Can You Stain Wood in Cold Weather- Best Temperature for Staining Wood

Just as the different humidity levels greatly affect staining, temperature also, be it low, normal, or high, has a big effect on staining. Just like your body temperature determines how you feel, the atmospheric temperature determines how the outcome of a wood staining.

Therefore, due to the impact of the temperature factor in staining, this article has explained all you need to know about temperature when staining.

Can You Stain Wood In Cold Weather
Can You Stain Wood In Cold Weather?

Here’s what I know from working with stains in cold weather:

Can You Stain Wood in Cold Weather?

Yes, you can stain wood in cold weather, but this is not recommended. The optimum temperature for staining wood is 50°F to 90°F. In cold weather below 50°F, the drying time of the stain is reduced, which is not conducive to the volatilization of water-based solvents, resulting in uneven absorption and stickiness.

Some of the topics of discussion are the best temperature for staining, can wood be stained in hot weather, and can polyurethane be applied in cold weather.

Quickly read through.

What Is The Best Temperature for Staining Wood Outside?

The recommended best temperature to stain wood outside is between 50°F and 90°F. However, it is better to stain your exterior wood at a lower temperature of 55°F to 65°F.

This is because the atmospheric temperature or surface temperature will be different from the outdoor wood temperature depending on the heat capacity of the wood.

As a result, an air temperature of 70°F could produce a deck temperature of more than 70°F. Therefore, it is better to stain at a much-reduced temperature when staining outdoor wood.

 A high temperature could rapidly cut short the wood’s drying time, and not give the stain enough time to stain the wood effectively.

How Does Temperature Affect The Staining of Wood?

There are three levels of temperature. The low, moderate, and high atmospheric temperatures. And each level has its distinct effect on wood staining. The low temperature is not good for staining because the air temperature is low and this causes a slow drying time because stains on wood need heat to dry properly.

Staining at moderate temperature is ideal and good for staining because the wood stains have enough moderate heat to continually dry until cure.

The high temperature can be so harsh on your wood stain, thereby making it misbehave by unevenly penetrating the wood surface.

Stain Wood in Cold Weather

During cold weather, the level of heat is very reduced and that is when the home heater is appreciated.

Due to this extremely low heat, the applied wood stain will take a very long dry time.

However, if you work indoors where the air temperature can be increased, you can try staining. But for wood directly exposed to cold weather, exterior wood staining is a bad idea.

What Is The Lowest Temperature You Can Stain Wood?

According to professional woodworkers, the lowest temperature to work with when staining is 50°F. Below this temperature, stain absorption fluctuation arises because the stain solvent’s evaporation rate drops.

Hence, the solvent (oil, water, or poly) that is meant to evaporate to get the stain dry stays on the wood surface waiting for a favorable temperature to escape. As a result of this, the stain becomes muddy or sticky.

Effects of Cold Weather on Wood Stain -What Happens?

What happens when you stain wood in cold weather is a simple scientific analogy. A washed cloth that is not machine-dried being spread during cold weather, all things being equal, how long do you think it will take for the cloth to dry?

Yes, you are right, it will take like days. The reason for the cloth not drying is that the level of temperature of the cloth is almost the same as that of the environment. Hence, the environment did not have the heat needed to dry the water in the cloth.

In the same way, during cold weather, the heat needed to evaporate the water solvent in a water-based stain and cure the oil in an oil-based stain is not available in the atmosphere. As a result, applied wood stain gets sticky, sometimes drips, gets unevenly absorbed, and requires a longer drying time.

How Long Does It Take for Wood Stain to Dry in Cold Weather?

The length of time it takes depends on the level of the coldness of the staining area, the type of wood stain product being used, and the brand. Both water-based and oil-based stains need heat to dry. However, water-based stains need more heat than oil-based ones.

Also, some wood stains are designed to be fast drying than others. Nevertheless, it could take 3 – 4 days or more for wood stains to dry in cold weather completely.

Can You Seal Wood Deck in Cold Weather?

It is advisable not to. Did you ask why? What if it starts to snow right after sealing the deck? Cold weather is not ideal weather to stain or seal exterior wood furniture.

Staining and sealing interior furniture can still be manipulated by making use of accelerators with water-based stains and water-based poly. But, it could be difficult when sealing areas exposed to direct low temperature, wind, and the like.

How To Stain Wood in Cold Weather Step by Step?

If you still need to go ahead to stain that piece of furniture even in cold weather, you can. However, there are measures to consider and steps to follow while doing that. Read more below:

Tools needed:

  • Sanding tools
  • Warm water
  • Wood stain
  • Accelerator
  • Rag/Brush
  • Protective gear, etc

Step 1: Choosing Woodworking Products

The first measure to put in check is to use suitable cold-weather products. These products can work better in cold weather compared to normal ones. Therefore buy an oil-based wood finish that works fine in cold weather or buy an accelerator if you will be using a water-based finish.

Step 2: Prepare Your Workstation

Another measure to put in place is working in a place that is heated be it a garage or basement. Your work area should not be overheated, a temperature around 56°F should be suitable.

Step 3: Prepare for Staining

Ensure the wood surface you are using is cleaned if you are working with non-strip requiring stain. For stains that require stripping the existing finish, use your sanding tools for the stripping and then smooth sand.

For water-based stain, add a drying accelerator in bits and stir well as you add. For oil-based stain, dip the stain container in warm water for five minutes before applying it.

Step 4: Apply The Stain

The next thing to do is apply your stain with a rag, brush, roller, or paint spray as recommended by the manufacturer. Remember not to leave the excess stains for long before wiping. Let it completely dry for 2 days before sealing.

Oil Based Type Stain Is Best Wood Stain in Cold Weather

Oil-based stain is termed the most suitable wood stain to use in cold weather. This is because, unlike water-based stain, the oil-based stain has no water that needs to evaporate.

However, for an oil-based stain to cure it need to go through an oxidation reaction, that is, the oil needs heat to go to its oxidative state and get cured. This amount of heat is not as large as that required by water to evaporate.

 Hence, the reason oil-based stain is termed as the best for cold weather. However, with a good drying time accelerator, a water-based finish can be suitably used in cold weather too provided the air temperature is adjusted.

Best Wood Deck Stain for Cold Weather-Ready Seal 512 5-Gallon Pail Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer

This Ready Seal product is an exterior wood finish that contains both a stain and a sealer. This attribute prevents woodworkers from waiting too long before sealing during cold weather. This stain is said to be self-blending and can work well at any temperature.

Furthermore, you need no primer when using this wood finish, but you need to strip off the existing finish from the wood surface before using it, if not, the finish won’t penetrate. It is also designed to reduce misuse without laps, streaks, or runs.

Also, you can apply this oil-based semi-transparent wood finish with a roller, sprayer, or brush. It dries completely within 3 days depending on the air temperature. This finish protects a wood surface from exterior damages like mildew, mold, and UV rays.


  • Work in any temperature
  • Stain plus sealant
  • Easy maintenance
  • Durable
  • Long-lasting


  • 14 days curing period

Related Post >> Best Deck Stain For Pressure Treated Wood Of 2022

Too Cold or too Hot for Deck Staining

When it comes to staining exterior wood furniture like a deck, you need to be weather conscious to avoid staining your deck in too cold or too hot weather. The ideal temperature for staining is 50°F to 90°F.

Therefore during cold weather, check for the period when the temperature is 50°F or greater to stain your deck. Before staining, ensure that the temperature will be constant for about 2 – 3 hours and that the night temperature will not be freezing.

 A night temperature of 38°F to 45°F should not cause harm to the newly dried stain. During hot weather, the maximum hot temperature recommended is 90°F. Any temperature above this is termed too hot to stain your deck.

However, even if the temperature is below 90°F and your deck is directly exposed to sunlight, this direct heat exposure will be too hot for the deck to be stained. Hence, the best time to stain your deck is when the sun is set and the night temperature will not be too hot, above 90°F.

Stain Wood in Hot Weather

Can You Stain Wood in High Heat?

It is not a good option to stain wood in high heat especially if you will be staining an outdoor wooden surface like a fence. Too much heat cut short the drying process of the wood stain thereby causing uneven penetration and reducing the functional ability of the stain.

What Temperature Is It Too Hot to Stain Outside?

Above 90°F is too hot to stain outside. However, for a wooden surface that is directly exposed to sunlight, an atmospheric temperature of 80°F might be too hot for it to be stained. This is because the atmospheric temperature and direct sunlight will increase the surface temperature of the wood to a high level.

Is It Okay to Stain Wood in The Sun?

There is the mild morning sun, hot afternoon sun, and somewhat moderate setting sun (evening). It is okay to stain wood in the morning sun, but you have to bring the wood furniture inside once the scorching sun is coming up. Staining in the evening sun is okay too, but not the high afternoon sun.

How Long Does Stain Take to Dry in The Sun?

When wooden furniture is stained under a moderate sun, it gets dried quickly within the product manufacturer stipulated drying time. The normal heat coming out from the moderate sun is not meant to rapidly heighten the stain drying time. It is rather a condition required for the wood stain to dry properly.

Why Staining Outdoors? – The Dangers of Staining Indoors

Many a time, it is always recommended to stain outside or stain in a place where there is optimum ventilation. Staining indoors can constitute a lot of havoc.

A prominent one is fire combustion. This is because most wood stains contain volatile organic compounds.

 Hence, when staining indoors where the ignition can happen at any time, a fire outbreak is possible. The reason staining outdoor is recommended.

Another factor that constitutes danger when staining indoors is toxic fumes.

After staining some stains need to cure, this curing process involves the release of harmful and pungent odor that can cause health problems.

Polyurethane in Cold Weather

Does temperature affect polyurethane?

Yes. Temperature affects polyurethane just like it affects wood stain. However, seeing that polyurethanes are chemically made synthetic substances, they can easily be made to withstand a very high temperature. The reason there are a few polyurethanes that can withstand high heat, well above 90°F.

Can You Apply Polyurethane in Cold Weather?

Yes, you can. But, not when the temperature is too cold or freezing. Applying polyurethane during cold weather also requires using a fast-drying polyurethane to speed up the slow-drying time of polyurethane during cold weather. Also, you should increase the surrounding temperature when applying the polyurethane to enable it to dry quickly.

What is The Lowest Temperature You Can Apply Polyurethane?

The lowest temperature for staining is 50°F. This temperature also applies to a polyurethane finish. You can still apply poly at 40°F, but you need to condition the temperature of the working environment. However, for an excellent polyurethane finishing apply it in an optimal temperature range of 70°F to 75°F.

How Long Does It Take Polyurethane to Dry in Cold Weather?

The length of time it will take depends on the type of polyurethane you are using and the manufacturer recommended drying time. Water-based poly dries faster within hours, hence during cold weather, the drying time will be extended by a few more hours. Oil-based polyurethane has a longer drying time of 24 hours or more. Hence, during cold weather, it might require more days to dry.

How Soon Can You Recoat Polyurethane in Cold Weather?

For water-based polyurethane that dries within 3 – 5 hours in cold weather, you can recoat more than 3 times in a day. However, for oil-based poly that needs longer drying and curing time like 24 hours during cold weather, you might not be able to recoat in a day.

Final Words: Don’t Stain in Too Hot or Too Cold Weather

If that DIY project is not urgent, it is advisable to put it on hold when the weather is unfavorable. Staining in too hot or cold weather is quite tasking because there are a lot of measures to put in place. Also, the weather can change in minutes thereby messing up your stained work.

It is preferable to stain in the optimal weather required for staining. Apart from the fact that this weather fastens your woodworking time, it also helps maintain the durability and longevity of the applied wood stain. Therefore, try not to stain in too hot or cold weather unless it is necessary you do.

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