Painting or staining your fence could cost as little as $170 or as much as $2,400, but it's best to budget closer to $500-$742. On average, fence painting costs $600, but the price depends on multiple factors, including the fence material, height and length. Once you know your fence's square footage, you can calculate an estimated price range using the cost per square foot, which is $0.40-$2.
Fence painting cost:
National average cost
Average cost range
If you have a wooden fence (or if you’re thinking about building one), staining or painting it is an excellent idea. It can help protect your wood from moisture, weather and other elements. Learn more about the cost to paint or stain a fence, and get personalized cost estimates from fence painters in your area.
What's in this cost guide?
- Cost per square foot
- Fence staining vs. painting cost
- Should I paint or stain my fence?
- Cost factors
- How to stain a fence
- How to paint a fence
- Is painting or staining a fence worth it?
- Fence maintenance tips
- How to hire someone to paint or stain your fence
- Find a fence painting or staining pro near you
It costs between $0.40 and $2 per square foot to stain or paint a fence. Here are some examples of the total cost based on the fence’s square footage:
Total square footage
$400 - $2,000
$480 - $2,400
$600 - $3,000
$720 - $3,600
$800 - $4,000
To get a more accurate estimate of how much it would cost to stain your fence, multiply the height and length (measured in feet) together to calculate your fence's square footage. Then, multiply that number by $0.40 to see the low-end cost per square foot estimate. For the high-end estimate, multiply the fence's square footage by $2.
Generally, painting a fence will cost more than staining a fence. A gallon of stain is usually less expensive than a gallon of paint, but most fence jobs require more stain for proper coverage. Therefore, the initial costs to stain a fence may be higher than for painting.
However, painting a fence requires more upkeep down the line. You’ll need to apply more paint (thus, spend more money) to maintain your fence.
Choosing to paint or stain your fence completely depends on what you want your fence to look like. If you love the appearance of wood but want to protect it, choose a semi-transparent stain. If you want a splash of color, you'll probably be happier with paint (although solid color stains do exist).
One drawback to paint is that it requires a primer and at least two coats to look uniform. It also requires more maintenance over time. A wood preservative and a fence sealer are strongly recommended as well.
In contrast, you can find stains that only need one application. However, paint does a better job of hiding imperfections in the wood.
Experts don’t generally recommend painting wooden fences because exposure to the elements can cause the paint to peel quickly. Wood absorbs stain better than paint, so the stain is less likely to crack, peel or flake. In addition, stain protects the wood from the inside out and is faster and easier to apply than paint.
The color in stain does, however, fade over time. If a fence is made of cedar, it’s important to avoid painting it because paint prevents the wood from breathing, which will shorten the life of the fence.
Fences come in all shapes and sizes. Discover the characteristics that make a fence relatively affordable or expensive to paint or stain.
The fence material dictates how much preparation is required before painting or staining can begin. Vinyl fences clean up easily with a pressure washer, but wrought iron and wood fences often require sanding so that the primer adheres properly.
Taller fences require additional paint and labor to cover their greater surface area. In some cases, the painters may need special equipment like ladders or extendable poles to reach the top. All of this adds cost to the project.
Longer fences cost more to stain or paint simply due to the increased amount of paint and labor required. Also, consider whether the length of the fence makes it difficult to reach with extension cords or water hoses, which may affect whether power washers, paint sprayers and other efficient power tools can be used. If the contractor has to haul in a water tank or generator — or even use hand tools — due to the length of the fence, the cost may increase.
Just a few touch-ups here and there costs less than a full repaint. Expect the price to increase if more than one color is used or if any special design work is required.
Having a gate increases the price of the fence painting project. Thumbtack customers with gates pay an average of $777 for fence painting, while those with no gates pay an average of $609.
This increased cost stems from the fact that gates typically need an extra coat of paint or fence sealer to keep them in tip-top shape despite frequent use and direct contact with the oils on our hands. Gates also require a little extra care and attention so that the hinges, handles and nearby concrete or pavers don't get splattered. This means they may need to be hand-painted, which takes more time and consequently costs more.
Your fence’s current finish influences the price of the project because it might need to be removed. For example, if your wooden fence currently has paint on it and you'd like to stain it, the paint has to come off first. On the other hand, if a wood fence is already stained but simply needs a fresh coat, the existing stain can remain intact.
Supplying the paint or stain
If you already have primer, paint or stain on hand, you could save money on the overall cost of the project. Confirm that the fence painting pro will use the paint you supply and will remove the corresponding charge on your invoice.
Related content: How to install a wood fence.
Fence staining starts with thoroughly cleaning the fence. Contractors may use a pressure washer to speed up the process. If the fence has peeling stain or paint, the contractor may recommend sanding the fence before applying stain, which will add to the cost significantly because it can double the hours needed to complete the job.
Once the prep work is completed, the staining can begin. If the stain is a solid color, the contractor will apply a primer first. Otherwise, the stain can be immediately applied using cloths, paint brushes, paint rollers or paint sprayers. The tool of choice depends on the contractor's preference and evaluation of the job site.
One coat of stain may be all that's needed. Otherwise, the contractor will wait for the first stain to dry and then come back to apply a second stain to ensure the fence looks and performs as expected. They may also apply a sealer on top of the stain.
As an example, David Price, the owner of Price Carpentry and Construction in Dallas, Georgia, charges $1 per square foot to stain a bare fence. This price includes pressure washing the fence to remove surface oils and dust and two coats of Behr Premium stain. An average fence measures 600 to 1,200 square feet. The process takes a couple of days, Price says, because he lets the wood dry after pressure washing it, then returns the next day to stain it. Price says stain typically dries in about two hours.
Painting a fence is a longer process than staining a fence. Before painting a fence, the contractor will need to remove the fence’s old finish by applying a paint or wood stripper. They will also clean the fence, most likely with a high-pressure nozzle and a stiff bristle brush. And, they should make repairs to the flats and other areas on the fence.
After the fence is properly prepared, the contractor will begin priming and painting the fence. You’ll likely need to apply two coats of paint.
To keep your fence in good condition, protect it from its surroundings. For example, safely trim and remove dead tree branches in danger of falling on the fence. And divert water away from the fence’s base if it often collects there after heavy rain.
You should also clean or scrub your fence with water and detergent once a year. Replace weak boards and nails as soon as you detect an issue. And don’t stack firewood against the fence, as this can encourage termites and other pests to take up residence in the fence boards.
And, of course, stay on top of painting and staining. Read your manufacturer’s guidelines for information on how often you should reapply paint or stain. Usually, it’s recommended that you paint your fence every one to three years and stain your fence every three to five years.
Search for fence painting or staining professionals on Thumbtack and read their customer reviews. Once you find a few pros you like, contact them for free estimates and to learn more about their services.
To accurately compare their estimates, always ask for them to be itemized. This way, you'll know exactly which services or materials are missing from the lowest estimate compared to the highest. And give the contractors details about your fence — its age, material, style, current finish, height and length — so contractors can estimate how much it will cost to paint or stain it. Giving the contractors photos of your fence is helpful as well.
It's also important that you ask about the project’s timeline, warranties and guarantees, and how the contractor plans to protect the surrounding lawn, garden, patio, walls, etc.
If the fence is in disrepair, ask if the contractor can repair the fence before painting it and how much it will cost. If they can't repair it, you may need to hire a separate contractor for this service.
What is the best stain for a wood fence?
There's no universal "best stain" for a wood fence. Different types of wood absorb stains differently. Oil-based and water-based stains exist, as do stains with varying levels of opacity, UV protection and water protection. Consult a local pro for recommendations based on your particular fence and expectations.
How many coats of stain do I need for a fence?
The number of coats needed for a fence depends on the exact product being applied. Read the application instructions to determine if one coat will suffice. The label may recommend up to three coats for maximum performance.
How clean should a fence be before staining?
All oil or dirt on the surface of the fence must be removed to ensure the stain comes in contact with the wood.
Should I pressure wash a fence before staining?
Pressure washing a fence before staining it is a great way to clean dirt off the wood, but water alone may not suffice in removing oily build-up or imperfections. After pressure washing, you may need to apply a detergent.
However, be careful when using a pressure washer. If your fence is weak and you use too much pressure, you could damage your fence. Most contractors recommend pressure washing wood to remove mildew, and other fence pros say pressure washing can cause the surface of the wood to deteriorate and recommend using a bleach-and-water solution instead.
Joe Hernandez, owner of V&G Enterprises in Hamden, Connecticut, usually pressure washes fences before re-staining them for his clients. After the wash, the wood needs to dry, which adds to the time. Hernandez charges $400-$800 to clean and re-stain a fence, depending on the square footage.
Talk to a fence contractor or a professional pressure washing service to find out if your fence can handle a pressure washer.
How long should a fence dry before staining?
Brande-new fences need to dry or "weather" for about two months in order for the wood to successfully absorb the stain. You'll know the wood is dry enough if water soaks into it instead of beading up.
In terms of recent rainfall, allow the wood to dry for about 24 hours before staining. In humid or cool conditions, allow about 48 hours.
What time of year is best to stain a fence?
For fence stains to adhere, dry and perform properly, they must be applied within a specific temperature range (which varies by brand and stain type) and in dry conditions. Fall tends to offer the best weather for fence staining, but summer may also work well in areas with low humidity.