Everything You Need To Know About Fence Treatments

Fence Treatment


When it comes to outdoor wood such as fences, there are a whole host of treatments available which can make it extremely difficult to find out which one is most suitable for you. That is why our experts have put together this ultimate guide to fence treatments, so you can find everything you need to know in one place.


What Is A Fence Treatment?


It is important before anything to establish what we mean by the term 'fence treatment'. Fence treatment like any wood treatment can have a wide variety of meanings attached to it depending who you speak to. There are a huge array of products for outdoor

wood, including wood paints, wood stains, wood oils, wood preservers wood waterproofers, to name a few.


While wood products come in all shapes and sizes, there are two broad forms; those that change the appearance of the wood and those that offer clear, invisible protection.


Coloured Fence Treatments


Wood treatments that change the appearance of wood include wood paint, wood stains and wood oils, but they all achieve this in a slightly different way. Wood paint is a coloured opaque wood finish that completely covers the grain of wood, while wood stains also offer a coloured finish, however they offer a semi-transparent finish that means the grain of the wood can be still seen once treated. Wood oil changes the apperance of the wood by offering various levels of sheen, such as satin or gloss. Wood oils will also darken the wood, as the oil absorbs into the timber and nourishes it. Finally, wood preservers can come in a range of colours and are designed to prevent discolouring fungi and wood-boring insects in the timber, thanks to ingredients in the formulation such as fungacides. Wood paints, wood stains, wood preservers and wood oils all offer some level of protection to outdoor wood, however they can have a relatively short life span and can require regular maintenance to replinish their attractiveness. This can especially be the case with wood oil, which is re-applied every few years when the oil begins to dry out.


Clear Fence Treatments


Clear treatments for timber include 'wood sealers' or 'wood waterproofers'. These are designed to maintain the natural beauty of outdoor timber surfaces, while providing the wood with added weather protection. They achieve this by giving the wood a water repellent exterior, meaning that any moisture cannot absorb into the wood. The reason these products have been designed is due to the porosity of wood. As a natural mineral surface, wood is highly porous, meaning it can absorb and hold large amounts of water. This is crucial as moisture is the primary cause of problems for outdoor wood, eventually causing rotting, organic growth and discolouration. By preventing the moisture entering the wood, these products help to keep the surface looking like new and extend the life span of the wood.


When choosing what clear treatment to use on fencing, it is important to consider the 'breathability'. Breathability refers to these ease in which water vapour can naturally pass through the surface. If a product with low breathability is used on fencing, it will cause moisture to become trapped underneath the coating, causing it to eventually lead to peeling or flaking. For this reason, if you want long-term performance, you must use a highly breathable fence treatment. This is where the terms wood sealer and wood waterproofer come in. When a product refers to itself as a sealer, this generally means it forms a film on the surface of the wood to offer the timber protection. This film 'seals' the wood, meaning no moisture can enter the material but also water vapour can no longer naturally breathe out.


In contrast, advanced wood waterproofers such as Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer penetrate deep into the timber and chemically bond to the wood. By chemically bonding to the wood, the fence treatment provides the wood with super hydrophobic (ultra-water repellent) properties rather than creating a water repellent film on the surface. This means that the breathability of the wood is not impacted, allowing water vapour to naturally breathe out of the timber, keeping it completely dry. With no film on the surface, there is nothing to become weathered off over time, meaning the fence treatment has high durability in all weather conditions. To be exact, Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer can withstand harsh weather conditions for a minimum of 25 years without the need to re-apply, as shown in independent testing in accordance with EAD 040287-00-04:2018.


Water repellent wood


Emperor Wood Waterproofer also provides bare, untreated wood with UV protection, acting much in the same way as a suncream. This protects the wood from 'silvering', which bleaches the wood and causes it to lose its beautiful natural colour.


Which Fence Treatment Is Right For Me?


As we have established, there are a huge amount of options when it comes to treating fences, so no matter what you are looking for there is a fence treatment for you. The important things to consider are; the surface you are applying it to, the level of protection you want and the finish you want to achieve.




Let's start with the surface you are applying to. The current state of your fencing will impact which products you can apply. For example, you cannot apply a wood stain or clear wood treatment such as a wood waterproofer if the wood is already painted, as these products must be able to absorb into the timber surface. If you applied these products on to a fence that has been painted, the paint film would prevent this. For this reason, if you have a fence that has had a wood paint applied, you must either remove this paint or apply another wood paint over the top. The vast majority of clear treatments for exterior wood must be applied to bare, untreated wood, so it is important to ensure the product you are using is suitable for the fence you are treating. 


If you are treating bare, unpainted wood and want to maintain its natural look, we recommend applying Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer. If you are looking to colour your fence, either a good-quality wood paint or wood stain is the best option for you.




As we have discussed, the level of protection you receive depends on the product are you using. Wood paints, wood stains and wood oils generally do not offer high levels of weather protection and will allow some level of moisture to enter the fence. This is because they are often acrylic or oil-based products, which are not both water repellent and highly breathable, thus allowing moisture to build-up inside the timber.


If you are looking for a fence treatment to fully protect the timber from weathering, it is important to use a water repellent product that will prevent water ingress, while also remaining highly breathable. Having said this, any product applied to the timber will provide some level of protection, atlhough the period of time before the coating begins to peel or flake will depend from product to product. Generally wood treatments can last anywhere from 12 months with some wood oils to 25 years with advanced wood waterproofers.


Why Should I Treat My Fence?


There can be a wide variety of benefits to applying a treatment to your fencing, which include:


  • Reducing organic growth - by preventing water absorption, you prevent the conditions necessary for organic growth such as lichens, mildew and moss to bloom on the fence.
  • Improving or maintaining appearance - by treating the fence, you can either completely transform the appearance of the wood or simply ensure that the wood maintains its beautiful natural look without deterioirating over-time.
  • Preventing rotting - treating wood with a water repellent treatment ensures that rotting is prevented, caused by a fungus that feeds of the timber in high-moisture conditions.
  • Preventing discolouration - saturated wood will discolour over-time through dark, damp patches that appear after rainfall, which can be prevented by reducing this saturation.
  • UV protection - wood over-time can go through a process of 'silvering', caused by the bleaching of the wood through UV degradation. Clear treatments for timber can prevent this silvering, maintaining the natural hue of the wood and providing bare, natural wood with UV protection.
  • Preventing shrinkage - when the moisture levels of outdoor wood change, the timber can contract and expand causing it to split. By ensuring consistently low-moisture levels, this cracking and warping of the wood is prevented and the integrity of the wood is protected.


Whether you have new or already weathered fencing, it is highly recommended that you apply a fence treatment in order to prevent any future weathering. While the best way to protect wood is while it is new, even if your fencing has been exposed to the elements for a number of years, you will help to prevent further damage and ultimately extend its life span.


A treated fence


Applying Fence Treatments


When applying a fence treatment, the process will vary depending on the product you are using, however there are a number of key similarities. No matter what treatment you are using, the most important step of the process is the preparation. If you do not take time at the preparation stage, you run the risk of not only achieving a below par finish, but also the treatment not performing as it should. Ensure the fence is first cleaned down either using a power-washer, which is recommended for very dirty fencing, or using a brush and hot, soapy water, which is often sufficient with fencing that does not have large amounts of dirt. It is also important after this to apply a fungicidal cleaner such as Emperor Exterior Cleaner. This will kill any organic growth currently on the fence and ensure that this cannot continue to bloom on the surface once the fence treatment is applied. This is just as important if you are using a coloured paint as it is a clear treatment, as organic growth will cause problems on any timber surface.


Always cover and protect areas that surround your fence in order to prevent any overspray. This can be done by putting a dust sheet down on the floor and masking any other areas using a good-quality exterior masking tape.


The application of the treatment will depend which product you are using. A wood paint, wood stain or wood oil will likely to be applied in three coats. A clear treatment like Emperor Wood Waterproofer for example is a one-coat treatment. While a 4" brush will allow you the best control when applying, you may also want to use a medium-pile roller or a spray machine to apply the treatment. It is important that you apply the fence treatment at the correct coverage as some products are designed to be applied in a thick film, while some are applied in a thin-film. Check the instructions of the fence treatment you are using before application.


Applying a fence treatment


Frequently Asked Questions




Due to the numerous variables at hand when treating any outdoor wood, whether it be decking, fencing or cladding, generally product guarantees are not widely available. Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer comes with a 10 year manufacturer guarantee which ensures the performance of the product in any weather conditions if applied in accordance with the data sheet. It also comes with a 25 year proven performance, as in independent testing it was found to perform for a 25 year accelerated weathering period with no breakdown or deterioration.




You will see a wide variety of water-based and oil-based fence treatments on the market. Generally, water-based treatments are quicker drying, do not come with a nasty smell and are lower in VOC's when compared to oil-based treatments. Oil-based products also come with low breathability, which can lead to the treatment failing when moisture builds up. Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer is an example of a water-based fence treatment, meaning any tools can be cleaned with water after use and the product will be dry in 1-2 hours.




While you will get hardwood and softwood used regularly on a range of exterior timber surfaces, ultimately any bare, untreated wood will be prone to weathering and needs to be treated if you want to protect it and help maintain its appearance. 




A wood preserver generally contains anti-fungal and anti-bug components to help protect wood, which is then either left as a decorative topcoat or overcoated using another fence treatment, such as a wood paint. Emperor Exterior Wood Waterproofer by keeping exterior fencing dry, prevents the weathering that leads to organic growth, rotting, discolouration and other side effects of moisture. This means that not only the wood is protected, but the wood stays looking completely natural without adding any colour or sheen to the timber.


We hope we have answered any questions you may have had regarding fence treatments. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch with our team of experts who are on hand to assist you. Contact them today by emailing info@emperorpaint.co.uk or calling them on 0161 509 9009. Alternatively, shop our range of exterior waterproofing treatments today and get free delivery on all orders.