How to Stain a Pressure Treated Fence to Look Like Cedar


Cedar and pressure treated wood fences are two of the most popular materials for homeowners looking for attractive privacy fencing for their properties. Both cedar and pressure treated wood have their positive attributes, including resistance to insects and fungi, and a durable, long lifespan.

Of the two, some opt for cedar simply because it has a warm, rich color, but something they might not realize is how quickly that cedar color fades to gray. It can also be prohibitively expensive and difficult to obtain at times. For this reason, many people instead choose to build a pressure treated wood fence and stain it to get a color that will last longer.

4 Steps to Staining a Fence

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If you’re like minded and choosing to stain a pressure treated wood fence to a color that better suits your taste, take these steps to get the results you’re looking for.

1. Let Your Fence Dry

The most important thing to know right off the bat is that pressure treated wood can’t be stained the same day it’s installed. Because the wood is wet from the treatment solution it needs time to dry before the wood fiber can soak up the stain. Waiting until your fence is fully dry after installation will help you get better coverage and a deeper, more consistent color.

The amount of time your fence will need to weather is directly tied to your climate. In areas that experience very hot and dry weather, for example, you may only need to wait a month. For others with more moderate conditions 3 to 6 months would be better. And if you’re heading into colder or wetter months, a full year might be your best bet. Check with your fencing contractor to see what they recommend for timing with regards to your climate.

2. Select Your Stain

One of the benefits of staining your pressure treated fence is the ability to select the exact color you want. Cedar is only available in a few colors based on the specific specie; however the most common cedar fencing will have a reddish brown color that might not complement every space.

Therefore, select samples of two or three stains to test out so you’re sure to get the right color. Even if you want to stain your fence to look like cedar there are a lot of different cedar color stains out there so trying samples before committing to a stain is highly recommended. Also bear in mind that some stains are more transparent than others. If you want the beauty of the natural wood grain to be visible on your fence try a transparent or semi-transparent stain - this will give you the better color you want without masking the natural characteristics of the wood.

3. Wash Your Fence if Necessary

If you’re planning to stain a fence that has been up for years it might be a good idea to wash it first to get rid of any debris or grime build up. Use a low-setting with a fan nozzle on your power washer to avoid causing damage. Then allow the wood to dry completely, which shouldn’t take too long as the wood isn’t as impregnated with moisture as it is after treatment, before you begin staining.

4. Begin Staining

If possible, you’ll want to begin staining your fence on a clear, sunny day with low humidity. Your stain will need to cure for a day between each coat, so check the forecast before you begin. From your test area, you will have learned the number of coats of stain needed to get the right amount of coverage and color. Begin staining your fence using a wide-enough bristled brush to apply the stain evenly to the pickets. Be liberal in your coverage and get all sides of the fence including the tops of the pickets. Apply the stain with long, slightly overlapping strokes. If your fence has knot holes or other depressions, tap the brush firmly into these areas to let the stain penetrate them fully, as they will tend to soak up more stain than other areas.

When the entire fence has been covered, allow the stain to dry completely before applying a second coat if desired.

Other Solutions to Avoid the Work of Staining Entirely

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If you don’t want to wait the 6 to 12 months before staining your fence, consider using a pre-colored fence like MicroShades or Select Cut ColorPro.

MicroShades is a pressure treated wood fence that has the red tone color of cedar. The color is infused as the wood is being pressure treated so you get the color you want from the very beginning. The result is a rich, reddish brown colored wood that deepens in the sun and doesn’t fade as quickly over time as cedar.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a more brown colored fence than red, Select Cut ColorPro would be the better solution for you. Each board is pre-stained individually, providing even and consistent color coverage without the added labor of staining yourself or expense of having someone else stain it for you.

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Both MicroShades and ColorPro offer pickets, posts and rails so you can have a fully stained fence in the color you want that will last. These lines are both readily available and easy to install, giving you the fence you want from day one.

Build a Fence You’ll Love

If you like the look of cedar, but not the difficulties with availability or cost, staining a pressure treated wood fence is a great option. And if you want to skip the hassle of staining entirely, MicroShades and ColorPro is the easiest and most cost effective solution to do so. Building a fence is a big and exciting project, so have fun with it and make the decision that’s best for you that will give you a fence you’ll love!