28th Nov 2022 -

When painting a wooden or metal fence, you’ll need to properly prepare the surface and choose a suitable paint if you want to achieve a consistent and long-lasting finish. In this guide from Building Materials Nationwide, we’ll explain your options for painting a fence and the best methods to do so.

Your Options For Painting a Wooden Fence

In most cases, you will be looking to paint a wooden fence with two products, an undercoat of primer paint, and a topcoat of exterior wood paint. 

Primer is essential on a bare wooden beam, as otherwise any paint applied will be absorbed into the wood, giving a messy and patchy look when finished. The primer will bond to the surface of the wood, creating a strong and smooth base where your choice of paint can be applied. There will be specific primers designed for use on wood, which are water-based and light in colour. 

man painting fence

If your wooden fence is already painted then, depending on the condition, you may not need to use a primer. As primer is about preparing a surface for painting, there will be a much lower danger of paint being absorbed. However, if you are switching between substantially different colours, such as moving from white to brown, a base coat of primer will ensure that the colour you are painting over does not bleed through. This is also the case when moving between different paint sheens, such as from matt to gloss.

For your wooden fence topcoat, you will be looking to use a specific exterior wood paint, which will be marked as such, sometimes described as shed and fence paint. You’ll find paints in many colours, whether looking for a classic grey or harvest gold look, or something more exciting like pink or purple. These paints will typically be water-based and be designed for a durable finish. 

Outdoor wood surfaces must be resistant to sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and rain while maintaining an attractive finish. Many exterior wood paints will offer a guaranteed level of performance over 5 to 10 years. 

For those looking to save time, one-coat paints are available for exterior use, from companies like Sandtex. These paints combine a primer and finishing colour and are designed to be applied as a single coat. The quality of one-coat paint options is a topic of fierce debate, with professionals usually sticking to separate coats of primer and topcoat paint.

Painting a Metal Fence

When looking to paint metal you’ll again need to use a primer, although for a different reason. As exterior topcoat paints for metal will typically be water-based, this can cause rusting to metal if applied directly. Not only will this damage the metal underneath, it will also stain and discolour the surface paint.

Opting for a layer of primer will prevent these issues, allowing you to have a durable and attractive surface on your garden fence. Much like wood, you will be looking for a topcoat that is specifically designed for outdoor metal use. Some products will be designed for both wood and metal, and others specifically for metal, like Hammerite. One-coat options are available for metal, with the same benefits and drawbacks as wood.

man painting fence

How to Paint a Fence

  • Prep: Before you start painting you need to prep the surface of your fence, and make sure the conditions are right for painting. Clean your fence thoroughly, sanding down any imperfections and clearing away dirt or loose paint. Ensure the weather is clear, with no chance of rain during the application or drying process. You should also lay a tarpaulin or other covering under your fence to protect grass, concrete, or plants from drips of paint.
  • Priming: Next you should apply your primer coat. This will typically be applied as a single layer, thoroughly covering the whole surface. If you are painting an uneven wooden fence, ensure that you get the primer into all dents and holes. The primer you use should tell you how long it will need to dry in the product description.
  • Painting: When it comes to painting, you’ll have three application options, using a large paintbrush, a paint roller, or a paint sprayer. For the brush, you should paint in line with the grade of the wood to provide a better look. Whatever method you use, keeping a smaller brush to hand will allow you to do any touch-ups needed. Depending on the paint, you will need either one or two coats.  If you need a second coat, you’ll need to allow the first coat to fully dry before applying it.

Painting Concrete Fence Posts

While some will opt to leave the concrete posts in their wooden or metal fence unpainted, these can also be painted to create a consistent look across your fence. You’ll need to use a special concrete primer, followed by an exterior paint suited to concrete. If you are looking to create a consistent appearance across your fence you should use an outdoor paint that is suited for both wood and concrete, but remember you’ll have to use different primers for each surface. 

Building Supplies Delivered to You

Building Materials Nationwide works with professionals across the UK, delivering the building supplies they need fast and saving them time and money. Our trade account holders have access to a dedicated account manager, through whom any supplies needed, fence paint or otherwise can be shipped. 

We can deliver all supplies across the UK mainland at competitive trade pricing. Trade account holders can also take advantage of up to 30 days of interest-free credit. 

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