Wood fencing is a beautiful addition to any property when it’s properly cared for and maintained with a good wood preservative.
Commonly thought to be the same thing, wood stain and varnish are slightly different and serve a somewhat different purpose.
Depending on the conditions your fence will face over time, you may choose to use one or the other of these coatings or even both.
What Is Stain for Wood Fences?
Available in multiple types, tints, and colors, wood stain is a coating that gets painted onto wood fencing to protect it as well as change its color.
Wood stain comes in a variety of formulations that offer different protective properties and looks:
- Oil-Based Stain - More durable and long-lasting than water-based stain, oil-based coatings get absorbed into the wood fibers so they don’t affect the surface, bring out the rustic nature of the wood and slow the wood from drying out; however, they can be messier to apply and take longer to dry.
- Water-Based Stain - Also known as solvent-based, this is a pigment coating applied to the wood surface that is absorbed into the fibers while the water or solvent quickly evaporates. Less messy to apply, water-based stains dry fast and clean up easier; however, they can also form a hard layer on a wood fence, lift the top layer of the grain over time, and eventually damage the wood.
- Stain Transparency - Both types are available in transparent coatings that apply a faint tint while letting the wood grain show through: semi-transparent leaves more pigment and opaque which is a solid pigment coating that looks similar to paint except it won’t flake off.
What Is Varnish for Wood Fencing?
On the other hand, varnish is a topcoat used on wood fences that goes on either by itself or over a coating of stain.
A formula of oil and resin, it makes a thicker coating on the wood to seal it and can bring out the natural color of the wood or deepen the color of any stain used prior to varnishing.
Varnish increases moisture resistance and adds a nice sheen to the fence, which can keep it looking great and lengthen its lifespan at the same time.
Which One Gives the Greatest Benefit?
There is a lot of choice in terms of what type of protective coating to use on your wood fencing so it lasts for decades and looks stunning the whole time.
To bring out the beauty of your wood in a natural color or even add a tint of color complementary to your exterior decor, start with a water or oil-based stain.
Where moisture resistance is of prime concern, consider hiring a wood fencing service to apply a coating of protective varnish over that stain.
If you prefer to retain a more natural or nude color for your wood, try varnish alone.
In all three instances, your wood fence will have the protection against moisture damage and over-drying that it needs for a long life!