It's that time of year when everyone returns to the garden to find that the fence is looking a little tired. To extend the life of your fence, using some sort of treatment is essential with plenty of types and colours to choose from. But can the Ronseal Power Sprayer make this an easier job?
The Power Sprayer consists of a 5-litre tank, on which sits the pump unit and power, attached by four clips. Separating the two halves is simply a case of flipping up the catches and lifting off the top. The Ronseal Fence Life also comes in 5-litre containers, so you can simply pour the whole thing in.
The pump unit contains four D cell batteries (supplied) that Ronseal claim will see you through 40 fence panels. Simply install the batteries and you are ready to get going once you have primed the pump.
The attached 2-metre hose features a hand trigger for controlling the spray. A quick squeeze and eases the pressure allowing the content of the tank to be sprayed out through the nozzle on the end. It is very simple to use.
The pump is a little weighty and the full 5-litres tank adds an extra 5kg to the weight, but thanks to the 2-metre hose you can easily leave the Power Sprayer on the ground while you do the spraying, which will appeal to those interested in a sprayer because they find painting too difficult.
The treatment came out in a good even spray, with on optimum distance of 25cm suggested in the user manual. We found that this worked well, with long even strokes providing an even coverage. Ronseal claim that you can spray one side of a fence panel in about 2 minutes and this seems to be about right.
Brush painting is solid fence can be pretty fast, but the Power Sprayer comes into its own on slatted panels where there are lots of nooks and crannies to fill that would require lots of painstaking brush work. It is also apt at painting parts of a shed that you'd otherwise struggle to reach.
We tested the Power Sprayer on a slatted fence and an inter-locking log cabin. On the log cabin it was able to spray into small gaps and around the ends of logs that would have taken plenty of time to paint.
You do need to take some precautions however. Because you are spraying, it is almost impossible to stop some overspray onto surrounding walls, plants or paths. It is worth protecting anything close to the fence that you don't want spraying – we covered our Araucaria araucana, but allowed a little spray onto the grass. You'll also have to use a brush along fence tops, or you'll be spraying your neighbour's prize-winning courgettes growing on the other side.
If you are painting a shed, then you'll want to get the windows well taped up, as well as any handles, locks or hinges that you don't want to spray. You might decide that it is simpler and easier to avoid those areas and then touch them up with a brush later.
We also found that you can't spray in even the lightest winds otherwise the spray will go literally everywhere. Working around all these conditions can make the episode a little more work than you might have originally thought.
The Power Sprayer claims to get 6 fence sides from a 5-litre container which is pretty close, however we found that the level got too low to pump effectively on the fifth panel. As a result, we were left with some liquid still in the tank. You could preserve this but it is potentially wasted. (We used a brush to apply the spare treatment to the fence which worked well enough.)
You also have to ensure that the solution is well mixed before you pour it into the tank – it is worth giving it a vigorous inverting shaking before you take the lid off to counter any separation that occurred whilst on the store shelf.
If you don't mix the solution well enough, you'll find that the filters quickly clog, at which point your sprayer stops pumping out an even spray and reverts instead to sporadic spurting and a very uneven finish. Unfortunately you won't know if this is going to happen until it does, as we discovered after we'd got through the first container of solution.
Another downside is cleaning. The Power Sprayer contains two filters, one at the pick-up end of the pump and one immediately before the nozzle. These need to be perfectly cleaned to make sure that the pump remains effective, which seems near impossible. You'll need to flush quite a bit of water through to get everything running clear and even then you'll find residues of the spray inside various parts.
As a result cleaning takes a long time and when combined with the guidance on the packaging that the stuff shouldn't be poured down the drain you are left wondering what to do with the buckets of contaminated water – at least with a normal tub you can stick the lid on easily.
£25 (£12 for Fence Life spray)
However, the Sprayable One Coat Fence Life that we used did gives a great finish, with water running off the fence, rather than soaking in as it was before. Once the filters had become clogged with thick gloop however, we couldn't see any reliable method of cleaning, effectively rendering the Power Sprayer useless. Easily changeable replacement parts would counter this problem, perhaps, should you fall victim to problems.
Besides using a fence treatment, Ronseal also do a garden cleaner which you can add to a tank of water to spray onto garden paving, decking and so on. Although it boasts about not containing bleach or acid on the front of the packaging, it does point out on the back that it is dangerous to the environment.
The sprayable fence treatments are more expensive than their brushed counterparts and combined with the cost of the sprayer, this might put off those with plenty of time on their side, especially given difficulties faced with cleaning and maintaining the filters on this sprayer.