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Best paint for fences 2023: Treat your garden fence to a protective coat of paint

Protect and refresh your wooden or metal fence with a few coats of the best fence paint that money can buy

Painting your garden fence is one of those jobs that’s easy to put off again and again. If you really want to make the best job of it, though, then it pays to take advantage of the brief spell of brighter, warmer days known as British summertime. So, if winter and autumn have taken their toll on your fencing, leaving it looking battered, faded and in need of TLC, then read on and we’ll reveal the best fence paints you can buy.

Depending on the size of your garden, painting a fence can be anything from a quick afternoon job to a day-long marathon, but whichever camp you’re in, modern fence paints take the sting out of the application process. Most paints and treatments for garden fences now only require one coat, dry in record time and can nearly always be applied speedily via spray gun rather than laboriously with a brush. Better still, modern formulations are often harmless to pets and plants alike (although it always pays to check the label carefully).

If you already know what kind of fence panels you’re dealing with and what look you’re going for, then scooch on down to our mini-reviews and you can pick the perfect paint off the virtual shelf. Need a little more information? Then read on and our quick buying guide will explain everything you need to know.

Best Paint for Fences: At a glance

Best fence paint for quick convenience: Ronseal One Coat Fence Life

Best fence paint for adding colour: Cuprinol Garden Shades

Best fence paint for metal fences: Hammerite Direct to Rust

How to buy the right fence paint for you

What do I need to do before I start?

Painting any type of fence, be it wooden or metal, requires some basic preparation if you want the best results with the least effort.

To begin, pick your painting day with the assistance of the Met Office. Cold weather slows paint from drying and wet weather can wash paint off altogether, so plan ahead and pick a day that is guaranteed to be warm and sunny all the way.

Next, you’ll want to ensure the surfaces you’re painting are as dry and clean as possible, so clean off any dirt and cobwebs with a good stiff brush. This will make sure you give your fence a solid, even coat, free from gaps where water can soak in.

Do I need a specific type of paint brush?

A broad fence or shed brush will come in handy – the bigger the brush, the easier the bulk of the job will be – but any large paint brush will do fine. Just make sure that’s it’s not too big to fit into the paint container, and keep a smaller brush on hand for tackling fiddlier areas.

If you’re looking at a really big job, then it might be worth considering the use of a paint spray gun. These can cost anything from £30 upwards, but a spray gun will cut down painting time considerably. Use long, horizontal sweeps across the full width of the fence, and overlap each coating by about 50% to guarantee even coverage. Many DIY shops rent paint spray guns, but if you’re going to be regularly renewing your fence paint, it may be worth investing in your own.

READ NEXT: Best paint for skirting boards

How many coats will be required?

This depends on the condition of your fence panels, the paint you choose and how well you prep and paint. Most options here recommend one or two coats, and you can trust your eyes to know when the job is finished. Does the paint look like it has been applied evenly? Are you happy with how it looks colour-wise? Essentially, if the manufacturer states that one coat is sufficient and you’re happy with the finish, then one coat is all you need.

Another element to consider is that, if you’re covering over a strong colour, this may also dictate whether another coat is required. Again, you’ll know once your fence has dried.

Anything else to consider?

Before you start, always give the paint a good stir. It’s also good practice to keep your kit in good order: clean your brushes and/or spray gun thoroughly with warm soapy water, and make sure you’ve flushed water through the spray gun until all traces of the paint are cleared. Finally, store any remaining paint in a safe, cool, dry place.

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The best paint for fences to buy in 2023

1. Ronseal One Coat Fence Life: Best fence paint for quick and easy application

Price: £10 | Buy now from Homebase

Very few people genuinely relish the opportunity to paint their garden fence, and even fewer want to spend hours on a warm, dry day giving their fence two coats of paint. Fortunately, One Coat Fence Life from Ronseal does exactly what it says on the tin.

Available in six natural wood colours, One Coat is formulated for use on new or previously stained rough sawn wood and can be applied using a brush or by spray. A five-litre tin is capable of covering six standard fence panels.

Protecting wood for two years, One Coat goes on easily and is showerproof in as little as one hour (climate dependent), and as One Coat only requires, well, one coat, you can have the whole job done and dusted in next to no time, leaving you to go and do something far more interesting instead.

Key specs – Finish: Matt; Volume: 5 litres; Drying time: 1 hour; Coverage: 6m² per litre; Coats required: 1; Weather protection: 2 years; Available colours: 6

Buy now from Homebase

2. Cuprinol Garden Shades: Best all-purpose paint for adding a splash of colour

Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon

While many people prefer a natural wood tone for external woodwork, adding some bolder colour is an increasingly popular option. For that there is Cuprinol Garden Shades, an all-purpose paint that comes with a weather protection guarantee of up to six years and works on wood, terracotta, stone and brickwork.

Take your pick from one (or more) of the 23 available shades and you can apply it using a brush or spray gun. In ideal weather conditions, drying time is just one hour, but Cuprinol recommends two coats for the best finish, preferably applied within eight hours of the first to achieve a perfectly painted finish.

Water-based and harmless to pets and plants, actual coverage achieved depends on whether you’ve opted for brush or gun and on the surface you’re covering, but as a rule you’ll always get more coverage using a brush than a spray gun.

Key specs – Finish: Opaque matt; Volume: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 1 hour; Coverage: 3-5m² per litre; Coats required: 2-3; Weather protection: 6 years; Available colours: 12

3. Wilko Timbercare: Best cheap fence paint

Price: £4 | Buy now from Wilko

Available in three natural wood hues, Wilco’s Timbercare has been designed for use specifically on rough sawn timber, making it perfect for fences and sheds, but unsuitable for decking, planed wood or garden furniture.

Timbercare costs less than half the price of most other exterior wood treatments, but it’s still water-based and safe around plants and pets – the trade-off here is that it also takes five hours to dry, so you’ll want to make sure you apply it when there aren’t any rainclouds on the horizon.

Wilco states that Timbercare should be applied with a brush rather than a spray gun, but some users report that they had good results with a combination of a spray gun and a well shaken tub of Timbercare. As ever, your mileage may vary. In any case, at £4 for 5 litres, this is an ideal fence- and money-saving solution.

Key specs – Finish: Matt; Volume: 5 litres; Drying time: 5 hours; Coverage: 4m² per litre; Coats required: 1-2; Weather protection: 2 years; Available colours: 4

Buy now from Wilko

4. Hammerite Direct to Rust Metal: Best fence paint for metal

Price: £10 | Buy now from Amazon

If you need to give your metal fencing a much-needed makeover, then Direct to Rust Metal Paint from Hammerite is a hassle-free, time-saving option.

It’s an almost perfect all-in-one package: there are 12 colour options available and the formulation combines primer, undercoat and topcoat in one tin. The paint is touch-dry in two hours, ready for a second coat, and dries to a brilliant gloss finish.

The other benefits of this paint is that it can be applied directly onto even rusty metal using a paint brush or roller – although you need to remove all loose rust and flaking paint first – and it gives up to eight years of protection from the weather.

Just make sure that you follow the instructions: wear gloves and a mask and take care to cover nearby surfaces from unwanted paint spatters.

Key specs – Finish: Gloss sheen; Volume: 2.5 litres; Drying time: 2 hours; Coverage: 5m² per litre; Coats required: 1-2; Weather protection: Up to 8 years; Available colours: 12

5. Sandtex Smooth Masonry Paint: Best fence paint for concrete posts

Price: £30 | Buy now from Screwfix

If you’re concerned that sprucing up your panels is going to draw attention to the poor repair of your concrete fence posts, then fear not: Sandtex Ultra Smooth Masonry paint can save the day.

Available in 27 colour options, Sandtex’s formulation is suitable for any and all kinds of masonry work. We’d recommend sticking to subtle grey or eye-catching white for fence posts, but you can always choose to make your concrete posts “pop” with a splash of colour if you prefer.

The paint is resistant to peeling, cracking and flaking, and is supremely easy to apply. Make sure your posts are clean and dry, then reach for a masonry brush, exterior roller or spray gun – it’s up to you. The paint dries to a rainproof finish in less than an hour, and full drying time is 3-4 hours, after which a second coat is recommended for best results.

One final nice touch is that Sandtex’s special Microseal formulation is dirt-resistant, so your posts should remain pristine with a minimum of intervention on your part. Great news.

Key specs – Finish: Smooth; Volume: 10 litres; Drying time: 3-4 hours; Coverage: 12-16m² per litre; Coats required: 2; Weather protection: 15 years; Available colours: 27

Buy now from Screwfix

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