3 Methods How To Waterproof Cedar Fence

stained dark brown cedar fence in backyard with grass and a brick wall nearby

When you move into a new home there are plenty of maintenance items to handle.  Once you’ve taken care of the window treatments and the furnishings, eventually you’ll start looking outside.  Maybe there’s a brand new fence, or maybe you’ll be putting in a fence.  Whatever the case you should consider how to waterproof cedar fence.  Cedar is a long lasting building material, but if you want it to last the longest possible, consider treating it.  We will go over some of the most common methods below, and give our recommended method.

How To Waterproof Cedar Fence With Paint

First, there’s the most obvious method used by those in the fence world.  Paint the fence using waterproof paint.  Tried and true over generations, painting a fence is a great solution for how to waterproof cedar fence.  However, even if you use the best paint you can find, painting comes with some drawbacks.

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If you use traditional paint, you’ll need to prime the fence prior to painting for the best results.  Then, in the next five or ten years, you’ll need to do quite a bit of scraping to prep for another layer of painting if you have any peeling.  For this reason alone, many homeowners and contractors alike have abandoned painting as a solution for how to waterproof cedar fence.

How To Waterproof Cedar Fence Using Colored Stain And Sealer

Using a colored stain and sealer instead of painting is now the industry standard for a ‘painted’ fence.  These colored stains can be found with just about any pigment under the sun.  If you are trying to match another color however, you will need to do some tests.

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Unfortunately, there is no way to be sure of the final color if you are trying to match colored stain to a painted house for example.  The reason for this is the inherent difference between staining and painting.  Staining includes the color of the wood and wood grain in the final color, whereas paint covers these up completely.  Because of this the hue of the final color will be slightly different with a stained fence versus a painted fence.

How To Waterproof Cedar Fence With Semi-Transparent Stain And Sealer

Next is the most common in today’s marketplace, and that is the semi-transparent stain and sealer.  This acts much the same way as the colored stain and sealer above,  but has less impact on the color of the wood.  The wood will remain natural looking, with a slight change in the tone of the color.  

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The semi-transparent stain and sealer will bring out the wood grain and slightly darken the fence so it looks almost wet.  This stain in particular should be applied when the fence is quite fresh and new, before too much weathering has occurred.  However, like with all painting and staining you want to be sure the wood is dry prior to application.

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Tips And Tricks For Using A Stain And Sealer On Your Fence

  1. Wear old clothes and shoes.  This may sound obvious, but a good thing to remember whenever working with paints and stains.
  2. Mix the stain well.  Spend some extra time stirring the stain before beginning the project.
  3. Make sure you get coverage on the top end grain of the fence panels.  It can be easy to miss the end grain of the boards.  Arguably, this will have the least impact visually on how the fence looks, but this will have the greatest impact long term in protecting the fence panels from rot as water naturally travels through the boards from the end grain.
  4. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Too often we can get excited and move too fast, missing an important step.  If you try and recoat an area too soon for example, you can get a gummy finish that’ll cause problems over the long term.  Always follow the instructions for your specific product, taking into consideration humidity levels and temperature.
  5. Don’t be afraid to hire a professional or ask for help.  
  6. Recruit within the household to make quick work of your fence project.  Teaching others how to waterproof cedar fence can be a great way to share knowledge, and get family members prepared for the next project.

Cedar Fence Waterproofing Summary

We recommend the stain and seal method. Using either a clear or colored stain and sealer, you will have the best quality treated fence for years to come. If you keep up with the reapplication of stain and sealer over time, you will not only have a great looking fence for decades, but you’ll also have a safe and effective fence for your family to enjoy.

We believe when considering how to waterproof cedar fence, the simplest application method is best.  When combined with some basic long term maintenance like removing trees and limbs which might fall will give you the best results. Replacing cedar fence boards is eventually inevitable. However, this will make sure you don’t need to do so prematurely.