Staining is an excellent way to restore an old deck’s natural beauty or ensure a new one is well preserved from the elements. While applying a stain is critical to achieving a good result, drying time is also important.
Drying time allows the stain to penetrate deep into the wood to create a deep rich look while ensuring the stain will provide lasting protection. During this critical part of the staining process, it’s important that the deck stay dry and free of foot traffic or heavy deck furniture.
With so many different types of deck stains on the market, determining when it’s okay to open the deck back up to service can be a bit of a mystery, leaving one scratching his head wondering how long does it take for deck stain to dry.
A deck stain typically takes between 24 and 48 hours to dry depending on the brand of the stain, as well as a host of environmental factors that include temperature, humidity, and even the age of the wood.
In this article, we’ll go deep into deck stains to determine how long it takes the most popular stains to dry and discuss how environmental factors, the decking material, and other factors can impact that drying time.
- Drying Times of 17 Popular Deck Stains
- How Important Is Stain Drying Time?
- Factors That Impact the Drying Time of Deck Stain
- How to Make Deck Stain Dry Faster?
- How Long to Wait Between Coats of Stain?
- How Long After Staining a Deck Can It Rain?
- How Long Before I Can Walk on a Newly Stained Deck?
Drying Times of 17 Popular Deck Stains
Different brands of stain have different drying times. These drying times are largely based on whether the stain uses a water or oil base; however, even stains with the same base can dry at different rates.
Many of the stains below have a broad range of drying times. You’ll find that most of these wood stain manufacturers list very broad ranges for their drying time. This is mainly due to environmental factors, which we will discuss in greater detail below, such as temperature and humidity that can impact how long it takes for these stains to dry.
Remember, it’s always wise to err on the side of caution and wait the maximum amount of time before putting the deck back into service.
|Ready Seal||Oil-based||48-72 Hours|
|Cabot Australian Timber Oil||Oil-based||24-48 Hours|
|Cabot Semi-Solid||Oil-based||24-48 Hours|
|Thompson Water Seal||Water-based||2 hours|
|Minwax Gel Stain||Oil-based||8-10 hours|
|#1 Deck Premium||Water-based||24 hours|
|TWP Stain||Oil-based||4-12 hours|
|Woodrich Timber Oil||Oil-based||8 hours|
|DEFY Extreme Semi-Transparent||Water-based||2-4 hours|
|Rust-Oleum Ultimate||Water-based||2 hours|
|Benjamin Moore Arborcoat||Oil-based||24 hours|
|Sherwin Williams||Oil-based||24-48 hours|
|Olympic Elite||Oil-based||24-48 hours|
|Varathane Premium||OIl-based||8 hours|
How Important Is Stain Drying Time?
Drying time is crucial to achieving a quality finish for the wood stain. While a stain is drying, it is penetrating the wood, which affects its adhesion to the deck boards as well as the uniformity of the stain’s color.
With that in mind, it’s important to make sure this drying time isn’t interrupted. If it rains before the stain has had a chance to dry, it can cause runs and imperfections to ruin the stain. Most stains can take rain within 12 hours without the moisture negatively impacting the stain.
It’s best to start a restaining project when there is no rain in the forecast for at least the next 24 hours. While you may be tempted to risk it, know that rain can ruin deck stain that hasn’t had a chance to fully dry, forcing you to sand it down and redo the whole process.
In addition to rain, putting a deck into service too quickly can also ruin the stain by leaving footprints and marks from furniture and people permanently imprinted in the stain.
Factors That Impact the Drying Time of Deck Stain
While the directions on the label may give you a good indication of how long it will take the deck stain to dry, other factors can also impact drying time, including weather, sun exposure, and wood age.
Most deck stain brands have a broad range of temperatures for applying the stain that typically ranges from around 50 degrees to 90 degrees. While any temperature in between may be suitable for applying the stain, drying times will vary based on the temperature.
Stains will generally dry more quickly when it’s hotter and take longer to dry when it’s cooler. As anxious as you might be to restain the deck, do not violate the temperature range directions for the stain.
Applying a deck stain under 50 degrees may result in a stain that never fully dries, leaving a sticky material that must be removed and redone. If applied in conditions that are too hot, the stain may not fully penetrate the wood before it dries, resulting in uneven color.
Given that deck stain dries by evaporating the moisture that is in it into the air, it makes sense that the amount of moisture already present in the air will impact how efficiently that process takes place and hence how quickly the stain dries.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the low-end times that manufacturers put on their labels are based on 40 percent humidity. So even humidity levels in the 50s and 60s will extend the dry time.
Generally speaking, deck stain should be applied when the humidity is between 40 and 70 percent. If the humidity is higher, it could negatively impact its gloss by extending the drying time. The wood stain may never dry in high humidity, requiring you to remove it and start over again.
Most manufacturers recommend against applying the stain in direct sunlight in their application instructions. If the deck is not in a shady area, wait for a cloudy day before applying the stain.
This is because a sun’s UV rays can negatively impact the stain’s ability to adhere to the wood and the uniformity of its color throughout the deck.
Sun will cause a stain to dry more quickly than normal. If applying wood stain in direct sunlight on a hot day, it can cause the stain to dry before the wood has had a chance to fully absorb it, creating a blotchy uneven look.
When you build a new deck, most people will advise you to wait six months to a year before staining the deck. This is because the wood is too young to properly receive stain.
New wood still has a significant moisture content. This is largely due to the chemicals infused into treated lumber that preserve it from the elements. Similar to a sponge, the wood’s fibers can only hold so much moisture.
As such, new wood has a harder time absorbing stain than older wood that is much dryer. If you stain the new deck, it will take longer for the stain to work its way into the wood’s fibers and dry.
It’s also a good idea to make sure the wood is completely dry before applying stain. Wait a few days after it rains to allow the wood to fully dry out to better receive the stain.
Amount of Stain Applied
Overapplying wood stain is one sure-fire way to extend the drying time. While varying the amount of deck stain can affect the darkness of the stain, applying too much can saturate the wood’s fibers.
Once the wood is saturated, there is nowhere for the stain to go. This can cause the stain to sit on top of the surface of the wood, where it can dry and leave inconsistencies in the deck color.
To avoid extending the dry time, only apply as much stain as the wood can absorb.
Deck Stain Type
Deck stain drying times vary depending on whether you’re using oil-based or water-based stain. As with paint, water-based stain dries much more quickly, in 2 to 4 hours, and can take rain as soon as it is dry to the touch without negatively impacting the finish.
This makes it easier to apply without having to worry about a strain thunderstorm ruining your hard work. After 24 hours, most water-based stains are ready to take furniture.
As with paint, oil-based stains take longer to dry. An oil-based deck stain can take as little as 4 hours or up to 24 hours to dry, depending on the brand. Most oil-based stains can take rain after 12 hours without washing out the stain.
It can take up to three days for an oil-based wood stain to fully cure before it’s safe for foot traffic and furniture.
While a short dry time can be convenient, it can also be a challenge. Stain must be applied with a wet edge. A quick dry time puts pressure on you to apply the stain before that edge dries. For larger decks, a longer dry time can make for an easier (and less stressful) application process.
How to Make Deck Stain Dry Faster?
While there are many ways to change the climate around the stained wood to speed up the dry time for indoor applications, the position of a deck outdoors makes speeding up the dry time more of a challenge. Aside from following the above guidelines when applying deck stain, there are few other ways to speed up the dry time.
However, there are a few tricks. One way to speed up the dry time is by increasing the airflow around the deck using a large fan to circulate the air over the deck. This has the effect of bringing in the fresh air that can collect and carry off the water vapor evaporating from the deck, speeding up the process.
Just be mindful of how you set up the fan as it can also blow debris into the air, which can land on and stick to the wet stain.
A more extreme method is to use a cannon-style space heater to blow warm air over the deck’s surface. Warm air causes the chemicals and moisture in the stain to evaporate more quickly, speeding up the drying process.
This method needs to be used with care, as too much heat can cause the wood stain to flash dry before it can fully penetrate the wood surface.
How Long to Wait Between Coats of Stain?
The answer to this question is a little tricky. Many conventional stains recommend waiting the full drying time before applying a second coat of stain. However, other stains recommend applying the second stain within 2 hours with a water-based stain and 6 hours with an oil-based stain, allowing you to knock out the entire job in a day’s work.
It’s important to apply additional coats of an oil-based wood stain before it fully dries. Once dry, an oil-based stain effectively seals the wood, preventing any additional stain from absorbing into it. This will cause the second coat to dry on the top of it, causing it to slowly flake off after it dries.
Since applying the second coat of stain is highly recommended to ensure thorough coverage, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply the stain within the proper time window.
That said, even instructions can be off depending on the weather variables discussed above. If you’re unsure, do the touch test. The first coat should feel tacky but not wet when it’s ready to receive the second coat.
How Long After Staining a Deck Can It Rain?
The general rule when it comes to rain is no rain 24 hours before applying stain to a deck and no rain for one day after applying stain to a deck. That said, few rules apply to every scenario and such is also the case with deck stain.
Some deck stains may be dry enough in just a few hours to take rain without suffering any ill effects, while others may require more than a day without rain.
The key here is if the stain has had enough time to dry. If it rains and the deck has not had time to dry, the rainwater will attempt to replace the stain in the fibers of the decking. If the stain is still wet, some of it will be washed away, resulting in splotchy coloring instead of even tones.
If you are unfortunate enough to be the victim of a stray shower during or right after applying the stain, the stain will not adhere to the deck, causing it to flake off once it does dry.
If this occurs and the damage is widespread, you’ll need to sand the deck and re-stain it. If just a few spots appear splotchy, then it is possible to apply stain to the lighter areas to blend it with the rest of the deck.
How Long Before I Can Walk on a Newly Stained Deck?
For most stains, you can walk on the deck about 24 hours after it has been applied for oil-based deck stains and 6 hours for water-based deck stains.
The main factors that influence when you can walk on a newly stained deck are temperature and humidity. The higher both are, the longer it will take the stained deck to dry thoroughly enough so you can walk on it.
Rather than risk it, the best option is to wait a day or more before walking on the deck just to be sure. If you absolutely must walk on the deck before then, walk on it bare feet to reduce the chances of making footprints in the stain.
As for furniture, wait for 24 to 48 hours before placing lightweight objects, such as a chair, on the deck. For heavier items, such as a grill, it’s best to wait a full week. This will ensure the stain has fully cured and won’t scratch under the heavy weight.
Giving your new deck stain the right amount of time to dry is critical to ensuring it has the proper amount of time to dry and cure before enduring rain, foot traffic, and deck furniture.
It takes between 24 and 48 hours for most deck stains to dry, with the dry time decreasing for high temperatures and decreasing in cool weather and high humidity. Waiting for the allotted time is vital for achieving the best results while also ensuring that the deck stain protects your deck for many years to come.