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Maintaining a painted wooden fence not only adds to the curb appeal but it protects your fence from water and sunlight damage. Unfortunately, due to the outdoor weather conditions, even high-quality paints will begin to crack and peel over time. Wood fences should be repainted every two or three years unless you see signs the paint is failing sooner. Depending on the size of your fence, it can be a big job, which is why many homeowners choose to hire a professional. However, painting a fence is an approachable DIY project for just about anyone if you are willing and able to do it.

Step 1: Clean and Clear

The work you will do in preparing the fence for painting will determine how successful you are. Before painting any wooden surface, you need to clean it. If there is dirt on the wood’s surface, that is what the paint with adhere to. It will compromise the integrity of the paint and lead to premature peeling.

A power washer is an excellent tool for this job. Be careful not to use too much pressure on this softwood, however. You could end up gouging the fence boards. If you do not have a power washer, though, soapy water and a garden hose will work just fine. Mold and mildew stains may need special treatment. A mixture of one part bleach and one part water should kill the colonies and lift the stain. If you choose to buy a fence cleaner from the hardware store, be sure to follow the directions on the label for the best results.

You should also take the time to trim back grass, shrubs, and other plants from the fence. This pruning will allow you more space to work, keep you from getting paint on your lawn, and keep plants from touching and sticking to the wet fence panels.

Step 2: Inspect and Fix Damage

Before you paint, take inventory of the condition of the fence posts, rails, pickets, and hardware. It is best to find and fix problems before you paint. It will save you time and energy. Look for popped nails, loose screws, and rusty hinges, tightening and replacing pieces as necessary. Once the hardware is adequately secured, tape off anything that you don’t want to have painted.

Be on the lookout for termite damage or signs of rot as well. If you see significant signs of wood-destroying insects, you may need to call an exterminator to address the problem. Getting paint to stick to rotted wood is a losing battle. You are better off replacing any damaged boards you find. You can fill smaller holes and knots with wood putty prior to painting.

Step 3: Scrape and Sand

Scraping off the peeling paint is an essential step if you want the new coat of paint to adhere well to the wood. Work carefully, though. Remember that you are not trying to remove all the paint, just the loose chips and bubbles. A paint scraper works well to remove these loose sections of old paint, but if you apply too much pressure, it can carve out pieces of wood from your fence pickets. As you work, apply steady, even pressure, keeping the scraping tool perpendicular to the wood’s surface.

After scraping away the larger peeling paint sections, you may want to sand down the rough spots and splinters. If your fence is a rough cedar wood fence, this step may be optional. However, to maintain the smooth finish of a decorative fence, it will be essential.

Step 4: Prime

Before you begin painting, be sure to mask or cover any areas where you don’t want to get paint. Drop cloths or plywood sheets work well for covering decks, driveways, and places where the fence meets the house.

A good coat of primer keeps oils in the wood from seeping through the paint and ruining the finish. It also helps the paint adhere better and last longer. This step is vital if your fence has never been painted before. If you are touching up an old paint job, this step should go quickly, as most of the fence already has a layer of primer and paint.

A quality paintbrush or roller will work for painting, although for most fences you will need both. The roller is great for the flat sides of posts, rails, and pickets. It will save you a lot of work. A brush is better for reaching in the cracks and crevices where the boards butt up against one another. It is a good idea to start painting at the top of the fence and work your way down, painting small sections at a time. By saving the bottom to the end, you allow yourself the chance to smooth out drips or runs from above.

Step 5: Paint

If you are using a new color on your fence, you should test it out before you paint the whole fence. Apply one coat to a small area and allow it to dry completely. Seeing the color and sheen up next to the house, the deck, and other outdoor elements will give you a glimpse of how the finished product will look.

When choosing the best paint for your fence, there are a few to choose from, and you would be wise to do a little research to find out what will best suit your needs. Exterior house paint, oil paint, and acrylic paint are just some of the options. Look for paint that will protect your fence from water and UV damage. Don’t be afraid of investing in high-end paint. It will be subjected to sun, wind, rain, and snow. It needs to be durable.

Painting and maintaining wooden outdoor structures is not difficult, but it does require a substantial amount of time and energy. A fresh coat of paint can significantly improve your fence’s appearance and the curb appeal of your property. Whether you decide to tackle the task yourself or hire a professional instead is your choice. Either way, it is a job worth doing so that you can preserve your fence well into the future.