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How Long After Rain Can You Stain A Deck?

Staining your deck enables it to hold up well when subjected to harsh elements. But it is critical to pick the right time to stain the deck to ensure you get the best results from your efforts. How long after rain can you stain a deck? We asked the professionals, and this is what they shared.

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Wood is most receptive to stain treatment when it is dry. As a result, it is best to stain the deck about 24 to 48 hours after it rains. This allows the deck enough time to dry and will make staining more effective.

Staining the deck requires proper prior planning and preparation. Read on to discover when is the best time to stain your deck. We will also explore some deck staining tips to consider and how to choose the right color stain.

Staining a wooden deck with paint roller, How Long After Rain Can You Stain A Deck?

When Is It Suitable To Stain A Deck?

Staining the deck is a labor-intensive activity. Therefore, you want to ensure that you pick the right time to embark on this project to obtain the best results.

Assess whether you have enough time to take on the project yourself. The deck's size will determine how much time you require.

Also, consider the weather forecast. You want to avoid the rain and ensure that there is enough time for the deck to air dry before it rains.

You also want to steer clear of staining when the temperatures are too high, since this would cause the stain to evaporate too quickly, failing to penetrate the wood.

The humidity content of wood changes based on the surrounding air's relative humidity since it is hygroscopic. So it is ideal to stain the deck when the humidity levels are low. High relative humidity levels also increase the time required for the deck to dry after staining.

Ideal Conditions

Stain your deck when relative humidity is low, the outdoor temperatures are in the 50°F – 90°F range, and there is no direct sunlight. 

Confirm that the weather forecast does not predict rainfall at least 48 hours after you stain the deck. Most latex or water-based stains require about 4 to 6 hours to dry completely, while oil-based stains require anywhere between 12 to 24 hours to penetrate the wood fibers. 

If it rains before staining, let the wood to dry for 24 to 48 hours. Decks that do not get enough sun may require an extra day to dry completely.

Waiting is necessary because when it rains, because the rainwater seeps into the pores inside the wood, leaving little space for the stain to enter and cure the wood.

Test whether the deck is ready for staining by sprinkling some water on the deck. The deck is set if the wood absorbs the water in under 10 minutes. But it would be best to wait if the water pools or beads on the wooden surface.

You can also determine the moisture content in the wood by using a moisture meter. The suitable moisture level for the deck wood should be between 12% to 15%.

Take readings from different spots to make a fairer judgment since parts exposed to direct sunlight dry faster than those under the shade.

This wood moisture meter is user-friendly and easy to understand. See it on Amazon.

What Happens If You Stain A Wet Deck?

Water beads up on a freshly sealed wood deck after a morning rainstorm at the cottage

If you stain the deck before it dries completely, you will end up with an unevenly finished deck, since the wet wood does a poor job of absorbing the stain. Unfortunately, this is often the case since most stains are oil-based and form weak bonds with wet surfaces.

Although some water-based stains may hold up better when applied to a wet deck, the results will still be inferior compared to staining a dry deck. The stain can lock unwanted moisture inside the wood, leading to internal rotting or fostering mold and mildew growth.

Staining a wet deck can take a lot of work. Moreover, the deck stain may crack and peel when it finally dries, thus requiring a complete do-over. If it fails to peel off, the stain layer will be too thin to withstand heavy downpours. The rain will eventually wash the coating off.

What To Consider When Staining Your Deck

If you have a wooden deck, you need to maintain it regularly to enhance longevity and preserve the deck's color and grain. But you can only derive these benefits if you stain the deck correctly. These tips will guide you on the best approach.

Clean The Wood

Cleaning terrace with a power washer

Applying a fresh coat of stain on clean wood enhances the stain's penetration since you don't seal in dirt and grime. Cleaning also ensures that the stain lasts as long as possible and that the finish is smooth.

Apply A Wood Brightener

As previously mentioned, part of the benefits derived from staining the deck is retaining its color. Using a wood brightener neutralizes the effects of the chemicals used to clean the deck and brightens the wood to its natural color. Thus, the brightener enables the stain to do its job well.

The wood brightener also opens up the wood pores, enabling the wood to absorb the stain treatment better.

Choose The Right Stain

Staining hardwood timber patio decking

Consider the time you have dedicated to executing this project and the prevailing atmospheric conditions in your locality to choose a suitable stain.

Oil-based stains require more time to apply and dry than water-based stains. The stains are also costlier than their water-based counterparts. So a water-based stain would be more suitable for a bigger deck.

But if your area has very harsh climatic conditions, the oil-based stain would serve you longer. Furthermore, the oil-based stain would better enrich the wood's original color of new decks.

Some Other Tips

Assess the condition of the wood before staining. Check for loose boards, cracks, or rotting, and replace the damaged pieces.

You can spread the stain using a rag, a roller, a brush, or a stain pad. Of these materials, the stain pad produces the smoothest finish. However, a paintbrush works better for smaller areas that are difficult to reach. 

Follow the instructions provided by your stain's manufacturer for the best results. Reading the instructions before starting the process is wise to ensure you are well prepared.

Remember that more does not necessarily imply better. Two coatings are often enough, but it is best to refer to the manufacturer's instructions to determine the number of coats you need and how long you should wait before applying the next coat.

Generally, the deck will be ready for a new layer within an hour. But you can touch the initial layer to check whether it is relatively dry in that it is not wet but still feels sticky. In addition, remember to follow the grain's direction when applying the coats.

Some stains are made from combustible components. Therefore, take precautions to avoid accidental fires by correctly disposing of the stain cans and the materials you use during the exercise. In addition, soak the cloth you use to apply the stain in water.

This stain pad effortlessly and smoothly applies the stain. Check it out on Amazon.

How To Choose The Right Deck Color Stain

Staining hardwood patio deck

The stain you choose for your deck should complement its look. Test stain options on a piece of wood and leave them to dry completely before deciding. There may be a significant disparity between the wet stain's color and the color when dry.

Examine the wood's natural shade. Depending on the expected results, you may want to pick a stain that enhances the wood's undertone or cancels them out. Choosing a shade that blends well with the deck's surrounding landscaping would also be ideal.

Also, check the grain pattern. In some types of wood, staining enhances the grain pattern, thus changing the deck's overall look. For this reason, carefully consider the overall effect of staining before settling on a particular shade.

Lighter and more transparent stains are suitable for newer decks. The transparent opacity retains the wood's natural look.

A semi-transparent opacity protects your deck and adds a slight trace of color to the wood. In these instances, you will still be able to see the original wood color and grain pattern.

You may want to transition to darker shades as the deck ages since damage and staining are inevitable with the deck being in use. You should choose an opacity that covers the stains well and enhances a more even finish, especially when you've replaced some boards.

Although a semi-solid opacity offers a heavier color application, you still get to see the wood underneath. The finish works well when you notice minor staining on the deck and also creates a uniform appearance when some boards are newer.

Choose a solid finish for older decks and decks with many blemishes. This stain covers the imperfections and has a higher UV resistance level.

Final Thoughts

If the weather defies the forecast and it rains before you stain your deck, leave it for about 1 to 2 days to air dry. You may need to wait an extra day for decks that do not get as much sunlight.

It is prudent to use a moisture meter to check whether the moisture levels are within a suitable range before staining.

Clean the deck and apply a wood brightener to obtain the best results from staining. Also, read the stain manufacturer's instructions carefully as part of the deck staining preparation process. These instructions will guide you on how best to execute the task for optimal results.

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