Can You Use Decking Stain On Fences?

You may be curious as to whether you can use decking stain on fences, especially if you have leftover decking stain and are building a fence on your property. The good news is that you can!

Decking stains are designed to preserve and protect wood, which includes your wooden fence while offering water resistance and enhancing the natural look of the wood. Before you choose a decking stain for your fence, let’s learn a little more.

What Is the Difference Between Deck Stain and Deck Paint?

Deck paint will cover the surface of the wood with a film, allowing you to completely change the colour of the wood.

With this option, you will have numerous colour options. On the other hand, the deck stain will provide a more natural look that highlights the wood grain.

Deck paint offers a thicker finish than deck stain and hides flaws that stain cannot. Deck paint also has a longer life expectancy (about five years versus one to two years).

However, the deck stain allows the natural beauty of the wood to shine through while offering UV resistance.

Is There a Difference Between Deck Stain and Deck Oil?

Essentially, deck stain and deck oil are the same.

The only difference is the colour of the application, as oils are generally clear and stains are pigmented with colour.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wood Stain

If you have never used a wood stain before, you may not realize that there is a lot more to choosing the best decking stain for your fence than simply choosing a colour you like and applying it to the fence.

Here are a few factors you need to take into consideration before purchasing a fence or decking stain.


There are two primary types of deck stains: oil-based and water-based. Both offer an assortment of wood-tone shades. While they are both similar, they do have their differences.

Oil-based deck stains will penetrate the wood grain and repel water. The growth of mould will be reduced while also preserving the wood and preventing cracking and warping. Oil-based wood stains can take up to 48 hours to completely dry, and until then, they are flammable.

They normally require a paint thinner or similar solvent to clean brushes, rollers, and paint sprayers after application.

Water-based deck stains aren’t quite as popular as oil-based stains, but they have been growing in popularity.

They dry very fast, generally within just a few hours. Rather than penetrating the grain of the wood, this type of stain sits on top of it.

Water-based wood stains tend to be more expensive than oil-based stains, but they have a lower VOC count, making them more eco-friendly and less toxic than oil-based options. Further, water-based stains can easily be cleaned up with just warm water and soap.


Opacity refers to the level of transparency the product offers.

The opacity of decking stains will determine the look of the finished product and how well the fence will be protected from the elements. Generally, decking stain for fences is available in four different opacities.


Toner stain is very close to a clear sealant. Toner contains only a hint of colour. It will not alter the appearance of the fence overall. This type of stain should be reapplied annually.


This is the most popular of the four opacities. It will add a noticeable colour to the fence, although you will still be able to see the grain of the wood. Ideally, you should reapply this stain every two to three years.


Sometimes referred to as semi-solid, this particular type of wood stain will conceal the majority of the wood grain due to its higher colour pigment. It should be reapplied every three to four years.


This solid wood stain contains the highest amount of pigment and is designed to protect the fence for the longest time, with a reapplication needed every four to five years.

It will hide the grain of the wood completely and offers the most coverage outside of needing to apply fence paint.

Wood Type

There are many different types of wood species, and some are simply better at withstanding the elements. However, almost all wood types will need some level of protection and may benefit from a colour refresh with a deck stain.

The four main types of woods used for decks and fences are cedar, redwood, teak, and treated.


Naturally resistant to insects, rot, bad weather conditions and decay, this softwood is a popular option for exterior structures.

It could be expensive, but it will not need to be stained, as it has a natural beauty to it. A clear sealer should be applied each year.

Over time, cedar will discolour to a silvery-grey colour, which can be left as-is. Alternatively, you can restore the natural beauty of the wood with a tinted sealer or semi-transparent stain.


Redwood is moisture-, insect-, and rot-resistant, but it is costly. A clear sealer, as opposed to a stain, should be applied annually to help the wood retain its natural beauty. Over time, a toner stain may be necessary to enhance the colour of the wood.


This wood species is naturally resistant to water, decay, and fungus, requiring no sealer or stain to maintain its natural beauty. It can last for 50+ years, especially when well taken care of. Over time, like cedar, it may turn a silver-grey hue, but the surface discolouration can be removed with light sanding.

Typically, a stain isn’t necessary.


Treated wood is a fraction of the cost of the previous wood species, which makes it a budget-friendly option for decks and fences.

Treated wood is resistant to weathering and rotting. Before you apply a stain to treated wood, it is recommended to wait six months for the chemicals to evaporate from the wood.

Additional Protection

All stains have some level of water resistance properties, but the best stain will protect the wood from UV damage as well. Some stains offer mould and mildew protection, which can make the stain more expensive, although well worth it in the end.

Existing Coating

If your wood has been treated previously with a penetrating stain, you should reapply it to preserve and protect the wood. It is recommended to remove the existing coat to apply a new stain. Ideally, you should stick to a similar or darker hue rather than a lighter shade.

An existing dark hue will overpower a lighter-coloured stain.

If you want a lighter hue, you will need to sand off the darker stain before applying the new, lighter stain.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it is quite possible to use decking stain on fences, even more so than using fence paint on decking. The key is to simply choose a stain that will allow you to obtain the appearance you desire while also protecting and preserving the wood.

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