over in a storm. Insurance only paid for two sides of the fence and since we were contemplating adding a garage where our third side is we decided to only do two sides when the new fence came. In hindsight, I wish we would have done the whole thing at once, but now we know. 😉

We had to shop really hard to find someone who would install a horizontal fence, apparently most people don’t like to do it because everyone’s yard is uneven and it’s not ‘standard’ but of course I couldn’t just go with a standard fence. The first company we used was Dan’s Fence. The finished quality of the fence is really good, but their sales guy and install team was really unprofessional, pushy, and difficult to work with. We ended up with Town and Country Fence for the rest of it, after having to go to the owner to get them to agree to finish the fence in the same horizontal style because their salespeople kept telling me no. The owner was great and the fence was installed quickly and their installers were professional, but the overall quality of the fence and the materials they used were not as nice as the rest of the fence. Alas. No one is perfect.

We now have a complete fence, with two thirds of it being about a year old and nicely dried out over the winter and starting to gray, and one third being brand new. When you have any new wood installed outside, it’s important to let it dry out before staining or sealing it, or so everyone says. I’ve done a little digging on the internet (not too much) and haven’t come up with a great reason for this but the overall consensus from people who work with wood is not to stain it right away, to let it dry out for a few months. 

Here’s the new fence:

And here’s what that wood looked like after a winter:

You can see a lot of the pink has faded out and it’s starting to gray.

To remove the graying, you can clean the fence with bleach and water. I filled a chemical sprayer with a quart of bleach and two gallons of water. I applied a light mist of the bleach and water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before spraying it off with a hose.


DO NOT DO this activity on a windy day. This is a pretty high bleach concentration and I was impatient to finish this project so I tried to wrap it up when it was windy and ended up with a pretty nasty chemical burn on my neck from the overspray.

When you’re done and the fence is dry, you can see all the gray is gone and we just have nice clean wood.

Now it’s ready for stain. I was hoping for something just a little brighter than the natural wood for my stain. If you’ve ever shopped for stain, you know it’s extremely overwhelming, you’ve got a million choices and the samples they show never really look like what you’re getting. I picked Wolman, for no other reason than my Dad says it’s a good brand and I chose Cedar as teh color because the sample looked like the pink color of the original wood. What I actually got was MUCH DARKER as you’ll see below, but so it goes…

My initial plan was to spray the fence and get it done in a weekend. I watched some pros do my rear neighbor’s deck and it took them like an hour to do the whole thing so I figured I could bang it out in a weekend. I was WRONG! I’ve got this really nice Wagner paint sprayer that I set up and used but either I set things up incorrectly or it’s not meant to spray oil stains because the stuff shot EVERYWHERE! And it dripped like crazy and then some of the oil backed up through the fan and the thing started on fire. So I had to tackle this thing old school: a 4” paint brush…

So this project ended up taking me about 3 months to complete, with life happening and weather, and only being able to work on this on Sunday while the baby was sleeping. But I got it done. With the sprayer, the stain went on fairly unevenly. With the brush, the stain went on really nicely and it was interesting to see how different boards took the stain differently. This is the same brush application with the same amount of stain on 4 different boards:
You can see it is much darker than I was hoping for, but now that is completed I really like the richness of this darker color. Plus I basically have no choice but to like it, so there’s that 😉
I was hoping to complete the project on this day, but of course I ran out of stain with this much to go!
Here’s the finished fence! It came out really nice!

That’s all friends! I hope you enjoyed! Let me know if you have questions or tips for making this easier! I have to do the third side of the fence in the spring so I’ll be back at then!


xoxo, Amy Ranae

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