Update for 2018: Moisture Content of Deck When Applying Stain
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A deck staining project is something any do it yourself enthusiast can accomplish. Most of what needs to be done can be found online in how to articles. Cleaning the deck with the proper chemicals and methods is crucial. However, after the deck is cleaned and ready to be stained there are a few things to consider that can make or break the success of the project.
Once a deck is cleaned it should be allowed to dry for several days before the stain is applied. Most stain manufacturers have recommended drying times that may vary slightly. In addition to varying recommendations, other factors like weather, sun exposure, wood type, wood age, and porosity can also determine the exact amount of dry time a deck needs when applying stain. All things taken into account, it would seem logical to wait a long enough period so there is nothing left to chance. So what should be the moisture content of deck when applying stain?
On average most stain manufacturers are going to recommend that the deck’s moisture content be anywhere from 12% to 15% or less. Otherwise staining a deck that has much higher moisture content can cause all sorts of problems. Stain or sealer will essentially lock unwanted moisture in the wood which then makes it prone to mold, mildew, and fungi. From there wood rot and decay would be likely. This can jeopardize the structural integrity of the deck and end up causing costly premature repairs and replacements.
Waiting several days for a deck to dry after its been washed is your best bet. If it rains in between that time, waiting another few days for the wood to dry again is recommended. When a deck is brand new the moisture content is very high. A new deck should be allowed to season for 3-12 months prior to staining. To know exactly what the moisture content is you can use a moisture meter. Check the moisture content of a deck in several areas and take an average reading. Be sure it is below the recommended moisture content before proceeding with applying stain.