Wood fences can last for decades if they’re well taken care of and that starts with a high quality stain and/or sealant. Wood itself has pores and the openness of these pores can determine how well the stain soaks into the material and in turn, how long that stain will last.
Wood fresh from the mill is not ready for stain. The Mill saw and sanders cause the wood fibers to lay down and close all the pores in the wood grain hindering stain absorption. When staining wood you will want to wait for the wood to completely dry out and re-open those pores. Usually this takes about a calendar season. If the fence is installed in the spring, wait until fall to stain. This process can be artificially accelerated by pressure washing the wood and letting it dry completely multiple times; just make sure the water applied is pretty even. This is usually best done on a hot day to speed the process. (HOT TIP: angle your sprinkler heads away from your fence so you don’t wind up with irregular and premature weathering and sprinkler rings). Once the wood is dried, apply your choice of stain.
Care and Maintenance:
A good quality stain can last multiple years on a fence. The water bead test is a good way to determine whether or not you need to re-stain. The test is as simple as a quick splash of water onto a small area of the wood. If the water is absorbed by the wood it is time to re-stain. If the water runs off and or forms a bead on the surface of the wood, then the sealant component of the stain is still good even if the stain’s color may have faded. When re-applying a stain make sure to pressure wash the wood until all of the dirt and old stain is off. Sometimes you will need a cleaner to help remove the stain. Once the wood is cleaned and dried fully you can start to apply a new stain.