How Long Does Deck Stain Need to Dry Before It Rains

Staining a deck before it rains
How Long Does Deck Stain Need to Dry Before It Rains

It’s the middle of summer and you’re dreading that first rainstorm.

You just spent hours applying deck stain, but now you’re wondering if it will hold up to the weather.

This post aims to answer how long you need to wait before exposing the newly stained deck to water again.

How Long Does Deck Stain Need to Dry Before It Rains

While latex or water-based stain will be dry in about 4 to 6 hours, your freshly stained deck needs at least 24-48 hours before it rains. Oil-based stains that usually dry in about 12 to 24 hours will require a minimum of 48 hours before the rain. If the weather is humid or not hot enough, the freshly stained deck may require more time to dry. 

What Happens if it Rains Sooner? 

If the rain comes before your deck is completely dry, the water will enter the pores on the wood surface and seep inside, pushing out the deck stain. 

As a result, the deck surface may appear splotchy rather than smooth and even. The effect is worse if it does rain shortly after you apply the wood stain. The rainwater will cause the stain to flake and peel off. 

Staining a Deck Before it Rains? 

By now, you realize how timing is crucial to your success when staining your deck. So you have asked yourself and found the answer to the question, “how long does deck stain need to dry before it rains?”

Now the next logical question is, what do you do about the rain? You cannot control the rain till your deck is dry and ready for it. 

But you can certainly listen to the weatherman. The forecast provides a go-to resource to guide you when planning to stain your deck. 

Whether staining your outdoor space for the first time or simply maintaining an existing deck, plan to carry out the exercise when the weatherman says it will not rain for at least the next two days.

This could mean waiting for several weeks or months in some regions. Of course, such waits can be uncomfortable, but it could mean the difference between a one-off completion and several hours of additional work.

Most stain brands provide clear warnings against applying their product within 12 to 24 hours of expected rain. So you can be torn between reaping the benefit of waiting and getting the job done right and enduring the discomfort of doing so.  

Plus, the weather can be pretty unpredictable sometimes—which can only increase your dilemma. Different strains also have varying drying times; you could be using one that takes longer to dry. So what do you do if the rain does come soon after you staining?

What to do if it Rains Before your Stained Deck is Fully Dry 

If the rain defies the forecast, you will be able to do little during the rainfall. It is not like you could roll up the deck and put it inside your house for shelter. 

Your option will be to wait until it stops raining, then assess the damage. Ensure you wait until the deck has dried, and then take a closer look at the affected wood. 

The extent of damage will depend on: 

  1. How soon it rains after staining, and; 
  2. How long the rain lasted and how intensely it fell. 

An intense downpour will likely leave more severe damage than a drizzle. However, the latter may sometimes not hurt your freshly stained woodwork, in which case you will not need to do anything about the situation. 

On the other hand, a rainstorm will most likely affect the deck. Also, some stain brands can be more resilient to rainfall soon after application than others, so the choice of stain you used will also make a difference in this regard. 

In any case, what you do next will depend on the extent of damage, as you will see from your assessment. 

If the coat is flaking off or peeling, the chances are that the rain hit it too soon after application. Unfortunately, you cannot mend this kind of damaged coat. Instead, you will have to sand it down and strip it from your deck, then go over the entire process again.

If you can only see a few imperfections around the place, the damage is minimal and merely cosmetic. You can mend this damage by applying a second layer of the same stain to the affected areas.

The first thing to do is read the label on the stain container for instructions on applying an additional coat of the stain. Different brands of stain may recommend different intervals and methods of application; you’ll want to follow these instructions as accurately as possible. 

Also, you will want to wait for the deck to be completely dry before attempting to apply the correcting layer of stain. Do not apply stain if the forecast indicates rain before 24 to 48 hours. 

Once the situation has satisfied these conditions, start applying the stain in an inconspicuous area before touching up the entire deck. 

While doing this touchup, keep in mind that oil-based stains will need more time to absorb the wood.

What if a Light Recoat of the Wood Stain does not Fix the Problem?

In some cases, you will have to wash the wood with a pressure washer to strip the damaged layer before recoating it.

The Steps to Fix the Coating

  • Use pressure washer and wood cleaner to get rid of the white spots on the wood surface.
  • Start on a low setting and slowly increase the pressure, ensuring you are not causing further harm to the stain. 
  • If this works, the better. If the splotches remain after cleaning with a pressure washer and wood cleaner, allow it to dry.
  • Sand the surface lightly with sandpaper
  • Wipe the wood clean. Here are the steps on how to clean wood after sanding before staining.
  • Recoated the sanded areas as well the spaces between boards. 
  • Take care not to apply too much of the product during recoating to avoid peeling and possible flaking. 
  • If you are not happy with these fixes, consider the last resort: using a deck stain stripper to strip the entire coat of stain and starting over again.

Conditions that will Prolong the Amount of Time your Deck Stain Takes to Dry 

Now, there are instances where your newly stained deck may not be dry enough to weather the sting of rainfall even after the recommended 48 hours. 

It is important to know these instances to tell when your deck stain will take longer to cure; plan your woodworking project accordingly. 

Let us take a quick peek at these instances that may make your stained deck take longer to cure. 

If you used oil-based stain 

If you look at the labels on different deck stains, you will notice different recommended drying times. 

This is because the products used to make different wood stains behave differently, making some stains cure sooner than others. 

Unlike oil paint or stain, water-based stains are one group of deck stains that will take less time to cure and prepare for the rains. The water in these stains can evaporate much quicker and leave the deck dry in a matter of hours after application.  

If you paint or stain your deck with an oil-based product, you can expect it to take more time to prepare for use and rainfall. This is because these stains are denser and generally take longer to dry compared to water-based stains. 

For this reason, it is a good idea to check and pay attention to the type of stain you intend to use. Make this decision as part of your planning process. 

New wood 

When wood is still new, it usually has high moisture content inside. 

Notice that the drying process that stain undergoes technically involves the stain settling into the wood grain and not drying away. 

For this process to happen, the pores inside the wood need to be open to accommodate the stain. Unfortunately, moisture tends to occupy much of these pores when the wood is new, leaving little room for the stain to enter during the curing process. 

Therefore, when you paint or stain new wood with high moisture content, the stain will struggle to get absorbed into the wood. Consequently, the stained deck will often take longer to cure, whether using a water-based stain or oil-based. 

Experts recommend waiting for at least six months before staining a new deck. During this period, the wood will shed off much of its moisture and be in a position to cure better when you finally stain it.  

When it just rained on the deck  

Before staining a deck, it is best to allow the wood to air dry for at least 24 to 48 hours. This is because rainwater has the same effect on the stain as new wood. 

When it rains, the rainwater seeps into the pores inside the wood. Since wood stain needs the space inside these pores to cure, having rainwater occupy these pores will leave the stain with little room in the wood pores, which may prolong the drying process.

Curing involves stain settling on the wood surface and into its pores, drying thoroughly, and setting its final color. The roomier the pores are, the more seamless this process will be. 

Wood stain manufacturer Behr Corporation warns against staining a deck too soon after it rains (before 48 hours elapse). According to this company, the dampness in the wood will keep the stain from adhering to the deck correctly. 

The result is a thinner final coat of stain that can easily wash off after only a few incidents of a downpour.   

If you stain or paint a wet deck after it just rained, the stained deck is likely to take a while longer to dry. 

Less porous wood types  

Your deck stain will cure better if the wood is porous—the more porous the wood, the better the pace at which your wood stain will cure. 

Woods such as cedar, oak, ash, and chestnut are generally more porous and will stain better than the less porous hardwoods. 

This means that a deck made of hardwood will likely take longer to dry enough to withstand rainfall than an oak wood structure. 

The porosity makes it easier for the wood stain to get absorbed into the wood and set its color.  

New pressure-treated wood  

Your deck could be made of softwoods that have been pressure treated to make them resilient against biological agents of deterioration such as wood-boring bugs, rot, and fungus. 

These modified woods are some of the most popular decking board choices among homeowners, so you’ll want to know how to deal with them.   

This pressure treatment involves forcing preservative chemicals deep into the wood’s cellular structure. Usually, this is a way to afford a durable decking at a cost lower than that of hardwoods such as Teak, Cherry, and Tigerwood.  

That being the case, newly treated wood will need time to dry after constructing the deck or following an annual maintenance pressure treatment. 

Deck staining is not recommended immediately after this kind of treatment. If you apply the stain to a new pressure-treated deck, you can expect it to take longer to dry. 

Staining without waiting for the wood to dry means the stain will not penetrate the wood as it should. And this will prolong the time it takes to cure. 

Cold weather 

Wood stain manufacturers usually provide recommendations on temperature ranges best for drying freshly stained wood. From these recommendations, the ideal temperature range is somewhere between 50 and 90 degrees. 

Deck staining in temperatures below that range will likely lead to longer drying times. In other words, your stained deck will not be ready to take on a downpour in 24 hours to 48 hours if the weather is cold. 

So, how long does deck stain need to dry before it rains in such inclement conditions? If you used an oil-based stain, you could be looking at several days of waiting on your deck to dry or risk having to do the deck staining job all over again. 

Cold weather is unfavorable for a fresh stain. The new coat needs to lose its dampness through evaporation, and that will not quite happen when the decks are still wet. 

Still, you don’t want to paint or stain your deck in direct sunlight. Even though you need relatively hot weather to facilitate a faster drying time for your stained deck, doing it in the sun will negatively affect the coating.

The direct sunlight will likely cause the wet deck to dry too quickly, leaving unsightly water or brush marks on the coating. The ideal condition for deck staining is overcast weather where the clouds have blocked sun rays while keeping the day nice and toasty. 

High humidity 

The other thing that could cause problems for your newly stained deck is high humidity. 

With a lot of atmospheric water vapor, the moisture in your freshly stained wood has nowhere to evaporate. 

Typically, evaporation is necessary for wood stains to get dry. But high humidity means the atmosphere already has a lot of moisture suspended in it, making it difficult for the moisture on your deck to evaporate into the air. 

As such, the deck will experience longer drying times depending on how humid the weather is. The higher the humidity, the longer your deck will take to dry. 

On the other hand, drier weather will see a newly stained deck cure quickly and get ready to withstand rainwater. 

So, when staining your deck, check humidity to ensure it falls within the recommended range of 40 to 70 percent. If it is higher than 70, let the deck dry completely.

Why is it important to stain decks? 

Staining itself is not a difficult task per se, but quite a bit of work goes into the preparation, as you can see. So, why is it essential that you put in the necessary work to stain your deck like a pro? 

If you look at what you gain out of staining your deck, you realize that the energy and expenses you have to expend in the process are nothing compared to the gains you reap in the end. Read along to learn how the benefits of staining far outweigh its costs. 

Staining helps preserve the natural appearance of wood 

Wood is quite beautiful in its natural state, so you will want to keep it looking that way for as long as possible. But without a way to preserve that color and condition, molds, dirt, and rot can quickly deteriorate and discolor it. 

Wood stain is largely mold-resistant, so these fungi will not attack your treated wood and cause unsightly discoloration. The coat also seals the wood against moisture, helping to prevent it from persistent dampness and rot, which are the leading causes of discoloration. 

Painting your deck could have the same protective effect on your wood as staining, but you get to lose the visual benefits of natural wood. With this in mind, staining is an obvious winner. 

It enhances the appearance of your deck.

Staining not only preserves the beauty of wood it also enhances the visual appeal of your deck.  Other than sealing the wood surface to keep dirt out, wood stains come in different tints that give you a lot of flexibility with your color choice. 

You can choose to deepen the color of your wood or keep it light. Whichever way you go, the stain will make the wood grain pop. This can make your deck look beautiful. 

You can also choose a tint that matches the overall theme of your outdoor space for an even more enhanced look. 

Stain protects your deck from infestation and rot.

Staining your deck can go a long way in prolonging the service life of your structure. 

There is no limit to how far infesting pests can go in damaging untreated wood. Insects such as termites and wood borers can wreak havoc on untreated wood by eating it away. 

They can cause cracks or undesirable sagging of your deck. At its worst, a damaged deck could collapse, leading to a total loss. 

Staining drastically improves its lifespan by keeping it free of rot and infestation. Once the wood has a stain on it, these pesky intruders will look elsewhere for food and refuge.  

Wood rot damages not only the color but also the integrity of the wood. And this is what eventually happens when wood continuously absorbs water which weakens its cell structure, making it soft.

Rotten wood can be a significant hazard as it could collapse and cause accidents at the slightest exertion of pressure. 

A wood stain helps keep moisture out. This way, sealing your deck will give you peace of mind knowing that the wood won’t rot and risk collapsing. 

FAQs

How long to wait betwen coats of stain?

The average time between coats of stain is one hour. But when you touch the first coat and find yourself grabbing at a tacky layer of stain instead of wet wood fibers- go ahead apply a second coat.

Why is my deck stain still sticky?

Your deck is likely to be sticky even after 48 hours if you failed to wipe the excess stain from the wood surface or if there was an over-application of the stain. To fix this, consider rinsing it thoroughly with a garden hose and spray nozzle, then let the surface dry. 

This should get rid of any stain residue and tackiness. 

How long can I go without staining my new deck?

You can let your deck stay unstained for up to twelve months to dry well. The minimum waiting time should be three months, depending on your climate and the quantity of sunlight your deck gets. 

In warm, sunny weather, your deck will be dry in just a few months. However, if you live in a place such as the rainy Pacific Northwest, it can take even more than a year to dry thoroughly.

Should you put on a second coat in the morning, even if it’s going to rain in the afternoon?

This question frequently comes from those who’ve already applied coating to the first half of their deck. Well, when using a water-based stain, go ahead and apply the second coat in the second half because it’ll take 4 to 6 hours to dry. But don’t apply a second coat if you’re staining with oil-based formula and there’s a chance of rain in the afternoon.

Does adding more coats of stain darken your wood deck?

Be sure to apply a light coat of stain before applying the second coat. If you want your project tinted darker, add more coats or pick a darker shade.

What is the Best Semi Transparent Stain to Use In Case it Rains Shortly After Applying the Stain

#1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks is my favorite if you notice any chance of rain. To help change that outlook, apply our #1 Deck Premium Semi-Transparent Wood Stain for Decks and watch as those natural wood colors shine through.

What If It Rains 12 Hours After Staining Deck

When you’re finished with staining your new or old deck, make sure it doesn’t rain in the next 12 hours. Otherwise, all of that hard work might go to waste!

Bottom Line

So, how long does deck stain need to dry before it rains? 

As far as staining your deck and dodging the rain before it dries, it is always best to listen to the weather forecast and give your deck 24-48-hours to dry. Also, always ensure you pay heed to the factors that may prolong the drying time of your deck stain. 

We hope that you found this resource helpful in guiding you toward your successful project. As always, feel free to leave a comment.

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