a fence with a stain on it

What Are The Pros and Cons of Staining a Fence?

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Matt Stone

There are many pros and cons of staining a fence. Wood fences benefit from the protection that a fence stain will provide, which can save you money in the long run. However, staining a fence does increase the maintenance the fence requires in the short term.

As a professional fence stainer, I have seen firsthand the pros and cons of staining a fence. I chose to stain the fence in my own backyard because I believe the pros outweigh the cons.

Pros of Staining a Fence

a cedar fence with a red stain

Staining a fence provides several benefits to the wood. Wood is a natural material which means it can be broken down by the environment around it. This causes your fence to deteriorate over time and eventually need replacing. With the cost of lumber rising, anything that will make your fence last longer has the potential to save you a lot of money. Here are the top pros for staining a fence.

  • Long-Term Cost Savings
    Staining a fence can prolong the life of the wood. This means that you will not have to replace your fence as often. The cost to replace a wood fence can range from $25 to $40 per foot in my experience. Keeping a fence stained will save you from the large expense of fence replacement.
  • Keeps the Fence Looking Good
    A fence without protection from the elements will quickly begin to break down. Wood will naturally turn gray when exposed to the environment. This is caused by a combination of UV rays, moisture, and mildew growth, all factors which damage the outer layer of wood cells.
    A good fence stain will offer protection from these factors and keep the gray color from forming on your fence. A good stain will look beautiful for the life of the fence.
  • Protection From the Elements
    As mentioned above, there are many environmental factors that damage wood fences. Not only does this damage cause the wood to turn gray and look ugly. It can also cause the fence to rot and fall apart. Water is the leading cause of wood rot. By sealing out moisture, a fence stain will protect the wood from rotting and make it last longer.
  • Increased Home Value
    A home that is in good condition will have more resale value. Maintaining your fence with a fence stain will add to the cared-for appearance of your home. A fence that is falling down on the other hand will make it look like your house has not been taken care of.
this fence is beautiful which illustrates one of the pros of fence staining.

Cons of Staining a Fence

While there are many benefits to staining a fence, the cons should also be considered before you commit. While it is possible to remove the stain from a fence it is a difficult and expensive process. You should make sure you understand the drawbacks before you commit to staining a fence.

  • Greater Up-Front Costs
    Staining a fence will cost money and possibly time if you do it yourself. If you have just paid to install a new fence, you may not want to pay an additional cost to stain it. 
  • Greater Short-Term Maintenance
    Most fence stains will need to be reapplied every 2 to 5 years. This means that staining is a commitment to the ongoing maintenance of your fence. Often, a fence that was stained initially but wasn’t maintained can look worse than a fence that was never stained.
    Keep in mind that all fences need maintenance whether they are stained or not. While staining a fence will increase the short-term upkeep of your fence, it will save on long-term and expensive replacement expenses.
  • Long-term commitment
    As mentioned above, staining a fence should be looked at as a permanent choice. If you choose in the future to paint the fence the stain may interfere with the new coating. There are options for removing a fence stain but these are all costly and time-consuming. 

Keep these pros and cons of staining a fence in mind when deciding whether to stain your fence. As mentioned above, in most cases, I have found the pros outweigh the cons. If you have questions, consider consulting a fence stain contractor. 

Fence Staining Alternatives: Painting and Natural Wood

Staining a fence is not your only option for preserving the wood. Paint is another choice that can protect the wood from moisture and make it look great. The only other option is to leave the fence natural and let it turn gray.

Fence Paint Vs. Stain: Pros and Cons

If you dream of a white picket fence, paint will be your best option for a wood finish. There are other reasons you may want to consider painting a fence vs staining.

Pros of Painting a Fence

  • Unlimited Color Options
    When painting a fence you will be able to choose any shade of paint you want. There are thousands of colors available from major paint manufacturers. Stains on the other hand might offer a few dozen colors.
  • Longer lasting coats
    When painted correctly, a coat of paint should last longer than your average stain coat. This assumes that it is painted correctly using primer and two coats of paint.

Cons of Painting a Fence

a fence with paint flaking off showing one of the cons of fence staining
The paint on this fence is flaking off. It was probably not primed and will be difficult to restore.
  • More Expensive Up Front
    Painting a fence the right way is more labor-intensive and uses more materials than staining. A quality primer should be used to get the best life out of the paint. The primer should be followed with two coats of high-quality exterior paint. This means that paint requires three total coats while stain usually requires one.
  • Maintenance Is More Difficult
    Paint is more difficult to keep looking good in the long run. Paint has the tendency to crack and flake off over time. This means that to keep the fence smooth you may have to scrape and sand before you put on a new coat of paint.


I recommend staining for most fences. While paint can look beautiful at first, the difficult maintenance makes it a less viable option in my opinion. 

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Author: Matt Stone
Matt has worked as a professional painter for over 10 years. This includes much experience with all types of wood stains. He loves to write about wood stains to help others make good choices to protect their homes and make them beautiful.

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