How Long Does Deck Stain Need to Dry?
If you want a stunning and durable deck and are thinking about staining it but have concerns regarding the drying time – we’ve got you covered! We’ll give you answers on what types of stain to use, deck surface, and weather conditions. Take our advice and speed up your DIY project.
Understanding the Drying Process of Deck Stain (Exploring Different Deck Stains and Their Drying Characteristics)
Different types of deck stains are on the market, including transparent, semi-transparent, tinted, or solid stains. Also, most out there are water-based or oil-based. Some are even epoxy-based. Figuring out which one is right for you means having to consider several factors. How old is your deck, what type of wood is it, and what stains, if any, were used in the past? Additionally, what are the local weather patterns? These elements will affect drying time; oil-based stain takes longer to dry, whereas water-based stain will usually be cured (dried) in roughly a day.
Sealing or staining your deck, will protect it from foot traffic, spills, humidity, and harsh weather. Moisture causes mold and mildew. New decks (within a few months of installation) are okay for staining, but porous (older) wood will likely absorb the stain better.
One thing to bear in mind is to plan your deck staining in advance. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, as you want to avoid doing this during any chance of rain. The best times for your staining project are late spring, summer, or early autumn. The outdoor temperature should be ideally around 50 to 90°F. There should be no chance of precipitation for about three days. This will give it enough time to cure or completely dry.
Factors That Affect Deck Stain Drying Time
As mentioned before, the amount of time it takes for a wood deck to fully dry depends on several factors: the type of wood stain you use, weather and atmospheric conditions, how many coats of stain are applied, the application method, and finally the kind of wooden deck you have. If you live in an area with high humidity, this might slow your drying time.
Different hardwoods also have differing drying times. A more exotic wood, like ipê, will take longer to cure than a pressure-treated wood, such as pine. The amount of stain you use (one or two coats) will also vary your drying time. Something that may hasten the process would be how the deck is prepped. Deck stain takes better to a clean, smooth, and properly prepared deck.
Average Drying Time for Different Types of Deck Stains (Including Oil-based, Water-based, and Solid-color Stains)
We referenced drying times for both oil and water-based deck stains. The latter type of stain, acrylic or water-based, will take less time to fully dry and is a little more environmentally friendly. Oil-based deck stains, or alkyd stains, have more VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and usually take 24 to 72 hours to completely dry.
Water-based stain doesn’t penetrate the wood as much as oil-based products, but it is easier to clean up and dries faster. Within as little as one to 24 hours, a water-based stain is ready to walk on but keeps foot traffic very light. Wait anywhere from 24 to 48 hours before placing furniture on your deck.
Oil-based stain has been around longer than the water-based option. This will take longer to dry. It’s best to wait up to 72 hours before resuming your deck activities. Oil-based products generally last longer than acrylic or water-based stain. There are some fumes when applying this, which could be a variable in making your decision. Both stains will allow for wood grain to show through.
As for solid-color stains, they’re a thicker viscosity, so they need more time to cure. It’s best to wait around 48 to 72 hours before replacing the furniture onto the deck. Incidentally, solid stains last the longest, up to five years.
Tips for Accelerating the Drying Time of Deck Stain
The cleaner and more prepped your deck is, the faster the drying time will be. This also will help you easily apply your first coat and, if necessary, a second coat. Thoroughly check your deck for warped boards, loose nails, and imperfections beforehand. This is essential to keep your deck both functional and safe. Use a pressure washer to clean the deck, and let it dry.
Another aspect of having a prepped deck is knowing what type of stain history the deck has. Did it have an oil-based stain before, or was it a water-based stain? Knowledge of this will help you decide which stain to use. Note that if you switch stains, you may need to do some stripping of the previous stain so there is no peeling or flaking. Use 60 or 80-grit sandpaper to smooth out the wooden boards. A power or palm sander can help with this project.
An application of a brightener after cleaning is a good idea. A brightener will neutralize the pH level of wood, as that can get raised after applying a cleaner. A brightener will help the stain cohere to your deck’s wood surface and ensure the stain will last longer. Behr makes a highly-rated all-in-one cleaner and brightener.
Factors That Can Extend Drying Time (Such as Temperature, Humidity, and Weather Conditions)
Summer is the best time to apply deck stain. As stated before, 50° to 90°F is the optimal temperature to stain. Check humidity levels since this can change the drying time. Preferably, 40 to 70% relative humidity works well, along with the moisture content of most deck stains. If it’s too humid outside, this will impede the drying time.
A sunny day to apply stain is always favorable, but not too sunny! What we mean by that is that if the sun is too bright and you’re staining in direct sunlight, it may make deck stain turn splotchy, especially if it dries too quickly. The winter season is not an adequate time – as cold temperatures will affect the ability of stain to penetrate or adhere to the wood pores. Unsurprisingly, snow will also negatively impact the curing process. Make sure you’re monitoring your local weather for rain. Pick a stretch where it will not rain for at least three or four days.
How to Know if the Deck Stain is Fully Dry
Depending on your stain type, you will have differing drying times. It’s a fairly safe bet that after 24 hours, your deck should be dry. That doesn’t mean you can replace planters and deck chairs, as you may want to wait another day or two. However, some light traffic on the deck is fine.
Also, your deck will not be sticky when it’s dry. Even if it feels dry to the touch, it’s still a very smart practice to wait around 72 hours to resume “regular” deck life. We’ll further explore this in more detail so you can get back to enjoying the outdoors on your freshly stained (and gorgeous) deck!
Can You Walk on the Deck During the Drying Process?
Ideally, wait six to 24 hours, if you can. However, if you must walk on the deck, do not wear shoes – go barefoot. The shoes will probably leave shoe prints, while bare feet will not. Walk on a hidden part of the deck first. We promise that the stain will wash off your feet!
When Can You Put Furniture Back on the Deck After Staining?
Although you may be tempted to put a chair or two out, we recommend holding off putting any heavy furnishings back on your deck. Wait 72 hours after staining, as the risk would be that the furniture would mark up or stick to your newly stained deck.
What Should You Do If It Rains Before the Deck Stain is Fully Dry?
So, the big question – what to do if it rains? This can happen, and we have a few suggestions. Homeowners who have taken the time to stain their deck can be very disappointed if rain occurs. If the precipitation is just a light drizzle, it will likely be fine, but for a heavier downpour, we have some tips.
After the rain stops, assess any damage to your deck. There may be a few light spots or uneven deck stain. Once everything is dry, you can sand the affected areas and reapply a light coat of stain. If the damage is more extensive, you may need to thoroughly sand the deck again and reapply the stain. The good news is the chances of rain impacting your deck’s appearance after applying stain is usually negligible once the initial 24 hours have passed.