People rarely just wake up and decide to paint a wooden project. A good paint job is always carefully planned and scheduled. But the weather sometimes has a wicked sense of humor. One moment it’s all sunny, and the next, the wood you’ve prepared to paint is suddenly all damp from the rain.
In such circumstances, the sensible thing to do is reschedule the paint job till the wood fully dries again, which could be days, maybe weeks. Unfortunately, you may not have the luxury of time and need the painting to be done as scheduled.
So, can you paint wet wood? Yes, you can paint wet wood. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Painting wet wood is possible but comes with lots of risks if not executed correctly. The excess moisture can cause the wood to warp and the paint is less likely to hold.
Read on to find out why painting wet wood isn’t such a good idea. We also show you how to paint wet wood the right way in case you ever find yourself in a time-crunch or unpredictable weather.
Why You Shouldn’t Paint Wet Wood
We know how frustrating it is to shave some time off your busy schedule to paint wood only to find it wet. We did answer that you indeed can paint wet wood.
However, there are tons of reasons not to. And before we show you how to paint wet wood, it is important to familiarize yourself with all the possible adverse outcomes of painting wet wood.
Wet wood fibers have absorbed water. Therefore, they have no room left to take in paint. Consequently, the paint you apply will not penetrate deep enough to bond well. Instead, it remains suspended superficially, resulting in a messy finish.
Because the paint doesn’t have ample dry fibers to be absorbed and adhere to, it peels off very fast. Water is used as a thinner for water-based paints. Therefore, if you’re painting with water-based paint, the moisture in the wood further thins the paint you are applying.
The end result is a washed-out look rather than a beautifully painted surface. You are also likely to encounter a lot of drips.
Paint is a finish and also a water-resistant sealer when dry. That means moisture cannot go in or come out through a dry coat. When you paint wet wood, the paint forms a barrier, and the moisture inside the wood can no longer escape. What happens during weather changes is this trapped moisture expands and contracts, causing the wood to warp and even crack.
Trapped moisture also encourages wood rot from within. You wouldn’t want any of these things to happen to your wood now, would you? Exercising patience is critical until the wood is completely dry. But because you have no control of nature and waiting is not always an option, there is a way to paint wet wood.
How To Dry Wet Wood
If you are set on painting wet wood, two tricks help you get better and long-lasting results. The first one is speeding up the wood drying process, and the second one is choosing appropriate paint for wet wood.
How do you dry wet wood? There are a couple of ways to accelerate the drying of damp wood, but it depends on the size of the object, the humidity of the environment, and how saturated it is.
Here are a few ways to dry wood:
Whether it is summer or you are just lucky to live in the sunny side of the country, you can make use of nature to naturally dry the wood. Both sunshine and low humidity dehydrate things. These two conditions together make the perfect combo for drying wet wood.
- Electric Devices
If the weather conditions do not permit natural drying, you can utilize everyday electric devices such as a heat lamp, hairdryer, dehumidifier, or fan.
A heat lamp introduces heat to a room and can be helpful where it is always cold, damp, or cloudy outside. Low temperatures slow down the drying of wood so you can turn up the heat in a designated space and keep the wooden objects there.
A hairdryer blows hot air that causes the moisture in the wood to evaporate much faster. All you have to do is hover it around the wood for some time. This method works effectively on small wood items.
However, it is impractical for large items. You may even blow up the hairdryer because of the excess workload. Besides, it would be time-consuming and not to mention physically strenuous.
Placing the wood under or facing an electric fan is another option. It blows air directly into the wood while promoting air circulation, which speeds up drying.
Have a dehumidifier? It works too. Dehumidifiers draw moisture from the air to lower humidity. Placing the wooden object near it helps dry it out.
Lastly, you may use paper or cloth towels to dry wet wood. The materials are highly absorbent in nature, and, pressed firmly on the wood, will wick any moisture from the surface.
This method is excellent for wood that is saturated. It would help if you replaced the soaked towels with dry ones often. It is better to use this method in combination with another.
How Long Should You Dry The Wood?
There’s no precise answer for this because the time frame depends on many factors: the moisture saturation, size of wood, the density of wood, etc. Softwoods and thinner wood pieces typically dry in less time than hardwoods and chunkier pieces.
Unfortunately, regardless of your efforts, the core of the wood may still be damp even if the top appears or feels dry. This is particularly true for wood that is wet from a pressure wash rather than a rainstorm.
It is common for homeowners to pressure wash a fence or deck to treat it and remove soil and dirt build-up, but it literally pushes water into the wood. Because it is a high-impact force, the water goes deeper into every crack and crevice.
However, rainwater is less forceful and doesn’t saturate wood as much. You can find out how damp wood is in two easy ways:
- Place a small amount of water on the wooden surface. Usually, the fluid should slowly be sucked in if the wood is dry. If it appears to form beads that stay on top unbothered, it is because the interior of the wood is already so dense with moisture that it cannot take in anymore.
- A moisture meter is a more accurate test, and it is inexpensive and easily accessible. It has a pair of prongs that you dig into the wood, and it gives you the readings for the level of moisture in a percentage. Anything lower than 16% is acceptable to paint.
The Best Paint To Use On Wet Wood
When it comes to choosing paint for wet wood, it’s a no-brainer. Remember the concept of water and oil when learning about mixtures in science class? The two liquids do not mix.
Therefore, when painting wet wood, it’s best to steer clear of oil-based and enamel paints. When you attempt to apply an oil-based coating over a moisture-laden piece of wood, the two repel, and the coat of paint ends up peeling or bubbling.
Water-based paints are the best paints for wet wood. Water and water-based paints blend really well, which makes the coat of paint stay. However, you’ll get more of a washed look than a solid color.
Water is used as a thinner for water-based paints, so the wet wood is likely to thin the paint a little. For best results, avoid water-based paint you already thinned with water, as it will get even thinner. Apply a very thin coat but ensure the paint’s consistency is a little thick.
What About The Paintbrush?
Yes, the kind of paintbrush you use on wet wood does matter, as it impacts the finish of your work. If you recall what we discussed earlier in the post, wet wood has less paint absorbing capacity and therefore doesn’t need to be loaded with paint. The fluid will have nothing to adhere to.
Brushes are created with different paint holding capacities. Bristled brushes have a high paint holding capacity, and you do not need that for wet wood. It is advisable to go with a foam brush.
Foam brushes carry less paint with each stroke giving you better control of the amount of paint that goes on.
That’s how to paint wet wood in three steps. Let’s quickly recollect them.
- Dry the wood as much as possible by setting the right conditions: high heat, low humidity levels, and unrestricted airflow.
- Test the wood moisture level using a moisture meter. It should be 16% max.
- Paint the wood with water-based paints and a foam brush. A little goes a long way.
Follow these steps, and you will have your fence panels, deck, window frames, outdoor furniture, and other moisture-prone woods looking beautiful and well done.
Notwithstanding, the paint will still deteriorate much quicker than if it were done on completely dry wood, so adjust your expectations accordingly and expect some blistering much sooner.
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