How to Refinish a Privacy Fence

A privacy fence is kind of like a regular fence on steroids. In order to hide your backyard from neighbors, it needs to be between 4 and 6 feet tall, and it can’t have any open spaces that would be easy to look through. That means chain link and metal won’t work for this type of fence; the only materials that make sense are vinyl, wood composite, and wood. Today we’re going to tell you how to refinish a wooden fence.

Whether you installed your fence a few years ago and have noticed that it’s showing its age or have just moved into a home with a fence that’s seen better days, the time has come. You have decided to do something about it! This is a smart financial decision because wooden fences can last 15-20 years or even longer as long as they are properly maintained. It is also an aesthetically rewarding idea; you’ll be amazed by how much better the fence will look after it has been pressure washed and stained. Your wooden fence is probably made of either cedar, which Bob Vila calls “the king of backyard privacy fencing,” or redwood. Unfortunately, both tend to fade and can look grayish over time, so refinishing your fence will bring back its desired rich reddish hue. Pressure washing the fence before sealing it will remove algae (you may find this at the bottom of the fence, by the ground), dirt, dust, grime from pollution, bird poop, peeling wood, and any old stain.


  • Pressure washer
  • 6’ extension wand for pressure washing
  • Wood-friendly detergent
  • Safety glasses
  • Closed-toe shoes
  • Ear plugs or hearing protection
  • Roller and tray
  • Paintbrush
  • Sealant (or stain)
  • Painter’s plastic or tarps


  1. Check the weather forecast. You will need a couple of days for the fence to dry in between pressure washing the fence and sealing it, so make sure you will have a few sunny days in a row.
  2. Drape the plastic or tarps over any nearby plants so they don’t get detergent on them.
  3. Spray any other surrounding plants, foliage, or grass with hose water. This will make it easier for the detergent to wash off of them.
  4. Spray detergent on the fence from the bottom up. If the fence is very long, do this in sections because you won’t want the cleaner to dry and cause streaks or marks. If it does seem as if it’s drying, wet it down! Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for applying the cleaner.
  5. Make sure that you have the correct nozzle to get rid of the detergent; a 25-degree nozzle is about right (0 is too strong). Turn the cleaner tank to “off” and get rid of whatever detergent is still in the lines by squeezing the trigger.
  6. Before rinsing the fence, make sure that you are using the right amount of PSI (pounds per square inch). Start with low pressure, such as 500-800; the wood can splinter if the pressure is too strong. You can always increase the PSI up to 1500 if needed. 
  7. This time, spray top to bottom, following the wood’s grain and making sure not to miss any spots. You will soon get a feel for it; begin with the nozzle about two feet away from the fence. You may end up moving closer – to about a foot and a half. 
  8. Wait approximately 48 hours before sealing or staining the fence. The wood needs this time to dry.
  9. Follow the directions on the wood sealant or stain, but generally, you will roll it on and then use the brush to work it into the crevices. Make sure that the entire fence is completely covered. 
  10. Play your favorite music and clean up your supplies. This is also the time to call out the rest of the family to admire your work and comment about the huge and visible improvement in the appearance of the fence. 
  11. Now you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor for a couple of years. (Yes, this maintenance will need to be kept up). If you are so inclined, you can even invite the next-door neighbors over for a barbecue to see what they are missing on the other side of the fence!

If you have never used a pressure washer before, please ask us for advice. At Northside Tool Rental, we work hands-on with our customers, and our flexible rental solutions and loyalty program mean we’re there to help you see the job through ‘til the end. Contact one of our experts today to discuss what tools you need and how we can fully equip you to get the job done. We have convenient locations in Marietta, Gwinnett, Doraville, and Buckhead. Call us at 404-233-6722 to get your project started.