Tips to Protect Your Wooden Fence from Rain and Sun

close-up of staining a fence

Protecting your wooden fence from rain and sun is crucial. Why? A fence brings many benefits to homeowners. Fences increase curb appeal and provide a safe space for children and pets. It’s also a big investment. Protecting and maintaining your fence can add up to 15 years to your fence’s lifespan.

So, how do you protect your wooden fence from rain and sun? How do you maintain a fence so rain and sun have less of an impact? And how can you repair your already damaged fence? Let’s explore the answers to those questions and more maintenance tips.

How Do Sun and Rain Affect My Wood Fence?

There are quite a few ways a wooden fence can be damaged, especially if it’s untreated. Wind can fling dirt and objects. Fungus and microorganisms can infiltrate and rot the wood. But the most common culprits are sun and rain.


Sun is most damaging in hot, high-sun areas. Like your skin, rays from the sun will find a way through the clouds and the cold to wreak havoc on your fence. Here’s how:

  • UV rays: The ultraviolet light from the sun will cause discoloration or graying of your wood fence.
  • Overheating: The heat from the sun causes the wood to expand and contract.
  • Cracks: When the sun causes the wood to expand, splinters and cracks form. Cracks expose the inner fibers to problems like dry rot.


Of the different types of precipitation, rainfall is the most common troublemaker for wood fences. The life-giving sky water is insidious for fences. How is that possible?

  • Fungus: Fungus growing in damp environments causes wet rot. The fungus eats the cellulose in the wood, damaging your fence.
  • Mold: Mold and mildew flourish in damp areas. Although mold itself doesn’t cause damage, it’s unsightly. Worse, certain molds will trigger allergies. Mold and mildew can affect the health of nearby plants, animals, and humans.
  • Bacteria: Several bacteria species feed on wood or act as a decomposer. They break down wood for other microorganisms to consume. Bacteria flourishes in damp, undisturbed areas. This makes fences, especially the base, an ideal living space.

How Do I Protect My Wood Fence?

wooden privacy fence
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Protection and prevention strategies are key to extending the life of your fence. Here are some regular maintenance techniques professionals recommend.

Use Treated Wood

To manufacture treated wood, freshly cut lumber is infused with chemicals and preservatives. Treated wood prevents rot, insects, and other organisms from damaging the wood. According to the EPA, manufacturers use a wide variety of EPA-approved chemical products. These products include (but are not limited to):

  • Alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ)
  • Borates
  • Copper azole
  • Copper naphthenate
  • Copper-HDO
  • Polymeric betaine 

Treated wood is a basic construction material used primarily in outdoor projects. These projects include fences, decks, arbors, benches, siding, wood shingles, and trim.

Build With Rot-Resistant Wood

Some wood is naturally rot-resistant and moisture-resistant. Ideally, your fence would be constructed from one of these materials.

  • Cedar
  • Juniper
  • Redwood
  • Cypress
  • Douglas Fir

Apply a Protective Barrier

Applying stain, paint, or sealant will protect where treated wood falls short. Stain, paint, and sealant ward off UV rays and wind debris. They also offer extra protection against rot and microorganisms.

It’s noteworthy to mention that some professionals only recommend stain and paint. They don’t recommend sealant because it doesn’t allow the wood to breathe.

How Do I Maintain My Wood Fence?

washing the wooden fence
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Maintaining your fence is another key step in protecting your fence investment. To keep your fence looking its best, clean, repair, paint, and maintain paint and stain.

Clean Your Fence

Cleaning your fence removes dirt, buildup, and microorganisms before they can cause damage. Here’s how to do it.

  • Pressure wash: If you have a pressure washer, use a 15-25 degree tip to wash off your fence. Be thorough, getting into crevices. Don’t use your machine’s full power. Going full blast will cause splinters in the wood and remove stain or paint. You should pressure wash once a year. 
  • Hose and brush: If you don’t have a pressure washer or prefer using elbow grease, no problem. You can clean your fence with soapy water and a cleaning brush. Use a simple garden hose to rinse. Clean your fence once a year.
  • Clear debris: Remove any leaves or debris that build up near the bottom of the fence. Doing this will eliminate a damp, dark space for bacteria and mold to grow. This should be done about as often as you mow your lawn or every two weeks, depending on where you live.

Repair Your Fence

It’s essential to repair cracks and damage as soon as you see them. Damage in your fence exposes the inner fibers.

Here are some fence repair tips:

  • Fill in cracks with epoxy
  • Walk the fence line once a week to check for damage
  • Have a yearly professional inspection

Maintain Stain and Paint

Staining and painting your wood fence is important, but it doesn’t last. Professionals recommend restaining every two to three years and repainting every one to three years. Factors like wood quality, weather, color, and regular cleaning will contribute to how long paint and stain will last.

Here are a few paint and stain tips:

  • Clean: Using a pressure washer or bucket and brush, give your fence a good cleaning. Then, let dry for 48 hours before applying paint or stain.
  • Stain: Use an oil stain with a UV blocker, and apply two to three coats, allowing 24 hours to dry between applications.
  • Paint: Consider an acrylic latex paint. It’s waterproof, blocks UV rays, and is flexible, allowing the paint to expand and contract with the wood.

What If My Wood Fence Already Has Sun and Rain Damage?

If you already have sun and rain damage, don’t stress. Damage control is easier than you think and is similar to regular fence maintenance. Follow these steps to get back on track.

  1. Replace broken or severely damaged slats. Also, replace or reinforce fence posts. The life expectancy of wooden posts varies.
  2. Give your fence a good cleaning, removing dirt, mold, and mildew. Allow 48 hours to dry.
  3. Fill in any cracks with epoxy. Allow up to 72 hours to dry, and sand down as needed.
  4. If your fence is not made from treated wood, treat it now. Wood treatment products are available for purchase at your local home improvement store. For the safety of you and your family, be sure to follow instructions carefully.
  5. Apply sealant. Whether you’re using paint or stain, follow the instructions. Apply at least two coats, allowing dry time between applications.
  6. Use maintenance strategies like cleaning, repairing, and maintaining sealers as needed. 

FAQ About Protecting Your Wood Fence from Sun and Rain

How long do wooden fences last?

Wood fences will last about 20 years when maintained properly. Factors that can decrease your fence’s life include:

• Climate such as extreme temperature, sunlight, and precipitation 
• Not regularly cleaning, repairing and maintaining your fence
• Not applying sealants like stain and paint

Is it better to paint or stain my fence?

Most professionals recommend staining instead of painting. Here are a few reasons why:

• Stain allows the wood to breathe.
• Although stain fades, paint chips, which are more noticeable and less aesthetically pleasing.
• Stain is usually cheaper.

What happens if I only stain one side of my fence?

If you only stain the side facing your property, you leave the other side of the fence susceptible to weather damage. The sun will fade it and rain will seep into the outside-facing wood. If you stain both sides, it puts a protective barrier around the entire wood panel.

When to Hire a Fencing Professional

Homeownership is exciting and rewarding, but it comes with challenges. Whether you’re new to owning a fence or have years of experience, maintenance can seem like a full-time job. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Experienced, highly-rated fencing rofessionals in your area can repair, maintain, or install a new fence. Rain or shine, they have your back.

Main Photo Credit: PxHere / CC0

Nicki DeStasi

Nicki DeStasi is a writer, author, and teacher who grew up in western Massachusetts and currently resides in the Austin area. She enjoys flower and vegetable gardening, reading, cooking, listening to true-crime podcasts, and spending time with her husband, three children, dog, and cat.