The 8 Best Fence Stains of 2020

Protect your fence from mildew, rot, and more

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Our Top Picks
"This semi-transparent stain is also a sealer, designed to preserve the natural appearance of your wood fencing while protecting it."
"This stain and sealer can be applied under a wide range of climate conditions (from 35 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and to damp wood."
Best for Pressure Treated Wood:
Flood CWF-UV Penetrating Wood Finish at Home Depot
"It includes Penetrol to help the product absorb into the wood’s fiber and iron oxides for UV resistance."
"An advantage of this water-based acrylic stain is its short drying time and easy soap and water clean-up process."
"This is an acrylic-based fence stain, so it’s simple to clean brushes, buckets, and more with soap and water."
"This semi-transparent wood stain comes with a 5-year warranty for fence applications."
"This transparent fence stain offers one-coat protection against mildew and UV damage, without obscuring the natural color of cedar."
"This VOC-free fence stain is non-toxic, provides protection against mildew, wet and dry rot, and fungus."

Best Overall: Ready Seal 1-Gallon Can Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer

If you’re shopping for a fence stain that is long-lasting and durable, Ready Seal is a top pick. This semi-transparent stain is also a sealer, designed to preserve the natural appearance of your wood fencing while protecting against moisture and UV rays. 

Ready Seal is an oil-based stain that penetrates the wood and is acceptable for use on pressure-treated wood. Take note that you shouldn’t try to apply this stain over painted or otherwise sealed surfaces since the stain won’t be able to properly adhere. It’s ok to apply it over previously stained wood fences, but the fence should be properly cleaned and dried first. Many people report that this fence stain remains vibrant for at least a year or two and offers moisture protection for several years before needing reapplication.

The benefit of Ready Seal wood stain for fences is the fact that it doesn’t require a wet-line application. Instead, the stain will blend easily into itself. You can also apply it via paint brush, roller, or sprayer. People rave about the goof-proof nature of this stain and consistently report that it produces an even, rich stain that still allows the grain and character of the wood to shine through. While a few people have been lured into skipping the second coat of fence stain because the results looked so good initially, it should be noted that you’ll risk the longevity of the stain.

Best with Sealer: Olympic Elite 1 gal. Oil Transparent Advanced Exterior Stain and Sealant in One

Save time and steps by picking a fence stain with sealer. The Olympic Elite Stain and Sealant in One is a well-rated and popular option for staining and protecting your fence from moisture, mildew, and UV rays. Plus, this stain and sealer can be applied under a wide range of climate conditions (from 35 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and even to damp wood.

This fence stain saves time by only requiring a single application coat and no follow-up with a sealer is required. If the wood is damp from cleaning or recent rain, this won’t slow you down in your application efforts (as long as you still follow the manufacturer’s instructions). While a few people have been disappointed in the color variances between cans, most people find that the easy application and long-lasting guarantee of this fence stain with sealer are worth the premium price of just over $40 per gallon.

Best for Pressure Treated Wood: Flood CWF-UV Penetrating Wood Finish

Pressure-treated wood requires a fence stain that will penetrate deeply and provide adequate protection from the elements—while also reducing chemical leaching if the wood has been treated with CCA, according to the EPA. An affordable and oil-based stain, like Flood CWF-UV Wood Finish, is a great option.

Like many other popular fence stain options, the Flood CWF-UV Wood Finish is a semi-transparent stain. It includes Penetrol to help the product absorb into the wood’s fiber. It contains iron oxides for UV resistance and also helps to prevent mildew. This is an oil-based fence stain but only requires soap and water for clean-up, which keeps things simple compared to other stains that require mineral spirits for cleaning brushes, rollers, or buckets.

Best Water-Based: DEFY Extreme 1 Gallon Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

Water-based fence stains offer several advantages when compared to oil-based stains. While a water-based stain may require fairly regular re-application (once a year or every few years, depending on the application and environmental conditions), it penetrates deeply, carries rich color pigmentation, and dries quickly. A top option is DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Wood Stain. 

DEFY is a semi-solid fence stain, but if you apply two to three coats, you can also achieve a more opaque solid stain finish. Tiny zinc particles embedded within the stain provide excellent protection against fading from UV rays. It won’t peel like a solid stain but may chip over time. When it is time to re-apply the stain, you won’t need to strip or sand the surface as long as you give it a quick scrub with soap and water. An advantage of this water-based acrylic stain is its short drying time and easy soap and water clean-up process. 

Just keep in mind that since this water-based stain dries quickly, you’ll need to work fast as you stain the fence. One reviewer cautions that this is not a product for the careless worker; if you stop in the middle of a fence board, you’ll have a line in the stain and splashes will show also. 

Best Waterproof: BEHR Premium White Base Solid Color Waterproofing Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer, , 1-Gallon

A solid fence stain gives an opaque look, rich color, and is an excellent option if you want a waterproof fence stain. Behr Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain delivers smooth application and long-lasting color that will keep your deck looking great and impervious to water for several seasons. This well-reviewed and often recommended fence stain goes on smoothly and is a great option if you want a solid finish, like when you’re blending old and new fence boards.

Available in a solid white formula that can be tinted to suit your needs, this formula from Behr offers nearly unrivaled warranty protection—up to 25 years for fence applications. Just be sure to apply according to manufacturer directions, which means applying two thin coats with at least two hours of drying time in between. Unlike some other fence stains with more limited optimal application conditions, you can apply Behr Solid Color Waterproofing Wood Stain in temperatures as low as 35 degrees and up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with no adverse effects. This is an acrylic-based fence stain, so it’s simple to clean brushes, buckets, and more with soap and water.

Best Budget: KILZ Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain, Semi-Transparent, Redwood, 1-Gallon

If you want to defend your fence against moisture and UV rays without making a major investment, then Kilz Waterproofing Wood Stain is a budget option to consider. This semi-transparent wood stain comes with a 5-year warranty for fence applications.

This affordable fence stain is acrylic-based and is suitable for new wood or wood with less than 10 years of weather exposure. While some users found it to be a more opaque finish than expected, most are very satisfied with the appearance and easy application of this budget fence stain. The biggest complaint about Kilz Waterproofing Wood Stain is the rather extensive and specific prep work required to obtain the 5-year warranty. However, plenty of people have given the fence a quick scrub and (after drying) skipped straight to stain application with satisfactory results.  

Best for Cedar Fence: PPG ProLuxe Natural SRD Exterior Transparent Matte Wood Finish, One Gallon

The rich color and striking appearance of cedar make it an aesthetically-pleasing option for fencing. If you’re going to apply fence stain to further increase the wood’s defenses against the elements, you don’t want to cover up the natural beauty of your cedar fence. Instead, use a clear wood stain like PPG Natural Cetol SRD Wood Finish.

This transparent fence stain offers one-coat protection against mildew and UV damage, without obscuring the natural color and beauty of cedar. As one reviewer describes it, this product offers “protection with some enhancement.” The translucent matte finish serves as a barrier against the elements without altering the appearance of your fence. People that have used PPG SRD Wood Finish report that the product offers a great finish and longevity, but as with many stain and sealer products, you must be sure that the wood is clean and dry before staining.

Best Low VOC: Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Treatment, Three Gallons

If you’re looking for a low VOC fence stain, skip the fumes and get excellent protection from Tall Earth Eco-Safe Wood Stain. This product arrives as a powder but just mix it with water for 1 gallon of stain that will treat between 150 and 200 square feet. According to the manufacturer, one coat is all that is needed to provide protection against mildew, wet and dry rot, and fungus. Reviewers report that for the color to fully develop, you will need to wait about a week. 

This product from Tall Earth is a VOC-free fence stain and is also non-toxic and eco-safe. This can be of benefit if you have children or pets that frequently play near the fence or if the fence is in an area used for vegetable gardening. People find that it’s easy to apply the stain with a paint sprayer, but you can also brush or roll it on. With no fumes and easy clean-up, this VOC-free fence stain from Tall Earth is a unique but effective product.

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