Best fence stain: our 5 top buys for a beautiful fence

The best fence stain will protect your garden fence from the effects of cold and rainy weather, all year round. These are the best you can buy

a wooden fence with one of the best fence stain options on it, outside a traditional brick house in the background, and a tree
(Image credit: Jacksons)

The best fence stain will enrich the wood, deepen the color, and give your fence protection from the elements. Any dry day is a good day to reapply your fence stain, whether in spring, summer, or fall. There's also plenty of choice of products out there, with different finishes, tints, and protective features available. 

Whether you need a heavy-duty stain to help minimize the effects of wet weather, or a semi-transparent stain that will subtly enhance the wood, we have the best buys to bring the best out in your fence. 

Got a patio also in need of love? Check out our pick of the best patio cleaners, too. 

What is the best fence stain?

We think the best fence stain is the Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain. It dries very quickly, is available in a large range of colors, easy to apply and extremely weather proof. 

If you’re looking for a cost-effective fence stain, a product like the Colors Timbercare Shed & Fence Stain should do the trick nicely. 

The best fence stains

Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain in a tin – the best fence stain overall in RH's guide

1. Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain

Best fence stain you can buy: when it comes to quality fence stain, this one ticks all the boxes

Specifications

Best for: All-rounder
Application: Brush
Colors: 11
Drying time: 30 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Rainproof in just 30 minutes
+
Dries very quickly
+
Can be used on doors and windows or exterior wood

Reasons to avoid

-
None!

It may be expensive but if you’re looking to provide your fence with the ultimate level of protection, this stain from Ronseal should do the trick nicely. According to Ronseal, it’s highly water repellent, resists cracking and peeling, and protects the wood against UV rays, too. There’s a range of natural colors to choose from, including Satin Walnut and Satin Dark Oak, giving you plenty of options for your yard’s new look. 

Sikkens Cetol HLS Plus Translucent Woodstain

2. Sikkens Cetol HLS Plus Translucent Woodstain

Best fence stain for protection: mold and algae, be gone thanks to this fence stain

Specifications

Best for: Protection
Application: Brush
Colors: 8
Drying time: 24 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Highly translucent to bring out the wood’s natural properties
+
Resistant to UV radiation, peeling and cracking
+
Protects against mold and algae

Reasons to avoid

-
Long drying time

This fence stain from Sikkens is the most expensive on our list, which is why it doesn’t quite make the top spot – but it's still one of the best fence stain options around. Those looking to enhance their wood’s natural properties will love the translucent nature of this product, while those wanting to make sure that their fence benefits from the highest levels of protection should take note of its resistance against mold, algae, UV radiation, peeling and cracking.

bottle of Cuprinol Spray Fence Treatment

3. Cuprinol Spray Fence Treatment

Best fence stain for ease of use: spray or brush this treatment on for a brand new looking fence

Specifications

Best for: Ease of use
Application: Spray or brush
Colors: 8
Drying time: Up to 6 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Super fast application
+
Range of colors
+
Only needs one coat to look good

Reasons to avoid

-
None

This Cuprinol Spray Fence Treatment is compatible with the Cuprinol sprayer, which should enable you to treat your fence to a quick and even coverage. It’s worth noting that this product is, according to the brand, also safe to use around pets and plants. In addition to providing your fence with a fresh color, it protects it against the weather – and with a drying time of just two hours, doesn’t take long to come into effect, either.

a tin of the Ronseal Shed & Fence Preserver

4. Ronseal Shed & Fence Preserver

Best fence stain for preserving: complete protection, it just lacks the fast drying time

Specifications

Best for: Preserving
Application: Brush or dipping
Colors: 5
Drying time: 24-48 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Protects against insects, fungi, rot and decay

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs a minimum of 2 coats
-
Long drying time

If you’re looking to protect your fence against rot, decay, wood-burrowing insects and fungi, this preserver from Ronseal is the perfect choice. The product also provides your fence with waterproof protection and a natural color. With users saying it is every bit as good as more expensive wood stains – so long as you don’t mind the 24 hour drying time – this product from Ronseal is a great option.

tin of Cuprinol 5 Year Ducksback Treatment, the best fence stain for durability in Real Homes' guide

5. Cuprinol 5 Year Ducksback Treatment

Best fence stain for durability: with its guaranteed five year protection, you know just how long before a top-up is required

Specifications

Best for: Durability
Application: Brush
Colors: 8
Drying time: 2-4 hours

Reasons to buy

+
Showerproof in just one hour
+
Low odor
+
Safe for use around plants

This treatment from Cuprinol may not be a traditional stain but it’s very cost effective and provides complete protection against the weather. It’s quick drying and low odor, and like a couple of the other products on this list, safe to use around pets and plants. With a drying time of just two to four hours, guaranteed five year protection, and a host of colors to choose from, this fence stain is certainly worth looking at.

Do I need a fence stain?

The key thing to consider is the condition of your fence panels and how they've been treated before being sold. Many fence panels nowadays come pre-treated with fungicides and algaecides, so technically shouldn't require a stain. However, you can still apply it if you want to change the look of your fence – or as your fence gets older and naturally needs more protection. 

If you're buying fence panels made from untreated wood, however, it's essential to apply a stain to preserve it.

Choosing between fence stain and fence paint? Experts recommend fence stain as the superior product because it soaks into the wood and, with its protective properties, should last longer. Plus, it doesn’t peel or blister like paint but rather fades, which indicates that a top up coat may be required. 

Can I use a decking stain for my fence?

The short answer is: yes, of course. The longer answer is: unless you've got a bit left over from staining your deck and want to use it up, why would you? The best decking stains are typically two or even three times the price of fence stains, because they're formulated to be much more durable. A fence, although it does get rain, sun, and sometimes snow on it, doesn't get foot traffic, so doesn't quite require the same degree of protection a deck does. But, if you don't want to buy two separate products, then absolutely use your remaining decking stain on your fence.

Fence stain vs. fence paint: which do I need?

Whether you choose a fence stain or a fence paint very much depends on the current condition of your fence and the final look you desire. A brand new fence made from high-quality wood is better stained than painted – you just want to add a bit of richness to the color and protection from the elements. Fence stains are also easier to apply than paint as and when needed. 

If your fence has seen better days, on the other hand, or is made from basic pine or similar, painting can help achieve a smarter look. Don't automatically settle on white, either: try out a duck egg or gray shade for a bit more character. Browse the best exterior wood paint in our guide.  

How to prep your fence for staining

  1. If your fence has been previously painted, lightly sand first.
  2. Clean with a specialist fungicidal wash if it's covered in algae or lichen.
  3. Coat with wood preserver before staining to prevent wood rot.
  4. Only work when the fence is dry and the forecast predicts two dry days after staining.

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Annie is our Deputy Ecommerce Editor at Real Homes, with her particular area of expertise being home fragrance (there isn't a candle out there that she hasn't lit in her home). She's our guru when it comes to what to buy, when — and also where. She has years of experience when it comes to finding deals — Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday or not — and she particularly loves finding a bargain. With some of her favorite homeware pieces coming from Amazon, she's always looking for budget-friendly alternatives and dupes, as well as eco-friendly products to help her on her recent journey to being more sustainable at home. There's nothing she loves more than her Pug, Doug, and a bargain thrift shop find (yes, she once thrifted a brand new Le Creuset pan). Next up on her to-do list at home: DIY crittall-style doors...

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