Skip to Content

When to Apply Second Coat of Stain? (Answered)

Wood is beautiful in its natural state. Every piece is different with its unique grains. You can enhance the beauty of a wooden piece by applying stains. Stains make the grains stand out even more. 

But before you go on with it, it is important that you know and understands the methods well.

When to apply second coat of stain?

The right time to apply a second coat of wood stain would be when the first coat dries completely. It usually takes 1 to 6 hours for a standard wood stain to become dry to touch. But the required time can differ for different types of stains and some other factors influencing the drying time.  

If you apply the second coat before the first one dries, it can become tacky and the result won’t be what you expected. The labels should always include the time required to wait for the stain to dry before going on with a second coat. 

Carefully check the surface before applying the second coat of stain.

Second coat on deck:

A second coat on deck needs to be applied at least four hours after the first coat has been applied. The waiting time can increase depending on the temperature and humidity. If the deck is in an area of lower temperature and higher humidity, you may have to wait longer. 

Generally, a deck gets ready for normal use after 24 to 48 hours.

Second coat of gel stain:

Gel stains are easier to use because their consistency helps you avoid dripping and build the stain beautifully. Since gel stains are thicker in consistency, they need more time to dry compared to other stains. You may have to wait for 6 to 8 hours for the first coat to dry.

Second coat of Cabot stain:

Cabot encourages to not apply more than one coat of stain. Since most of their stains are oil-based, they recommend applying a single coat to not overdo the staining and get a flawless finish. Usually, it takes up to 24 to 48 hours for Cabot stain to fully dry.

Second coat of ready stain:

Ready stain allows two coats of stain. But since it gets absorbed quickly as it penetrates down the pores of your wooden piece, in some cases the wood may not take the second coat. The stain also dries quickly. 

It usually takes just a few hours for the stain to dry completely.

How long does wood stain need to dry?

The drying time depends mostly on the type of stain you’re using. Some other factors that contribute to this are the temperature, humidity, and ventilation system of the room. 

Also, different brands use different measurements when making their stains and you will find the required drying time mentioned on the packaging.

Some stains claim to dry within one to two hours. While some can take up to 8 hours. Some brands ask you to leave the stain overnight or at least 24 hours to dry completely. So you better not hurry when you’re dealing with wood stains. It is wise to wait longer for stains to dry.

If you want your stain to dry fast, make sure to choose a time of the day when the temperature ranges between 50 to 90°F and the humidity between 50 to 70%. Also, choose a room that is well ventilated. 

Finally, it will be safe to wait for at least 24 hours for the stain to dry. Also, wait for another 24 hours before you allow it for normal use.

What happens if you apply second coat of stain too soon?

It is important to dry the first coat of stain properly before applying the second coat. The first coat becomes dry on touch after about an hour and you can apply the second one then. If you fail to determine this needed time, your piece can be ruined.

When you apply the second coat of stain, it can slightly dissolve the first layer. If you apply the second coat too soon, the first one will start to come off and create a tacky mess.

Can you apply a second coat of stain after 24 hours?

You can apply a second coat of stain after 24 hours. It even allows the first coat more time to dry and settle before you apply the second coat. Just make sure that you apply the second coat the same way you applied the first one. 

But don’t wait too long as this may compromise with the proper adhesion of the second coat.

Can I apply a second coat of stain a week later?

You should not apply a second coat of stain a week later. It is true that the longer you wait for the stains to dry the better your outcome will be. But it is not true for the case of a second coat. 

While it’s important for the first coat to dry fully before you apply the second one, you should not leave the first coat for as long as a week.

This way the wood will lose the potential to naturally take in the second coat of stain. No matter how well you put the second coat, the wood will not adhere to it properly. The coat will not blend with the first one and may eventually come off. 

The finish you apply on top of it is more likely to peel off as well.

How to know if the stain is dry?

If you want to know how to figure out whether the stain is dry or not, you should stick with this section and read thoroughly –

Oil-based stain

None or little odor:

Oil-based stains have a smell. You will know when you work with an oil-based stain. One way to know whether your stain has dried or not is that the stain won’t give off that strong odor anymore.

Not tacky to touch:

Oil-based stains won’t feel tacky when you touch them. To check if the stain is ready for the second coat, lightly tap with your fingertip. If it feels tacky and leaves a mark on your finger, it hasn’t fully dried yet. Wait longer and try again.

Water-based stain

Neutral finish:

The water-based stain won’t seem cool once it fully dries. All the brush strokes or rag marks will disappear once the stain dries. You will have a clear and neutral finish.

Forms powder while you sand:

Water-based stain, when dried fully, will form a powder when you sand the surface. You can check this by sanding the surface slightly and seeing if powder forms. Don’t do this until you are assertive that the stain has dried. This is like a final check.

Is the second coat of stain necessary?

The second coat of stain is not necessary. Usually, a first coat is enough to make a wooden piece stand out. You can use a second coat when you want a darker and richer color. 

But this doesn’t mean you should go on adding more layers of stain to achieve deeper color as this will only ruin your project.

Too many coats are not good for wood. It makes the wood heavy and the stains never really settle properly. Also, make sure that you wipe off the extra stain after the application, or else it can become tacky and not dry properly.

What does the second coat of stain do?

The second coat of stain darkens the color of your wooden piece. Two coats of stain should be enough to get a deep and rich finish. However, if you wish to go with another one, any more than a third coat is needless.

Keep in mind that multiple coats of stain can’t guarantee darker color. If you want a deep finish, wait longer between the coats. The longer you wait, the deeper and richer color you’ll get. But the process becomes lengthy as you have to wait for a long time in between coats.

How many coats of stain can you apply?

Usually, you don’t need to apply more than three coats of stain. In most cases, just two coats are more than enough to achieve a rich and deep color. If the first coat seems light to you, you can go on with a second coat to deepen the color. 

But some product labels can tell you to apply four coats.

While you must wait for each coat to dry before applying the next one, too many coats of stains can get too thick and not dry properly. It makes the process of staining unnecessarily lengthy and monotonous. The outcome is not good and the extra portion will start to come off soon.

Final thoughts

You can apply a second coat of standard wood stain at least one hour after the application of the first coat. The drying time usually depends on the type of stain you are using and some other factors that influence it. Check the product label to determine the drying time of your stain.