How long to wait to stain deck

We had a deck built last summer. We still haven't stained it yet which I know is terrible.

We're coming up on te rainy days of fall and we're trying to get it done ASAP.

How many days of dry weather is necessary before you stain?

We get a lot of daylight so it doesn't seem wet for long after a rain. Just curious how screwed I might be if I don't have a three or more day stretch of dceent weather to do it.



Editor's Comments

This is a question I have often been asked and I must preface my remarks by saying things continue to evolve with new wood stain protection every year.

So the final answer is going to be from the specific manufacturer that made your sealer or deck stain.

But I can give you some tips which are a great rule of thumb for the majority of situations.

Let's start with the two extremes: Right away when the wood is still wet and at least a year later after sun exposure.

Wet Wood

When you buy your lumber it is typically still "green" or has a moisture content of about 18% to at most 30%. This means things are going to dry out and shrink.

After about 2 weeks in a stable warm environment of say 70 F (20 C) and no rain the wood will settle probably to about 12%-15%. And this could continue to drop a bit over the next month or two.

But it pours rains in regular intervals this brings up the moisture content so you get this oscillation going on.

We do not live in a perfect world so once the lumber is on site for a few weeks you could easily apply your stain - unless it is totally soaked. It has had some time to dry and it is generally in equilibrium with the environment.

Sun Damage

The other end of the spectrum is waiting a year or more and then the top surface of the wood has now started to fade, turn grey and in fact that indicates the fibers have been damaged by the sun.

Some manufacturers may say that the wood is not in optimal condition for the stain to go on. Perhaps. But it really is a matter of degree.

What I would suggest is more of a concern is letting the wood sit under the hot sun without protection. It is at greater risk of splitting or cracking in addition to sun damage.

Yes, its true the wood may soak up the stain because it is so dry. But you end up with decking that is checked, cracked and otherwise not at its best.

So I hope this helps out a bit as a reference point.

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