August 2, 2021

How Do I Know If My Deck is Dry Enough to Stain

How to tell if deck is dry enough to stain

How dry is your deck? Let us say you have decided to stain the deck of your garden shed. You already have a plan and now you need to make sure your deck is dry enough to stain. Patio stain is a great way to beautify your patio. However, that does not mean you should be too casual about staining, especially if you want to use a dark color like black. You can easily ruin your patio if you use a stain that is not the right color for the job. Let us find out how to check if your patio is dry enough before you stain it.

luxury decking chairs by a pool

Average Drying Time

It takes 48 hours to dry your deck before staining. This waiting period results in the rule of the thumb that works for both experienced woodworkers and beginners. The average time is affected by the weather conditions at the moment you are working on your deck. 

Give your deck 72 hours to dry when working in your garage or in a shade where the sun hardly reaches. Rains affect the drying time, but not as much time taken during a storm. It takes more than 48 hours. 

High humidity slows down the process. You cannot stop the process till summer. Cold weather prolongs the process. More sun and direct warmth speed up the process to a minimum of 24 or 48 hours. 

If it is promising to rain, cover your deck with a cloth or work under a shade. Just in case you pressure wash your deck, wipe off the water on the surface using a damp cloth. Failure to do so causes the water to be in one place. That is going to affect the place when staining your deck. 

What Happens If You Stain Wet Pressure Treated Wood?

If you stain wet pressure-treated wood, the stain will not adhere correctly to the surface. Allow your wood to dry before staining to prevent the collapse of the building. Staining your treated wood not only protects the structure but also makes it look appealing. 

Since the wood is still wet, the chances are high that it will rot from inside even if you stain. Some wood starts decaying since there is moisture kept inside. That is between the stain and the wood. 

Wet pressure-treated wood is challenging to maintain since you are exposed to the outside, dry surface. As long as your wood contains moisture, it is prone to rot and decay. When the weather changes, the wood absorbs moisture and freezes. When it freezes, it breaks, and that destroys the wood. 

The process is slow, but it destroys since it is repetitive. Staining wet treated wood does not preserve the natural color of the wood. It leads to discoloration of the wood. In the end, the protection that is supposed to come from the stain is no longer available. Re-stain your surface in a short period when the wood gets dry. 

Signs that will let you know if your deck is dry enough to stain

Before you test your deck, check the lumber visually to see if the deck is dry on the surface. The lumber should not be swelling or contain any form of puffiness. No softness should come from the surface. If not convinced of the results given by your eyes, give your deck an extra day.  Sprinkle water on the wood and if the wood absorbs it within 10 minutes, get ready to stain. If the water beads or pools on the wood surface, the wood needs more time to dry.

Things to do to make sure your deck is dry enough to stain.

Use a moisture meter to check if your deck is dry. A moisture meter measures the amount of moisture within the deck. When using a moisture meter, check the moisture on several spots along with the board. Checking on one spot results in biased results. Any rating that is below 19% is acceptable for staining. 

Using water is also another way of checking if your deck is dry enough to stain. Pour little water on the wood surface, and if the water beads up, that is a sign of more moisture inside the deck. You cannot stain the wood. If the deck absorbs the water, that means there is no or little water inside. When there is more water inside the deck, there is no more space for water. 

Using a black bag tells you if your lumber is dry enough for staining or not. Take your wood piece, put the edge in a plastic bag, and leave it in the sun for two hours. Open the bag and check if there is any condensation that took place. If there is condensation on the wood, it is not ready for staining. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the deck, and you will not leave footprints.

How Long Should I Wait After Washing My Deck to Stain It?

After washing your deck, leave it for 48 hours to dry. That is the standard period for a washed deck. That is standardized based on optimal drying conditions. The deck has to be facing the sun, and the weather has to be warm. 

If you are working under a shadow, for example, a shade, more time is needed. Seventy-two hours may be sufficient enough to dry the pressure-washed deck. That is also estimated spending on the conditions of the day. 

You need more time if there is a storm.  Soak the water above the deck surface before you let it dry using the natural sun. Leaving water on the surface causes some spots to become wetter than the rest of the wood surface. Use your feet to test the moisture on the surface to have an idea of the needed time. 

How soon after pressure washing my deck can I stain it?

After pressure washing your deck, you can stain it as soon as it is dry. Keep the waiting time and test a part of your deck. If you want to be safe, you can wait for days or weeks. That is possible if you are not in a hurry. If the weather conditions are not permitting, wait till it is conducive for the project. Waiting longer is safe since you do not doubt that it has not dried. 

Can you stain a wet deck?

Do not stain a wet deck. Remove the old or wet stain so that you start again. Staining a wet deck causes unevenness of the surface. The wood stain will not adhere to the wood surface correctly. A damp deck is stainable, but a wet deck does not allow proper staining. 

What will happen if I try to apply stain to a wet deck?

  • Staining on a wet deck leads to a thinner coat, and it does not stay for long.
  • The stain peels off in a short period.
  • The stain does not adhere correctly to the surface.


How Long Does a Deck Dry?

A basic rule of thumb for DIY deck builders, homeowners, and professional contractors is that roughly 48 hours is an adequate drying time for a newly washed deck.

What is a Deck Stain?

Applying a fresh, new coat of deck stain or paint is an easy way to liven up your outdoor space for a fun end-of-season party as well as the surest step in protecting and shielding your decking and lumber from damage throughout the changing weather.

How do I check if my deck lumber is dry enough for staining?

One way to clear way to check if the deck is dry enough for staining is by using a deck moisture meter.

How do I know if my wood is ready for stain?

Another way of checking if your wood is ready for stain is to pour a little water on the wood.

What are DeckWise deck cleaners?

You can also clean mold from decking, remove moss from your deck, and clean algae from wood with our deck cleaners and brighteners: DeckWise Wood Deck Cleaner and Brightener.

David D. Hughes

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