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How to Paint or Stain Wooden Gates


Wooden gates can really enhance the curb appeal and charm of your home’s exterior. However, if you don’t properly maintain them, they can easily start to look weathered, faded and worn down from exposure to the elements. Giving your tired wooden gates a fresh coat of paint or stain is an easy weekend DIY project that can give them a like-new, polished look while protecting the wood. There are many types of wooden gates to consider such as yard gates and fence gates.

Tips to Paint or Stain Wooden Gates

Here are some tips on how to properly prepare, paint or stain your wood gates to protect and beautify them for years to come:

Clean and Prepare the Wood Surface

Before applying any type of paint or stain, it’s crucial to properly clean and prepare the wood surface. This will help the new paint or stain better adhere and last longer. Here are the steps for prepping wood gates:

  • Remove any existing paint or stain that is badly chipping or peeling using sandpaper, steel wool or a paint scraper.
  • Wash the gates with a power washer if possible to remove dirt, mildew and loose wood fibers. Let the wood dry completely afterward.
  • Sand the entire gate with 120-150 grit sandpaper to help rough up the surface for better paint/stain absorption.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe away any dust from sanding. Let dry.
  • Fill any cracks, holes or large gaps with an appropriate wood filler, let dry and sand smooth.
  • Apply wood primer to any new, bare wood, especially on freshly sanded or filled areas. Allow ample drying time per the product instructions.

Thoroughly prepping your wooden gates will help ensure the new paint or stain adheres properly and lasts for years.

Choose Exterior Paint vs. Stain for Your Wood Gates

When deciding on paint or stain, think about the types of wooden gates you have like patio gates or garden gates. Paint provides opaque coverage while stain enhances the natural grain.


  • Provides opaque, solid color that coats and hides wood grain.
  • Offers wider variety of color options – any hue you want.
  • Delivers greater protection from UV rays and moisture.
  • Requires more frequent repainting – every 3-5 years.


  • Enhances natural wood grain instead of covering it up.
  • Limited color options – mostly natural wood tones.
  • Lets more wood texture show through – feels more natural.
  • Sealants make reapplication only needed every 5-7 years.

So if you want bold, opaque color choices paint is the way to go. For a more natural wood look that brings out the grain, stains are ideal.

Properly Paint Wooden Gates

If you’ve opted for paint, follow these steps for a smooth painted finish:

  • Choose an exterior grade wood paint in your desired color. Semi-gloss or satin finishes work best.
  • Stir the paint until thoroughly mixed and use a paintbrush to carefully paint the gate, using smooth, even strokes. Apply 2-3 thin coats allowing drying time between coats.
  • Use a small foam roller to quickly roll over the final coat to ensure an smooth, even finish.
  • Paint all edges and ends of wood boards for maximum protection.
  • Allow the final coat to dry for at least 24 hours before use.
  • Consider adding a clear sealant/topcoat for added weatherproofing.

When painting gates, use long, smooth brush strokes and avoid over-brushing, which can cause bubbles. Applying multiple thin coats creates a more durable finish than one thick coat.

Stain Your Wood Gates for a Natural Look

For a stain, follow this easy process:

  • Select an exterior wood stain in your desired tone – lighter stain lets more grain show through. Consider water or oil-based options.
  • Stir the stain until fully mixed. Use a paintbrush to liberally apply the stain across the wood grain.
  • Let the stain sit for 5-10 minutes so it fully absorbs into the wood, then wipe off any excess with a clean rag.
  • For added protection, apply 2 coats of exterior polyurethane sealant over the stain, allowing drying time between coats.
  • Make sure to stain all sides and edges of the wood for maximum coverage.
  • Let the stain dry for at least 48 hours before regular use of the gate.

When applying stains, always go with the wood grain – never across. Wiping off excess stain after application prevents a blotchy, uneven look.

Adding a sealant over your stain provides an extra moisture barrier to prevent the wood from warping and water damage.

Pro Tips for Painting or Staining Wood Gates

Follow these additional tips to get longer lasting, professional results:

  • Check the weather – only paint/stain when temps are between 50-90°F and humidity is low. Avoid painting in direct sun.
  • Use high quality brushes and rollers designed for smooth exteriors.
  • Apply painter’s tape around hinges, handles and adjacent surfaces for crisp edges.
  • Sand lightly between coats for maximum adherence.
  • Work section by section instead of painting the whole gate at once.
  • Let the gate fully dry before shutting or latching to prevent sticking.
  • Read all manufacturer instructions and recommended dry times.
  • Apply a fresh coat of sealant every 2-3 years for optimal protection.

Putting in the prep work and following best practices will help your painted or stained wood gates maintain their beauty for many years before needing to be refinished.

Maintain Your Finished Wooden Gates

Regular maintenance is key to making your paint or stain job last. Follow these upkeep tips:

  • Inspect gates yearly for any cracking, peeling or fading paint/stain that needs touched up.
  • Reseal gates every 2-3 years to protect the wood from moisture damage.
  • Lightly sand then clean gates before reapplying paint or stain.
  • Replace any split, warped or rotting wood boards as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
  • Keep gates free of dirt, bird droppings and mildew by periodic washing.
  • Consider applying wax once a year to protect wood from sun and rain.
  • Oil gate hinges occasionally to prevent squeaking and sticking.
  • Store gates out of the elements when not in use to extend their lifespan.

Proper prep work, application and yearly maintenance will keep your wood gates looking like new for years to come. Just be sure to reapply fresh coats of paint or stain as soon as you notice any wear, fading or cracking. Taking good care of your wood gates guarantees they’ll stand up well against the elements while retaining their beauty.

Painting or staining are great ways to improve the appearance of aging wooden gates while protecting them from the elements. By properly preparing the wood surface, using exterior grade paints or stains, and applying multiple thin coats, you can give tired gates new life. Maintain the finish each year with touch ups, resealing and cleaning to get the longest lasting results.

With the right prep work and products, you can easily paint or stain your wooden gates in a weekend. Just be sure to follow best practices for applying and caring for exterior paints and stains. Your freshly colored gates will not only look amazing but will stay that way for years to come.

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