Comparing Finishes For Treating Wooden Fences
A natural wood fence has a certain something about it that is hard to match with any other material. Vinyl and chain link have their advantages and uses, but a wood fence is still the preferred choice for many people.
Even with the various technological improvements made over the last couple of decades, a wood fence is still subject to damage from the elements and other things. Taking preventative measures to protect your fence will help it last for many years to come.
Paint is one of the most common choices for protecting wood against the elements. Modern paint gives you many more options than it would have in years gone by, with choices such as latex and oil having been improved considerably with modern chemistry.
Latex has the advantage of easy application, and it is typically less expensive than other types of paint. But the main disadvantage is that it tends to peel over the long term. It will spread easily and looks great when first applied, but if you live in an area with harsh winters, hot summer sun or heavy rainfall – or worse, all three – latex paint is probably not the best choice.
Oil or alkyd based paints are more costly, and they take more effort to get an even application. With a bit of practice, however, it isn’t hard to get a good finish with them as well. And these types of paints weather much better and help to seal the wood against moisture.
The big difference between latex and the other two is in the binder. Latex use, obviously, a latex binder to keep the pigments and solvents in the paint together. Oil based paints use a vegetable oil extract to accomplish this.
Stain is another popular choice for finishing wood fences. It comes in many different colors and types, such as wood-toned, solid color and semi-transparent.
Wood tone stains will allow the natural grains in the wood to show through, while protecting the fence against air and water. There is some pigment in them however, so it will change the natural color of the fence a bit. Semi-transparent stains allow some of the texture to show through, while adding some color. Solid colors will look much the same as paint, but when you get close you can still see the grain of the wood.
As a general rule, the darker the stain is the longer it will last. This is because the darker stains will resist UV damage a bit better.
The final option for protecting your wood fence is a clear option such as shellac or pigment-free oil. These finishes will provide a great shield from wind and rain but will still allow the natural look of the wood to shine through. They have minimal UV protection, however.