How Long Should My Deck Dry Before Painting?

How Long Should My Deck Dry Before Painting? This is a common question if you are working with a newly installed deck or you just washed the deck and looking to paint it. Here’s what you need to know…

After washing a deck, the wood will retain some moisture within its structure. You must allow the wood to dry before coating it with paint; otherwise, the water will interfere with paint adhesion causing future problems like peeling and bubbling.

The paint will trap moisture within the wood, making it the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. It is, therefore, best to let your deck have enough downtime to allow the moisture in it to evaporate completely. But how much time is enough? How long should my deck dry before Painting?

Your deck will need at least 48 hours to dry after washing it; however, this timeline only works when the weather conditions are optimum – no humidity and a lot of sunlight. Furthermore, your deck should be facing the sun directly.

If your deck is in a shaded corner of your home away from the sun, give it at least 72 hours to dry. Decks in areas with high humidity will require more time because damp weather slows down the drying process. Therefore, it is best to give them up to 96 hours (4 days) for the moisture to evaporate before you can safely apply paint.

In this post, the focus is on getting the best out of painting your deck. I’ve discussed different aspects of deck painting and the procedural approaches to ensure you end up with the finest paint finish on your wood deck. Keep reading for more.

How Do I Know If My Deck Is Dry Enough to Paint?

It is hard to tell whether a deck is dry or not just by looking at it – unless there is moisture visible on the surface. But on the bright side, you can do some simple tests to help you determine whether to paint or give the deck more time to dry. These are:

  • Using a Moisture Meter

Image of a Wood Moisture MeterThe moisture meter is the quickest and most accurate way of determining the water content of your deck material. It has one or two prongs that you press into the wood to ascertain the precise amount of moisture within.  

Align the prongs with the wood grain, then keep them in one position until the reading on the meter display settles on one number. This way, you will get the precise reading for that part of the deck.

Also, ensure that you test different areas then calculate the figures you see to get an accurate reading for your whole deck.

A moisture level of 12-15% is acceptable for painting a deck successfully. 

  • Using the Water/Sprinkle Test

The other way of checking if your deck is dry is by pouring a little water on different areas of the deck. If the water remains stagnant on the surface, there is still too much moisture in the wood; therefore, you need to give the deck 48 more hours to dry.

However, if the wood absorbs the water quickly, your deck is ready to paint.

You have to be extra observant when using this method. You should notice how long the wood takes to absorb the water before painting the deck. Only paint the deck if the water disappears into the wood immediately. 

If the water takes a couple of minutes to absorb, let the deck dry for 24 more hours, then repeat the test. Furthermore, do not pour too much water on the surface because the wood will absorb all of it, and you will have to wait for the deck to dry again. 

  • Using a Black Plastic Bag

If you are afraid of getting the deck wet again with the second method, the plastic bag method will work just as well. 

  • Tape small black plastic bags on different wood planks on the deck. Ensure that there are no spaces for air to get under the plastic.
  • Leave the bags on the wood for 2-3 hours, remove them, then run your hand over the wood.
  • If the wood is damp from condensation, it still has some moisture; therefore, the deck needs more time to dry. Only paint when the wood under the plastic bags is completely dry.

How to Dry Your Deck Faster

Sometimes the waiting period for deck drying can seem like an eternity, especially when you want to finish painting and move on to your next project. On the bright side, you can use a few materials and substances to suck out moisture from the wood, thus speeding up the deck’s drying time.

Before using the methods listed below:

  • Use a wet vacuum to suction up as much water as possible from the wood.
  • Keep suctioning for up to 20 minutes, even when there’s no visible water standing on the deck.
  • Ensure that you empty the wet vacuum immediately it fills up to keep its suction strength strong and prevent moisture from seeping back out.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the most versatile kitchen ingredients. We use it primarily for cooking and cleaning, but its ability to absorb moisture makes it a safe and ideal option for sucking water out of wood.

To use this method to dry your deck:

  • Sprinkle a fine layer of baking soda all over the deck, then leave it on for a few hours. 
  • As time passes, you will notice the powder getting wet as it sucks moisture from the wood. When that happens, wipe off the damp powder and sprinkle some fresh baking soda over the deck again for the method to work effectively.
  • Repeat the process several times until fresh powder remains dry after sitting on the deck for a while.

Cat Litter

Using cat litter to draw moisture out of wood may seem unusual, but it works like magic! You can use both silica-based and cement-based cat litter depending on whatever you can get from your local pet store.

However, I recommend using the silica-based options because they are easier to clean up and have no risk of staining the deck like cement-based cat litter.

Spread the cat litter over the deck as you did with baking soda ensuring that you change it several times for the method to work effectively.

Silica Based Moisture Absorbing Pads

Moisture absorbing pads are the best choice for drawing water out of wood. You can find them in small packets or large sheets, which you place over the wood to remove the moisture.

I recommend using the sheets to dry your deck because they can cover large spaces – though you may need 3-4 sheets to cover an entire deck.

Can I Use Salt to Dry My Deck?

Salt is one of the most absorbent substances; unfortunately, it affects wood; hence I do not recommend using it to dry your wood deck.

When you sprinkle salt over wood, it will absorb some of its moisture. However, it will also absorb moisture from the atmosphere and dissolve into salt sludge. The salt sludge will seep into the wood and cause it to discolor over time.

Moreover, the deck gets exposed to constant heat; therefore, water in the sludge that seeped into the wood will evaporate. Salt crystals will re-form within the wood and push the wood fibers apart, giving the surface a “fuzzy” appearance over time.

What Happens If You Paint a Deck too Soon?

Image of wood deck. So, Can I Paint Over My Stained Deck?When you paint a deck before it dries well, moisture in the wood will interfere with the paint’s adhering capabilities. As a result, the color will not last, the paint will peel off exposing your deck to the elements after a short period.

When you wash your deck, a percentage of wood fibers will absorb the water; hence, fewer fibers are free to accept coating products. Therefore, applying paint will sit on the wood’s surface, creating a sloppy finish that will peel off quickly once the color dries.

If the wood is too saturated, the moisture will mix with the paint and thin it – mainly if you use water-based paint. It will result in poor coverage of your deck, and once the paint dries, it will look more like a wash than a paint job.

Even if the wood is moderately saturated, it will not hold the paint as firmly as dry wood. The paint may stick to the surface, and the finish will be smooth; however, the color will be less durable.

A paint job that usually lasts for up to 10 years will begin to peel or crack in 2-3 years. Moreover, the paint will seal the moisture into the wood, making it the perfect breeding ground for fungi which result in wood rot.

What Happens If It Rains Before Deck Paint Dries?

Weather forecasts are often accurate, but sometimes they are not. You may plan your project accordingly; however, the rain occasionally defies the prediction and pours anyway. The extent of damage to the paint will depend on three things:

  • The type of paint you used
  • How soon it rained after painting
  • The intensity of the rain.

Type of Paint Used

If rain falls on fresh water-based paint, it will thin and dissolve. Consequently, the water will wash away the color, and you will have to repaint the whole deck after the rain subsides.

Furthermore, a heavy downpour may also splatter wet pain on other surfaces like the walls of your house or plants surrounding the deck. As a result, you will have more cleaning tasks to do, and the paint will ruin your plants.

If you use oil-based paint, the rainwater will not mix with it. Instead, it will “push” the color off the surface resulting in a streaky appearance. If it rains heavily, the raindrops may leave slight dents on the surface of the oil-paint coat, leaving it textured.

How Soon It Rained After Painting

If it immediately starts to rain after painting the deck, the rainwater will dissolve the paint and wash it off the surface. The reason is that the solvent in paint hasn’t had enough time to evaporate, so it will readily mix with water and thin out.

In case the color had a few hours to dry to the touch, say 3 hours and above, it might be a bit resilient to the rain. However, resilience is only possible if the rain is light and does not last long.

The Intensity of the Rain

Light rain showers will not cause severe damage to fresh paint. If any problems occur, they will be easy to fix with a second coat of paint.

On the other hand, heavy downpours like a storm will ruin the paint job. When the rain subsides, your deck will have areas that have paint, while others will have no color at all.

You can avoid all these problems by paying attention to the weather forecast of your area to know when the rains will come. Most types of paint require about 8 hours of constant sunlight to dry properly.

However, if you want the paint job to last, color your deck at least five days before the rains are due.

What to Do If It Rains Before Your Deck Paint Dries

If it starts to rain soon after you’ve painted the deck, your only option is to wait for the rain to cease and assess the damage level to the paint. Ensure that the deck properly dries before taking a closer look at the affected paint coat.

If the paint coat is flaking off or peeling off the deck, it means that the rain hit it too soon after application, and there are adhesion problems.

You cannot mend that damage by applying another layer of paint; instead, you will have to strip paint from the deck and start the painting process again.

If there are minor imperfections, such as streaks on scattered areas of the deck, the damage to the paint is minimal and purely cosmetic. You can fix this damage by sanding the streaked spots lightly with fine-grit sandpaper then applying a thin layer of fresh paint. 

How Do You Prepare a Deck For Painting?

Proper preparation is key to ensuring you get the very best paint finish on your wooden deck. Here is the necessary step you should follow:

Step 1: Clean the Deck

Start by removing all the furniture, potted plants, and other movable things to empty the deck. Use a screwdriver or a flat tool that can fit between the deck boards to remove gunk and other debris. Afterward, sweep the deck with a broom to remove all the dirt.

Next, wash the deck from the rails working towards the deck floor. Use a power washer to remove stubborn dirt and grease, but if you don’t own one, you can hand wash the deck with a mild cleaner and some water.

  • Mix some warm water and soap in a bucket to form a cleaning solution.
  • Pour the solution over the deck, then scrub gently with a wire brush to remove the dirt.
  • Ensure that you rub the deck in long horizontal strokes to work the cleaning solution into the wood.
  • Finish off by rinsing the deck with running water from a garden hose.

Give the deck 48 hours to dry before proceeding.

Step 2: Carry Out Necessary Repairs

It is crucial to mend all damages on the deck before coating it with anything. Otherwise, the imperfections will show through the paint and mess up your project.

Remove any damaged or rotten deck boards and replace them with new ones.

Secure any loose boards with nails, then apply a rust-resistant wood primer to the nail heads for added protection.

Next, fill cracks and gaps on the deck boards with a high-quality exterior wood filler.

  • Choose a wood filler that matches the color of your deck boards. Ensure that the filler you use is labeled “stainable” because it will take on the color of the paint, ensuring an even paint job.
  • Next, apply the filler over the cracks using a putty knife. Ensure that you overfill the spaces, then use the putty knife or a wet finger to flatten excess material before it dries out.
  • Leave the filler to dry as instructed on the manufacturer’s label. I recommend leaving it overnight to ensure that the product properly dries – this way, it won’t lift when you sand the deck.

Step 3: Sand the Deck

It is essential to sand the deck to give the deck boards some “tooth” for the paint to adhere better. Ensure that you use minimum pressure when sanding to remove as little material as you can from the wood.

Too much pressure will remove more material in some places than others leaving the deck’s surface looking uneven.

  • Start with 100-grit sandpaper to knock down raised areas on the deck boards. 100-grit is a bit rough; therefore, it will leave some scratch marks on the deck.
  • Follow with 180-grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratches left to make the surface even.
  • Use a vacuum to remove the sanding dust, then wipe the whole deck with a damp tack cloth to remove any remaining dirt.

Note: Since decks are large, I recommend using an electric sander to get the job done faster. 

Step 4: Tape Off Areas Around the Deck

Use painter’s tape to cover the walls and railings touching part of the deck to shield them from paint splashes. Do not use masking tape because it won’t protect the areas like painter’s tape does.

Also, hang plastic sheets over walls and doors near the deck to protect them from paint. Ensure that you secure the sheets with painter’s tape so that they do not fall off while you paint.

Here’s a Video On How to Prepare Deck for Painting: 

How to Paint a Deck With a Paint Brush

Here are the steps involved

Step 1: Choose The Right Brushes

Before starting, you must ensure that you have the right brushes in the right size and shape. You must also choose your brushes to match the type of paint you intend to use on your deck.

  • Brush Type

Paintbrushes are available either as natural bristled brushes made from animal hair or synthetic bristled brushes. If you’re using water-based products, I recommend using synthetic bristled brushes because they are easy to clean with water, and the bristles won’t soak moisture from the paint.

On the other hand, natural bristled brushes work best with oil-based paint. They create a smoother finish with oil paint, and the bristles can withstand the harsh cleaning solutions of oil paint, such as turpentine. 

  • Brush Shape

When shopping, you will notice that some brushes have angled edges while others have square (flat) bristles. You will need both types of brushes to paint your deck effectively.

The angled brushes are perfect for cutting in around corners and other intricate areas, while the square brushes work best for painting flat areas of the deck

  • Brush Size

Paintbrush sizes range from small 1 ½- inch wide brushes to 4-inch wide brushes. Since your deck is large, choose small 2-inch angled brushes for cutting in the paint and 3-4 inch brushes for painting the “body” of the deck.

Step 2: Paint the Rails and Spindles

The best way to paint a deck is to start with the rails. This way, you can move around the deck floor as you need without the worry of ruining your paint job. Furthermore, if paint drips from the rails, you can easily cover them up as you paint the deck floor.

  • Start with the top part of the rail, making sure that you cover every inch of it with paint.
  • Next, paint each spindle one by one, ensuring that you feather the edges near the top rail to mask where the paint cuts off.
  • Finish by painting the bottom rail.

Step 3: Cut In Edges Of the Deck Floor

The trick to painting your deck floor is to plan your escape route so that you don’t paint yourself into a corner. You can do this by painting the deck edges where it touches the house walls and the handrails, then filling in the body. Make sure that you use the small 2-inch angled paintbrush to achieve the best results.

Since you have already taped off the edges, you don’t have to use challenging techniques to keep the paint off the wall. Follow the taped-off edges and go around the whole deck.

Start at the corner near the deck entrance where it touches your house wall and work your way around until you get back to the other corner of the entrance opposite your house wall.

Step 4: Fill In the Deck Body

When filling in paint on the deck floor, ensure that you start at the farthest end of the deck, working towards the deck entrance. This way, there is no risk of stepping on wet paint and ruining your finish. As you paint:

  • Color 3-4 deck boards at a time to not miss a spot. 
  • Start by painting the spaces between each board, then apply the paint over the surface in all directions to get adequate coverage.
  • Finish off by brushing over the painted boards in one direction, following the wood grain to smooth out the paint and make it uniform.

Repeat the steps above, working your way slowly until you finish applying the first coat. Allow the first coat to dry as stated on the manufacturer’s label before applying the second layer.

If you do not let the first coat dry properly, the color will lift when you walk over it as you put on the second coat.

How to Paint a Deck With a Paint Roller

The steps involved in painting a deck using a paint roller are:

Step 1: Choose the Right Roller

Paint rollers deliver smooth and uniform paint results; however, you must select one that suits your project perfectly to achieve the best results. When choosing a roller to paint your deck, here’s what to look for:

Roller Length

The length of your roller matters because it decides how much of the deck floor you can paint with a single roll. Some painters prefer to cover a more extensive area in one go, while others prefer to paint in smaller sections to pay attention to detail.

The most common paint roller lengths in inches are 3’, 4’, 6’, 9’, and 12’. I recommend using the 6-inch roller to paint your deck because it is ideal for decks of any size. Also, purchase a small 3- or 4-inch roller to help you reach narrow spaces like between the deck rails and spindles.

Roller Cover

A roller cover/sleeve is the material of the roller. It comes in different materials, but the best ones for painting decks are wool and synthetic covers.

  • Wool covers are made from natural fibers and are ideal when painting your deck with oil-based paint. They pick up ample amounts of product in one go, and they deliver smooth uniforms finished without much hassle.
  • Synthetic covers are made of materials such as polyester and nylon. They work best with water-based products and are more durable than wool covers. On the downside, synthetic roller covers do not hold as much paint as their wool counterparts. 

Handle Length

The length of handle you select for your roller depends on the level of comfort you desire while working. Longer handles work best if you want to work while standing, while shorter ones require you to bend more.

On the bright side, shorter handles give you more control, and you can quickly notice blemishes on your deck as you paint because you’re closer to the surface.

Step 2: Prepare the Paint.

When preparing paint, ensure that you work in an area where large paint spills won’t be a problem. If you’re working in an area frequented by people, put down a plastic sheet to catch paint spills so that they do not leave unwanted stains behind.

  • Transfer about 3 gallons of paint from the container into a large bucket. Ensure that you don’t pour the paint too fast or form bubbles that will transfer onto the deck as you paint.
  • Hook a bucket screen over the opening of the paint bucket. Ensure that the bucket screen extends a few inches into the paint with a large part visible above the product. If there are less than 9-inches of usable bucket screen, pour some paint back into the paint container.

Step 3: Prepare the Edges

It is challenging to get paint directly against the deck edges; therefore, you must use a different tool to paint along the edges before rolling the paint. There are three main methods of edging ahead of rolling. These are:

  • A Paint Edger is a small compact tool created especially for painting along edges. It makes straight paint lines without the risk of painting over unwanted areas. This tool comes either as a paint pad or roller and is the best alternative to painter’s tape or paintbrushes.
  • Using Painter’s Tape – this method involves covering every surface that you don’t want to paint using painter’s tape. This way, the paint goes on the intended surface with the tape shielding the other areas.
  • Brushing. Edging paint with a paintbrush is the most common method, but it requires a steady hand. You also need to use a tapered brush explicitly designed for the job to achieve the best results.

Step 4: Paint the Deck

  • Dip the roller cover into the paint bucket taking care not to cover the roller frame and handle with paint.
  • Allow the cover to soak up paint thoroughly, then roll it gently up and down the bucket screen. Ensure that you don’t press it down too hard, as the screen will leave grid marks on it. As you paint, these marks will transfer onto the deck, and they are difficult to smooth out.
  • When the roller sleeve stops dripping with paint, begin rolling the central area of your deck. Work in small divisions of about 5-8 boards, moving the paint roller in an M-pattern. Keep the edges of each section wet to make it easy to blend in with the next area you paint.
  • Keep painting until the roll marks on the deck begin to look hazy and spotty. When this happens, reload the roller cover with paint and keep working. Ensure that you back roll each section while still wet to smooth out the paint coat and fill areas you missed.
  • Allow the first paint coat to dry according to manufacturer specifications, then apply a second coat to deepen the color.

How To Paint Between Deck Boards When Using a Paint Roller

Paint rollers are big; therefore, it is impossible to paint between the deck board spaces as they won’t fit. You cannot leave the gaps unpainted because your paint job will look unfinished. Furthermore, those sections of bare wood will be the starting point of future deck problems.

On the bright side, you can use a mouldable sponge to ensure that paint covers the board gaps before you start rolling on the color. These sponges are perfect because you can fold or mold them to fit the particular size of the spaces between your deck board. Here’s how to do it:

  • Dip the sponge in the paint bucket, then wipe off excess product on the edge of the bucket.
  • Next, fit the sponge between the board gaps and drag it to coat the sides of the boards with paint.
  • Resoak the sponge and repeat the process until you obtain full coverage between the gaps.

Note: since you’ll be rolling the paint in sections, paint between the boards of each division before applying the paint to achieve a uniform finish.


Painting a wooden deck before it dries increases the chances of paint problems occurring in the future. The moisture will interfere with paint adhesion, causing issues such as peeling and bubbling, which you cannot repair quickly with a fresh coat of paint.

Wooden decks take a while to dry properly, so you must give them enough time to allow all moisture to evaporate. So…,

How Long Should My Deck Dry Before Painting?

Decks take about 48 hours to dry when there is a lot of sunlight and low humidity. If your deck is in a shaded location, it will require 72 hours to dry, and decks in humid areas can take up to four days to lose moisture properly.

You can check if your wood is dry enough for painting using a moisture meter or by performing a water test on the wood. If you feel like your deck is taking too much time to dry, sprinkle baking soda or cat litter on the surface to suck out the moisture and dry the wood faster.

You may be tempted to use salt to dry your deck quickly, but I do not recommend it because salt is harmful to wood.

I hope this article has all the answers you need concerning deck drying times and painting your deck correctly. If you have any queries or additional information to share, please reach out in the comments section below.