The Best Fence Paints Are...
Read Our In-Depth Reviews
Ronseal One Coat Fence Life Review
When it comes to the infamous job of painting fences and sheds, there are a few brand names that often come to mind. Ronseal is one of them, and their One Coat Fence Life treatment is quite a popular choice; it offers good coverage, is easy to apply, and is reasonably priced.
One 5 L tin covers a large area. Ronseal quantifies this by stating that each litre of paint can cover 6 m² per coat. This means that a 5 L container holds enough product to cover 30 m².
There are several colours including Gold, Medium Oak, and Dark Oak. The Dark Oak dries as a dark chocolate colour and has a matte finish; one coat should be sufficient on most rough-sawn timber if painted over a lighter colour.
Whilst this paint is only described as being suitable for rough-sawn timber, some customers have also applied it to smooth timber using two coats.
The viscosity is quite thin, and it does have a tendency to run when applied. This is both a blessing and a curse; the paint can be applied with a sprayer, and is quick to put on regardless of what technique is used, but it can get messy.
A cloth may be needed on standby to catch any drips, and any paint that gets onto the floor will need to be quickly washed off. Otherwise, the stain can become permanent.
Overall, this is one of the best fence paints in terms of value; one tin can cover a large area and, given that most garden timber should only require one coat, it’s not too time consuming to apply either. The main downside is the consistency, as you do need to watch out for drips.
- Only one coat is required on rough-sawn wood which makes painting jobs quicker to finish
- Non-toxic so can be used in areas with pets and children
- Dries quickly and is touch-dry in a few hours
- Both colours and protects garden fences and sheds
- One tin can cover around 6 standard fence panels
- Very thin and runny so the floor needs to be protected from drips
- Wood needs to be cleaned first to allow the paint to soak in
Johnstone's Garden Colours Fence Paint Review
Whoever said that fences and sheds had to be standard colours like brown or green? There are loads of brighter colours out there, if you are looking for something a bit jazzier for your garden, like the ‘Bold Plum’ option in this Johnstone’s Garden Colours range.
From plum, to lime, to berry, there are a lot of loud colour options available, as well as some more neutral tones like ‘Vintage Rose’ and ‘Natural Vanilla’.
Unlike ‘standard’ colour paint, this Johnstone’s range makes it possible to be very creative in the garden, whether you’re looking to create statement fence panels, or have a shed that pops with colour.
It’s not limited to use on rough-sawn timber either, setting it apart from Ronseal, and can be used on anything from fences, to playhouses, and even wooden garden furniture. Everything from dining sets to benches can be made a lot more colourful with this paint, making it possible to create some really decorative and unique pieces.
The 1 L tin provides enough paint to cover approximately 12 m², so it’s one of the more expensive options featured on this list, but the coverage is good and it’s easy to apply, often only requiring one coat.
It’s quite thick, with a ‘waxy’ texture, and may need a couple of coats for full coverage. It can be a little difficult to spread, although any streaks tend to even out as it dries.
Whilst perhaps not the most ideal option for large areas, due to the price and the fact it’s best applied with a brush, this is one of the best fence paints for creating colourful featured areas in the garden. The Bold Plum comes out as a bright, eye-catching purple that works for both furniture as well as fences.
- Dry to touch in two hours
- Quite thick viscosity and isn't prone to running or dripping
- Can be used to paint garden furniture as well as fences, resulting in a lot of creative possibilities
- Water-based paint means less odour
- Works on other materials, not just wood, like stone and plastic (although several coats may be required)
- Can appear streaky whilst being applied, although often evens out as it dries
- May require more than one coat, especially to achieve maximum vibrancy from the colour
- Due to thick viscosity, may use more paint than anticipated
Sadolin Shed & Fence Woodstain Review
One of the best things about fence paint is how it can be used to kill two birds with one stone. For example, this Sadolin Shed and Fence Woodstain will freshen up the look of any fences and wood in the garden, whilst also protecting the timber against the elements for several years.
The paint is wax enriched, which helps with repelling water from the surface, and it offers an all-weather barrier to protect the wood. The ‘Ebony Wood’ colour may not initially be to everyone’s taste, but it creates a surprisingly natural look in the garden as opposed to making fences look like one large black barrier.
It’s also one of the best fence paints to apply at any time of year, because it becomes showerproof within approximately 30 minutes of application. Therefore, even if you can’t rely on there being no drizzle during the whole day, you can still pop some of this paint on during a dry window.
Also, a further advantage is that although this Sadoline paint has a relatively thick viscosity, it can still be applied using a compressor and a spray gun, which dramatically speeds up how long it takes to get a painting job done.
There’s 5 L of paint in one tin, and in terms of value it sits roughly on par with the Cuprinol paint, making it a mid-range option; however, this Sadolin paint may require more coats than the Cuprinol.
Overall, it’s one of the best paints if you’re looking for something that will offer a good amount of protection to timber and it shouldn’t need repainting for several years. However, if you are on a budget, it may not be the best option to go for.
- Highly protective - offers 5 years protection for your wooden surfaces against all weather conditions
- Relatively thick formula that isn't prone to dripping
- Showerproof in around 30 minutes so can be applied without needing guarantee of a completely dry day
- Can be applied by brush or using a compressor and paint sprayer
- May require several coats to get full coverage
- Not the best value for money considering price and how much may need to be used
Cuprinol Less Mess Fence Care Review
Although all fence paints will drip a little, this Cuprinol Less Mess Fence Care does a decent job of living up to its name. The formula is neither excessively thick nor thin, and it doesn’t run too much or create a lot of drips.
It’s one of the best fence paints for keeping mess to a minimum, and can be applied with either a brush or a sprayer. Although it achieves good coverage most of the time with just one coat, there are some instances where two coats might be required:
For example, Cuprinol will likely need to be heavily diluted if used with a paint sprayer, so there is a possibility that another coat will be required in that case. Two coats might also be needed if painting over a darker colour, or applying the paint on fresh wood.
It’s intended for use on rough-sawn timber, so it’s suitable for painting a lot of different features in the garden like fences, sheds and wood stores. However, it’s not recommended for smoother wood like garden furniture.
There’s 6 L of paint in one tin which is enough to cover approximately 10 fence panels, and it’s available in different colours like ‘Autumn Red’, ‘Rich Oak’ and ‘Rustic Brown’.
For the most part, the paint may look a little different to the swatch colour when first applied, but when dry it’s a better match; however, the ‘Autumn Red’ can dry slightly more orange than expected.
Overall, this is a good paint for providing good coverage, and it’s one of the best fence paints for applying with a brush because it’s not too messy and has a manageable consistency. Any paint that does get somewhere it shouldn’t can be washed off using water and detergent.
- Creates limited mess during application as it doesn't drip a lot
- Can be applied using either a brush or paint sprayer
- In most cases just one coat is needed
- Safe to use in areas with pets and plants
- Any paint that does get somewhere it shouldn't can be washed off with water and soap
- Needs to be substantially diluted to make it suitable for painting with a sprayer
- May need to apply two coats if painting over a darker colour
How to Choose The Best Fence Paint
Painting the fence is a relatively effortless way to spruce up the garden. Not only can fence paint revitalise tired timber, but it also offers a way to add more personality to the garden with different colour schemes.
Some paints are simpler to apply than others, or give a particular finish. The following information should help make it easier to know what to look out for:
If you’ve been feeling like your garden needs a bit of jazzing up, painting your fence can really bring it up a level.
You can choose from natural wood shades, with brown and red hues, or go for a pop of colour to really brighten up the garden.
Depending on the colour you choose, you can make a feature of fences with bold contrasting colours or blend them into the background to make your garden look bigger. A lot of fun and creativity can go into this task too!
And, of course, treating your fences regularly with a good fence paint will help protect them against the elements. Not only do most fence paints offer protection against the weather, they can also prevent mould and rotting and shield the wood from strong UV light that can cause the fence to dry out and crack.
There are two ways you can go with colour. Natural hues (think: mostly browns and greys) or shades which are more commonly spotted in the rainbow (reds, oranges, purples).
Personal preference of course plays a huge part in what colour paint you should choose. But there are a couple of things to bear in mind on top of that:
What Effect are You Hoping to Achieve?
Different coloured paints create different effects in the garden.
Here’s what colour paint to choose if you’re looking to:
- Make your plants stand out: choose dark colours, or contrasting colours. Dark colours like black or dark purple make the green of the foliage more apparent. The same effect is achieved, in a different way, by choosing pinks and magentas. These colours are on the opposite side of green on the colour wheel and contrast with the greenery of plants to make them stand out. Be aware that dark colours can something make the garden feel smaller, by highlighting the boundary lines.
- Make your garden look bigger: choose light shades or camouflage colours. Using light shades on the fences can help a garden feel bigger, especially if there are also light-coloured plants around the borders. Equally, you may choose to camouflage your fences, especially if there are a lot of plants in front of them already, by using greens or natural colours so that the borders blend in instead of stand out.
- Make a creative statement: choose any colour from the rainbow. You can use any bright colour to make a creative statement in the garden, and these paints can be applied in any number of ways. You could decorate fences with an ombre colour fade, contrast trellises, contrast fence posts, or paint one fence to make a statement area in the garden.
- Create a strong ‘theme’: choose a colour that matches your flowers or shed. For example, if you have a lot of purple flowers in the garden, painting the fence and/or shed in the same colour can create a cohesive and strong theme for the space.
The Existing Colour of Your Fencing
Despite what reviews may say, or the colour description itself, it’s very likely that the colour you will end up with will depend on the existing colour of the timber. If you’re quite specific about how you want the final shade to look, you might want to buy a test pot before buying a large can.
Painting a lighter colour over a darker one will likely always result in some of the base colour showing through. Better results will be achieved with several coats of paint, but there’s always a risk that it won’t turn out quite as vibrant as expected.
Also remember that colours may also come out darker than expected, especially once dried, which can really change the look of a garden.
Number of Coats Required
If you’re keen to save time, and you don’t want any nasty surprises, check out the reviews for information about how many coats your paint will need.
As a general rule, darker colours may be able to get away with one application, depending on the original colour of the wood. More vibrant colours are more likely to require two or more coats.
How many coats you need to apply also depends on the manufacture’s instructions for weatherproofing. For a lot of brands, one coat is enough to protect your fencing. However, do read the small print before making your choice – there are some paints that may require you to use two coats to fully protect the wood.
Most paints will state roughly how much area one pot will cover. Compare this with the area that you’re looking to paint, and make sure to buy enough tins accordingly.
Bear in mind that it’s easy to use more paint than the manufacturer intends: sometimes your application technique may be different to the one they used, or some paint may drip. It’s always a good idea to buy a bit more paint than you think, otherwise you may run into difficulty partway through a job!
Occasionally, paint companies have been known to change their paint formula, which can slightly alter the colour of the paint. For this reason it’s generally better to buy all of the paint that you’ll need in one go, instead of coming back to buy the second lot later on, just in case.
Both water-based paint and solvent-based paint can be used on exterior surfaces – as long as the specific paint products states that it’s suitable for this purpose. The paint tin should state whether it is water based or oil/solvent based.
The paint dries as either the water or solvent dissolves, and both types of paint have their advantages and disadvantages.
Some people choose to use water-based paint for the following reasons:
- It is very quick to get to ‘touch dry’.
- It doesn’t smell as strongly as solvent-based paint.
- It’s easy to clean any drips from surrounding surfaces using just water and detergent.
- Contain less VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that solvent-based paints. Extended exposure to VOCs can cause health problems, and VOCs are also considered bad for the environment – they can contribute to the increase of ground-level ozone (smog) which can lead to global warming.
However, there are some disadvantages to using water-based paint too. It can chip easier than solvent-based paint and have less of a sheen overall. It can also be necessary to apply more coats to hide brush strokes; the quick-drying nature of water-based paints can make it less forgiving in this way. Water-based paint will also take a long time, up to several weeks, to harden completely.
The benefits of using solvent-based paint are:
- It can be easier to work with as it doesn’t dry as quickly. This makes it easier to hide brush strokes.
- Dries much faster, to a hard finish, than water-based paint (although is slower to be ‘touch dry’).
- It soaks in to the wood as opposed to sitting on the surface, which can make for a longer-lasting finish.
As with water-based paint, there are also disadvantages to using solvent-based paint. Primarily, lighter colours can yellow over time and it smells extremely strongly. It’s also harder to clean any areas where paint has dripped, as well as the paintbrushes, without using chemicals like white spirit. Also, a lot of solvent-based paints use VOCs (see above) which are considered bad for the environment.
The final appearance of your fence will depend on preparation as well as the paint you choose.
- Always clean off dirt, mud and mould before painting. If your fence is mouldy, then consider applying a fungicidal wash to kill mould and algae before going anywhere near a paintbrush. Painting over mould and moss will only result in the paint not adhering well to the wood.
- You can either paint fences with a brush or use a fence sprayer. If you have a lot of fencing, a sprayer can save a lot of time. Most fence paints and stains can be used with sprayers, so you don’t normally have to buy a specific sprayable product. However, it’s worth double checking that using a sprayer is possible before purchasing a specific product, even by contacting the manufacturer if necessary. Some paints may need to be diluted first before they can be used in a sprayer, which may affect their quality or how many coats are required.
- If you only have a small area to cover, then simply invest in a good quality, nylon bristle brush. Some paints drip less than others, making them easier to apply with a brush – checking reviews online can give a good indication of which paints are easier to work with.
- You should work along the grain of the timber if painting with a brush. If painting with a sprayer, you should work in sections, moving the sprayer left to right over the section whilst working either top to bottom or bottom to top.
- After painting, wash all brushes and sprayers thoroughly with warm water. If using a solvent-based paint, you may need to wash brushes in white spirit to remove the paint.
- Always dispose of leftover paint responsibly. Your local council will have details of where you can dispose of paints.
Fence Paint FAQs
As long as the fence itself is still of sound construction, there are several things you can do to revive its appearance.
- Brush the fence down with a wire brush and remove any mould with a fungicidal wash before painting. It may take a while to get rid of the mould, but you should wait until it’s all gone before starting to paint.
- To overcome the problem of the mismatched panels, the easiest solution is to go for a shade that is similar to the darkest panel or slightly darker.
- You may have to apply two coats of the product to even out the colour of the fence.
Some fence paints can be less friendly to wildlife than others. Check the information on the paint tin itself to see what the manufacturer has to say about their product.
Generally, water-based fence paints should not be harmful to plants, wildlife, pets or children once they’re dry. If any water-based paint gets on to a plant, it should be relatively easy to remove with water. You need to be more careful when using solvent-based paint – if it gets on a plant you will need to use rubbing alcohol to get it off. Of course, this can be very drying and may cause damage to the plant.
You should take precautions to avoid splashing plants with paint, no matter which type you’re using. Cover plants with something light but thick enough not to let the paint through – a dust sheet would be ideal. Once the paint is dry you can remove the dust sheet.
You have two options when it comes to making your garden look bigger using fence paint. Darker colours, like dark green, can help the garden look bigger as they seem to recede into the distance. This is particularly true if there is a lot of foliage in front of the fence – something that blends in will make it hard to see where the plants end and the fence begins.
The second option is going with a lighter colour, like a stone, white or cream, especially if you have plants near the boundary that have white or light-coloured blooms. Keeping things light around the borders can stop there from being such a harsh boundary line.
This really differs between manufacturers and it’s best to check the instructions carefully. Some paints need more applications and it also depends on your application method.
Speaking very generally (ballpark figures!), with one coat, 5 L could cover ar0und 30 m² (approx. 10 fence panels) and 9 L could cover around 54 m² (approx. 17 fence panels).