“Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of white wash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all the gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit.”
—The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
White Wash Quickie
Just like my friend, Tom, I dreaded having to paint a large, plain wood fence in the back alley of my cottage. The fence was extended and repaired to include a privacy gate. Old sections that became dinner for termites (a big problem by the coast) were swapped out, leaving an unsightly hodgepodge of new and old planks of wood. But unlike Tom, white washing turned out to be an easy fix, and I didn’t have to trick anyone into helping me paint.
I had Minwax white wash pickling stain left over from a previous project. And I knew it looked clean and fresh on unfinished pine wood. Another advantage: no priming necessary!
• Although the stain is not recommended for outdoor use, it is actually quite durable in a mild climate like Southern California. Instead of brushing on the stain and then immediately wiping it off with a cloth (as per the can’s directions), brush on a thin layer, don’t wipe and let dry. The unfinished wood will absorb the stain unevenly and that adds to the charm of a white-washed fence.
• Use a brush not a roller. You want to see some of those brush strokes. Occasionally paint against the grain of the wood here and there to enhance the shabby yet chic look of a white-washed cottage fence.
• You can stain a fence in half the time it takes to paint it. The stain also helps to protect the wood over time.
Here’s a bonus tip on how to hang a unique planter on a garden fence.