When you are staining your deck or a piece of furniture, it’s important to know when to apply the second coat of stain. The first coat of stain will not always achieve the desired color or appearance.

This is why many people choose to apply a second coat of stain after they have let their first coat dry and see what results they get from applying another layer of stain.

Let’s take a look at how long to let the stain dry before the second coat so your project turns out perfect.

How Long to Wait Before Second Coat of Stain

Wait an hour before applying a second coat of standard wood stain. You may need to wait for longer for gel stains—about six to eight hours before adding a second coat. In any case, the product label should always indicate how long for stain to dry before the second coat.

Every wood stain and finish is different in terms of application requirements and drying times. Waiting times between coats can vary widely from one brand or product to another.

So it is best to always follow the directions on the label in addition to the general guidelines in our tutorials. Note that drying times can also vary depending on the weather and a few other conditions.

So, while the manufacturer will provide the baseline information to follow, you still need to touch the surface at the end of the recommended drying time to be sure it is dry.

If the wood surface still feels tacky to the touch, you may have to wait a little longer. The chances are that the weather or other determining factors would have slowed down your stain’s drying process. 

Below, we will cover some of the factors likely to accelerate or delay the drying times of various wood stains. 

Factors Determining When to Apply Second Coat of Stain 

Knowing the factors influencing the time between stain coats can help you prepare better for your staining project.

You will also be better positioned to manage your expectations more accurately when you have a clearer picture of the outcomes to expect. 

Type of wood stain 

Different wood stain manufacturers allocate different drying times for their respective products due to the different drying behavior of the stains. Wood stains dry differently depending on the ingredients in them.

For instance, an oil stain will take longer to dry than lacquer stains or a water-based product. Knowing the base or ingredients in your product can give you a rough idea of the drying times to expect. 

Condition of the wood    

Wood stains dry quicker on dry woods. On the other hand, the drying time will be significantly slower on a damp piece of wood.

So, you can always ensure the stain dries faster by working with a dry piece of wood. If your wood has a high moisture content in it, you can either wait for it to dry or find a way to accelerate the process before staining it. 

Temperature

The ideal temperature for a wood stain ranges between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature is too high, the surface might dry too fast, not allowing the stain to set into the wood pores ad color it appropriately. 

If the mercury dips too low, the stain will struggle to dry. Like any drying process, the product needs warmth to support the evaporation of the solvent in it. 

To achieve proper drying, one thing you can do is plan your work when the ambient temperatures are just around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or someplace around it. 

Humidity 

Like temperatures, humidity can slow the drying process of newly stained wood surfaces. High humidity means a lot of water vapor is suspended in the air, reducing the ability of the stained surface to lose its solvent into the air.

You can either control the humidity or plan your work when the atmosphere is less humid. If you are working outdoors, the weather is likely to be less humid at different times of the day, depending on your location. 

If you are working indoors, you can use a dehumidifier, an overhead fan, your home’s central air conditioning system, or a combination of these to reduce relative humidity to acceptable levels and accelerate drying of the wet stain. 

The ideal humidity for staining wood is between 50 and 70 percent. Anything above this range can significantly slow down the drying process.

Air circulation 

You may want to carry out the task in a well-ventilated area to see the wood dry faster. Good airflow ensures that solvent particles from the stained surface fly away in the moving air, creating room for more to leave. 

Poor air circulation, on the other hand, slows down the process. It leads to saturation of the solvent particles around the stained area, impeding the drying process. 

So, consider working in a well-ventilated area or improve the ventilation using overhead fans and open windows. Alternatively, work at a sheltered place outdoors. 

When to Apply Second Coat of Stain on a Deck

If a deck requires a second coat, consider waiting four hours before adding another liberal coat for the best results. 

Of course, the deck may take longer to dry depending on the conditions or temperature and humidity. If you live in a humid environment, you may have to wait a little longer for your deck to be fully dry. 

In addition, the deck will require anywhere from 24 to 48 hours of drying time to be ready for use. In any case, it is better to wait for longer than for less time during drying. 

Applying a thick coat means it may be several days before the deck is ready for use, so always be patient with it. 

Need to learn more about stain deck dry time? Click here.

Can I Apply a Second Coat of Stain a Week Later?

No, applying a second coat of stain a week later is a bad idea. If you apply another coat of wood stain after a week, it will not adhere to the wood properly. As a result, any finish you use on top will experience adhesion problems and peel off. 

Can You Apply a Second Coat of Stain after 24 Hours?

Yes. You can apply an additional coat of stain after 24 hours if you want a darker wood color, especially if the first coat takes longer to dry. Just be sure to apply the stain coat the same way you did the first, and wipe off the excess. 

Do I Have to Wait 4 Hours Between Coats of Stain?

Not necessarily. You can wait less than four hours between coats of stain as long as the first coat dries fully before adding another.

Waiting longer between coats of stain is only necessary if low temperatures, high humidity, or inadequate ventilation cause the drying process to take longer. 

When Can I Apply a Second Coat of Water-Based Stain?

If you want a deeper color and sheen, you can apply a second coat of water-based stain after an hour. A water-based stain dries quickly and should be ready for recoating in an hour unless the weather conditions are unfavorable for the process. 

When Can I Apply a Second Coat of Oil-based Stain?

You can apply a second coat of oil stain two or more hours from the first coat. This wait time can be longer if the weather is cold, humid, or lacking the needed airflow.

Always feel the surface with your hands to check if t is dry before adding a coat of stain. The stain will need more time to dry if it feels sticky on your hands.  

How Long Do You Wait Between Coats of Gel Stain?

Gel stains are generally slower to dry than standard wood stains. However, in normal temperature and humidity conditions, the stain should be ready for recoating in six to eight hours. 

If the weather is cold or humid, you may wait for 24 hours or longer before adding a second coat.

A gel stain has a thick consistency meaning it will only slightly penetrate an unfinished wood while much of the stain remains on the wood surface and takes time to cure.

Given the film-forming nature of gel stains, you can apply multiple coats if you wish to hide wood grain further. 

See Also: Can you Use Gel Stain on Laminate?

How Many Coats of Stain Should I Put on a Wooden Deck?

Decks require only as much stain as the wood can absorb. Typically, two thin coats of stain will do the job, but it can be down to just a single coat if you are dealing with dense hardwood.

Such hardwoods are less porous than softwoods, which make their uptake of wood stain a challenge.  

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Tips for Applying the Second Coat of Deck Stain

Simple tweaks in how your approach staining can make all the difference. You want to know how to do the job correctly from the get-go to avoid common pitfalls. Here are some simple tips to give you a head start.

Use the same stain for recoating

Suppose your deck stain runs out mid-project and you have to buy a top-up; resist the urge to go for any available option. Instead, ensure you use an identical product from the same brand. 

Different brands often contain different ingredients. Stain mixing may lead to mixing chemically incompatible ingredients. Such a thing can mess up your entire project.

To be safe, use the same deck stain till the end.

Plan your staining on a good day 

A good day for staining is relatively warm, less humid, and free from rainfall. You can always check the weather forecast ahead of time to ensure that no rain is forecast for at least two days of your project.

It is best to allow the stain to dry without getting disturbed. Rainfall can significantly interfere with deck stain’s drying process. 

The day also needs not to be too sunny. Thankfully, you can avoid direct sunlight even on a sunny day by working from a shade, like under a carport. 

Use a clean brush

The second coat of stain is likely to be the final coat, so you want to keep it as clean as possible. The applicator is one of the things you want to watch since it can easily leave lint or dirt on the final layer of your wood stain. 

We recommend using a high-quality staining brush; such is unlikely to leave any lint on the stained project since they have firm bristles. 

If you wish to use the same brush for the second time, make sure you clean and dry it before the second use. 

Wait till the first coat has dried

Depending on the type of stain you are using, you may wait about an hour (for a water-based stain) or between four and six hours for oil-based stains. Working precisely within these time windows is crucial to the quality of your finish.

If the surface still feels tacky after the recommended drying time, weather conditions in your location may be suboptimal. In such a case, you may have to wait a while longer.

Once the surface is dry, you may need to lightly sand surface inconsistencies or rub them with extra fine steel wool before adding the second coat. Here’s more to sanding between coats of stain.

Wipe off the excess stain

As a rule, you have to remove the excess stain from the wood when staining for it to dry. Bare wood only absorbs a specific amount of stain and leaves the rest. If you don’t wipe this excess stain, it may never dry. 

Work quickly

Wood stain dries as you go. You do not want some parts of your project to dry before wiping them, which is likely to happen if you work slowly.

Any stained wood that dries before you wipe the excess will likely result in a tacky surface that does not dry.

FAQs

Is a second coat of stain necessary?

A second coat is not always necessary, but it is essential if you want a darker for your stained wood. Adding a second coat of solid wood stains tends to deepen the color and hide imperfections and the wood grain. 

Can you apply two coats of oil-based stain?

Yes, you can apply two thin coats of oil-based stain if the wood can absorb them. However, if you are working with a highly dense hardwood, you may have to use only one liberal coat as the wood is generally less porous and unable to absorb more than one coat of wood stain.  

Will second coat of stain darken wood?

Yes, applying a second coat of wood stain after the first one has dried usually produces a darker coloring, even though it means extra work. 

The additional layer of stain typically makes the surface damp for some time until it dries completely again. He drying time for the second coat should be the same as the first coat as long as you use the same stain from the same brand as the first.

Once everything is dry, you should notice a significantly darker coloring compared to the first time.

How Long to let Stain dry Between Coats

So when should you apply a second layer of wood stain? Overall, the stain drying time can range from one to six hours or longer, depending on the stain used and the weather conditions. 

If you are planning your next deck staining project, we hope this tutorial helps provide you with the answers you seek and leaves you better prepared for the project. 

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