10 Best Fence Stains in 2020

best overall rating
  • Biodegradable, doesn’t harm plants.
  • Won’t stain your body.
  • Can be applied with a brush, sprayer or roller.
premium choice rating
  • Dries in only 72 hours.
  • Offers protection against insects, plants, and rotting.
  • Can be applied instantly.
great value rating
  • Provides waterproofing and mildew resistance.
  • Offers full UV protection.
  • Easy to apply.

Staining your fence can be a great way to improve the way it looks without having to get the entire thing replaced, and it is entirely possible to treat it as a DIY project that doesn’t require any outside professional help to get it done. That doesn’t mean that it is an easy task, though. Before you can even try to stain the fence, you will need to make sure you’ve actually chosen the best fence stain for your exact purposes.

It is like painting – bad paint can ruin an otherwise excellent project by being too thin, too loose or too weak to offer a reliable level of coverage. With stains, you are not just worrying about the look, but the way that they can stand up to outdoor weather conditions.

View the Best Fence Stain, Below.

best overall rating

1. Ready Seal 112 Natural Cedar Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

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This Cedar-wood-coloured stain and sealer doesn't need any primer to apply, meaning that you can start applying it to your fence almost straight away. If a brush is too slow, it also works perfectly with rollers, sprayers, and other multipurpose painting tools to make the application much easier. Once it is on the surface, the stain doesn't leave any runs or streaks and can blend in without needing to be diluted or thinned out beforehand. Not only that but since it is a sealer, it can protect both the coating and the surface beneath it once it dries, making weather damage much less likely and showing the same great color for much longer.

Why We Like It
  • Biodegradable, doesn’t harm plants.
  • Won’t stain your body.
  • Can be applied with a brush, sprayer or roller.
  • Naturally shifts to its true color.
  • Dries in 72 hours.
Drying Time
48-72 hours
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

If you want a combined stain/sealer that looks good and protects itself properly, this is an excellent choice of fence stain for all kinds of DIY projects and garden overhauls.

Editor Rating
premium choice rating

2. Ready Seal 525 Pail Dark Walnut Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

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This dark walnut sealer and stain combination is ready to be applied straight out of the container, either through a sprayer, a roller or a simple brush. You don’t need to do any back brushing or use a wet-line application method: it should simply start working on your first try, and will effortlessly stick to nearly any kind of wood. Even better, it can be applied at a huge range of different temperatures with no major issues, meaning that you can start setting it up even if the conditions aren’t ideal for other kinds of fence stain or paint. As a sealer, you can also expect longer-lasting results and better surface protection, too.

Why We Like It
  • Dries in only 72 hours.
  • Offers protection against insects, plants, and rotting.
  • Can be applied instantly.
  • Fully biodegradable on contact with soil and/or water.
  • 45-minute wait between coats.
Drying Time
48-72 hours
Size
5 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain/sealer is an excellent option for people who prefer darker woods, great protection, and an easy, straightforward application process without much waiting involved.

Editor Rating
great value rating

3. KILZ L832211 Exterior Waterproofing Wood Stain

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This wood stain is focused on proper protection and a great visual finish, using a semi-transparent set of chemicals that provide excellent UV protection without actually changing the way your fence looks up close. The acrylic formula is designed to protect any wooden surface from weather damage, ranging from sunlight and rain to full-scale snow. Applying it on a pre-prepared surface is easy, and you can clean up any spills or splashes with regular water before it dries, making it a very easy tool to handle. You can apply it either with a regular brush, a pad, or a standard sprayer, letting you choose the right tool for the situation.

Why We Like It
  • Provides waterproofing and mildew resistance.
  • Offers full UV protection.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Long-lasting formula.
  • Can be cleaned up using plain water.
Drying Time
At least 24 hours
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain is very simple and easy to handle, giving you a way to quickly update the way your wooden surfaces look without having to spend much time gathering special tools or specific paints.

Editor Rating

4. Ready Seal 110 Golden Pine Exterior Wood Stain and Sealer

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This Golden Pine-colored stain and sealer uses a no-streak, easy to apply formula that can be quickly and easily applied to any kind of wooden surface in a matter of minutes. It is designed to work well in a wide range of temperatures, so it is easy to use even during cold winter afternoons or hot summer days. There is no need for back brushing and a very low chance of the mixture running once applied, and it offers a good level of surface protection from mildew, mold, and heavy UV light to keep your wood looking smooth, no matter how large the fence might be.

Why We Like It
  • Protective formula.
  • Blocks UV rays, mildew, mold, and other forms of damage or wear.
  • Perfect for use outdoors.
  • Can be applied at nearly any temperature levels.
  • Enhances the natural beauty of the wood surface.
Drying Time
Weather safe within 30 minutes
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

This stain and sealer offers excellent protection, great style, and a simple but reliable application process, making it a perfect fence stain for quick, short-notice changes.

Editor Rating

5. DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent Exterior Wood Stain

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This fence stain mixture has been fortified with tiny nanoparticles of zinc, working to reflect and block UV rays that might damage the color of your finished fence. This also helps it stay looking new for longer, and the zinc can fight off mold and mildew naturally without changing the way the fence looks. If you ever need to do another maintenance coat, there is no need to strip anything off first – you can simply apply it again to re-seal the wood, instantly making it more durable and longer-lived as a result. Not only that but the resins used in the mixture prevent both fading and darkening over long periods of time.

Why We Like It
  • Uses zinc particles to improve UV protection.
  • Environmentally friendly water-based mixture.
  • Very durable once dried.
  • Prevents darkening and fading.
  • Offers long-lasting protection.
Drying Time
Not specified
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain is ideal for handling hot and bright weather, especially in areas where the fence will be exposed to constant sunlight that could wear it down or cause discoloration.

Editor Rating

6. Olympic Stain 79551 Maximum Wood Stain and Sealer

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This very simple wooden fence stain and sealer uses a semi-transparent cedar-colored mixture that can cover between 250 to 350 feet per gallon, making it suitable for staining an entire deck if needed. It is designed to offer improved waterproofing, stopping your wood from cracking when exposed to water from both natural and artificial sources. It also acts as a fade-resistant outer layer that bounces UV rays away from the wood, helping to protect the coating and keep the color consistent over long periods of time. Application is easy, and you can apply it in a variety of weather conditions with no major issues.

Why We Like It
  • Suitable for applying in varied weather.
  • Covers a large area per gallon.
  • Waterproof and weather-resistant.
  • Deflects UV rays from sunlight.
  • Very simple application process.
Drying Time
Not specified
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain and sealer is worth using if you want maximum protection for minimum effort, letting you quickly stain and seal a wooden surface without having to rely on multiple different products or chemicals.

Editor Rating

7. Tall Earth ECO-Safe Wood Treatment

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This eco-friendly fence stain is completely non-toxic and safe to use, as well as environmentally friendly. Preparing it is as simple as mixing it with water, and it can offer between 450 – 600 square feet of wood coverage without feeling too thin. You don’t need to do any special preparation, and it can be applied in a single attempt, adapting to the shape and type of the wood without discoloring it or leaving behind obvious streaks and unwanted stains. Since it is free of VOCs and harmful chemicals, it can also be used indoors, letting you stain wood both inside and outside your house without needing to buy two separate types of stain.

Why We Like It
  • Non-toxic and child/animal friendly.
  • Large coverage per three gallons.
  • Generic color that works on all types of wood.
  • Easy to apply.
  • Suitable for indoor use.
Drying Time
48-72 hours
Size
3 gallon
Our Verdict

This wood stain is very convenient for people who need to mix indoor and outdoor jobs, and its formula makes it the obvious choice for people who care about the environment.

Editor Rating

8. Olympic Stain 421037 Multi-Surface Sealant

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This fast-acting fence stain and sealant is easy to apply and difficult to damage, providing great waterproofing and plenty of extra durability to the surfaces it is used on. Unlike many other fence stain formulas, it can work on more materials than just wood, including stone, masonry, and concrete. It can even be applied directly after the surface has become wet from rain or cleaning, and the water won’t affect the results at all. It dries quickly – in just under an hour – making it a very fast-acting solution that won’t get in your way for very long.

Why We Like It
  • Dries very, very quickly compared to other formulas.
  • Works on more materials than just wood.
  • Very easy to apply.
  • Offers reliable results.
  • Can be sprayed on.
Drying Time
Under 1 hour
Size
2 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain is incredibly fast-acting and reliable, meaning that it could be perfect for people who don't have much free time to spend updating their home. The fast-drying makes it excellent for areas that will need to be safe to touch in just over an hour, like doorways or deck floors.

Editor Rating

9. Glidden Penetrating Wood Finish

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This acrylic and oil resin is designed to improve the durability of the surface it is used on, repelling water and stopping damaging UV light from harming the wood underneath. This also makes it fairly mildew-resistant once it is dried, which can prevent common types of mold as well. Cleaning up spilled portions of the fence stain is as easy as using soap and water, so it isn’t difficult to remove if you splash some on the wrong surface. On top of that, the formula is designed to penetrate into the surface where possible, improving internal protection just as much as external protection.

Why We Like It
  • Offers durable, reliable protection.
  • Penetrates into the surface for better internal coverage.
  • Water-repellent formula.
  • Resists mold and mildew.
  • Easy to apply and clean up.
Drying Time
Not specified
Size
1 gallon
Our Verdict

This mixture is simple, giving your fence great protection and coverage without relying on special gimmicks or untested formulas. Applying it, cleaning it up, and letting it dry are all extremely easy, so it is perfect for basic DIY jobs.

Editor Rating

10. Wood Defender 200 Series Stain & Seal

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This easy-to-use, high-quality fence stain uses a special formula of oils and resins to help it penetrate into the wood, protecting it from the inside out and adding to its overall durability. The pigments also used in the formula can revitalize old, worn-out wood without completely changing the way it is supposed to look, while the transparency means that it still retains the same shape, grains, and detailing that the original surface used to have. It is also water repellent and mildew-resistant and offers protection against UV light as well as natural greying from various fungi or long-term weather damage.

Why We Like It
  • Resistant to mold, UV light, and natural wear.
  • Penetrates into the surface for better internal protection.
  • Made using high-quality chemicals.
  • Simple, easy application.
  • Works on a variety of wood types.
Drying Time
Not specified
Size
5 gallon
Our Verdict

This fence stain takes a regular formula and expands on it, making it far more suitable for a huge list of DIY tasks while still keeping it versatile, reliable, and easy to apply in any given situation.

Editor Rating

Fence Stain Buyer’s Guide

Fence stains are a tricky product to get right, especially if you are not very familiar with what they are supposed to do. It is easy to get confused if you’ve never used one before, but they are not the same thing as other wood treatment products: a fence stain has a purpose, and that purpose might vary depending on the exact product you are looking at.

Wood Type

The most important part of any wood treatment product is the type of wood you are attempting to treat. Some of them are universal enough to work well on any kind of wood, but others will have specific limits, or only work correctly on a single surface type. A basic understanding of wood types is always important for DIY, especially when it comes to choosing a fence stain.

Hardwoods are materials like oak and beech, which last a long time and offer plenty of natural durability. Softwoods are used as a mixture of decoration and structural support and include things like pine, larch, and fir. Exotic woods are those that are hard to get hold of: mahogany, ebony, and any other woods that you might associate with expensive products. These are generally quite dense, so they are not seen very often.

Understanding the wood type makes a huge difference. Using a wood stain meant for a hardwood on a softwood won’t usually break anything, but the results will be much worse, and it is possible that the surface could get discolored or warped depending on the mixture. In other cases, it might simply be less effective, and only give you a small amount of the protection you expected. Having the right mixture for the job matters.

Related: Exterior paints in review.

Stain Type

There are multiple types of wood stain, too. Some are more general, whereas others are supposed to be used in very specific ways, often due to the chemicals they contain. These are:

Oil stains, which are one of the most common options you will find. They are often easy to clean up and are perfect for large projects, as well as drying quickly. Varnish stains are similar, except for the fact that they don’t need a finish, as the mixture is its own finishing coat. Water stains are the easiest to clean up, cause the least risk to your own health, and dry very quickly, but they can be difficult to apply.

Gel stains are very similar to oil stains, but are thicker – this makes them harder to apply, but also results in a smoother-looking coat at the end. Lacquer finish stains are extremely fast-drying, but also make mistakes much more of a problem since you don’t have much time to correct them.

Dye stains are often sold as a powder and need water to be added to them. They are very flexible in terms of the results, since you can choose now to mix them, but they often struggle with UV light. Metalized dye stains are similar but fade slower than regular dye stains, making them more of a spray-on option than a regular fence stain.

Weather Conditions

Not all stains can take on all kinds of weather. Some of them are designed to provide proper protection against rain, water, and snow, whereas others can only really handle sunlight and mild rain. There are also certain stains that are only supposed to be used either indoors or outdoors, depending on the formula and the kinds of results it offers. Make sure you don’t mix them up: indoor ones tend to be less toxic but less protective against natural weather, whereas outdoor ones are more protective but are likely to be bad for your health if you are in the same room while it is drying.

How many coats Should I Apply?

It can be tempting to keep applying more coats to your wood, but not all wood types can accept multiple coats quickly. If a wood can’t absorb a coat, it won’t look any different: in the case of hardwoods, they might only be able to accept a single coat at one time, so layering up another one won’t work at all. Other types of wood might be able to accept three, or maybe even more, which allows you to get more in-depth with how your wood looks.

Does a Stain Protect your Wood?

A stain on its own won’t offer any protection from things other than UV light and specific types of weather. You will want a sealant – some stains contain a sealant, but not all. If it doesn’t, you can always apply one yourself on top of the end result. A sealant is generally meant to protect the surface underneath from weather damage, leaking, dirt, and mold (as well as mildew), so you will want to apply it after the stain, not before.

How long does it take to Dry?

Different formulas will take varying amounts of time to dry, but some will be much longer than others. A formula will have a “safe” drying time and a “full” drying time: the safe drying time is how long it takes before it is safe to physically touch (which can be important for decks, hand railings, and so on), whereas the full drying time is how long it takes before it is actually completely dry. If you want to apply a second coat, wait until the first had fully dried to prevent leaks and unwanted mixing.

Expert Tip

Don’t be afraid to wait a few days before applying a new coat. It can be tempting to do another layer as soon as the first one dries, but waiting can actually help It dry even more thoroughly and will give the stain a chance to settle. This can sometimes lead to better results than rushing through the process.

Did you know?

Most stains will lighten or darken the surface for a while, then slowly restore it back to normal as it settles. This can take as long as fifteen days, so don’t be alarmed if you notice that your before and after pictures look different for a while.