How to Restore a Wood Fence

Wood Fence Vertical Board

Your trusty old fence has a lot of jobs. Keeping you and your family protected from things coming into your yard, keeping the objects, pets, or people you care about inside your yard, giving you privacy from your nosey neighbors, and helping your yard look its absolute best. Only, your fence is looking a bit rough, isn’t it? Mildew or dirt buildup, sun bleaching, repairs that you haven’t gotten around to making … it all builds up and makes your wood fence look a bit rusty.

You could spend the money to get it replaced, but why scrap your fence when it could be saved? Reclaim your wooden fence and bring it back to its full potential. Make your old fence look brand new again without having to replace it in four simple steps:

  1. See what needs to be repaired
    • Take a look around your fence and see where it’s falling apart. Look at the posts and rails for damage or missing pieces. 
  2. Clean it up
    • Use a power washer or some good old-fashioned elbow grease to get the grime and old paint off of the panels.
  3. Sand it down
    • Sand off any remaining paint or stain, and give yourself a flat, even surface.
  4. Apply a stain or paint
    • Decorate your fence and enjoy!

What you need


  • Power washer
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint roller
  • Hammer
  • Cordless drill
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Coarse bristled outdoor broom
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves


  • Fence sealant
  • Wood glue
  • Corrosion-resistant nails
  • Stain/paint
  • Wood screws
  • Sandpaper


Inventory What Needs to be Repaired

If you’re reading this, your fence likely needs your help. There’s a lot of damage that can happen to a fence in its lifetime. Water damage, wood deterioration, sun bleaching, and so much more! Before you start trying to fix your fence, first take a look at the existing damage to decide if you’re capable of fixing it. Before doing any repairs, be sure to wear proper safety equipment like gloves and eye protection to avoid splinters.

Some common issues in old fences to keep an eye out for:

  • Support beams that aren’t attached to the post
  • Split, broken, or splintering slats
  • Boards that need to be taken down or are missing
  • Protruding or rusted nails
  • Broken latches, hinges, or clasps on your gates

Check each individual picket, the tops and bottoms of the fence, and most importantly check the posts! If the slats are falling apart or damaged, repair is possible! But take a close look at your fence posts. Like the foundation of a house, if the posts of a fence are falling apart the rest is sure to follow. You want to have a solid base to start with so you don’t waste your time and money. 

If your posts are the problem, your best option may just be to install a new fence, or to hire a fence company like Long Fence to do it for you.

Making sure you have a good base to start with is crucial to helping your fence last a lifetime, so don’t skimp on this step and risk compromising your fence! If you don’t feel confident in making the repairs yourself, contact a professional to do the hard part for you.

Clean it up

Now that your fence is back in good condition, it’s time to clean it up! Pressure washing is recommended for especially grimy fences to get off all the dirt build-up, fungi, and peeling paint that may be present on your fence.

If your fence isn’t as dirty or you don’t have a pressure washer, you can always scrub!  If you want to save your back and arms, get a coarse bristled outdoor broom to cover more area at once. Just get some gloves to protect your hands and find a cleaner of your choice at your local hardware store; just be sure to read the labels and follow all directions closely so you don’t damage yourself or your fence in the process!.

If you do get a pressure washer, technique and the right sprayer tip are everything. Pressure washers are powerful enough to do more damage to the wood if you’re not careful. Stick to the lower power pressure washers that operate at 1,500 or 2,000 psi and avoid more powerful 3,000 or 3,500 psi units. Start on a lower setting (500 to 800 psi) and increase the pressure as needed. Look for a 15 and 25 degree sprayer tip, and if you’re renting the machine be sure to have the renters demonstrate how to use it most effectively.

In any case, the power washer’s spray will rough up your wood and raise the grain a little, but that’s a good thing! The added grain allows more sealer to soak in and improves the finish.

Make sure to let the fence dry out completely before moving on to the next step.

Sand it down

Sanding your fence can be an alternative to cleaning if you’re in a hurry and the damage isn’t deep. Just be mindful that you can only do this to clean your fence a couple times. Any more than that and it will need to be replaced from being sanded too thin or will be more vulnerable to breakage.

If you’re only planning on applying sealant, there’s no need to sand. In any case, sanding helps roughen up the grain, just like the pressure washer, to help your stain or paint better stick to your fence. 

Sanding is recommended to help strip away old colors and any remaining grime. It also helps remove splinters and sharp edges and gives your old wooden fence a fresh look. Medium-grit sandpaper is good for most fences.

Apply a stain or paint

Now it’s time to breathe some new life into your old fence and add some color! This part is the most personalized to you and your desired vision for your yard. Painting and staining can help protect your fence from sun bleaching and, depending on if the brand has a mildewcide, slow fungal growth. 

Once your fence has been stained, sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor! You deserve it.

Read More:

Components of a Wood Fence

7 Reasons for Installing a Wood Fence

How to Build A Wood Fence