Last Updated on November 6, 2022 by Ernest Godia
Wood is the material of choice for most decks. But it is vulnerable to weather elements, thanks to a porous profile. So you must always seal your wooden deck to protect it from the elements.
Staining is among the most popular ways to protect the deck, as it also simultaneously enhances the appearance. But how long does deck stain need to dry before it rains?
Rainwater can wreak havoc on a newly stained deck, forcing you to redo the entire work at an additional cost and time expenditure.
Therefore, knowing how much time your stained deck must take before it rains can help you plan better.
How long does deck stain need to dry before it rains
Deck stains need to dry for 48-72 hours before it rains. By this time, the stain will have settled in the pores and formed a solid film on the surface. Water-based stains need 4-6 hours to dry and 24-48 hours before it rains. Oil-based deck stain dries in about 12–24 hours and can withstand rain after 48 hours.
This article explains how long a freshly stained deck must take to dry before exposure to rainfall.
You’ll also learn the factors that can prolong deck stain drying time and how to repair the effects of rain on a newly stained wooden deck.
What happens if it rains before your stained deck dries fully?
If it rains before your stained deck completely dries, the rainwater will soak into the wood’s pores and displace the stain.
As the rain falls, the displaced deck stain may wash away from the surface. The aftermath is an unsightly mess of splotches, flaking, and peeling coats of stain.
How to repair the effects of rain on a freshly stained deck?
Checking the weather forecast and planning with the weatherman’s recommendations will help. But if the unexpected happens and it rains before your deck stain settles into the wood properly, you will have to deal with it.
Start by waiting for the affected wood deck to dry completely. Once dry, assess the extent of the damage to determine your options.
Ideally, you can expect minimal damage and manageable effects if it is only a light shower.
However, if you just experienced a rain storm, your options might be limited to a complete do-over.
Still, some brands of wood stain are more resilient than others and will weather the storm better.
Fixing superficial effects of a drizzle on a stained deck
If the rain was a light shower lasting only a few minutes, you could recover the surface. This rain may leave shallow and scattered watermarks or splotches on your deck.
The easiest fix for this imperfection is applying a fresh coat. To achieve a flawless finish, only recoat when the surface is completely dry.
Fixing severe rain damage on a stained deck
A heavy downpour or rainstorm lasting several minutes will likely cause extensive damage to your deck.
You can expect severe flaking and brittle stain coat once the deck dries. Recoating the surface will only highlight the disaster instead of concealing it.
Therefore, you must remove the damaged stain coat and start over from scratch to fix the problem.
Step 1: Remove the stain to reveal the bare wood.
Try removing the damaged coating using a pressure washer. Start with low water pressure and gradually increase it for more stubborn spots.
Use sweeping motions to avoid damaging the wood itself. You can use wood cleaner along with the pressure washer for better results.
Alternatively, you can use a chemical stripper to remove the damaged wood stain. Apply the stripper to the surface and let it sit for about an hour.
Once the stain softens, scrape it off the surface using a putty knife. Finish by washing the wood surface with water and mild soap to eliminate the debris.
Step 2: Allow the deck to dry.
Leave the washed surface to dry completely undisturbed. Check back after 5 hours to check the wood. If the weather is sunny, this should be enough time for the wood to dry completely.
Assess the amount of stain removed and what’s left on the wooden surface, if any. Let it dry for a minimum of 24 hours and allow a longer drying time if the weather is cold and humid.
Step 3: Sand the wooden deck.
Use a power sander with medium-grit sandpaper to sand the damaged deck boards along the grain.
Sanding should help smooth out any bumps or stain spots sustained from the rain damage. Keep the sander light and even on all surfaces.
After sanding, you can remove the wood dust with a dry paintbrush or vacuum.
Step 4: Stain your wooden deck.
Gently stir the stain and pour a bit of it on the staining tray. After that, dip a staining pad or brush in the stain and apply it to your deck.
Spread a light coat of stain on the surface, working with the grain. Wait for the first coat to dry thoroughly before recoating. You only need about 2-3 coats of deck stain.
For a detailed staining procedure, please read our article on how to stain unfinished wood.
Step 5: Let the stained deck dry and cure before using it.
Let the stained deck surface dry and cure for 48 to 72 hours before allowing traffic or light furniture onto it. Then wait a week or longer before reinstalling planters and heavy deck furniture.
How long you must wait for the deck to dry before using it will depend on the weather. You can expect the stain to dry sooner in hot weather.
Should rain try to ruin your work again before the stain dries, you’d better have large tarps on standby to easily shelter your stained deck from the rain, at least until the deck is completely dry and cured.
Factors that will prolong the drying time of your stained deck
Under optimal conditions, a water-based stain should dry in less than 24 hours. In contrast, an oil-based wood stain needs a minimum of 24 hours to dry.
However, some circumstances might cause a delay in the drying process of the stained deck.
We’ll discuss the details of each factor in the section below. Once you understand the impact these factors can have on your stained project; you’ll be able to plan ahead of time.
The recommended humidity range while staining or painting your woodworking project is 40-70%.
As a result, high humidity (above 70%) indicates that the atmosphere is already saturated with moisture. Such weather conditions slow down the drying process of your freshly stained deck.
Wood stain relies on evaporation for it to dry. However, solvents in the stain have little room to evaporate when the atmosphere is already saturated. This invariably results in a longer drying time.
On the other hand, drier weather with low humidity makes it easy for the solvent to evaporate, leaving the stain to dry faster on your wooden surfaces.
Cold weather is another factor guaranteed to prolong wood stain dry time. Manufacturers of wood stains usually recommend a temperature range of 50–90 degrees Fahrenheit under which a stained surface should dry. “Cold weather” means the temperature is below 50 degrees.
If you stained your deck and now the temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, brace yourself for several days of waiting before the stain dries.
If push comes to shove and the rain decides to pour—even after 48 hours of staining but in cold weather—the stain will wash away with the rain, leaving an ugly mess.
Note that it’s also a bad idea to stain or paint your deck in direct sunlight. While the coating might dry fast, it’s bound to highlight brush marks and other imperfections.
Less porous wood types
Less porous wood varieties are usually great for outdoor surfaces because water and moisture don’t penetrate them easily. However, this also means that when these wood types are stained, it takes significantly longer for the stain to penetrate the pores and dry.
Therefore, if your stained deck takes forever to dry, your decking material might be dense-grained hardwood.
Despite porous woods’ ability to stain easily and dry relatively faster than dense woods, they are best used for purposes other than decking boards or siding.
When it just rained on the deck
It’s always best to stain the wooden surface when completely dry. However, if it just rained on your deck before starting your staining job, it’s best to let it dry for at least 48 hours.
The time allowed will be sufficient for the wooden deck to dry and absorb stain when applied.
However, if you stain the deck surface while it’s damp, the product won’t penetrate the wood pores because the rainwater already occupies them.
Since there isn’t room in the wood for the stain to soak into, it might take a painstakingly long time before it dries.
Staining a deck after it has just rained predisposes the stain to being washed away should there be another downpour.
Staining a new wood is the same as staining a deck after it has rained. The wood is technically wet; the pores are saturated with water or moisture.
If you stain anyway, you can be sure that the wood surface’s condition will prolong the wood stain’s drying time.
If you just installed a deck using freshly milled lumber, we recommend leaving it bare for at least six months. This will allow the new wood to shed its excess moisture gradually until it’s dry and ready for a stain or paint job.
If the stain on your deck is taking longer than you’d like it to, see if you can rule out the age of the wood as a potential scapegoat.
If you used an oil-based stain
Oil-based stains are thicker and generally dry the slowest compared to water-based stains. So if your stained surface is still tacky after 24 hours of staining and you used an oil-based wood stain, give it more time.
Different manufacturers of oil-based wood stains recommend varying drying times. However, they all require an average of 24 hours before you can recoat and 72 hours before they can withstand the rain.
New pressure-treated wood
Pressure-treated wood is a great decking material because it is modified to withstand every form of deterioration outdoors.
This wood boasts a chemical treatment that will repel bugs and fungi, preventing discoloration and water damage.
A new pressure-treated wood less than six months old cannot possibly take a wood stain or paint. It is like wet wood because the chemicals used to treat it occupy the pores, leaving no room for the stain to seep into.
Therefore, ensure that the pressure-treated wood is completely dry before staining. Then you can rest assured the stain drying time will meet the standard range the manufacturer recommends.
How can you make deck stain dry faster?
Wood stains are meant to penetrate the wood while the solvent evaporates and leaves the surface dry.
This drying process can be slow or fast depending on several factors, as discussed in the section above.
However, if you’re wondering if there’s more you can do to speed up the drying process of your stained deck, we might have a thing or two for you.
1. Set up a large fan by the deck. Position the fan strategically to help blow cold air over the stained surface and aid in the evaporation of the wood stain carrier. The process will eventually result in a dry deck within a shorter period.
However, the caveat here is that the fan might sway at the wrong angle and blow up the debris that will settle on the stained deck and leave it looking less than perfect.
2. Alternatively, you can set up a space heater to blow warm air over the stain. If you have a cannon-style space heater, it works better.
The warm air blown over the stained deck will accelerate the drying process by speeding up the product’s evaporation of moisture and solvents.
However, ensure that you only use moderate heat to aid in the evaporation of deck stain solvents.
If you use too much heat, you risk flash-drying the stain and leaving it susceptible to peeling shortly after; because it didn’t get sufficient time to penetrate the wood pores.
Why is it important to stain decks?
Staining is one of the most preferred methods of treating and preserving wooden decks. They offer the benefit of versatility and a variety of colors.
You can also attribute the popularity of this method to the performance of wood stains on exterior surfaces.
The preparation and staining process of the decks requires particular attention to guarantee a flawless finish. Otherwise, the entire process is easy. Here are some of the reasons why staining decks is essential.
1. Staining helps to preserve and enhance the natural appearance of the deck wood
Wood is a beautiful natural resource for various woodworking projects. The simple and intricate wood grain pattern can be fascinating if your decking boards and siding are natural wood.
But you know better than to leave it bare against the elements; it will rot and discolor.
Use transparent wood stain to coat the wood deck and shield it from environmental damage while enhancing the appearance of the natural wood grain.
2. It enhances the aesthetic appeal of your deck.
Wood stain offers variety in colors, textures, formulations, and longevity. You can use transparent wood stains to help you retain the natural wood color of your deck.
Alternatively, you can choose any tinted wood stain to add color to the natural wood and accentuate the grain. These solid wood stains can transform any bare or discolored wooden deck into a magnificently vibrant or cool-looking outdoor living space.
Therefore, regardless of the color theme or aesthetic effect you’re aiming for, you can achieve it by selecting the correct wood stain.
3. Stain protects your deck from infestation and rot.
Wood stains protect the wood surface by penetrating, as far as they can, into the wood pores. Once these pores are saturated, the wood can’t absorb any more water or moisture.
For as long as the wooden deck remains dry, rot fungus and wood-boring insects won’t wreak havoc on your decking material.
If you want absolute protection against environmental damage, you can seal the stained surface with a top coat sealer that dries rock hard, like polyurethane.
While there are other considerations to help keep the wooden structure in great shape, staining and sealing the deck is a significant first step to prolonging the lifespan of your wooden deck.
How important is the stain drying time?
Stain drying time is essential to the success of every staining project. First, it helps you determine when the surface is ready for a recoat.
It also helps you schedule the staining job, minding the weather conditions.
In addition, stain drying time is essential in helping you plan your deliverables since you can estimate how long the entire project will take.
How long after it rains can you stain your deck?
Experts recommend waiting an average of 24–48 hours after the rain before staining your deck. Staining damp wood will result in drying and adhesion problems because the stain can’t penetrate an already saturated wood. The result is a mess that will wash away easily should you experience a heavy downpour soon after.
How long should you wait between coats of stain?
How long you wait entirely depends on the type of wood stain. For example, when using water-based stains, you only need to wait 4 hours before recoating. On the other hand, wait for 24 hours before recoating when using oil-based products.
We hope we’ve covered relevant topics to the question of how long the deck stain needs to dry before it rains. Fresh deck stains should withstand the rain after between 48 and 72 hours.
Water-based deck stains should withstand rain after 48 hours, while oil-based deck stains will hold up against rain after at least 72 hours. This time difference proves that water-based finishes dry faster than their oil-based cousins.
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