How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It?

How long to let deck stain dry before walking

Allowing adequate drying time for your newly stained deck is crucial for ensuring the stain penetrates deep into the wood and offers lasting protection. But how long should deck stain dry before walking on it? 

In this article, you’re going to learn how soon you can walk on your freshly stained deck and many more including;

  • A variation to rule when staining a deck for the first time.
  • Factors that determine how long deck stain needs to dry
  • How to fix sticky or wet stain on decks

How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It?

In general, wait for about four to six hours for the deck stain to dry and cure before walking on it. Still, after the 4 hours, walk on your deck barefoot. You can safely walk on the deck with shoes after 24 hours. But, after staining your deck, it’s always dry to touch inside one hour on a dry, hot day.

A variation to the Rule 

Deck stain will NOT always be dry enough to walk on after four to six hours if the weather is cold or humid. In such weather conditions, the stain can take longer to dry—often up to 48 hours or even longer before you can walk on your deck. 

Also, different manufacturers will recommend different drying times. Check these instructions on the label and follow the recommended drying times for decks.

Usually, these recommendations are based on the ingredients and whether the stains are water-based or oil-based. 

More: Do you have to remove old deck stain before restaining?

How Long to Wait After Staining Deck with Water-based Product

Water-based stains are akin to water-based paint in terms of drying habits. They dry much quicker and will be ready to take on foot traffic after 24 hours. You can place light furniture back on the stained deck after a day if you used a water-based stain.

How Long to Wait After Staining Deck with Oil-based Product

Oil-based stains generally take longer to dry compared to their water-based cousins. 

Like oil-based paint, oil-based stains may take a while longer to be ready for foot traffic and for putting furniture back. In dry weather, these stains can take anywhere from four hours to a full day to dry. 

An oil-based stain can take as long as three days to cure in cold or humid weather fully. In any case, it is safer to err on the side of patience than have to sand down and stain the entire deck all over again. 

Putting heavy or light furniture back on the deck or walking on it with shoes too soon can leave intolerable footmarks and furniture prints on the fresh coat. It might also lead to peeling of the wood stain, and you certainly don’t want that. 

So, wait for the maximum amount of time recommended by the manufacturer to avoid walking on a wet deck.

Whether it is hot weather or cold, some patience and caution will go a long way in preserving the elegance of your newly stained outdoor space.  

Factors that Will Determine How Long Your Deck Stain Takes to Dry

First, drying time will depend on the stain itself, but this is not the only factor determining how long should deck stain dry before walking on it. Read along to find out the other conditions to look out for. 

1. Temperature

The ideal temperature range for fresh stains or paints is between 50 and 90 degrees. Usually, manufacturers recommend the temperature ranges to maintain when painting or staining a deck. 

Most brands keep these ranges broad to make it easier for any professional or hobbyist painter to attain the correct parameters.  

Then, there is the weather that your fresh stain needs to facilitate its drying. Both oil-based and water-based stains will dry faster in hot weather.

A person wondering How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Walking On It

Too hot temperatures are also bad as they can cause the stain to dry too quickly before penetrating the wood fully thus resulting in patchy coloring.

What to do

So, stick to the recommended temperature range when staining or painting. Besides, consider the prevailing weather to ensure it will support quicker drying. If it is chilly outside, put off the exercise till the weather becomes dry.

2. Exposure to Direct Sunlight 

Much as the sun can provide the temperatures necessary for drying your deck stains faster, direct sun exposure is not good when staining your deck. The sun’s ultraviolet rays might prevent the stain from adhering to the wood properly and uniformly.

What to do

Ideally, a warm environment is great, but not direct sun exposure. You should get those optimal conditions if your deck is under a shade. Otherwise, schedule the staining on a cloudy day when there is an overcast blocking the sun.

3. Humidity

Even in warmer conditions, your fresh deck stain may not dry quickly enough in high humidity. 

Dry weather is necessary for quicker drying. Applying deck stains in a high-humidity environment means the stain will take much longer to cure. The water vapor suspended in the air makes it hard for the product to dry.

For instance, a product that cures fully in a 24-hour window will likely take up to 48 hours or longer to dry in a high-humidity environment. 

Wondering what humidity has to do with stain drying? Like any paint or liquid-based product, stain dries by losing its moisture content into the air through evaporation. 

A sufficient difference in concentration of moisture is necessary for it to move naturally —through evaporation. 

And high humidity reduces that difference in concentration as there is already a lot of moisture in the air. 

As a result, evaporation will take place much slower, causing the stain coat to dry much slower. 

What to do

The best humidity for applying deck paint is about 40 to 70 percent.

4. Type or Age of Wood on Your Deck 

Wood stain will cure better on more porous woods. Woods such as oak, cedar, chestnut, ash and pressure-treated wood take in stains better than less porous hardwoods. 

The larger the pores, the better the stain should cure. Why? Because the wood stain is designed to work by penetrating the wood and not sit on the surface like paint. 

In terms of age, new wood tends to have high moisture content, which will impede its ability to stain.

The same argument explains how rain affects deck stain drying time. If it just rained recently, expect the stain to struggle to dry. Wood absorbs water when it rains and will need to get rid of it through evaporation before it has room in its pores to absorb the stain. 

This means if you do not wait for your deck to dry completely following a rainfall before applying stain, it will be a while before it is dry to touch. Similarly, it will take quite some time before you can place furniture back on it. 

What to do

Wait about half a year before staining a new deck and pick porous wood for your dek.

5. Amount of Stain on the Deck

If you apply a lot of stain or many coats, expect it to take longer to dry. All that stain needs somewhere to go.

Usually, people apply multiple layers of stain to darken the wood. While such layers will create the look you want, they will also saturate the wood and extend your deck’s drying time. Saturation means the extra stain will have nowhere to go. 

You must then be willing to wait for long before you can walk on the stained surface.

What to do

Apply generous amounts of stain or you must then be willing to wait for long before you can walk on the stained surface.

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Long Does it Take Cabot Deck Stain to Dry?

Cabot deck stain takes approximately 24 hours to dry, depending on humidity and temperature. However, the stain can take longer to dry if there is a roof structure or canopy covering the stained deck. 

Read also our expert tips on how long to let stain dry before polyurethane incase you plan to add a separate finish of poly to your deck.

What Happens if it Rains Before the Deck Stain Dries?

Rainwater will enter the wood pores and push out the freshly applied stain in the process if it rains within 48 hours of applying the deck stain. This can make the surface splotchy rather than even and smooth. If it rains soon after you apply the wood stain, it will cause the stain to peel and flake off. 

How long to wait to put furniture on stained deck

Apply the stain and wait for  24 hours or even longer before putting back lightweight furniture. If you have heavy furniture, wait for a week after staining or painting.

How Long for Deck Stain to Dry Completely

We hope this article has answered your question regarding how soon you can walk on your freshly stained deck barefoot and with shoes. Stain drying is crucial to achieving the desired finish on your deck. 

While waiting can be uncomfortable, it will pay off in the end. Always keep these considerations in mind and ensure you give your deck the full number of hours or days it needs to dry completely before you put it back to use. 

What to Do?

Don’t fret if you have walked too soon on your deck stain before drying. Check out our guide on How to Fix a Bad Stain Job

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