How To Seal A Wood Fence In 4 Easy Steps (Or Less!)

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Last updated on October 21st, 2022 at 01:28 pm

How To Easily Seal A Fence For The First Time

Wondering how to seal a wood fence like a professional? Look no further because I have your answer!

To easily seal a fence for the first time, you should:

  • Thoroughly clean the fence
  • Repair any damages to the fence
  • Sand the fence with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe it down
  • Apply several coats of exterior sealant

Yes, it really is that easy! But before you jump into your project, let’s go over some of the nitty-gritty details of sealing a fence to help ensure you get the best outcome possible.

Let’s dive in!

Quick Navigation: how To Seal A Wood Fence

  1. Clean The Fence
  2. Repair Any Damages
  3. Sand With Sandpaper & Wipe Down
  4. Apply Several Coats Of Exterior Sealant
  5. Other FAQs About Sealing A Fence
  6. Final Thoughts
  7. Related Fence & Outdoor Articles

Level Of DifficultyTime To Complete
Medium2-3 Days
Material ListTool List
220 grit sandpaperMechanical sander
Exterior sealantFoam roller
Foam brush
Clean rags
Pressure washer (or bleach and deck scrub brush)

Step One: Clean The Fence

The first step to sealing a wood fence is to thoroughly clean the fence.

Now, this step can be done in one of two ways: either by hand scrubbing the fence or by pressure washing the fence.

Personally, I prefer to pressure wash my fence before I seal it because a pressure washer easily blasts away algae, mold, mildew, dirt, and old sealant/stain in a fraction of the time that hand scrubbing does.

Pressure washing is oddly satisfying…

But if you can’t rent or borrow or buy a pressure washer, then hand scrubbing will clean up your fence just as well.

Either way, the fence must be free of algae, mold, dirt, and old sealant before we can reseal it.

For a tutorial on pressure washing a fence or hand scrubbing a fence, you need to check out my post here. It will walk you through all of the steps to accomplish this task quickly and efficiently.

Once your fence is clean, it’s time to move on to the next step!

Just pressure washing makes a huge difference!

Related Fence & Outdoor Articles

Step Two: Repair Any Damages

The next step to sealing a wood fence is to repair any damages on the fence.

If your fence is on the older side (as mine is), then now is a perfect time to repair it before we seal it.

Some repairs you might want to complete:

  • Re-attaching loose planks into place
  • Screwing together cross supports that have pulled away from the posts
  • Replacing rotting posts
  • Replacing broking or warped planks

For my fence, it’s not in the greatest shape, but it’s hidden from the road and mostly used for privacy, so I only opted to re-attach loose pieces instead of replacing them outright.

This is what happens to your fence when you DON’T seal it. The sun and water damage destroy it.

Also, the fence is probably over 20 years old and has never been sealed, so eventually, we will probably want to replace it.

For now, though, re-attaching the loose planks and cross supports and sealing it has made a world of difference!

To re-attach the loose crossbeams, I took 4-inch exterior decking screws and screwed through the plank and crossbeam into the post.

This pulled everything back together and made the entire structure more stable.

For the loose planks, I took 1-1/4 inch exterior decking screws and screwed through the loose plank into the crossbeam to tie it all back together.

Lastly, I ran a little bit of wood glue into the seams of the planks that had large cracks to help keep those pieces from breaking off as well.

I used painter’s tape to hold the pieces together until the glue dried.

Wood glue is really runny, so I only used a little bit and made sure I wiped up the excess as best I could so that it didn’t affect the natural color of the wood (since I didn’t stain my fence before sealing).

The fence already looks in better shape and is more structurally sound than it probably has been for the last decade.

Once you have all of the repairs you want to make completed, it’s time to move on to the next step!

Step Three: Sand With Sandpaper & Wipe Down

The next step to sealing a wood fence is to sand it with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe it down.

Now we are getting into the more tedious part of sealing a fence. If your fence is new, then you can probably skip this step because your fence will already be in good condition.

However, if your fence has been sealed before or if it’s old like mine and just needs some love to smooth it back out to its original glory, then sanding likely will be worth your time.

Use a 220 grit piece of sandpaper on a mechanical sander and run over all of the planks, crossbeams, and posts on the fence.

For an exterior fence that is mostly a visual thing (i.e. not touched that much), it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. We are mostly sanding out any obvious blemishes or unevenness.

And we are also just trying to rough up the texture of any old sealant so our new coat will adhere to the fence properly.

So a quick sanding will most likely get the job done.

After you’re done sanding, thoroughly wipe off the dust with a clean rag.

Once the fence is sanded and wiped down, it’s time to move on to the final step!

step Four: Apply Several Coats Of Exterior Sealant

The last step to sealing a wood fence is to apply several coats of exterior sealant onto the fence.

Now, some sealants are a single-coat application, but I don’t particularly like them because one coat just isn’t thick enough to protect a fence from the elements for a long time.

(In case you want to know why you should seal a fence, then you should check out my post here. Having a better understanding of the importance of sealing a fence will help you pick out a better exterior sealant for your fence.)

To quickly apply the sealant, I used a foam brush to get between all of the planks and in all of the hard-to-reach places.

Then I used a foam roller to roll the sealant on the large, flat areas of the planks, crossbeams, and posts. Getting the tight spots and edges done with the foam brush first, then using the foam roller helps to smooth out the finish.

Just be sure to work on 1-2 planks at a time before moving on, otherwise, you’ll run the risk of the sealant drying before you can roll it out and smooth it out!

After I applied the first coat on the entire fence, I let it dry before applying a second coat. After the second coat dried, I applied 1 more coat for good measure and let that dry completely.

And voila! My fence is now sealed and looking vibrant as ever!

Yes, this process is a bit tedious, but now I can more easily maintain my wood fence for years before I have to worry about sealing it again.

And repairing and sealing it was a lot cheaper than replacing the whole thing. Win for me haha!

Other FAQs About Sealing A Fence

Now that you’ve got the steps down to seal your fence like a pro, let’s go over a few other questions you might be having to help you tackle this project even better and quicker.

Is It Better To Stain Or Seal A Fence?

Staining a wood fence is not necessary. However, sealing a wood fence is necessary to protect the fence from sun and moisture damage and keep the fence looking newer and more vibrant for longer. Stain alone does help minimize the effects of sun damage but is not as beneficial as a sealant on a wood fence.

How Often Should I Seal My Wood Fence?

A wood fence should be sealed every 2-3 years to properly maintain and protect it. Over time, wood fences without proper sealant can experience sun and water damage that shortens the lifespan of the fence and requires more work and money later on to repair and revive it.

Can You Seal An Old Fence?

Sealing an old fence will help the fence from further deteriorating from sun and water damage. The sealant will create a protective layer that can help the old fence avoid further cracking, wood rot, and fading as well as help minimize algae, mold, and mildew growth on the fence.

How Long After Pressure Washing Can You Seal A Fence?

After pressure washing a fence, allow the fence to completely dry before applying sealant. Typically, a wood fence will dry fully in 24-48 hours. Sealing a damp fence can result in the sealant taking longer to dry or not adhering to the fence properly.

How Many Coats Of Sealant Do I Need For A Fence?

To fully protect a fence from sun and moisture damage, apply 2-3 coats of an exterior sealant to the entire fence. Most sealants also come with a mold and mildew resistance formula that will help make future maintenance of the fence easier.

Final Thoughts On Sealing A Fence

There you have it! Sealing your fence will make a huge difference in the longevity of the fence.

And it will make future cleaning and maintenance much easier. I’m all for things that help make my life easier haha!

How To Seal A Wood Fence In 4 Easy Steps (Or Less!)

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