How to Stain a Fence with a Pump Sprayer

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Matt Stone

You’re staring at your fence, your cans of stain at the ready, and you’re thinking, “There must be a faster way.” You’re in luck! Let’s talk pump sprayers. A pump sprayer is a perfect option for DIY minded homeowners. They offer the speed you need, without the complexity or cost of an airless sprayer.

 I’ll walk you through staining your fence using a pump sprayer. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save and how professional your fence will look when you’re done.

Ready to get started? Let’s dive in.

Types of Pump Sprayers

the best pump sprayers for staining a fence lined up in a row

There are various types of pump sprayers available that can suit different needs. One of the biggest variables will be the size of the sprayer’s tank. The larger the tank, the less often you need to refill it with stain. The downside is that larger tanks can be very heavy. Finding the right balance is important.

Pump sprayers can be made of either metal or plastic. The metal ones will be more durable but are also much more expensive. Unless you are looking to stain fences professionally a plastic one should work great for your fence.

Oil-based stains can be corrosive to the internal parts of a sprayer. You should look for a sprayer that mentions it has chemical resistant internal parts. Cleaning the sprayer well after each use will help make it last longer.

Some fence stains can be toxic to delicate plants so I don’t recommend using the same sprayer you use for your lawn and garden tasks.

Tips for Pump Sprayers

By tip I don’t mean helpful advice. I’m actually talking about the piece at the end of the wand that determines how the stain comes out.

Using the right tip for your pump sprayer will be almost as important as choosing the right sprayer itself. Most pump sprayers will come with a removable and replaceable tip on the wand. Many times there will be multiple tips that come with the sprayer.

 Different tips will give you different spray patterns. The best spray pattern for staining a fence will be a wide fan or cone.

Cone: These tips are often adjustable. They spray the stain in a circle or cone. By screwing the tip in or out you can adjust the width of the spray.

Fan: Fan type tips are usually not adjustable and will spray a fan of a certain width. If you want a wider or narrower width you will need to switch the tip that gives your desired pattern.


Before we dive into staining, let’s first address an important aspect that often gets overlooked – safety. Remember, safety should always be your number one priority.

  1. Eye protection: The last thing you want is stain in your eyes. Choose safety glasses that fit well and provide adequate coverage. Some even offer UV protection, a great bonus when working outdoors.
  2. Respiratory protection: Fence stain does not belong in your lungs! Wearing a mask or respirator can help protect your lungs and keep you comfortable during while staining.
  3. Skin protection: Stain is not something you want on your skin. Besides the staining issue, some people may have an allergic reaction to the solvents in the stain. I’m personally allergic to paint thinner so I have to be very careful when working with it. Long sleeves, gloves, and even a hat can help keep stain off your skin.

Remember, staining your fence should be a satisfying project, not a trip to the emergency room. With the right safety gear, you can ensure your project goes smoothly and safely.

Materials Needed

Before you begin the process, gather all your materials. Having everything at hand will make the job go smoother and faster. Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Pump Sprayer: This is your primary tool for this project. Choose one that is comfortable to handle and has a capacity suitable for the size of your fence.
  2. High-quality Stain: The stain not only adds color to your fence but also protects it from the elements. Choose a fence stain that is designed for outdoor use and is resistant to UV rays and moisture.
  3. Stirring Stick: Stains often settle, which means the pigment can accumulate at the bottom of the can. A stirring stick will help you mix the stain thoroughly before filling your sprayer.
  4. Safety Gear: As mentioned in the safety section, protective eyewear, a mask or respirator, gloves, and long-sleeve clothing are essential to protect your eyes, lungs, and skin.
  5. Brush: You’ll need a good-quality brush for backrolling. This helps smooth out the stain after spraying and catch any drips, ensuring an even finish.
  6. Solvent for Clean-up: A suitable solvent will be necessary for cleaning your sprayer after use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions of your pump sprayer for the recommended type.
  7. Masking Materials: These include masking tape and plastic or drop cloths. You’ll use these to protect the areas around your fence from getting stained.
  8. Ladder: If your fence is tall, a sturdy ladder will help you safely reach the top of the fence.

By taking the time to gather these materials before you start, you’ll be able to focus on the task at hand and complete your project efficiently.

Prepare the Fence

Brush off Dirt

Before staining, brush off any dirt or debris from the fence. This ensures the stain will adhere properly.

Mask off the Surrounding Area

To prevent overspray, mask off any areas around your fence that you don’t want to be stained.

Dealing with Metal Poles

If your fence has metal poles, cover them with tape and plastic to avoid staining them. If you use a stain like Wood Defender this step is unnecessary because it’s easy to wipe the stain off with a rag.

Prepping the Sprayer

Stir the Stain

Before loading your sprayer, stir your stain well to ensure the pigments are mixed evenly. If your can has never been opened you can turn it upside down and shake it to loosen pigments on the bottom.

Load the Stain

Pouring Stain into a pump sprayer to prepare it for staining.

After stirring, fill the sprayer with stain according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the stain has been loaded seal the lid on the sprayer. Now you are ready to pump it up and build pressure.

Test Your Spray Pattern

Testing the spray pattern of the sprayer before using it on the fence.

Before starting on your fence, test your spray pattern on a piece of cardboard or in an empty bucket to ensure it’s wide and even. If the pattern is too narrow it will take longer to stain the fence. If it’s too wide it will be harder to control where the stain goes. Usually, a pattern of about 8 to 12 inches wide works well.

Apply the Stain

Cover All Areas Evenly

Start at the top and work your way down, ensuring you cover all areas evenly with stain.

Keep a Wet Edge

To prevent lap marks, always try to keep a ‘wet edge’, meaning you overlap your spray with the previous pass while it’s still wet.

Backroll After Spraying

After spraying an area, use a brush or paint roller to backroll, which means smoothing out any drips or uneven spots. I usually do this after every four or five feet of fence.


Empty the Sprayer

Once you’ve finished staining, empty any remaining stain from the sprayer back into your stain can.

Fill with Solvent

Next, fill your sprayer with a suitable solvent as recommended by the sprayer’s manufacturer.

Run Solvent Through the Sprayer

Run the solvent through the sprayer until it sprays clear to ensure it is thoroughly cleaned and ready for the next use.


Staining a fence with a pump sprayer can seem challenging, but with the right preparation and technique, it can be a straightforward and satisfying project. Remember, the key is in the preparation and taking your time with each step. So, are you ready to give your fence a fresh new look?

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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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