When contractors build a wooden fence built to enclose a yard or outdoor space, most will offer to stain or paint the fence. To stain bare wood after a fence is installed, contractors charge anywhere from $0.40 to $2 per square foot, depending on the geographic region. Re-staining a fence that has faded costs about the same as staining a new fence but will cost more if the contractor has to pressure wash or apply a bleach solution to remove mildew.
Preparing the wood
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 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.
If a fence is not stained after being built, it will probably turn a grayish color from exposure to the elements. This can indicate the presence of mildew. Most contractors recommend pressure washing wood to remove mildew. Other fence pros say pressure washing can cause the surface of the wood to deteriorate, and they 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 amount of square footage. 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.
Paint versus stain
Experts do not generally recommend painting wooden fences because exposure to the elements can cause paint to peel quickly. Wood absorbs stain better than paint, so 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. Stain costs less per gallon than paint, but most fence jobs require more stain for proper coverage, so initial costs to stain a fence are higher than for painting. Most contractors include the cost of materials in their project estimates.
If a fence design is more than just flat boards arranged vertically or horizontally, the cost to have it stained may be higher, especially if the design requires the contractor to spend more time spraying or brushing the stain onto the surface.
The taller the fence, the higher the cost of staining because taller fences require more stain and take more time.