Bob Vila - 3/423 - The Dean of Home Renovation & Repair Advice

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How To: Make and Use Your Own Deer Repellent

Keep pesky ruminants from treating your yard as their buffet table with this powerful yet all-natural deterrent.

How to Make and Use Homemade Deer Repellent

Photo: istockphoto.com

Deer are delightful romping through the forest but can wreak havoc in a garden, decimating vegetables, fruit trees, landscaping beds, even “deer-resistant” shrubs and pine and holly trees if they’re hungry enough. Commercial deer repellents tend to be pricey, so why not mix up your own, using ingredients you no doubt already have around the house? Follow our inexpensive, all-natural recipe for homemade deer repellent and then use as directed to keep Bambi and his buddies away! What’s more, commercial repellents that contain garlic and egg solids, like our formula does, also claim effectiveness against other destructive interlopers, including rabbits, skunks, groundhogs, and even some birds like crows. You may be able to discourage an entire scourge of critters with this potent homemade blend!

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Garden sprayer or large spray bottle
– Warm water (1 gallon)
– Raw eggs (3)
– Milk or yogurt (3 tablespoons)
– Crushed garlic cloves (3)
– Cayenne pepper (3 tablespoons)
– Blender
– Strainer

Step 1
Put eggs, milk or yogurt, garlic, and cayenne pepper along with two to three cups of water into a blender, and puree thoroughly. Strain that mixture into a gallon jug, add the remaining water and seal.

Step 2
While the homemade deer repellent can be used immediately, it will be more potent if left to ripen at room temperature for 24 hours. Yes, it will be stinky! Transfer to garden sprayer or spray bottle.

How to Make and Use Homemade Deer Repellent

Photo: istockphoto.com

Step 3
Spray plants liberally after morning dew or any rainfall has fully dried. Make sure to spray the entire plant, leaves, stems, fruits, and all. Don’t worry, it won’t harm your foliage, just make it smell and taste bad to foraging deer. Milk products contain a sticky protein called casein to help the homemade deer repellent cling. Once dry, the odor will be undetectable to humans but still unpleasant to ruminants. And should any stubborn invaders go beyond a sniff to a taste, that cayenne pepper will deliver a burning warning sure to turn them off!

Step 4
The sticky homemade deer repellent could clog your spray dispenser, so after dosing your garden, pour any remaining mixture back into the jug for storage in the garage or a cabinet. As the eggs and milk continue to rot, it will get even more potent!

Step 5
Reapply the homemade deer repellent weekly and after any rainfall. Ideally, you’d begin spraying early in the growing season, as soon as the weather warms up in March and April. During this time, deer are establishing their feeding patterns and your plants are breaking winter dormancy. If you make your yard unappetizing to them from the get-go, they’ll find more hospitable grazing ground and may steer clear of your place.

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


Bob Vila Radio: Good Reasons to Get Your Hands Dirty

Endless possibilities await you in the garden. Whether you're a veteran green thumb or a hesitant first-timer, read on now for a sampling of the best reasons to get your hands dirty this spring.

With the arrival of spring, homeowners return to the outdoors, setting sights on new ways to bring beauty, fragrance, edibles and a sense of history to the garden.

garden-trends

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Hardy, heat- and cold-tolerant plants like Vivax bamboo and wild columbine succeed in almost any region. And while the vivid, almost fluorescent blooms of fuschias and neon peonies add color, bi-colored flowers like day lilies and monkshood shade provide no small amount of visual interest.

Fragrant plants—low-maintenances lemon-scented geraniums, for example, or scarlet pineapple sage—make your garden smell as good as it looks. Consider “foodie” favorites as well. Selections like Malabar spinach and purslane reward gardeners with the inspiration for exciting new culinary adventures.

Finally, keep history alive with heirloom plants like black hollyhocks and color-mixture pincushion flowers, and remember to share your garden’s bounty with friends and family by growing and gifting containers of showy snapdragons or flowering kale.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!


Safety Check: 5 Tips to Protect Your Deck from Disaster

Extend the lifespan of your favorite outdoor feature—and ensure the safety of all those who enjoy it—by following these best practices for deck construction and maintenance.

Top Tips for Deck Safety

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether you enjoy hosting cookouts or prefer quietly relaxing on your lounge chair, you probably think of your wood deck as a place of respite. In fact, decks are so integral to outdoor living that they’re included in the plans for more than half of all new homes in some regions of the United States, such as New England and the East South Central states, according to Builder Online. While well-constructed wooden decks can safely serve a family for 12 to 15 years before they require repair, improper building techniques can result in damage or even collapse, cutting this life span short. To get the most out of this favorite outdoor feature, homeowners should observe the following five safe building practices during the construction process—and then follow up with regular maintenance to ensure the deck remains safe and attractive for years to come.

1. Seek Approval Before Construction
While it may take only a few days to actually build a deck, give yourself a month or more to accomplish all the preliminary work, such as building code research and approvals. Most communities regulate the size, location, and even the materials used in the construction of new decks. Submit your deck plans to your local building authority, which will examine them to ensure that they meet all codes and that the location of your deck will not infringe on any easement or lot setback, both of which restrict the location of structures on your property. If your plans do not meet local codes, changes must be made to the drawings before you’ll be issued a permit. An inspection schedule, which varies by locality, will be established at the same time. Some inspectors may want to check in to ensure that your post holes are below the frost line (the depth to which the soil freezes in your area), observe the method you used to attach the deck to your house, and/or approve the dimensional lumber used to frame the deck joist system. Some building authorities follow strict inspection schedules, while others are more lax.

Once your deck plans receive a green light from the city, call 811 to let utility companies know you’re going to be digging. They’ll send out representatives to mark the ground where their lines are buried so you don’t run into any surprises when you start construction. If you plan to hire a professional to build your deck, your contractor will typically perform the vital steps of contacting both your local building authority and the local utility companies.

2. Know the Importance of Firm Footings
Your deck will only be as sound as the foundation on which it is built. For most decks, construction involves a pier system that requires digging holes below the frost line and pouring concrete piers to support deck posts. Digging holes too shallow and not quite below the frost line—a common mistake—can result in pier movement due to frost heave. Frost heave occurs when moisture in the ground expands as it freezes, causing the soil to swell and shift, which can wreak havoc on shallow deck posts.

Protecting the support posts themselves also preserves the long-term integrity of the deck. Posts are less likely to break down and rot when the base of each one is first encased in a galvanized post base and then securely anchored to the pier (as opposed to permitting the treated wood post to be in direct contact with the concrete). Even treated wood will eventually rot.

Build a sturdy deck with Power Pro Premium Exterior Wood Screws from Hillman Group

Photo: hillmangroup.com

3. Swap Nails for Screws
For decades, nails were the fastener of choice when it came to constructing decks—until incidences of deck collapse attributed to nails that became loose over time led to a shift in standards. Today, screws replace nails wherever they were once used (such as when fastening joists to a rim joist or installing joist hangers) because their threads grip the wood better. The result? A more structurally sound deck with less of a tendency to work loose.

Not all screws are suitable for exterior use, however. You need to choose a metal that not only resists rusting when exposed to the elements but also will not react to the chemicals present in treated wood—assuming that the deck is being built with treated lumber. Hillman’s Power Pro line of premium exterior screws solves both predicaments with its two options: The stainless steel (for use with cedar, redwood, marine applications and projects within 5 miles of coastal waters) and organic bronze epoxy–coated (for use on treated lumber decks) fasteners come guaranteed not to rust or corrode for the life of your deck. To boot, these Power-Pro exterior screws are designed to make construction even easier. Unique thread design and strong self-drilling tip provide 20 percent faster engagement into wood eliminating the need to pre-drill holes before installing screws. Plus, because the engineered design starts fast and reduces the amount of drive torque needed to install the screws, you can squeeze in more work before it’s time to recharge the power drill/driver’s battery.

4. Invest in a Stable, Safe Deck Railing
Your deck’s railing is no place to cut corners. The International Residential Code (IRC) requires guardrails for all decks that are higher than 30 inches above the ground. Minimum rail height is 36 inches, but you can construct a taller rail as long as it meets certain requirements. Among other concerns, the space between individual balusters (the vertical posts or pickets below the handrail) needs to be less than four inches in order to prevent infants and toddlers from slipping through. As well, while railing designs differ, the distance between a horizontal bottom rail and the top of the deck surface should also not span more than four inches. Many inspectors carry a four-inch ball just to test these spaces. Finally, for user safety, the railing should be able to withstand 200 pounds of lateral pressure (force from either side) anywhere along the top rail.

5. Prolong a Deck’s Life Span with a Maintenance Plan
All wood, even treated wood, moves when repeatedly exposed to humidity and temperature fluctuations. Because decking boards take a direct hit from rain, snow, and scorching sun all year long, they often show damage before any other deck component. Keep your boards in tip-top shape by adopting an annual three-part deck maintenance plan: Inspect for loose decking boards, clean thoroughly with a mild commercial deck-cleaning product, and then seal the surface. (A trifecta sealing product will repel water, include a mildewcide, and protect the deck from harsh UV rays.)

Addressing individual small repairs sooner rather than later can prevent problems from snowballing. Plus, when caught early, most fixes require little effort! For example, you can usually secure a loose deck board simply by screwing the board into the joist system below. Hillman Group’s Power Pro Premium Exterior Wood screws—either stainless steel or bronze epoxy–coated, depending on your lumber—feature countersinking blades that enable them to recess quickly below the surface of the decking so they won’t pose a hazard to bare feet. These fasteners also won’t draw any attention to your repair work, so your deck’s secret to looking as good as it did the day it was built remains safe for another summer.

Beyond your routine checkups, it’s not a bad idea to have a professional inspect the entire deck every few years to rule out structural issues that may not be apparent to the average homeowner. If you’ve followed the best practices outlined above, you’re probably in the clear, but the confirmation of a pro will certainly put your mind at ease.

 

This content has been brought to you by Hillman Group. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Buyer’s Guide: Lawn Fertilizers

Rely on our info and reviews to steer you towards the right products that’ll keep your yard lush, green, and healthy.

Choosing the Best Lawn Fertilizer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whoever said, “The grass is always greener on the other side” probably wasn’t using the right stuff. When it comes to keeping a yard in top condition, all you really need is the best lawn fertilizer for your climate and conditions, and a few dates circled on the calendar. Once you’ve determined what’s ideal, simply apply as instructed and follow up as directed on the package. This guide will teach you the fertilizer fundamentals and offer reviews of some of the highest-rated products on the market.

Choosing the Best Lawn Fertilizer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Understand the numbers. You’ve no doubt noticed three digits printed on lawn fertilizer labels. Known as the NPK ratio, the numbers stand for the percentage of basic nutrients (N for nitrogen, P for Phosphorus, K for Potassium) the fertilizer contains. If a fertilizer’s NPK ratio is 12-0-10, for example, it contains 12 percent nitrogen, no phosphorus, and 10 percent potassium.

Generally speaking, nitrogen helps plants stay green, phosphorus promotes root growth (though can be controversial due to its tendency to contaminate water), and potassium guards against drought and disease. Depending on the type of turf you have and the climate where you live, one combination will be better than others. Check the package against your grass species to ensure it’s got the optimal nutrient balance for your specific needs.

Select your type. Once you ascertain your best NPK number, it’s time to decide between a synthetic or organic fertilizer. Synthetic varieties are engineered from minerals, gasses, and even waste with the intent of delivering fast results—sometimes within a matter of days. The downsides to synthetic fertilizers are their reputation for “burning” (i.e., killing) grass if used in too heavy-handed a manner. There can also pose environmental damage and health risks if they leach into the local water supply.

Organic fertilizers are made from living organisms—anything from cottonseed or peat moss to bat guano and blood or bone meal. They can take a bit longer to work their magic—it’s often a few weeks before results are visible. Although they require a bit of patience, the environmental and health risks are low.

Find your formula. There are two fertilizer formulas: liquid and granular. Liquid fertilizer, which comes as either a fluid (requiring dilution in water) or a powder (to which water should be added), tends to require more frequent application than granular. It can also pose an environmental risk if it contaminates the local water supply in large amounts, leaking lead, cadmium, and arsenic via storm drain runoff and causing algae blooms as well as long-term public health risks. That said, it’s an effective way to see quick results, so it’s only recommended when you need truly rapid results and can use it sparingly.

Granular fertilizer tends to operate in a slow-release fashion, taking up to a month or longer to deliver results but requiring less-frequent follow-up. It also poses far less of a health risk overall, so it’s generally a better option unless you’re not willing to wait a few weeks for your yard to green up.

Best bets

After thoroughly comparing reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated options available today to help you find one that fits the bill for your particular yard. Check out the top picks for best lawn fertilizer below.

 

3 Top Options for the Best Lawn Fertilizer - Lawn Restore II

Photo: amazon.com

Safer Brand Lawn Restore II ($30 for 25 lbs.)
Amazon reviewers appreciate this organic granular fertilizer for its gentle, reliable nutrient delivery system. Completely plant-based, Safer Brand Lawn Restore II uses no bio-solids, making it free of the unpleasant odor associated with many organic fertilizers. Covering up to 5,000 square feet per 25-lb. bag, its 10-0-6 NPK formula is high in nitrogen and potassium with no phosphates present, making it a good pick for eco-conscious homeowners who want a lush, green lawn without the slightest environmental or health risks. One application lasts around 10 weeks or longer. Available on Amazon.

 

3 Top Options for the Best Lawn Fertilizer - Milorganite Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer

Photo: homedepot.com

Milorganite Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer ($13 for 36 lbs.)
A granule-based product that’s high in iron as well as the usual nutrients, Milorganite Organic Nitrogen Fertilizer has been known for greening up lawns since it was first used on golf courses in the 1920s. It doesn’t require water in its application, and it lasts up to 10 weeks, making it a no-fuss, no-muss favorite among Home Depot shoppers who overwhelmingly give it five stars, citing its gentle 5-4-0 NPK ratio and its longstanding track record of non-burning, earth-friendly effectiveness. Available at Home Depot.

 

3 Top Picks for Best Fertilizer - Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Lawn Food

Photo: lowes.com

Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Lawn Food ($15 per 32-oz bottle)
Popular with Lowe’s shoppers for its ease of use, friendly price point, and fast-acting ability to green up most grass fast, Scotts Liquid Turf Builder Lawn Food is a favorite option among those can’t wait for results. Safe for most grass types, the all-season fertilizer is high in nitrogen (with a 29-0-3 NPK ratio) and covers up to 2,000 square feet of lawn per bottle. Great as a “shot in the arm” for a patchy, browning lawn that needs some quick rejuvenation, its effects can last for up to two months. Available at Lowe’s.

 

If your lawn fertilizer of choice does its job, you’ll have a fast-growing lawn that needs frequent mowing. Make this year’s lawn the best it can be by avoiding some of the most common mowing mistakes, as seen in this video.

 

 

Easy DIYs for Your Best-Ever Backyard

All of the Outdoor Design and DIY Tips from BobVila.com
With fair weather having arrived finally, it’s time to turn your home improvement efforts to the backyard and your deck, porch, or patio—the parts of the home built specifically to enjoy the extra hours of sunlight. Guided by these practical pointers and inspiring ideas, you can introduce beauty, comfort, and utility to your backyard and outdoor living areas, making them as inviting and enjoyable as your home interiors.


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A beautiful backyard shed

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Video: How to Water Your Lawn

These tips will help you become your own lawn specialist—because a healthy lawn doesn't happen by accident.

There are many factors that contribute to a green and lush lawn. Healthy turf grass starts with choosing the right seed type for your region: cool-season grasses in the north and warm-season grasses in the south. Once you’ve chosen the right grass, you’ll need to keep it hydrated. This is where many would-be landscapers go wrong.

When it comes to watering the lawn, there are some essential things every homeowner should know like, what time of day to water, how much to water, and how often to water the lawn. While we can’t ensure your grass is the greenest on the block, we can help answer these and other questions. Once you know the basics, a picture-perfect lawn is within your reach.

For more lawn care tips, consider:

7 Remedies to Rescue a Dying Lawn

7 Things Your Lawn May Be Trying to Tell You

11 Ways You’re Accidentally Ruining Your Lawn


Video: 5 Things You Can Do with Lemons

This common fruit can be used for a variety of uncommon purposes.

When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade—clean house, instead! This versatile fruit can freshen every corner of the home from the windows to the wash. All it takes is a little ingenuity to squeeze every last drop of grime-fighting power from this humble citrus. Take a look to see some of our favorite alternative uses for lemons. Then slice open a yellow fruit and try these tricks for yourself.

For more unusual cleaning tips, consider:

9 Top Tips for a Bathroom That Cleans Itself

11 Weird Ways to Use Wine

10 Chores You Only Have to Tackle Once This Year


All You Need to Know About Doorway Casing

As few as three pieces of trim can greatly improve a room's style and sense of architecture. Before you set out to dress up any interior door or doorway, get the lowdown on buying and installing the decorative casing.

All You Need to Know About Door Casing

Photo: istockphoto.com

The trim around a door frame—also known as doorway casing—is installed first and foremost to conceal unsightly construction gaps left between the frame and the drywall. But while it minimizes seams in your home’s construction, the clean visual border around the door can also enhance the architectural beauty of any home. Whether you want to install new doorway molding or update your existing one, start with this guide to doorway casing.

Detailed Doorways

In new construction, one the most common types of doorway casing consists of three separate pieces: two long pieces for the sides of the door and one shorter piece (called “head casing”) for the top of the door. You’ll notice that the casing boards slope slightly, typically thicker on one edge than the other. The thinner edge will be installed toward the inside of the door frame to reduce bulk in the doorway, while the thicker outside edge matches the depth of the base trim to create a cohesive threshold.

When setting out to design doorway casing, homeowners will find a wide variety of options, from simple trim with a completely flat surface to more elaborate (and often wider) options with intricate moldings and protrusions. Two major considerations when finding a favorite style are joint choice and sizing.

• Many builders install doorway casings with mitered joints, which allow matching trim pieces to connect at equal angles in the top corners. Others—especially those designing for homes with high ceilings—opt for styles butted joints, which are characterized by a wide head casing that rests on the flat tops of the two side casing boards. This butted style of casing lends itself to custom above-door designs wherein the head casing is often decorative and detailed. Whether you choose mitered or butted casing, you can choose to dress up the three main pieces of trim by integrating two decorative blocks (called rosettes) in the top corners.

• Doorway casing trim comes in several different widths. While 2-¼”-wide trim is the most common, you can often find widths up to 3-½ inches at a home store. Anything wider must typically be custom ordered. The standard 2-¼-inch width works well in most newer constructions where doors are located near the edges of the room and carpenters won’t have enough room to install anything wider.

 

All You Need to Know About Doorway Casing

Photo: istockphoto.com

Popular Picks for Materials

What you use to build doorway casing is just as important to your style (and your budget) as the joint design and trim width. For homeowners and homebuilders, the choice comes down to these types of casing.

• Paint-grade wood casing, perhaps the most popular molding option, consists of bare wood that homeowners can paint. Sometimes the wood even comes primed—one less step when it comes time to install! The material runs anywhere from $1 per lineal foot (LFT) to $2.50 per LFT, depending on the width and design of the casing. Paint-grade wood casing labeled as “finger jointed” means that smaller pieces of wood were joined together to make a longer casing length. Painting the casing will effectively hide the joints, but staining will not. If you intend to apply wood stain, keep reading for another more appropriate option.

• Hardwood casing is more expensive than paint-grade casing, but it’s the best option for areas with exposure to moisture (it will not warp) or wherever you plan to stain all molding. The hardwood won’t streak when exposed to stain or include any joints that visibly disrupt the design. Simple oak casing starts around $1 per LFT but can run as much as $6 per LFT, especially if you opt for a wider design with ornate details. Expect to spend even more for exotic hardwood casing, which must often be custom ordered.

• Multi-density fiberboard (MDF) casing, formed from sawdust and resin, is a durable material that looks similar to paint-grade wood casing. Here, too, most varieties are primed to ease the painting process. You can pick up a simple MDF casing for under $1 per LFT, but costs run upwards of $3 per LFT for intricate designs or stainable varieties, which feature a thin wood veneer on the surface that can be stained to match other trim work. Keep in mind that MDF swells when exposed to water, so consider avoiding the material in moisture-prone areas (such as the bathroom).

 

All You Need to Know About Door Casings

Photo: istockphoto.com

Installing Door Casing

Looking to save some money on labor to invest more in the materials themselves? Lucky for you, any homeowner can install standard door casing with some simple instructions. The DIY carpentry task takes about 15 minutes per each side of the door, once you become familiar with the tools and technique.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Power miter saw
– 18-gauge finish nailer
– 1” and 2” finish nails
– Carpenter’s wood glue
– Pencil

If you’re installing casing around one or two doors, consider renting an 18-gauge finish nailer and a power miter saw from a construction rental store (for a combined cost of about $60 per day). But if you plan to complete more extensive trim work, or if you’re an active handyman, you may opt to purchase the items instead. A decent consumer-grade power miter saw costs between $150 to $200, while a finish nailer costs an additional $100 to $150.

Before installing any type of casing, you’ll need to determine where, exactly, to place it along the doorframe. Measure and draw a line about ¼-inch from the inner part of the door frame; the line should be the same distance from the frame on the sides and the top of the door. This “reveal line” will serve as a guide for installing the inside edge of the casing. The quarter-inch of extra space is necessary to give the door hinges room to operate.

Cutting and installing the casing will vary depending on your finished design.

All You Need to Know About Door Casings

Photo: istockphoto.com

• If you’re working with mitered casing, simply hold the head casing piece in place, then make a small pencil mark on it where the top reveal line crosses the side reveal lines. Using a miter saw, cut a 45-degree angle at the site of the marking. Install the head casing to the wall with an 18-gauge finish nailer, making sure the longer edge is on top. Use 1”-long finish nails to attach the inside portion to the door frame, and 2”-long finish nails to attach the thicker outside edge to the structural framing that lies beneath the wallboard.

Now measure the side casing pieces against the installed head casing. Hold the pieces of side trim in place, and make a pencil mark where the inside corner of the head casing meets the inside of the side casing board. With your miter saw, cut a 45-degree angle that will fit flush with the angle of the head casing. Attach the edges of the side and head pieces together with carpenter’s wood glue, and nail the side pieces in place (with the same technique you used to nail the head casing). Wipe off excess glue with a damp cloth when finished.

• When installing butted casing, there’s no need to cut angles into the pieces. Simply position the head casing so it’s level with the reveal line on the top of the door frame, then secure with nails. Make straight cuts to the tops of the side casing boards so they fit snugly underneath the head casing, and secure those with nails as well.

• If installing decorative corner blocks (or rosettes), attach them to the wall first with the nail gun. Then cut the head casing and side casing to fit snugly between the blocks, and secure them to the wall with the nails.

Homeowners can create more elaborate door frames by adding multiple pieces of trim above the original casing board. The general rule of thumb with built-up head casing is to add progressively wider trim as you go upward on the wall. Virtually any trim can be layered to create the look you want; consider using chair rail, bed molding, or concave cove molding. Professional finish carpenters often use crown molding at the very top of a built-up head casing for a uniquely ornate look.

 

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How To: Stain a Fence

Give a drab or dingy wooden fence a fresh face with a lustrous and long-lasting stained finish.

How to Stain a Fence

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether your wooden fence is years old or newly installed, it can benefit from a single inexpensive addition: stain. Applying wood stain to the slats improves its design and prolongs the lifespan of your hard-working outdoor structure—a win-win! For long-lasting, professional-quality results, work with a semitransparent oil-based stain designed for the exterior. These stains elegantly accentuate the natural patina of the underlying wood with a subtle tint, and, as a bonus, boast formulas that slow the growth of mildew and rot as well as protect the wood from ultraviolet light exposure. With this straightforward tutorial on how to stain a fence and basic painting supplies, you can refresh your wooden privacy wall in as little time as a weekend—and reap these benefits right away.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
– Wood stain stripper (optional)
– Stiff-bristle brush
– Hose with high-pressure spray nozzle or power washer
– Bucket
– Bleach
– Rubber gloves
– Wood stain stripper
– Sanding block (optional)
– Sandpaper (fine-grit, optional)
– Painter’s tape
– Drop cloth
– Natural-bristle paintbrush
– Paint pan (optional)
– Paint roller (optional)
– Paint roller cover (optional)
– Paint sprayer (optional)
– Oil-based wood stain
– Clear, weatherproof wood sealant

STEP 1
Before staining a wood fence, scan the weekly weather forecast and select a day with temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees, low to moderate humidity, and no precipitation expected for the next 24 hours. If you’re discouraged by the prospects, remember that “good things come to those who wait”: Extreme cold or moisture can prolong the drying time of wood stain, while the opposite extreme can dry out stain too quickly and leave behind unwanted lap marks on the fence.

STEP 2
Depending on the current condition of your fence, you may need to strip or sand the surface.

• Starting with a previously stained or finished fence? Apply wood stain or finish stripper to the slats according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then scrub the slats with a stiff-bristle brush to loosen the old varnish and slough off upright wood fibers.

• Learning how to stain a fence that is new? Ensure the stain will penetrate the wood with the water test: Lightly spray a small section of the fence with a garden hose. If water beads form on the slats, lightly sand the slats in the direction of the wood grain. Water successfully penetrating the slats, though, indicates that your wooden fence can readily absorb the stain.

STEP 3
Clean the fence with water from a high-pressure spray nozzle attached to a garden hose, or, a power washer. This will remove light to moderate dirt accumulations and complete the job of the wood stain stripper in blasting away any old varnish from the fence, if applied. If using a power washer, opt for a low-powered unit operating at no more than 2,000 psi so as not to weather the wood slats.

STEP 4
If you spot mold or mildew deposits on the fence, prepare a solution of bleach diluted with water in a bucket. Donning rubber gloves, apply the bleach to the slats with a garden sprayer, allowing it to settle into the slats for a few minutes before rinsing the fence clean with a high-pressure spray nozzle or power washer. Let the fence dry for at least 24 hours before staining.

STEP 5
Repair chips or cracks in the fence with wood filler. If needed, replace damaged slats.

How to Stain a Fence

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 6
Use painter’s tape to protect areas of the fence you do not want to stain. Similarly, protect surrounding vegetation at the foot of the fence by covering it with drop cloths. Then, enlist a brush, roller, or sprayer to stain the slats.

• A natural-bristle brush is the best way to encourage oil-based wood stain to permeate wooden fence slats. Dip the tip of the brush into a can of stain, then coat any horizontal slats of the fence from left to right. Afterwards, work your way from top to bottom down the entire length of each vertical slat, maintaining a wet tip at all times. Stain one to two slats at a time to prevent lap marks from forming. One you reach the bottom of a slat, stain the end grain.

• If using a roller, opt for a medium nap roller cover, then fully saturate the nap with the stain. Apply the stain in two- to three-foot sections of the fence at a time, taking care to back-brush, or re-paint over uncovered areas left by the previous stroke, with a wide brush. This will allow the stain to enter hard-to- reach grooves and recesses, and ensure an even coat free of lap marks.

• If using a sprayer, follow the same approach as for how to stain a fence with a roller, but stand back a comfortable distance from the fence to apply color.

STEP 7
When the entire fence has been stained, let it dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply additional coats of stain as needed to achieve the desired depth of color. A single coat should be sufficient for a new wood fence or one that you plan to seal.

STEP 8
While a good quality stain alone is sufficient to protect your fence from everyday wear-and-tear, applying a durable sealant over the stain can prolong the finish—and the life of your fence. For best results, apply a single coat of clear, weatherproof sealant by brush, roller, or sprayer. Quickly back-brush unsealed grooves and recesses with a wide brush to achieve a uniform appearance.

STEP 9
Allow the sealant to dry completely. Then, dispose of soiled drop cloths, remove the painter’s tape from the slats, and reveal your like-new fence!

Go ahead and take the next couple of summers off—you earned it. But while semitransparent stains can last anywhere between two to five years, extreme temperatures and precipitation can prematurely age the finish. Don’t rest on your laurels too long and risk the weather damage: Aim to stain your fence every two to three years to preserve its sheen and weather protective qualities.

 

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